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Pope Francis Clashes With Conservative Catholics: The Irony Of Orthodoxy

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Photo courtesy of Semilla Luz at Flickr under Creative Commons license

Since we developed the ability to talk thousands of years ago, few have had the audience the Pope enjoys. With the Pope’s visit to the United States, his omnipresent voice on social justice, climate change and his recent admonitions to Catholics concerning the refugees streaming from Syria, the Pope continues to make headlines.

As he persistently takes advantage of his pulpit, knowing that his communications can change the world, the Pontiff is experiencing pushback on his message.

Even though the position of Pope has always been a target of criticism outside of Catholicism, Pope Francis has created a new breed of critics: Catholics, or more specifically, Republican Catholics. Republican Catholics have long leaned on their faith as justification for being culturally static, selfish, patriarchal, or morally obtuse.

The new Pope, however, has this new-aged, reverence for the teachings of Jesus. This is whipping up waves of papal dissent.

But how can that be? The Pope is infallible. How are Catholics rationalizing their violation of Jesus’ promise to Saint Peter?


Photo courtesy of Semilla Luz at Flickr under Creative Commons license

This new Pope is a liberal. Many of us struggled with the infallible stuff simply because the Pope rode inside of bulletproof glass. That’s kind of a clue, don’t you think?

But Catholics are well-versed in mental gymnastics that allow them to bend around such potential conflicts…until the Pope goes liberal.


Prior to Pope Francis, the memory that Jesus admonished us to feed the poor, love thy neighbor and turn the other cheek was treated as mere hearsay. Reading the Bible is hard and confusing. But now, the Pope said so. And, he’s the friggin’ Pope! He speaks for God.

Pope Francis is re-branding Catholicism. In doing so he’s quoting Jesus as you’d expect, but he’s also made it clear that he means it. In 2013 he wrote:

“The worship of the Golden Calf of old has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings.”

‘Their lack of real concern for human beings.’ is the part that rings out. In a nutshell, this is the divide between the liberal and conservative. Economy versus people. Business versus workers. There is always a lot of conservative wrangling around the rationalization that good business is good for people. And this can be true. We live in an economy, but it doesn’t have to be cold, impersonal, with no real objective other than obtaining MORE!

The question becomes, are Catholics willing to adhere to the liberal messaging of their infallible leader? Or, are their wanton needs to exploit this planet and all who ride on it, too addictive? I am not Catholic, but am praying this Pope’s message sticks.


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Written by Jerry Mooney

Jerry Mooney teaches Language and Communications at a small, private college in Idaho. He is the author of History, Yoghurt and the Moon.