Pope Francis is something of an anomaly, being surprisingly popular with public media, Catholics and non-Catholics alike in the United States. His predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict (the Emperor Palpatine Pope) certainly didn’t foster such a welcoming from the media and populations. Yet Pope Francis also has been seen to divide liberal and conservative Catholics being too progressive for more conservative Catholics, while for some liberals not being progressive enough. What could be the cause of all this? Mainly this: media fails to understand Catholicism or what Pope Francis actually says.
I remember back to when Pope Francis made his famous, “Who am I to judge?” comment, which was praised as by many as the start to Church reform to be less discriminatory against people in the LGBTQ community, and possibly even a hint at marriage reform within the Church. The number of people who suddenly loved the Pope skyrocketed among Catholic and non-Catholics. The problem is, none of what he says is any different at its core from what the Catholic Church has been teaching in its Catechism which is this:
“They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” (Paragraph 2358)
But also the two preceding sentences:
“The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial.” (Paragraph 2358)
I bring up this example not to judge on what the Catholic Church teaches, but to point out that the media takes what Pope Francis says, and if it can ring well with liberal ears, while ignoring other public announcements and teachings he proclaims that would point out his conservatism.
Another example is Pope Francis’ endorsement of evolution. To some it was seen as revolutionary that the Catholic Church has finally gotten with the times and denied Creationism and Intelligent Design Theories. The problem with this is that the Catholic Church has been relatively accepting and warm to evolution since 1950 when Pope Pius XII wrote a papal letter taking the stand that the study and discussion of evolution among Catholics was no big deal, and Pope John Paul II made an endorsement of evolution in 2002 stating it was more than a hypothesis.
And just on Thurs., Jan. 15, Pope Francis chimed in on climate change saying, “I don’t know if it is all [man’s fault] but the majority is, for the most part, it is man who continuously slaps down nature.”
This statement for some reason shocked many in the media and was written about as a slap to conservative Catholics. All this when the Catholic Church, along with many other Christian denominations, has been teaching that humans are stewards of the earth and need to take good care of it for years upon years.
So why is it a slap in the face to Conservative Catholics, and some of the other things he says championed by Liberal Catholics? Because the media imposes a ludicrous dichotomy between conservative views and liberal views on just about everything, including Catholicism. And with Catholicism it really just doesn’t make sense, which in turn makes Pope Francis look like some type of weird anomaly. Admittingly it’s easy to label the Catholic Church as conservative overall since it is conservative on issues of sexual morality. Yet not every issue the Church takes a stand on fits in the conservative camp as portrayed by the media.
The Catholic Church has been pro-life for decades, opposing both abortion and being against the death penalty which both together don’t fit well into a liberal/conservative divide. The Church has been accepting of evolution, while also affirming God as Creator of the Universe and of the human soul which also doesn’t fit neatly into the media’s divide. Topic to topic, when you get into the real meat of issues it becomes harder to put the church as a whole into any conservative or liberal camps. The forcing of the typical political liberal/conservative dichotomy onto the Catholic Church really fails to capture what Church really is,
So if you love Pope Francis, think twice about what he says, check what the Roman Catholic Church is still teaching, and maybe you won’t be so quick to love him. Then think a third time, and you probably won’t be so quick to hate him either.