What Kind of Pope Do Liberals Want?

Why are progressive Catholics and the secular press so in love with Pope Francis? Not because they love the Catholic faith, but because they see Francis as a vehicle for their own agenda. The Crescat has a couple of interesting posts about how the press is handling Pope Francis here and here. She says what I feel–that we don’t have a problem with Pope Francis and his simple style. What we dislike is the implication by the press that he is the opposite of Benedict. A typical example is a little phrase in an article in the Daily Telegraph today about Francis using a 20 year old Fiat Popemobile rather than the bulletproof Mercedes that Benedict used. The Fiat is contrasted to the other popemobile which had “a white leather seat with gold trim.” Never mind that the Mercedes company designed, made and gave the safe and efficient and modern popemobile (which cost $450,000.00) to the pope.

Why this love affair with the new Pope from those who have for years hated the Catholic church and branded Pope Benedict as some sort of secret Nazi? If you want to see what all the schmoozy love talk for Francis is about check out this article in the HuffPo by John Sweeney. In it he showcases Matthew Fox’s book which ‘gives advice’ to Pope Francis. You want the Todd Unctuous version of the new Pope? Here it is then in a nutshell:

Because he is poor and comes from a poor country and loves the poor Pope Francis is a secret liberation theologian. Yay! a Marxist Pope! He hasn’t said it yet, but he’s going to go back to Vatican 2 which the last two popes did everything they could to dismantle. He’s going to listen to the people and not be the Pope. We know this because he calls himself the Bishop of Rome and not “Pope”. He is going to reverse that rule against contraception and allow pre marital sex. He’s going to allow women priests and married priests and when he gets the chance he’ll probably allow same sex marriage too!

What really gets me going is the fact that suddenly I hear of lapsed Catholics who love the new pope and non Catholics who think the new pope is marvelous. While I rejoice in this obviously successful PR, I’ll believe it when I see them starting to attend Mass and practice their Catholic faith.

I’m with the Crescat. I’m all for the Pope, but I am increasingly nauseated by the hypocritical “devout Catholics” and secularists who care nothing for the reality of the Catholic faith, but are captivated by the Pope’s simple style. What I would like to ask these Pelosi Catholics is if their new found fondness for the Bishop of Rome means they are suddenly converted to being pro-life and pro-marriage and in all things.

Soon enough the progressives will have their knives out for Pope Francis, but before they go against him, they will use him for their own agenda as much as possible. Here’s how they’ll do it: They will showcase everything he does which seems to fit their Marxist, Freudian worldview. They will ignore everything else. They will cherry pick. A new encyclical? Fugeddaboudit. Wearing brown shoes with holes in? Make a headline! A sermon in favor of marriage and family? Don’t mention it. A condemnation of a right wing dictator? Put him on the cover! You see how it goes.

 The honeymoon will soon be over and when they see that on their pet issues it is business as usual they will soon get their knives out for Francis, and they will be all the more furious because they will have gotten their hopes up, they’ll do this when he rains on their gay pride parade, reminds them that women priests are impossible and affirms the pro-life, pro-family stance.

It will happen soon enough. Hell hath no fury like a liberal scorned.


  • oregon catholic

    Well, just wait until the housecleaning at the Vatican gets underway. Then we’ll really hear about the contrasts between JPII, Benedict, and Francis.

  • DeaconJohnMBresnahan

    just saw on the web that one of the actions of Pope Benedict that liberal Catholics hate (the creation of the Anglican Ordinariat) has had its authority expanded by Pope Francis. Give it a few years and those trying to make Pope Francis into a Marxist-Freudian,beloved of the NY Times pope will be gnashing their teeth and smearing him as they have the Holy Benedict.

  • http://rosarynovice.stblogs.com/ Augustine

    Oh, no, Fr. L. They are not so enthused about Francis because he moves them to embrace the Catholic faith. In their little hearts of stone, their enthusiasm is about their moving Francis to embrace their heresies.

  • phbrown

    We’ll see. I’ve been waiting for the reaction against the clearly-unsustainable expectations surrounding Pres. Obama for five years now.

    In fairness to your thesis, however, Pres. Obama–as almost any politician would in his position–has played carefully on the American media’s codependence to keep them in line. Pope Francis, who isn’t fundamentally a politician and in any case is dealing with a global rather than a national audience, is unlikely to play the media so successfully.

    Myself, I suspect that we’ll see a schizophrenia in the coverage of Pope Francis, as if he were Dr. Jekyll (the simple Fiat-driving champion of the poor) and Mr. Hyde (who still asserts such inconvenient truths as the unique lordship of Jesus Christ and the immutability of the Church’s teaching on sexuality). But it will be interesting to watch, in any case.


  • Todd Flowerday

    Sorry, Father L, but you are way out of line on this one.
    As a liberal Catholic, as orthodox a Catholic as you, I object to being lumped in with the secular press, an organism that exists to sell product for corporations, and little else.
    The truth of it is that I don’t want the pope to declare abortion ok, ordain women, or authorize clowns in polyester jumpers to launch balloons to canvas in the rafters of St Peter’s Basilica.
    I just want what popes for the past twenty-odd years have not given us: a reason to hope.
    As a liberal who doesn’t mind that label, I’d like to give you, a conservative Catholic, some insight: you don’t know most of us as well as you think you do. You’re not so secretly ticked off that your frowny-face approach to Roman Catholicism looks like it’s out the door.

    • frdlongenecker

      Hey, stop labeling me as a conservative Catholic! I actually dislike the term “liberal” and usually use the term “progressive”. I’m going to change it. Thanks for the heads up.

      • Todd

        I’m fine with either. Usually it’s better to pay attention to what people want to be called rather than what you want to call them.

        • Cui Pertinebit

          Not really. It’s better to call a spade a spade. Especially if the spade has a vested interest in pretending to be something he’s not, or in trying to make what he is sound better than what it actually is. Then, “what he wants to be called” is his way of controlling the terms of the game, and manipulating others. So long as you act with charity, call people what they seem actually to be, in the light of truth.

          • Todd

            Then, Cui, it remains incumbent on you to actually make the effort to get to know people, and to diagnose accurately. Not mistaking a spade for a heart, diamond, or club. The prescription of #2478 in the Catechism applies.
            Otherwise addressing people by their own labels is not charity so much as courtesy.

          • Cui Pertinebit

            I agree, of course; it’s just that many, especially on the Left, now use words, terms, ideas, as weapons. They insist that you call them “married,” when they are codependent sodomites (whether straight or gay); they sometimes want you to call them “liberals,” when really they are the most controlling, illiberal people you ever met; they sometimes want to be called “progressives,” when they are using the oldest, most proven-to-fail, regressive ideas in history. You get the drift. One of the modern left’s main tactics, is to control the terms of the debate; I don’t think we can, in charity or courtesy, concede to them many of the things they would like to be called. We should get to know people, but we should not join them in their lies or deceit. They are not married, they are not liberal, they are not progressive; do we dare to speak, as though they are? Is that not a disservice even to them?

          • Todd

            Thanks for responding, Cui

            Then it becomes incumbent on you to discern the particular from the “many.” As long as you get to know me, and I know you, we can exchange poking, semi-friendly names in the way I might with my brother. Failing to do that is a failure of CCC 2478, and makes us adolescent name-callers.
            The sign of a good conversation is when the talk goes deeper, rather than into the shallow end of muck.

    • catholic_citizen

      If you support liberal candidates – like Mr. Obama, Ms. Pelosi or – if you live in my neck of the woods – Joe Courtney – your liberal streak is causing you to cooperate with inimical evil. That is the problem with most ‘progressive’ or ‘liberal’ Catholics – they seem to think there is some sort of on/off switch.

      Another problem with the ‘liberal’ Catholic is they think that people who are socially and politically conservative are dour faced people with no joy. Oh, and they are selfish. Nonsense and other stuff.

      Interestingly enough, the dioceses in the US that are experiencing a boom of vocations are headed up by bishops that many ‘liberal’ Catholics love to hate. The ones that are being run by weak or overly permissive bishops (those who turn a blind eye to their responsibility to adhere to the CCC) are seeing their seminaries empty – or being used by the dioceses that ran out of room in their own.

      A reason to hope? Benedict was a wonderful and inspiring theologian. Try reading his work sometime. John Paul II? Brilliant. If you don’t have hope, don’t blame the world – God shines the same light on you that He shines on everyone. Perhaps you need to take off the blindfold and see the Church for what it truly is. Try reading the Catechism. There is a companion to it – something like the Catholic Catechism for Adults – that explains it quite nicely.

      • Todd

        Nope. Your diagnosis is pretty much off. Not at all connected to the truth of the situation.

        • catholic_citizen

          What part? If you call yourself a liberal, you must be supporting liberal causes, organizations, and candidates – that is if you are voting at all.

          You want the Church to work for justice? It does like no other organization on the planet. Catholic Relief Services steers 95% of money collected to programs that aid the needy. Show me any government or secular agency that hits that mark. In South Africa alone, more than 60,000 people are treated for HIV….in Catholic Churches that double as clinics. The Africa Campaign has started food programs, clinics, and microloans to improve the social and economic lives of people living in abject poverty.

          ‘Not connected to the truth’? Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Read the Encyclicals of the Popes. That is the truth, Todd. And contemporary American liberalism is a political and social construct that is contradictory to many of the teachings of the Church.

          I live in the heart of liberalism and there are many liberal ‘Catholics’ who just don’t get it. Don’t tell me that I don’t get it or aren’t connected – I have to deal with heterodoxy all the time.

          And my answer to you is simple. There are a lot of churches that will tolerate just about anything. Ours is not one of them.

          • Todd

            What part? All of it.

            “If you call yourself a liberal, you must be supporting liberal causes, organizations, and candidates …”

            Ah! You are speaking of politics. I wasn’t.

          • catholic_citizen

            so enlighten me – what is a ‘liberal Catholic’? You already stated you don’t support women priests and jelly bean masses. Abortion? Gay marriage?

            ‘Not connected to the truth’? Who? The Pope? As I see it, both John Paul and Benedict had a very strong grasp on the Magisterium and the Catechism. Perhaps the teaching of the Church isn’t to your liking and you think that it needs to change to suit your ‘liberal’ sensitivities. Sorry.

            “Ah! You are speaking of politics. I wasn’t’ – heh. If you are going to try to establish yourself as someone above politics and the world, oh please. This is the realm where liberal or conservative come into play. If you are speaking solely from a religious aspect, there is no such thing. There is only orthodox – keeping with the traditions, teaching authority, and Catechism of the Catholic Church – or heterodox – beliefs or practices contrary to orthodoxy.

            Make a choice. Choose wisely.

          • Todd

            “Make a choice. Choose wisely.”
            Piffle. Political slogans from the self-styled orthodox. If you want answers, come and see.

  • Ryan Hite

    I don’t think that he will go that far, but I think that he is trying his best to not be involved in politics unlike Benedict. He is trying to exemplify the good and get rid of the controversy, even though it still abounds.

  • Mary E.

    Francis will confound his purported admirers, not because he wants to confound them, but because he will follow the way of the Cross as faithfully as he can. As his papacy progresses, liberals will find themselves in a difficult position: they will want to identify with him because they see care for the poor and oppressed as their particular territory, but they will be flummoxed (and repelled) by his adherence to established doctrine. Think about what he has just done: he has adopted a document largely written by Benedict, and adopted it unhesitantly and unequivocally. None of this “Benedict was a great guy, and I like most of what he wrote, but . . .” nonsense. I hope that those who are annoyed by some of the Pope’s current admirers will (in time) be able to focus less on them, and more on him.

  • Jennifer Fitz

    I’m sympathetic with the Crescat. But one silver lining: All the hype has caught the attention of a few very sincere evangelicals. If there are any Francis-inspired conversions, I bet they’ll come from that direction.

  • OneTimothyThreeFifteen

    Excellent piece! (after a flotilla of other excellent ones, too.)

    However, the thing that’s worried me more, is how many ‘conservatives’ (who claim to know better) have responded, and the type of pope they want (and think they’re not getting). It seems they simply see him as NOT the vehicle for their agenda, as if the poles have merely reversed:
    ‘Liberal’ – Benedict: BOO! Francis: HURRAY!
    ‘Conservative’ – Benedict: HURRAY! Francis: BOO!

    To my mind, their language since Pope Francis took up the Holy See of Peter, seems often to be as anti-supernaturalist as that of the Liberals, except in their usual ‘prissy’ manner. (What I believe Tracey Rowland was referring to as ‘the problem of aestheticism’, quoting Pope Benedict, in her recent lecture, “The Usus Antiquior and the New Evangelisation”). Integrism, in other words as I think it is called, or mistaking the Form for the Substance.

    At least the Liberals are consistently Ecclesiologically Existentialist, believing the Pope is just the CEO of the Catholic Church. But when ‘conservatives’ begin talking ‘as if’, as some of them are in the Blogsphere, then we ought to be worried…

  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    Pelosi Catholics is not just correct, it is a terrific – if unintended – pun. In Italian, the adjective “peloso”, of which “pelosi” is the plural, means “hairy”, but it has also the connotations of dishonesty and self-serving pseudery conveyed by the English “greasy”. So: Pelosi Catholics are greasy [pseudo] Catholics.

  • DeaconsBench

    Interestingly, though, some of those who have been the first to turn against this pope aren’t “liberals,” but traditionalists or more conservative Catholics.

    • http://rosarynovice.stblogs.com/ Augustine

      Indeed, much like the first to turn against B16 were heretic or more progressive Catholics.

  • Stephen M. Collins

    Then Rome is the perfect place for him, since your last paragraph is a clear parallel to Brutus and Ceasar!

  • David Sharples

    What amazes me is that those with a progressive agenda always seem to think that the pope is ultimately in charge…. Change “his mind”, and they get their way.. It’s not that they see the successor of Peter as the keeper of the keys on earth, which he is.. it’s more they always think of Jesus in the past tense. I don’t really think there’s really a thought of Christ risen, Truely Present or the Mind of Christ. Then again there could be a premeditated agenda here. Lets hope “they know not what they do..”

  • catholic_citizen

    I think of things not as liberal or conservative or traditional or progressive. I think of things as Orthodox – keeping with the Catechism, the Magisterium, and the Teaching Authority of Holy Mother Church – and heterodox. Which is defined as everything that is not orthodox. Pope Francis is pretty orthodox – I think that the Catholics for Choice and that crew are going to have a very painful wake-up call soon. The renegade nuns thought that Francis was going to roll over – but he certainly did not when he addressed the issue.

    Some people just don’t get it. Read the Catechism. When in doubt, consult it. The answer to pretty much everything is there – if you want to be a Catholic in communion with the Holy See.

  • Jordan Miller

    Want to preface my comment by saying that in general I like your blog. Think you are seeing the glass half empty, though. Certainly the media will use any Pope to further their agenda; if a Pope is obviously “conservative” (e.g., Benedict), they’ll distort him (Regensburg, etc.) and silence him. If a Pope gives even a hint of being “liberal”, they’ll distort and truncate him to paint him as ‘one of us’. The media has unfortunately passed some kind of point of no return (or unlikely return, at least) wherein everything Christian is either ignored or attacked with open hatred.

    However, it seems to me that something genuinely positive is happening at the ‘grass roots’ level, with both lapsed Catholics and non-Catholics warming up to Francis in a big way. I don’t think it’s simply that they are reading into him the liberal Pope they’ve always dreamed of, although some certainly are. I think that in many cases, they are seeing the light of Christ shine through him, and are attracted to it. Many of these lapsed Catholics and non-Catholics may be attracted to him for the wrong reasons, and some may be looking to use him for their own ends; but even if a few are genuinely experiencing attraction to Christ because of Peter, that is a positive development. The tax collectors and prostitutes were drawn to Christ’s words, even if they didn’t necessarily understand what he was really saying to them at first.

    Most “liberal” or “progressive” Catholics truly want to follow Christ and be his disciples, even if they have adopted heretical views on doctrine or morality. They have love for God and for Christ, but their zeal is misdirected. I believe that Pope Francis is very consciously trying to reconcile the ‘right’ and ‘left’ of the Church, one indication being the announcement (and probably canonization, also) of John XXIII and John Paul II on the same day. Instead of viewing ‘liberals’ or ‘progressives’ as the enemy, and they viewing us the same way, we need to concentrate on the real enemy, Satan (Francis talks quite a bit about the real enemy).

    This doesn’t mean ignoring real theological problems with ‘liberal’ Catholicism; serious errors cannot be papered over for the sake of some kind of false ‘unity’. But we need to draw people back together, including not only ‘liberal’ Catholics but Protestants and Orthodox. Especially now, when secular atheism is on the brink of persecuting all Christians, we need to get our act together internally.

  • windjammer

    They will turn against him when confronted by Truth. They always do.

  • George

    We should stop referring to other Catholics using political labels. It does damage to the Church.