GetGetReligion: Francis not bugging conservatives?

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GetReligionEarlier this month, the Washington Post‘s Michelle Boorstein and Elizabeth Tenety had the temerity to suggest, as the headline put it, that “Conservative Catholics Question Pope Francis’ Approach.” Yesterday, Godbeat Cop Terry Mattingly decided to take exception to their lede:

Rattled by Pope Francis’s admonishment to Catholics not to be “obsessed” by doctrine, his stated reluctance to judge gay people and his apparent willingness to engage just about anyone — including atheists — many conservative Catholics are doing what only recently seemed unthinkable: They are openly questioning the pope.

Oh, but it wasn’t doctrine in general that Francis admonished Catholics not to be obsessed with, chastiseth tmatt, and conservatives also questioned John Paul II’s ecumenical confab in Assisi, and JPII reached out to non-Catholics too. Yeah, yeah. His real point is one dear to the GetReligion brief: “Doctrinally conservative Catholics are primarily worried about the mainstream press misinterpreting the pope’s words or yanking them out of context.”

Surely not. Doctrinally conservative Catholics are primarily worried about what the pope will actually say and do. And they have reason to be worried. Of course, their first recourse when a pope says or does something they don’t like is to blame the news media for misinterpreting it. Not to recognize that dodge is either naive or disingenuous.

Over at OSV, the hardly liberal Russell Shaw puts the dodge in context.

Among Catholics who’ve been rattled by remarks by Pope Francis in his famous interviews, some have sought solace in blaming the media. They have a point. Sensationalism, oversimplification and ignorance…really have marked some of the papal coverage to date.

But when you’re through criticizing the press, the fact remains that the reporters have gotten it essentially right. Pope Francis truly is saying something different while apparently preparing to set the Church on a significantly new path.

Shaw goes on to place Francis firmly in the camp of the late progressive favorites (and doctrinally conservative nemeses) Cardinal Carlo Martini of Milan and Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago. (RNS’ David Gibson rang the changes on the Francis-Bernardin parallel yesterday.)

“Please pray for me,” Francis asked St. Petersburg Bishop Robert Lynch in Rome a couple of days ago. “I have only just begun and I need prayers.” I have a feeling that the conservative questioning has only just begun as well.

  • Alan Lille

    Actually traditional Catholics are not bothered by Pope Francis and yes, the media through both ignorance or willful spin, do selectively quote the Holy Father. It has been amazing to me how very little Mr. Silk even understands Catholic theology. No, traditional Catholics do not fear this Pope, who is doing a remarkable job by the way. We recognize intentional and ideological spin when we see it. It is not that hidden.

  • magpieinmadrid

    Alan, Mark has justified his arguments with references from a variety of sources. Perhaps in order to be equally credible,you should do the same. If not, it appears to be your own opinion dressed up as “what everyone thinks”.

  • Carl Diederichs

    I do think that many traditional Catholics are raising concern. This is not Mark’s opinion.

    I think we do need to listen to what Papa Francesco says, it is very easy to understand and doesn’t need “spin.” He is changing the conversation. Even his liturgical style speaks volumes. No more lace up to the hips.

    Doctrine and dogma should arise out of a relationship with Jesus, the for-giving victim. No doctrine or dogma can replace the all-loving, all-forgiving God.

  • H. E. Baber

    Hrumph!!! The only thing new about this pope is the style and image. When it comes to doctrine it’s the same old same old. I don’t like this guy one bit. And am not impressed by his displays of ‘humility’ and other grandstanding shennagans.

    The core doctrine of ‘Christian ethics’ as Pope Francis and other conservative Christians generally understand it, is sex roles. They may finesse it, push the idea that these roles are separate but equal, but which ever way you cut the cake, the upshot is la difference or, as Berdyaev put it, that male and female are ‘cosmic categories.’ That male and female are theologically significant.

    Separate but equal, or ‘complementarily,’ sucks because it means that people are constrained, that their options are determined by unchosen characteristics–by biology. And that’s contrary to the message of the Gospel and of modernity, the message of liberation–from the body, from race, tribe, ethnicity and sex.

  • Duane Lamers

    Pope Franciis is NOT “truly saying something different.” He is saying that too much of the Catholic “conversation” has been devoted to certain moral or Church discipline issues and not enough to other important elements of the Church’s body of belief.

    Surely, Mr. Silk knows that the Pope has said plenty that indicates he is not budging from important traditional positions, emphasized by directives even these days being promulgated by officials he has confirmed in their positions in the Curia.

    The media hightlight what they wish to emphasize and the public takes the bait–as the media had hoped would happen all along. Nothing new here.

  • etseq

    It’s almost charming how earnest the bloggers at stick to their script – Roberta Ahmonson is surely getting her money’s worth! I guess the right wing victimhood meme fuels their prolific indignation to denounce any deviation from conservative christianity in the press – it certainly gives off an unpleasant air of self righteousness.

    My one objection to Mark’s otherwise brilliant needling of the holy rollers is that RNS does not come away with clean hands. RNS had no problem hiring a former getreligionist, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, as a “straight” journalist who makes very little effort to separate her conservative evangelical views on say, gay rights, which clouds her reporting. She continues to beat the drum that gays are a threat to “religious liberty” deceptively framing the issue as if there are no gay christians or liberal religious traditions that aren’t anti-gay,

    Not that Mark is responsible for RNS hiring practices…

  • etseq

    Just for some comic relief – here is a hilarious takedown on the folks at and the now defunct family scholars

  • larry

    “And that’s contrary to the message of the Gospel and of modernity, the message of liberation–from the body, from race, tribe, ethnicity and sex.”

    You gotta be careful of all that talk of liberation around this Pope. Back in Argentina he helped making people who talked about liberation theology “disappear”.

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