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The Francis Era
Catholic Opposition to Pope Francis Grows

The fallout from the Catholic Church’s recent Synod on the Family intensified this week. At the NYT, Ross Douthat argued that the synod exposed Pope Francis as someone bent on hollowing out crucial Church teachings. If successful, he argued, the Pope could bring the Church closer to a “crisis of faith,” forcing Catholics to vocally and forcefully oppose his efforts in order to save their faith. Andrew Sullivan fired back, writing that Douthat’s column displayed “rage” and was a “declaration of war” on the Pope. At the Boston Globe’s Crux project, John Allen suggests what the clash might mean:

We have entered the next phase of Francis’ papacy.

We’ve passed from a honeymoon period in which most Catholics were content to bask in the fact that the pope was the most popular figure on the planet, to an era in which a growing number of people seem to have a hair-trigger.

For that, we probably have the Synod of Bishops to thank. It brought into sharp focus the battle lines in the Francis era, at least as regards the family and sexual morality.

Since he was elected, we have predicted that the Pope would have a “Good Friday moment” in which the media turned on him when they realized he wouldn’t be making the doctrinal changes they wanted. The synod was likely an inflection point. No doctrine was changed, but the “Good Friday” moment happened in a different way than expected: It is conservative Catholics, who were initially at least a little hopeful about the Francis project, who have now turned against him. Liberal Catholics have not gotten anything they want in any official way, and yet are sticking with Francis anyway.

The Catholic Church is entering an interesting period in its history—and things promise to get only more dramatic in the run-up to next year’s larger synod. Allen is one of our best guide to these developments; read the whole thing to get a clearer sense of the lines along which the drama may unfold.

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  • George Armstrong Custer

    Pope Francis comes from the backwater that is Argentina and did not travel very much at all prior to becoming Pope. For example, he has never visited the United States. He is a bishop with very little experience outside of his native world and does not have his finger on the pulse of a billion Catholics. He was taken by surprise by the push back at the Synod and the Church is in for a very few rough years under this man who has neither the intellect nor experience as his two predecessors. A village priest at heart. His election will prove to be a mistake.

    • FriendlyGoat

      The Catholics get a man who wants to talk about real evangelism and they, including their bishops, seem to not have the faintest idea what he is talking about or why he would want to pursue such a thing. Meanwhile, Pentecostalism is sweeping converts away from the Catholics in South America and elsewhere because so much of Catholicism wants to worship “The Church” instead of Jesus. Francis gets it. His detractors don’t.

      • George Armstrong Custer

        You’re right, Catholics don’t want or need condescension from liberal Protestants. And it is our Church, not yours.
        The spread of evangelical Christianity in South America occurred under Francis’ watch as a bishop and archbishop. Obviously, he was a failure in stopping its spread. Just because his views appeal to you, doesn’t mean that they appeal to the people of South America or the rest of the billion Catholics worldwide.
        It may be difficult for liberal Protestants to understand but Catholics actually believe in their faith and its doctrines. It’s lasted for 2,000 years and weathered all kinds of storms, and it will weather your glib “neo-liberalism.”
        The Roman Province of Judea was hardly a backwater during Christ’s time.Jews were quite widely scattered throughout the Roman empire and had a significant presence in Rome and in the legions recruited in the Middle East. Jesus traveled all over Judea, was a man well educated for his time, and came from a family that we would consider middle class today. I wonder what he would make of Francis.

        • FriendlyGoat

          I believe Jesus is pleased with Francis. I believe Francis seeks the counsel of the Holy Spirit every day—–and gets it. Not just because he is the Pope, but because he appears to be a Pope who is asking, seeking and knocking and advising others to do likewise. Some Catholics receive this well and others just don’t.

          I’d understand your dismissal of critics better if we were calling your new Pope a bum, as some of them were. Let us brag on your guy a little and up go the walls of exclusion and exclusivity. Whatever.

          • Fred

            As a “conservative,” or more accurately traditionalist, Catholic, I’ve had my doubts about the guy from the beginning, but given the willful ignorance of religion on the part of the media, I have given him the benefit of the doubt. However, if someone of your stated social, moral, and political views likes him, I’d say that’s pretty firm confirmation of my doubts. Thanks for the heads up.

          • Thirdsyphon

            Not to kick you when you’re down, Fred. . but I like Pope Francis too.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Some conservatives (Catholic and otherwise) like the five Catholic males of our Supreme Court (Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Roberts and Kennedy) and have a “not so much” attitude toward Pope Francis. I see these things from a precisely opposite viewpoint

        • Thirdsyphon

          “Jesus traveled all over Judea, was a man well educated for his time, and came from a family that we would consider middle class today. I wonder what he would make of Francis.”

          A Pope.

      • B-Sabre

        “Jesus was born and raised in “backwater” places, did not travel very far, had very little experience, and profoundly changed much of mankind for the better. ”
        Well, you know he DID have that whole “Son of God” thing going for him, too….that might have made a difference.

        • FriendlyGoat

          Well, of course it made a difference. But oddly, Jesus was not noted for palatial background and surroundings at Bethlehem and Nazareth. Custer’s contention above that Francis can’t lead in Jesus’s footsteps without being more highly cultured just strikes me as blind as a bat to what the whole thing is about.

  • Cecelia O’brien

    the whole thing is overblown by the media and then the usual right wing reactions to what is essentially the usual give and take during times of great change. Of course the Church is wrangling over how to respond to liberalization in the West and reconcile that with salvation and living as Christ taught. What are they supposed to act as if nothing is happening? There is no doctrinal change proposed – the synod is about pastoral guidance. Chill. Catholics do not revolt against their Pope – not everything and every institution conforms to the over politicization and hyper response that characterizes discourse in the US.

  • Pete

    Andrew Sullivan is noted for being an outspoken homosexual whose entire world view rotates around his perverse lifestyle.

    His disordered thoughts have no credence.

  • charlesrwilliams

    Through the synod Pope Francis has brought conflict among the bishops out in the open and that conflict has become ugly. The ugliness has been magnified by distorted media accounts of what is going on. It is not really clear what his own position is.

    Well, it doesn’t seem like a prudent action to me but not a single cardinal voted to make me pope.

    In general this papacy seems to continually lose control of the message. But nevertheless Pope Francis is genuinely popular.

  • Michael Wright

    Francis has become the Catholic Church, Spiritual equivalent of The US President Obama. All jibber Jabber to appease whoever is willing to give him a platform to speak. Castigating conservatives, capitalists and over 1 billion of the faithful will not earn you any accolades or bring about a spiritual revolution. At the most you will fracture the Church and lose one of its most powerful and richest donors in the American people.

  • david

    Pope john paul ii and pope benedict xvi were popes who called for reform of the united nations and opposed the new world order they took strong opposition to communism abortion homosexual unions women priests and the secular culture in general. Pope francis has accepted and said his mission is united with the united nations called for a new world order to be created has toed the environmentalist line promtes a world government based on communist principles demphasised the issue of abortion, life issues and homosexuality. He has called a synod to discuss allowing adultery to be permited and a homosexual unions are to be discussed too….but the most worrying aspect is the vaticans acceptance of the united nations as it is and that it has joined forces with the new world order….as a catholic i am sure our lady of la salettes prophecy “rome will lose the faith and become the seat of the anti christ” is coming true not that i believe francis is the anti christ because he is not…. but by submitting to the new world order the vatican and the seat of the papacy is in the hands of the system from which the anti christ will emerge

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