Tuesday 6th October 2015

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

Why Do The Liberals Like Pope Francis… Even When He Stands Firm On Church Teachings?

February 13, 2014 Frontpage No Comments


A few weeks back in this space, I offered for your consideration the proposition that it serves us well to keep an eye on what the liberals, both Catholic and otherwise, have to say about Pope Francis. My position was that their perspective is likely to be different from that of Catholics on our side of the barricades in the culture wars, and that we can learn from it. I pointed to an article on the web site Religion Dispatches by Mary Hunt, who describes herself as a “feminist theologian” and a “Roman Catholic active in the women-church movement” who “lectures and writes on theology and ethics with particular attention to liberation issues.”
Hunt does not agree that Francis is as liberal as many of his critics on the right allege. She sees Francis’ public image as the product of a “very powerful public relations machine” concocted not to reform the Church along liberal lines but as a deception, “as a way of shoring up a model of the church that has endured for centuries.” She sees a danger in making the “papacy look good” through the “warm feelings” that Francis is generating around the world, when the Pope has made clear his commitment to orthodoxy.
This week I would like to focus on another liberal critic of the favorable public reaction to Pope Francis. It comes from Damon Linker, writing on the web site The Week on January 14, in a column titled, “What Do Liberal Catholics Want?” Linker doesn’t fear that liberal Catholics will be lured into backing the Church’s teachings because of their favorable opinion of the Pope. He thinks the liberal Catholics applauding Francis know perfectly well what they are doing, and that they have no intention of returning to orthodoxy. Surprisingly, liberal though he may be, Linker finds that troubling. I suspect readers of The Wanderer will agree with what Linker says, but for reasons different from his.
Linker is not uninformed about liberal opinion. He is a contributing editor to the liberal magazine New Republic, also a contributing editor at the University of Pennsylvania Press. He favors the ordination of women, married priests, and a loosening of the Church’s teaching on abortion and same-sex marriage. Like Mary Hunt, he sees little chance of Pope Francis moving to enact those “reforms.”
What he finds problematic is the possibility that “Trish from Kentucky,” a caller to a National Public Radio station where he was being interviewed recently, may be right about the reason for the liberal reaction to Francis. After describing herself as a “progressive Catholic,” Trish dismissed as irrelevant Linker’s skepticism about Pope Francis reforming Church doctrine in the manner Linker hopes for. “Doctrine,” said Trish, “for a Catholic, now, is not even an issue. Catholics do not care about doctrine. It is irrelevant. The congregation does not care,” she stated emphatically.
You might think at first that Linker would be on board with Trish. But he is not. He wants a liberalized Church that teaches his values, one that will bring “Catholic doctrine into conformity with the egalitarian ethos of modern liberalism, including its embrace of gay rights, sexual freedom, and gender equality.” But doing that requires a Church with authority, muscle, clout. A church without teaching authority cannot be enlisted into the service of his liberal agenda; it cannot be counted upon to convert the masses, still clinging to their traditional values.
Linker’s hope was that people such as Trish would “pray that the church eventually revises its doctrines to conform to the truth,” as she and he see it. “But Trish doesn’t hold this view. She’s completely indifferent to what the church teaches across a range of topics, and she thinks her fellow American Catholics agree with her.”
What Linker says next sounds as if it might have come from an archconservative Catholic, mutatis mutandis: “Why do you continue to attend church and think of yourself as a Catholic? If you attend for the beauty of the liturgy, why not just become an Episcopalian? If it is the sense of community you crave, why not join the Unitarian church? Either way, you could certainly continue to be spiritually moved by the pope’s public utterances, in the same way you might be stirred by an inspiring presidential speech. But what’s the point of staying put when you’re utterly indifferent to so much of what the Catholic Church . . . proclaims to be true.”
Are you reacting to Linker’s exasperation the way I am? Are you torn between despondency and a bout of schadenfreude? If Trish is right, it is not just Linker who has something to fret about. If she is right, the great majority of modern Catholics now reject the authority of the Church and view Catholicism in much the way the English view Anglicanism, as some vague cultural representation of their family’s and social class’ search for ethical values and meaning in life. Not an outcome to be welcomed.
Permit me to offer some words of hope: Even though the polls indicate the majority of modern Catholics disagree with the Church on the issues that matter to Linker and Trish (divorce, abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage), I would argue it is not because they think the Church’s teachings a “non-issue,” but because they find them too difficult to accept. That makes a difference.
I do not have a polling service to prove my point. What I offer is anecdotal evidence. But I think I am correct, and that Trish is not. It has been my experience over the years that when practicing Catholics disobey the Church’s teachings on the above issues, it is not because they think the Church’s teachings erroneous, but because they think they cannot be expected to live up to them. I have found, for example, that divorced and remarried Catholics will say that they agree that a marriage should be “forever.” Their hope is that God will understand and forgive them because they could not live up to that ideal in their circumstance in life.
Likewise, I have found that, when pressed to explain themselves, Catholics who practice contraception will agree with the Church that there is a necessary moral connection between sex, love, and the creation of new life. Their problem is that they can’t see how to conform to that ideal in their own lives. They hope that God will understand the compromise that they are making. They hope the Church will one day find a way to accommodate this compromise.
In other words, these Catholics, as well as Catholics who do not live their lives in line with the Church’s teachings on abortion and homosexuality, are not denying the Church’s authority to teach on matters of faith and morals. Rather, they are wrestling with their inability to live by those teachings because of their weaknesses or what they think are the “unique” problems in their lives.
Please do not misread me. I am not saying these Catholics are morally correct to think and behave in this manner.
My point is only that their disobedience need not imply that they agree with Trish that Church doctrine “is not an issue.” They well may be struggling and praying and consulting with a confessor over what God wants from them in their situation in life. That is a far different understanding of Church doctrine than Trish’s.


Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Untitled 3

Pope FrancisAn Open Letter To His Holiness Pope Francis      Given the controversy and confusion surrounding the 2014 Synod on the Family, the staff of The Wanderer and its supporters thought it appropriate to address Pope Francis with an open letter . . .

Synod Showdown Report—October 5, 2015

We’re just out of the first press briefing of the Synod 2015, and things have pretty much picked up where they ended last year. The lead story, if you want to say there’s a lead to this, was a question…Continue Reading

Gov. Brown signs controversial assisted-suicide bill

Caught between conflicting moral arguments, Gov. Jerry Brown, a former Jesuit seminary student, signed a measure Monday allowing physicians to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients who want to hasten their deaths. Brown appeared to struggle in…Continue Reading

Someone is Lying About the Pope’s Meeting with Kim Davis

Papal spokesman Father Thomas Rosica flatly denies Kim Davis met privately with Pope Francis when he visited Washington, D.C. which stands in flat contradiction to Davis’s claims. In Roscia’s telling Davis was part of a large number of people as…Continue Reading

Top Universities Defend Research Using Body Parts From Aborted Babies

Some of America’s top universities have signed a letter urging states not to support legislation that would ban the sale of aborted babies for research. The letter comes after ten videos surfaced exposing Planned Parenthood’s organ harvesting business, along with…Continue Reading

Catholic Hospitals Sued For Refusing Emergency Care To Pregnant Women

The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday announced that it is suing Trinity Health Corporation, which operates 80 hospitals nationwide, for refusing to provide pregnant women suffering from life-threatening emergency complications with abortions. Trinity Health hospitals have “repeatedly and systematically…Continue Reading

Too Scared to Pray? ISIL Cancels Prayers for Fear of Russian Airstrikes

The Islamic State terror group cancelled Friday prayers in the Syrian city of Raqqa and emptied mosques there out of fear of further Russian airstrikes, according to activists and city residents. According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights,…Continue Reading

Putin defends Russia’s ban on youth-focused gay propaganda: ‘I believe we should leave kids in peace’

MOSCOW, September 29, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – In 2013, Russia passed an amendment to the country’s Child Protection Law against “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors,” which also safeguards children from being adopted by homosexuals. Western governments, led by the…Continue Reading

EXPOSED: The billionaire Planned Parenthood donor who wants his donations kept very, very secret

Sept. 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Three weeks after I left my job at the clinic, Planned Parenthood took me to court. I am always asked, “Why would they take you to court? Did they have something to hide?” Well, yes.…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke Brought Back Into Roman Curia By Pope Francis

Raymond Cardinal Burke has been re-appointed to Congregation for the Causes of Saints from which he had been removed in December of 2013.

The Secret Meeting of the Papal Trip

Washington, D.C. One meeting during Pope Francis’ whirlwind trip to America has remained secret. Until now. It was, arguably, the most significant meeting, symbolically, of the entire trip. It should, therefore, be brought to the attention of the public, both…Continue Reading

Angry Pope Blasts Mayor of Rome as a ‘Pretend Catholic’

Pope Francis raised eyebrows in Italy on Tuesday by slapping down the left-leaning mayor of Rome as someone who “pretends to be Catholic”. The unforgiving assessment of Ignazio Marino — a man the Italian media love to hate — further…Continue Reading

Bishop Fellay Petitions Pope Francis

A petition to Pope Francis: uphold marriage! The Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X has just published a petition to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, asking him to publicly defend the institution of holy matrimony. Bishop Fellay…Continue Reading


Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.

  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Card. Alencherry: pastors called to prophetic role

(Vatican Radio) The third General Congregation of the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops opened on Tuesday morning with the celebration of Terce (mid-morning prayer). The homily for the Liturgy was delivered by Cardinal George Alencherry of Ernakulam-Angamaly, Major Archbishop and President of the Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church. In his homily, Cardinal Alencherry reminded the Synod Fathers that “the pastors of the Church in the present times are called to take…Continue Reading

Synod on the Family: Press Briefing Day 1


(Vatican Radio) The first of the daily press conferences to report on the proceedings of the Synod of the Family took place at 1pm Rome time on Monday. The Synod began on Sunday with a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica and the first session sat on Monday morning. Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office, was accompanied by Cardinal Péter Erdö from Hungary – who is the…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: The Synod Is Not a Parliament

In Opening Address for Synod’s 2015 1st General Congregation, Urges Prelates to Walk Together Led by Holy Spirit Vatican City, October 05, 2015 (ZENIT.org) Deborah Castellano Lubov Pope Francis has reminded prelates the Synod is not a conference, a parliament or a senate, but rather an expression of the Church to be led by the Spirit. In his opening, unscripted address at the Synod’s 2015 1st General Congregation in the Vatican’s New Synod Hall this…Continue Reading

Pope’s Angelus Address

“The Synod Fathers, coming from every part of the world and gathered around the Successor of Peter, for three weeks, will reflect on the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in society, for careful spiritual and pastoral discernment.” Vatican City, October 04, 2015 (ZENIT.org) Staff Reporter Below is a ZENIT-translation of Pope Francis’ Angelus Address today at noon in St. Peter’s Square, following his having presided over Mass for the Opening…Continue Reading

Liberty Counsel Says . . . Pope’s Words And Meetings Support Conscientious Objection

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Liberty Counsel issued the following statement on October 2: Mat Staver, county clerk Kim Davis’ attorney, is the chairman of Liberty Counsel: + + + Despite a statement this morning by a Vatican official, the Pope’s own words about conscientious objection being a human right and his private meeting with Kim Davis…Continue Reading

A Book Review… The Ideal Artist

By JUDE P. DOUGHERTY Santayana, George. The Life of Reason: Reason in Art. A critical edition, co-edited by M.S. Wokeck and M.A. Coleman. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2015. lvi + 276 pp. The Life of Reason is Volume VII, Book Four, of the Collected Works of George Santayana. Professor James Gouinlock of Emory University…Continue Reading

Why Isn’t Kim Davis A Hero To The Left?

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK I have been waiting for weeks now for the keepers of the flame in the liberal establishment to express some begrudging admiration for Kim Davis’ decision to go to jail, rather than violate her conscience by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Kentucky. Or at least some ambiguity over what…Continue Reading

What’s In A Motto?

By DONALD DeMARCO Pope St. John Paul II’s 1998 encyclical Fides et Ratio is a thorough and thoughtful discussion of the harmony between “faith” and “reason.” It does not break new ground but reaffirms to a modern audience what St. Thomas Aquinas and more recent thinkers such as Jacques Maritain and Etienne Gilson have carefully…Continue Reading

Non-Catholic Communities As “Means Of Salvation”

By FR. BRIAN W. HARRISON, OS Many dissident traditionalists claim that Vatican Council II’s Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio (UR) is irreconcilable with traditional Catholic doctrine. The passage most commonly singled out in support of this claim is the affirmation in article 3 of the Decree that “the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from…Continue Reading


Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World… Pope Francis’ Visit Leaves Us Blessed And Strengthened

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The chair under me is rolling from starboard to port and back as I write to you this week because I do so aboard the USS San Antonio at sea. In my ministry here I am following through on something Pope Francis has asked of all of us: I am seeking souls at the periphery.…Continue Reading

An Apologetics Course . . . The Church Of Christ Is Universal, For Everyone

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA Part 22 It is true that Jesus came first for the Jews. Many individuals accepted Him, like the apostles, disciples, and their converts, but as a nation they refused Him. So the apostles spread their mission to the Gentiles — that means, to our ancestors. But even if the Jews had accepted Him, the apostles would…Continue Reading

Mission Of The Catholic Laity: Priest, Prophet, And King

By DON FIER Thus far in our examination of the vocation of the laity in the mission of the Church, it has become manifestly clear that theirs is a role that is distinctive and indispensable. Characterized especially by their secular nature, it pertains in a unique way to the lay faithful “to illuminate and order all temporal things with which…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. Recently we got a new pastor who has resumed the holding of hands during the Our Father that our previous pastor had eliminated. Has this now become part of the liturgy? And what is the purpose of the holding hands to begin with? Also, what do you think of “Polka Masses”? — C.G., Wisconsin. A. No, holding hands during…Continue Reading

Wisdom Is Worth More Than Gold

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Twenty Eighth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR B) Readings: Wisdom 7:7-11 Heb. 4:12-13 Mark 10:17-30 In the second reading, St. Paul tells us that no creature is concealed from God, but that everything is naked and exposed to Him to whom we must render an account. We know from the Gospels that our Lord, on several…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Pope St. John XXIII

By CAROLE BRESLIN Part 1 Although rare, it is not unknown for a poor man, who had no connections and did not seek to develop them, to rise above all other men in stature and in influence over mankind. Such was the case of the sharecroppers’ son, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli. Throughout his ecclesiastical career, he was obedient and kind, but…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Thomas of Hereford

By CAROLE BRESLIN During the High Middle Ages the power of kings began to disintegrate, as shown by the Magna Charta, which was established in 1215. Although neither party of the agreement held up to its commitments, the beginning of more democratic rule had arrived. Three years later a noble family gave birth to a man who played a significant…Continue Reading