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“A revolution in papal rhetoric”

“A revolution in papal rhetoric”

Pope Francis certainly speaks and acts differently than his predecessors, but writing in The New Republic, Damon Linker offers a probing assessment of the likely limits of the new pope’s interest in reforming the teachings of the church.

The fact is that the Vatican has no equivalent to the “Washington outsider.” To climb all the way to the top of the Church hierarchy, especially in an era dominated by Popes as stringent as John Paul and Benedict, a priest needs to exhibit more than a minor tendency toward conformism. ….

When Bergoglio broached Church policy on sexual and gender issues, his positions did not challenge Catholic orthodoxy—and in some instances he staunchly defended it. In 2007, after the Argentine government issued a waiver to allow a handicapped woman who had been raped to receive an abortion, he denounced the move in inflammatory terms, asserting that, “In Argentina, we have the death penalty: A child conceived by the rape of a mentally ill or retarded woman can be condemned to death.” In 2010, he described a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the country as “the total rejection of God’s law engraved on our hearts” and prayed for “St. Joseph, Mary, and the Child” to “support, defend, and accompany us in this war of God.” Then, amid the public outcry sparked by his strident opposition, he moderated his stance, suggesting that the Argentine Church might be willing to back compromise legislation that would create civil unions—about which Catholic doctrine is helpfully silent.

Unlike his predecessors, Francis holds an apparently sincere belief in dialogue, bridge-building, conciliation, and the adjudication of differences. It seems important to him to appear cheery, tolerant, cosmopolitan. He has made respectful, open-minded statements about the members and beliefs of other Christian churches, as well as about Jews, Muslims, and even atheists. But in every case where Francis has reached out to those who disagree with him, he has done so while indicating that his own beliefs grow out of Catholic bedrock. In the same airborne news conference during which he made headlines for seeming to counsel against damning gay priests, he responded dismissively to a question about women’s ordination, stating bluntly, “That door is closed.”


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Michael Russell

Having set my expectations in negative numbers for anyone from J2P2/Ratzinger era, Pope Francis is doing quite well.

He has allowed Liberation Theology to begin a rehabilitation, no small thing really.

He has launched a vocal assault of “savage capitalism” always safer than sex!

He is downplaying the majesty of the papacy for the simplicity of his own rule of life.

But to crawl up past zero into positive numbers he needs to name the RC sex scandal for what it is and apologize for his predecessor blaming gay priests as opposed to pedophiles or ephebophiles. Benedict bore false witness against the ordained gay community in his flock and so Francis at least needs to separate out predatory sexual inclinations from an easy but false slam of gay clergy.

Nonetheless, I wait with high expectations to see what he will say and do next.


The man’s been on the job for 6 months: I think the jury’s still out. (He has my prayers, of course)

JC Fisher

Peter Pearson

The difference seems to be that this pope appears to value compassion and mercy more than power and being right. I think I just exhaled, but I’m still not going back.

Kit Carlson

I agree with Adam. There’s no point expecting him to be anything other than bedrock Catholic. However, an increased emphasis on the poor and an acceptance of others, and a faithful living out of Christ’s compassion to the least of these can work wonders on the hearts of those who follow him. Change will come glacially in the Catholic Church, but by trying to live more like Jesus, they may get a little farther down the road.

Adam Spencer

“Is the Pope Catholic?” Yup. I’m not quite sure why this (his RC orthodoxy) surprises anyone. Within that framework, I think he’s doing and saying some really good and holy things these days, however. And that’s where I’m choosing to focus my energy as far as this papacy is concerned. In gratitude. I like Pope Francis lots and will be praying for him and his ministry as Bishop of Rome.

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