Jewish Journal

Pope Francis the Liberal

by Brad A. Greenberg

September 20, 2013 | 9:39 am

How do conservatie Catholics feel about the recently elected Pope Francis? Well, this bit of satire from The New Yorker's Andy Borowitz should give you a hint:

Justice Scalia said he had “no other alternative” but to pick a new Pope himself after reading what he called a “disturbing” interview with Pope Francis today: “The Pope said he doesn’t want to speak out against abortion and gay marriage. Well, sorry, my friend, but that’s the entire job description. You should have thought of that before you let them blow that white smoke in Rome.”

I repeat: This is not real news. It's satire. But it's sure to be passed around Twitter as if real, and I'm sure I'll see a few Facebook posts (including from journalist friends) stunned by the news. But it's not news.

Still, Borowitz touches on what is becoming a concern for conservative Catholics. In July, Pope Francis told reporters he was in no place to judge the hearts of the Vatican's so-called gay lobby. Then today he criticized the Church's emphasis on homosexuality and abortion.

"The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules," Francis said. "The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all."

Such statements mark a radical deparature from the pontiff's predecessor (though Pope Benedict indeed softened once elevated to the papacy). But they are not entirely unexpected for Pope Francis.

Journalists have been writing for months about how liberal the new pope is; Slate today used the link-bait headline "Pope Francis is a Flaming Liberal."

Though saying Francis is the most-liberal pope ever suggests a poor understanding of papal history and certainly the popes of the middle ages, he is the most liberal in recent memory.

And it's kind of difficult to say whether rightly or wrongly because, you know, the pope is never wrong.

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