Conservative U.S. Catholic Officials Irritated by Pope Francis’ Synod, Recent Statements

Pope Francis leads a Mass on the occasion of All Saints' Day on November 1st, 2014 at Campo di Verano cemetery in Rome on Saturday. (Photo: Vincenzo Pinto, AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis leads a Mass on the occasion of All Saints’ Day on November 1st, 2014 at Campo di Verano cemetery in Rome on Saturday. (Photo: Vincenzo Pinto, AFP/Getty Images)

A senior American cardinal in the Vatican says that under this pope, the Roman Catholic Church is “a ship without a rudder” and the faithful “are feeling a bit seasick.”

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput complains that a recent Vatican conference called by Pope Francis produced “confusion,” adding, “Confusion is of the devil.”

A group of conservative lay Catholics say they felt “betrayed” by a preliminary report from the conference that proposed a more welcoming attitude toward gay men and lesbians.

Turnabout is supposed to be fair play, but for these and other U.S. Catholic conservatives and traditionalists, the papacy of Francis also seems to be infuriating, worrying or just plain puzzling.

“The conservatives had it all their way for about 30 years, and now the shoe might be on the other foot,” says the Rev. Paul Sullins, a priest who teaches sociology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. “Now they feel on the outside a little bit, which is exactly how the progressives used to feel.”

That was during the papacies of John Paul II (1978-2005) and Benedict XVI (2005-13), doctrinal conservatives who brooked little discussion and less dissension when it came to church teaching on issues such as ordination of women and compulsory priestly celibacy.

Many conservatives struggle to get a handle on Pope Francis, who since taking office last year warned against an “obsessive” concern with culture war issues, such as abortion and gay marriage; encouraged discussion of church teaching on things like contraception and divorce; and asked, regarding gay men and lesbians who profess religious faith, “Who am I to judge?”

Conservative reaction ranges from open dismay over Francis’ direction to the more common conviction that it’s not the pope promoting liberalization, but a news media that reports his frequent off-the-cuff remarks out of context for a public with little grounding in Catholicism.

“A lot of mainstream media reporting is based on what people hope Pope Francis is saying, instead of what he is actually saying,” says Arina Grossu, a 31-year-old University of Notre Dame graduate who worships in the Archdiocese of Washington. The result, she concludes, “only adds to the noise and confusion.”

But Sullins, the church sociologist, says that for some conservatives the problem starts at the top: “Their feeling is, ‘We’re out here on the front lines in the culture wars — fighting abortion, gay marriage. It seemed Benedict had our back, and Francis doesn’t.”

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SOURCE: Rick Hampson
USA TODAY

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