REALITY CHECK: Pope Francis Is Not Nearly As Liberal Or Metal As You & George Will Think He Is

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Noted Pope-ologist Paul Vallely, formerly the editor of the UK’s Independent and author of UNTYING THE KNOTS: The Struggle For The Soul Of Catholicism, discusses the ambiguities of Pope Francis’ atypically Jesus-like papacy: comforting the afflicted, afflicting the comfortable, dropping science about climate change (he is trained as a chemist) and reminding the rich that it is easier to thread a camel through the eye of a needle than it is for them to get into heaven. Also discussed: Moving the control of the church away from Europe/America, birth control (same as it ever was), female clergy (don’t hold your breath), cleaning up the hive of scum and villainy that is the Vatican Bank (check), Francis’ ambiguous pronouncements on homosexuals and same-sex marriage, and his disappointing foot-dragging in rooting out child-rapists from the Catholic priesthood. Valley says Francis is interested in changing the tone of the church, not the dogma. “Like changing the tune but keeping the words,” he says.

THE GUARDIAN: In a brief press conference on the plane from Cuba the pope told journalists he was no liberal. “Some people might say some things sounded slightly more leftish, but that would be a mistake of interpretation.” He followed church teaching, he said. “It is I who follows the church. My doctrine on all this … on economic imperialism, is that of the social doctrine of the church.” MORE

MATT TAIBBI: Pope Francis won over urban liberals through writings like his 184-page encyclical on climate change, which described the earth as an “immense pile of filth.” Raised in Peronist Argentina, he also talks with varying degrees of vagueness about the “perverse” inequities of global capitalism, complaining for instance that a two-point drop in the stock market makes the news, while nobody notices when a pope Sabbathhomeless person dies of exposure. This past weekend’s column by George Will perfectly expresses the sense of abject betrayal conservatives feel at a pope allowing himself to be appropriated by the global left, when he could be just railing against abortion and moral relativism like his recent predecessors. You can always tell how mad George Will is by how much alliteration he uses. “Pope Francis’s Fact-Free Flamboyance” predictably seethes from the start: “Pope Francis embodies sanctity but comes trailing clouds of sanctimony. With a convert’s indiscriminate zeal, he embraces ideas impeccably fashionable, demonstrably false, and deeply reactionary. They would devastate the poor on whose behalf he purports to speak…”

The notion that Will is upset with this pope on behalf of the poor is hilarious, but understandable. Conservatives loved the pre-Francis Catholic strategy for dealing with the poor. First, you create lots of cheap third-world factory labor by discouraging contraception. Then you give lip service to alleviating poverty by pushing a program of strictly voluntary charitable donations. That Catholic Church has always been a great ally to the industrialist aristocrats George Will represents. So it’s not surprising he’s not feeling this whole “we need to reform capitalism” thing. MORE

GEORGE WILL: Francis’ fact-free flamboyance reduces him to a shepherd whose selectively reverent flock, genuflecting only at green altars, is tiny relative to the publicity it receives from media otherwise disdainful of his church. Secular people with anti-Catholic agendas drain his prestige, a dwindling asset, into promotion of policies inimical to the most vulnerable people and unrelated to what once was the papacy’s very different salvific mission. He stands against modernity, rationality, science and, ultimately, the spontaneous creativity of open societies in which people and their desires are not problems but precious resources. Americans cannot simultaneously honor him and celebrate their nation’s premises. MORE

SLATE: Temperamentally, Francis does have liberal tendencies. He regrets the authoritarian way he governed as a young Jesuit leader. He wants to be open and collegial. He accepts criticism, seeks dialogue, and tries to learn from it. When Catholics disagree,pope-francis-revolution-betobarreto he tries to focus them on respect, love, and mercy. But if you look at his record, you’ll see limits to his openness. Take homosexuality. The quote that endeared Francis to liberals was: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis later explained his question this way: “When God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person.” The key word here is existence. Francis was forswearing condemnation of the whole person, not judgment of homosexual behavior. He was repackaging what conservative Christians have always said: love the sinner, not the sin. Francis has never called into question the church’s fundamental teaching: that while people “who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies … must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” they are “called to chastity” because “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” In fact, Francis has affirmed that “children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother,” and he has condemned efforts to “redefine the very institution of marriage.” MORE

MOTHER JONES: Pope Francis survived his visit to the White House this morning without anyone flashing boobs at him. That news might come as a surprise to conservatives, who for the past week have been attacking President Barack Obama for indecorously inviting LGBT activists and a liberal nun to attend the pope’s speech at the White House. They warned that the potential of these guests to embarrass the pontiff was scandalously high. Among those on the guest list were the first gay Episcopal bishop, Gene Robinson, and Nuns on the Bus organizer Sister Simone Campbell, who defied American bishops to organize American nuns to publicly support Obamacare, which the bishops have said is akin to endorsing abortion because it mandates insurance coverage for contraceptives. Others included a gay Catholic blogger and a couple of transgender activists. When the news broke of their inclusion in the papal event, GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee went on a tear, telling Fox’s Megyn Kelly that inviting them to the White House was like setting up an open bar at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. He has claimed the guest list was evidence that Obama was more interested in respecting the religious views of Osama bin Laden than those of the pope. MORE

INQUIRER: Pope Francis on Wednesday surprised and irked victims of Roman Catholic clergy sex abuse when he praised a gathering of U.S. bishops for their “courage” in handling the crisis, and consoled them for how stressful it had been. He also insisted that sex abuse at the hands of clergy must never happen again. His remarks brought a stinging rebuke from some abuse victims, who said courage should be reserved for themselves. “The bishops are poster boys for the fainthearted and timid. They have been cowards in the face of rape and sodomy of innocent children,” said the National Survivor Advocates Coalition. MORE