Surprise! Not everyone loves Pope Francis!
Today is the first anniversary of Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s ascension to the papacy of the Roman Catholic Church — and it’s been quite a year.
The worldwide popularity of Pope Francis has surpassed even rock-star proportions; his smiling visage has graced the covers of countless magazines, and his statements frequently have been trumpeted in headlines in the secular media.
But not everyone is a big fan of the pope, as we see HERE:
[J]ust as the Pope’s pedestrian popularity grows, bolstered no doubt by a savvy public relations move from within the Vatican to get the ‘good news’ message out to the mainstream press, there are a growing number of dissident voices from deep within the Catholic community who aren’t exactly impressed with the so-called “Francis effect” on the church as a whole.
In fact, toeing the new party line instilled by Francis is proving to be the greatest challenge for conservative Catholics who are quite used to a prudent and predictable Pope. Francis’s comments about showing mercy to divorced couples, not judging gay priests and even toying with further examination of civil unions outside the church have proven to be tough for conservative Catholics to swallow. John Vennari, noted Catholic observer and editor of “The Catholic Family News,” has been pounding a steady drumbeat on the danger of Francis’s widespread populist appeal since his election a year ago. “He seems to have a good heart and some good Catholic instincts, but theologically he is a train wreck—remarkably sloppy,” Vennari wrote in a recent blog post. “Though this might shock some readers, I must say that I would never allow Pope Francis to teach religion to my children.”
In an NBC news piece titled “Not Everyone Loves Francis,” Boston College theology professor Thomas Groome pondered whether or not true Catholic conservatives would be able to keep supporting the Pope’s new approach towards acceptance and mercy and still keep their faith. “I think it will be a real test for conservative Catholics,” he told NBC. “They have always pointed the finger, quoting the Pope for the last 35 years. Suddenly, will they stop quoting the Pope? It’ll be a good test of whether or not they’re really Catholics.”
But it’s not just traditionalists who are finding fault with Francis. Writing in the New Statesmen, John Bloodworth, editor of the popular British progressive political blog Left Foot Forward, warns that Francis is no different from his predecessors and that the Catholic Church “stands on roughly the same political terrain as it did under the leadership of Pope Benedict.” He says part of Francis’s popularity is simply a result of “clever repackaging” of the same Catholic propaganda coupled with a troubled society’s search for a new hero, which, he says, “has resulted in people switching off their critical faculties and overlooking inconvenient truths.” Bloodworth blames the mainstream press for essentially drinking the Catholic Kool-Aid without really checking for substance. “Pope Francis’s position on most issues should make the hair of every liberal curl,” he says. “Instead we get article after article of saccharine from people who really should know better.”
Some liberal Catholics believe that Francis is missing an opportunity to use his popular appeal to really make a substantive difference. Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, says that part of Francis’s appeal was his predecessor’s weakness. “To go from such an uncharismatic Pope to such a natural and warm leader like Francis has made people interested in what he has to say,” O’Brien told The Daily Beast. “But he’s not exactly Che Guevera for the church.”
While O’Brien believes that Francis’s off-the-cuff comments about divorced couples and gay priests are “driving the uber-conservative Catholics insane,” he worries that the Pope is actually getting a lot of undue credit for being a revolutionary when he hasn’t exactly shaken up the most troubling problems within the church. “I think that he could have a bigger impact, especially when it comes to women,” he says. “If Pope Francis has a blindspot, that’s it.”