Today’s Francis-Bashing Right Wing Noise Machine Panic

Today’s Francis-Bashing Right Wing Noise Machine Panic January 21, 2015

There goes that arch-heretic Francis, talking about responsible parenting with his rabbits comment. The Church has nev–

2368 A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality:

When it is a question of harmonizing married love with the responsible transmission of life, the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his acts, criteria that respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love; this is possible only if the virtue of married chastity is practiced with sincerity of heart.

Yeah, but did he have to condemn large families and say that Catholics should not “breed like rabbits”?

He didn’t.

“In a world often marked by selfishness, a large family is a school of solidarity and sharing; and this attitude is to the benefit of society as a whole…. I always thank the Lord in seeing mothers and fathers of large families, together with their children, committed to the life of the Church and of society. ”
~Pope Francis, Public Enemy Number One for All Right Thinking, Ally-Bayonetting, Discernment-Free Conservative Catholics, from his address to large families on the Feast of the Holy Family, December 28, 2014. Cuz he totally hates large families.

What he said in the interview the other day, in easy to understand language, was not to *be* like rabbits.  “Breed” was a word supplied reflexively by the media and attributed to him.  What’s the diff?  The diff is that he implied nothing about family size but only about being responsible to have the size of family you can responsibly support.  Coming from (and speaking to) a culture of machismo in which sexual prowess equals “manhood without consequences” it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to say.

How I long for the day when “faithful conservative Catholics” will attempt the feat of listening to the Holy Father and not simply believing whatever they are told to believe by the Right Wing Noise Machine that has him in the crosshairs.  It is beyond absurd that we now live in a time when that machine has climbed in bed with the NY Times and is skillfully telling the Faithful to believe without question lefty reportage on the pope since that helps to stampede them in hysterics away from the Shepherd and toward rebellion.  It’s but the latest in the death of a thousand cuts from the Right Wing Panic Machine.  Next week it will be something else to panic about.   I miss the days when faithful Catholics *corrected* false media reports instead of taking them as gospel, setting their hair on fire, and running in circles.

Clues for the clueless: the biggest friend and ally of the family–including the large family–on the entire world stage is the Holy Father.  How is it possible that Catholics can be such fools as to not see that?  You want to talk about “imprudence”, O Francis Basher?  Start there, with the log in your own eye.

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  • ivan_the_mad

    Here is’s transcription.

    Further, let the record show that I am outraged on behalf of rabbits everywhere.

    • Admirable

      I have no doubt that people are over reacting to Francis’ words.

      However, I think the problem with his words is not their intention, but the fact that he used a loaded phrase that is employed widely to denigrate Catholics.

      This was insensitive, and exposes his flock to be further denigrated while leaving an opening for the worldly to pretend as though Francis agrees with them.

      That is really what this is about. On a day in which I felt like over reacting I would say Francis is pandering to the worldly media and being insensitive to what his flock is faced with in opposing the world. On a day in which I felt really admirable I would say even though his words were obviously problematic hopefully he didn’t mean them in the way that most interpreted them.

  • Peggy

    It wasn’t “be” v “breed”. That is inconsequential. But the crude depiction of large families reproducing like rabbits is unbecoming language for the Vicar of Christ. He’s no longer Giorgio Bergoglio. He’s the Holy Father. I pray for the Holy Spirit to guide him.

    • chezami

      He should have used dignified language and called us “sheep” instead.

      • Vision_From_Afar

        I hear he’s cool with sheep.

      • Mark S. (not for Shea)

        After reading WATERSHIP DOWN, I’d much rather be a rabbit than a sheep.

      • Peggy

        Words mean something. Certain expressions mean something. This is not a one-off problem with his colloquial linguistics. That said, I’m not personally offended. It isn’t the first time, he’s had to backtrack or the press office has had to “clarify.”

    • ivan_the_mad

      The quote runs thus: “Some believe that – excuse the expression – to be good Catholics we must be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood.”

      Crude depiction? No. Dispelling an ignorant stereotype with an extemporaneous exposition of actual Church teaching? Yes.

      • iamlucky13

        For what it’s worth, I’m struggling to think of a single Catholic I know who openly believes “to be a good Catholic we must be like rabbits.” I never knew my parents to make any statement remotely resembling that, but since I was the third of nine children, maybe they said it before I arrived?

        There are certainly plenty of nuances to the church’s teachings on openness to and loving acceptance of children, but it seems it’s mostly people OUTSIDE the Church who think Catholics are required to breed like rabbits.

        Or rather, people outside the Church have apparently adopted an old joke about Catholics breeding like rabbits as doctrine. I missed the proclamation that added non-Catholics to the Magisterium, but the more the merrier, right?

        • ivan_the_mad

          He was speaking to a gaggle of reporters, after all 😉 Further, I know some Catholics, dissenting on contraception doctrine, inter alia, who have some pretty strange notions regarding what the mean ole patriarchal Church teaches about procreation.

          I should also add how very pleased I am to be in a discussion with the famed Commander Keen.

        • chezami

          Yeah. Who has ever caricatured Catholics as irresponsible breeders?

          • Catholic pilgrim

            Those bloody Protestant Anglican heretics! Why must Anglicans hate Catholics & the (Catholic) Irish as well? Why must Anglicans produce such vile videos?

          • Joseph

            Hey… they were given up to medical experiments… the common good!

        • Peggy

          I know a woman who called her 9+ kids the pope’s kids.

        • Mariana Baca

          He was talking to the press, not from the pulpit, thus addressing a misconception common in the press and non catholics and dissenting catholics.

          Actually, I’ve even had faithful Catholics outraged when I point out both HV and the catechism advocate Responsible Parenthood (the balance between the virtues of generosity and prudence), and instead they think that the supreme good of all parents is to have as many children as humanly possible and that NFP, although “licit-ish”, is the lesser option that proves those parents are just not as heroic. How many of us have seen those debates on what “serious reasons/just reasons/grave reasons” mean and whether the mother had to be risking death or penury to use NFP (instead of just reading the title of the heading “responsible parenthood”). I think this clarification is amply useful for a lot of Catholics in all walks of life.

          • anna lisa

            “He was talking to the press, not from the pulpit”

            That’s a really important point.
            If he was talking to only Catholics, he’d more likely be warning us not to let the spirit of the world infect us with selfishness.

            Sometimes I miss the days when there was no internet or hashtag blah blah blah. It gets so tiring. Ugh.

        • Rebecca Fuentes

          You’ve never seen the combox “discussions” of NFP where some (usually very tenacious) folk maintain that the only reason to use NFP is if the mother has a major health issue that would spell certain death if she become pregnant. There are people who operate on the assumption that anyone with fewer than four children must be contracepting or sterilized, and therefore not a “True” Catholic.

          • IRVCath

            This. If you haven’t seen that in the comboxes, you are one lucky man or woman.

          • I believe that lay excommunications are not permitted in the Catholic Church. The proper term for someone who is a baptized Catholic who is doing something against the rules is “sinner”. People who persistently arrogate themselves the power to say who’s really in or out of the Church are, I believe, called apostates.

            When I run into such people I generally call for them to repent and accept that the Pope and the bishops are the ones who have the power to decide such things. If they persist, I say that I will pray for them that they actually will rejoin the Church as soon as possible.

            • Rebecca Fuentes

              I’ve started skipping the replies and jumping straight to the prayers. Unfortunately, my first introduction to the world of St. Blogs was in the middle of the Great Pants Debate. It rather threw me for a loop.

              • Marthe Lépine

                It did the same thing to me… Welcome to the club!

          • Marthe Lépine

            I remember reading a number of such combox discussions, It seems to that too many people are taking the position that they have a right to be judgemental about other people’s intimacy… But is not that against the command to love your neighbours, among others?

        • Magdalena Agatha

          Seriously? Try joining a Catholic homeschooling group or hanging out with any other group of Catholics under 50 who consider themselves “real Catholics” and gripe about “cafeteria Catholics.”

          Try reading the comments on even some other Patheos blogs. There are a ton of people who really are nervous the Pope might have given couples “permission” to not actively try for babies when they don’t have a “good excuse.” Lots of people debate about what constitutes a “good enough reason” to use NFP as described by HV. And moralize about how just wanting to own instead of rent or save for retirement isn’t a “grave” reason so it’s bad so have sex all month or else.

          But it’s in the groups dominated by young Catholic mothers where it’s most brutal. One group I have experience with it was like the number of kids you have spelled out your rank, and the more closely they are spaced, the better. No one handed out a rules sheet spelling this out, but it was made explicit in a million ways that you were more blessed, more pious, more sacrifically loving, etc, the more babies you had.

          And then there are the many pro-life glorifications of risking life and limb for repeated high risk pregnancies. Of course I am not suggesting such women should abort. Absolutely not. But there’s a huge difference between supporting someone in a rough situation and saying “purposely conceiving again and again even though you are at risk of dying from it is morally superior to avoiding such conceptions even through NFP.”

          • If I would find myself among such a group of catholics, I would introduce the concept of ‘suicide by cop’ and by analogy ask how we should guard ourselves against ‘suicide by pregnancy’. There are hardly any actions out there that are absolutely invulnerable to the sin of overdoing it, ie gluttony.

          • StumbleBumble

            Thank you.

    • BillyT92679

      don’t bait Peggy

  • Gary Keith Chesterton

    Mark, why do you hate the Church and love this “Pope”?

    You putrid scum!

    • chezami

      I just do, okay?

      • StumbleBumble

        Count me in too! ^^

      • Artevelde

        Assertion of absolute choice to do whatever you want, without any moral framework or justification whatsoever. What more proof do we need? Oh, and we WILL quote you on this. Liberally, falsely AND repeatedly.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    In the past year, I have developed a rule for myself that might serve others well: Any time the media reports Francis saying something disturbing, check out what he actually said before getting disturbed. So far, the media is shooting 10 for 10 in misrepresenting what the Pope actually said.

    • Mariana Baca

      Which has been true for every pope ever, yet people seem to forget that is also true for Francis.

      • orual’s kindred

        When the media and society in general misrepresented Pope Benedict, I was encouraged by those who identified as conservative/faithful/practicing Catholics readily defending him. I find how things have changed quite disheartening at times.

        • Joseph

          I kind of understand it, though. A careful reading of Benedict’s words were enough to dispel the nonsense reported about him. Francis isn’t careful about what he says and that’s what gets him into this mess. The Voris’ of the world will always hold to their great Jesuit consipiracy. To them, it doesn’t matter what Francis is saying. They’ve disliked him from the start… so, nevermind them.

          • orual’s kindred

            Again, for some it is easy. Not so for others. And I don’t know that Pope Benedict was careful with his words primarily to make sure that they don’t get misconstrued. He spoke the truth; people twisted them anyway, and many believe the distortions. I notice how certain commenters say how worried they are over those who are being led astray by the misinformation surrounding Pope Francis. Less worry is spent, however, on those who are misinformed regarding Pope Benedict. Are they in any less danger? Why should that be? They don’t have the cultural and/or educational background to easily understand Pope Benedict; so if they do go astray, well, sucks to be them? Sucks to be them either way? Are they even a concern at all? Or are they somehow less real because they are not the type of people certain supporters of Pope Benedict are familiar with?

    • Andy

      I have adopted this rule as well and found that what was reported was not what was said.

    • Joseph

      Precisely… but, would you consider yourself the average Catholic or non-Catholic that reads USA Today as Holy Scripture? I agree with you, totally… but at some point he either has to learn to communicate to the pack of wolves that surround him with mics and cameras or limit his exposure to them. They are successfully reeking havoc on the image of the ‘head of the Catholic Church’ and giving him the appearance of being a G.W. Bush.

  • Peggy

    Apparently 3 children is the ideal size. So he says in relation to replacement rate. Is this the size of family he is advocating as ideal? Is this the new Catholic teaching? Replacement rate birth rate?

    Does responsible parenting mean we should only have the children we can afford to raise? Or should we have all the children God sends to us? But shouldn’t society help us raise as many as we want, even with public aid? Why or why not?

    • Peggy, do yourself a favor and read beyond the stupid, false and sensationalistic headline and you will see that is not what the Pope said at all. The actual quote is included a couple paragraphs down. He wanted to talk about declining population in the West, so he pulled that number in to explain it. It has nothing to do with what he thinks is the ideal family size for Catholics.

      Remember, headlines are not there for truth, but to sell papers.

      • Peggy

        Honey Chile, I’se kin read fo’ mah sef.

        Holy Father (below headline):

        I believe that three children per family, from what the experts say,
        is the key number for sustaining the population. The key word here is
        responsible parenthood and each person works out how to exercise this
        with the help of their pastor. … Sorry, some people think that in order
        to be good Catholics we have to breed like rabbits, right? Responsible
        parenthood: This is why there are marriage support groups in the Church
        with people who are experts on such issues; and there are pastors and I
        know that there are many acceptable solutions that have helped with
        this. And another thing: For poor people, children are a treasure,
        prudence is needed here too, it is true. Responsible parenthood but also
        recognizing the generosity of that father or mother who see their child
        as a treasure.

        (ME:) The statement raises questions as to what he thinks is an ideal sized family. Is 3 the ideal? Does he think it’s the minimum since we should at least replace each generation? Why bring it up?

        The entirety of the statement isn’t bad, but the “like rabbits” (whether he used “breed” or “be” is unimportant) and the questions raised by his referencing global population goals raise questions rather than provide spiritual guidance.

        • Replacement population rate is a technical term for secular planning. You need to figure out how many buildings to put up, infrastructure capacity planning, etc. These are systems that can last over a century and so it really matters for a civilization to maintain itself above replacement rate.

          Replacement rate is not a constant. It is a variable. Replacement rate in the 3rd world is larger than in the 1st world.

          • Peggy

            I know and understand these things, sir. The question is what was Francis’ intent in bringing it up. Is he calling Catholics to make decisions based on secular goals and planning or in accordance with God’s will and Catholic teaching?

            • orual’s kindred

              Very much in accordance with God’s will and Catholic teaching, ma’am 🙂 Considering how he’s praised large families, and how he’s made calls for Catholics to protect the family, I’m not sure how the number should be viewed as something more sinister than what Lori Pieper said about it being in reference to the declining population in the west.

            • I can only guess because the Pope hasn’t called me to let me know but I think Francis recently got a ‘birth dearth’ briefing. There’s a legitimate question of stewardship that arises when birth rates fall below replacement rates. That would make the address not towards couples with 7 kids or more but the Catholic couples who have been misinformed that responsible parenting is 2 at most.

              • Peggy

                His statement and intent are not clear. Yes, we can only guess at what he means. His intents may very well be fine, but he just doesn’t connect the dots in a way that his intents are clear.

                I am informed of the low birth rates in the West; yes, that we are risking being below replacement rates. Some European nations are indeed below replacement rates already. I am aware of all these facts.

                In my mind, I would agree that it would fit in with Catholic teaching by providing a point of reference for the smallest size family one should strive for. [this responds to orual as well below] That is, have 3+ children would be the goal. Francis does not say that. Then he goes on to say we don’t need to be like rabbits. We are to be responsible; and he scolds a woman on her 9th child. Trusting God wasn’t good enough?

                One could take him to mean that we should be having 3 child families. It’s enough to replace our generation, but not too much so as to be irresponsible.

                • There is a question of charity towards Pope Francis. When it is not clear which construction to take [ regarding his words], we are to take the one that could be reasonable true that is best, not worst.

                  Prudence and generosity must be balanced [when considering how many children to have] and that balance can only be found in considering the individual circumstance of the couple. Thus there is no one answer to optimal family size but an obligation for the Church to help all her children to discernment as to their own individual balance of prudence and generosity.

                  That being said, falling below replacement rate [as a statistical matter across populations] remains a problem of stewardship and if your community is below that rate outside of extraordinary circumstances, overall, that community hasn’t found the proper balance. It’s being stingy.

                  This pope gave ample warning. He always says he’s intentionally making a mess. Neat and crisp lines are never going to be a hallmark of this pope. His virtues lie elsewhere.

                • No you really can’t. See my latest above. The Pope was correcting a statement that three children or more are bad, made by the journalist. It was not his original idea. It was clearly just a preliminary to his actual answer.

                  I do realize the press and the Vatican are not exactly making it easy for us to get a complete picture of the Pope’s words, but this is all the more reason not to fire off premature criticism of the Pope based on incomplete texts

                  • Ah, he was dealing with a ZPG issue. This makes more sense than my speculation. Thank you.

                    The zero population growth ideology has an inordinate influence in the upper classes who too often think that there’s just enough of them and all too many people in the lower orders.

                    • Peggy

                      Information received and taken into consideration.

                    • Peggy

                      Whoops. That should be a reply to Lori Pieper.

                    • Reply received. 🙂

                • Marthe Lépine

                  You sound here as if you would like Pope Francis to come out with a simple number that every Catholic couple should take as the law. One size fits all… However, people’s life circumstances are not “one size” everywhere in the world. Pope Francis is calling people to use their brains in deciding how many children they can have. I cannot see anything wrong with that – and it can be looked at as respect for the “free will” that God has given humans. It seems to me that what Pope Francis said could have been meant as indications of things to consider in order to be responsible parents, not as an easy, black and white rule.

        • Sorry, Peggy, I thought what I pointed you to was the whole quote I had read. I looked again. It wasn’t. Here’s the complete transcription from

          Unfortunately even they didn’t include the actual original question from the journalist, which would have helped.

          “I think that three is the number of children per family that the experts say is correct to maintain the population, three per couple. When there are fewer than this, there is the other extreme, which we see in Italy where I have heard – I do not know if it is true – that from 2024 there will not be the money to pay pensioners. The key phrase to
          answer this question is the one that the Church has always used: responsible parenthood. How does one do this? Through dialogue. Every person, accompanied by their pastor, must find out how to achieve responsible parenthood.” etc.

          As you can see, the Pope was simply pointing out that the world’s population is actually in decline in places. (I suspect this was in reply to a question about overpopulation).

          • I was right. Out of curiosity, I tracked down the original question on the Vatican main website.


            No English version, so I did a quick translation of the Italian.

            “You have spoken about the many children in the Philippines, about your joy that there are so many children. But according to polls, the majority of Filippinos think that the enormous growth in the population of the Philippines is one of the most important reasons for the enormous poverty of the country, and on average, a woman in the Philippines gives birth to more than three children in her lifetime, and the Catholic position seems to be one of the few questions on which a great number of people in the Philippines are not in agreement with the Church. What do you think about this?”

            So the whole thing about the three children was in response to the misconceptions a German journalist who thought having three or more children a bad thing. The Pope pointed out that this was the minimum needed to maintain the population.

            • orual’s kindred

              “according to polls” “the majority of Filippinos”

              I wouldn’t know about that. And even if those polls are accurate, I question if the sentiment indeed reflected reality.

        • Mariana Baca

          Ok, this is a translation problem, right here. “Believe” modifies not 3 children, but what experts say. He believes experts say that 3 children is the ideal. He doesn’t believe 3 children is the ideal, and experts agree. He is saying that in Italy and Spain, people aren’t even reproducing enough to pay for pensions or meet the “secularly advised” replacement rate. The common phrasing in spanish does not make this ambiguous. I think he is bringing up the hypocrisy of those saying that people shouldn’t have kids for “population concerns”, but are not concerned that responsible parenthood cuts both ways.

          The comments later on marriage support groups and experts relate to NFP teaching groups and marital support groups in parishes that help a couple practice responsible parenthood. I think the clarity of this was also lost in translation.

          • Peggy

            Yes, it’s clear that he is saying that the experts believe that. The question had been what does he believe and why is he citing that information. Lori dug into some further text that had not been translated to English. (I guess he spoke Spanish? My 2nd language is French, so I get romance language structure,, etc., though Sp or It are not my area of expertise.)

            • Mariana Baca

              I explained he is citing this information because he is mentioning the situation in Spain and Italy where the birthrate is way below replacement.

              He also says what he believes: that responsible parenthood is discerned by the individual couple maybe in consultation with a pastor. It is literally the next sentence.

              • Peggy

                Yes, indeed. He says a lot more too…we don’t need to be “like rabbits” and he nearly called a woman irresponsible for bearing a 9th child.

      • Joseph

        Peggy validates the points I made (without the need for taking partisan jabs… something HornOrSilk could learn from… who looks at everything through the lens of the American secular political spectrum).

        • Peggy

          Hello Joseph, I had to look above to see your points. I gather that you would agree with me that his “off the cuff” statements tend to raise more questions than offer clarity to mankind…?


          • Joseph

            Yes. And your reaction to his “off the cuff” statements are evidence of that.

          • Marthe Lépine

            On the other hand, maybe statements that tend to raise more questions are not such a bad thing. Maybe there are too many of us who are expecting to be spoon-fed with very clear statements and easy to understand (e.g. black and white) that seem so final that there would not be any need to use some of our rare and precious time reflecting on our faith and on the Church teaching…

  • Neil

    I like Pope Francis, but his off the cuff interviews cause a lot of confusion. In this case, he rebuked a woman who was pregnant with her 8th child and had 7 c-sections as tempting God. That is what I took issue with, especially since my wife and I did just that thing (8th C-section) a few months ago. As if we don’t get enough from family and friends about this, now “The Pope says it’s tempting God!” will be all we hear for the forseeable future. Why does he feel the need to say things like this? This was not twisted by media, it is what he said.

    • Magdalena Agatha

      I find it refreshing that the Pope is showing such appreciation and understanding of the risks involved in childbearing, and genuine, heartfelt concern for women as we experience those hazards and risks. Whether you and I would like it to be so or not, it is not medically recommended to have more than three c-sections total. At the fourth section, there is a 6% chance of severe (life threatening) or fatal complications. With each additional procedure, the risk becomes even more severe. Now certainly it is your choice if you wish to put your wife in that situation, and her wife if she wishes to accept that risk. But the Pope is correct in his factual understanding of the risk of 8 c-sections, and I find the fact that he cares about women enough to care that we not only have children, but survive the experience intact.

      • Magdalena Agatha

        *her choice if she wants to accept the risk, and **I find it touching and important that Pope Francis cares that we survive intact.

        I am very tired, please forgive the omitted words.

    • anna lisa

      There is this tension in life between what we *must/should* do (what the Pope MUST define), and those things that we do, (that never make sense on paper) that God (immutable reader of souls) so inexplicably blesses in *jaw dropping ways*. Our eighth baby was just that–a blessing so great that nobody, not even the eyerollers (including us, when her life was indicated by just a line on a stick)–can explain with sufficient awe and wonder. Now, all I can attest to is that even if the columns didn’t add up, her existence MOST CERTAINLY confirms the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas when he realized that all of the physical universe doesn’t compare to the majesty of a single, human. soul made in the image and likeness of God.

      I’ll bet your children and the courage of your wife would leave our good Pope speechless, AND inspire him to kiss her on both cheeks.

    • orual’s kindred

      With respect, what he said is Some believe that – excuse the expression – to be good Catholics we must be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood. If some people will hear it as “The Pope says it’s tempting God!” then they, irresponsible journalists and others who would repeat them, are ones twisting the Pope’s words. As to the c-sections, it would seem that he was noting the dangers. As anna lisa said, I rather think that your children and the courage of your wife would leave our good Pope speechless, AND inspire him to kiss her on both cheeks. 🙂

      • orual’s kindred

        P.S. And it may not mean much, but you and your wife have my respect and admiration as well.

      • Fr. Denis Lemieux

        Well, with all respect, Neil is quite right that the rabbit/responsible quote is in a context of talking about the woman with the eight c-sections, and he does specifically call her irresponsible and say that she is tempting God. I have the highest respect for Pope Francis, but I do wish he hadn’t gone there. And he did go there.

  • Scott

    I love the Pope but he used the wrong choice of words this time. What did he think the media would do with a statement “be like rabbits”? And if was offensive to large families. I know what he was trying to say I only wish he would use more precise language while saying it.

    • orual’s kindred

      He may have thought the same thing Pope Benedict XVI thought the media would do with his statements regarding condoms, Islam, homosexuals, the environment, and other statements he’s made (which he rightly went ahead and made anyway) 🙂

      • Joseph

        Benedict’s statements on condom use by homosexual prostitutes was rather clear and straight forward if read directly. The problem we have with Francis’ statements is they are often straight forward but not often clear. *We* understand what he means, but when *we* try to explain it to those who read them for what they are we end up sounding like we’re making excuses or not properly reflecting his meaning. With Pope Benedict, it was easy… just point to his exact statements without the political commentary provided by disingenuous journalists and, viola, no interpretation necessary. That’s the fundamental difference.
        Like it or not, from the public’s perspective, Francis looks like someone who doesn’t know who he’s going to be or what message he’s going to convey when he wakes up in the morning. He appears gravely inconsistent in the eyes of the unknowledgeable. It’s that apparent inconsistency that is problematic and requires posts on blogs that contain block quotes from the Catechism to properly elucidate the statements made. But the layman or non-Catholic isn’t going to look for paragraph 238b in the Catechism to dispel their view that Francis looks like a bumbling politician when he speaks.

        • orual’s kindred

          With Pope Benedict, it was easy… just point to his exact statements without the political commentary provided by disingenuous journalists and, viola, no interpretation necessary. That’s the fundamental difference.

          Well, I really must disagree, I’m afraid. “His words are too fancy/his views are too abstract/it’s easy for him to say that, he’s in an ivory tower/he means to confuse people, it’s the only way to ensure Catholic power.” I have not come across many people who bother to hear what he actually says, let alone try to understand what he actually says.

          And as for Pope Francis, laymen/non-Catholics who have not looked into the Catechism see him not only as an intelligent man, but as someone who cares, someone whose actions reflect his words about simplicity and mercy, someone whose example makes him worth listening to. ‘A bumbling politician’ is certainly not what I have heard him described as.

          • Joseph

            With Francis, those laymen are running around saying the Pope is in favour of population control, carbon taxes, homosexual acts, divorce and remarriage. Then the wind gets let out of their sails when he suddenly says he’s opposed to gay marriage, contraception, and abortion. The laymen you speak of don’t know what side of the bed Francis is going to wake up on in the morning. How is that not apparent? Benedict was accused of being an old, intellectual man who was an enemy of progress… but one thing he was never accused of was being inconsistent.

            • orual’s kindred

              Just to cite one instance, during the condom kerfuffle, people shook their heads at the purported weird oscillations of Pope Benedict. There was snickering, there were dismissals of the whole thing as an attempt to relevance/ win public support.

              And I’m not sure about these sides of the bed laymen are supposedly concerned with. Perhaps we’re speaking of different laymen? Or perhaps you’re referring to specific people who worry about Pope Francis’s bed, his habits, and which political group will benefit from what he says on a given day? The laymen I spoke of are hardly aware of any sides to any bed to worry about. They seek guidance and inspiration in living out the Faith amidst troubles, amidst those who speak empty words/outright falsehoods in pursuit of wealth and power. And they find guidance and inspiration from Pope Francis.

  • Pete the Greek

    His off the cuff comments, while well intended, do intend to provide lots of ammo for the media to throw out in distortion and to seed confusion. I do wish he would be a bit more… precise.

    That being said, whenever the Holy Father says something, I usually just wait a couple of days and then read it, as the full statement, corrections and context have usually been provided by then.

    *ON EDIT* But then, the media is frantically obsessed with sex. What was the one thing that people ‘knew’ from that one interview with Pope Benedict? That he thought CONDOMS ARE AWESOME!!! Amiright?

    • orual’s kindred

      What was the one thing that people ‘knew’ from that one interview with Pope Benedict? That he thought CONDOMS ARE AWESOME!!!

      Exactly. Yesterday I saw a prestigious newspaper with the headline ‘Don’t breed like rabbits’ printed out like that, in quotation marks, as if it was a direct quote. Journalists practiced their brand of unbiased journalism with Pope Benedict XVI, and people who claimed to know better rightly took that into account. Now that journalists continue to practice their brand of unbiased journalism with Pope Francis, something seems to have changed.

      • But it was a direct quote. I’m sure an editor said those very words to a typesetter. Oh, you mean a papal direct quote.

        • orual’s kindred

          LOL! But now I wonder if that’s how some editors/reporters would rationalize it, to themselves and others.

  • Suburbanbanshee

    In Argentina specifically, and in most countries that speak Spanish, a “coneja” is a woman with too many kids. Being like rabbits is having too many kids. So yeah, I’m afraid the media was actually correct in its translation, this time. (For once. When I don’t want it to be.)

    • What you were describing is not correct translation. It’s exact translation, which can lead one astray when someone speaks in idiom. Hostile interviewers of all stripes play this game with their enemies.

    • orual’s kindred

      As TMLutas has mentioned, too many as in what? The prescribed one child policy (of a society other than that in which the term developed and is commonly used)? Or too many to responsibly take care for according to the means and capabilities of the parent?

      I’m familiar with a term that derives from ‘conejo/a’ and it’s often used to describe unchaste, irresponsible and outright abusive behavior (such as engaging in illicit sex particularly for material benefits). It’s also unjustly used to deride the poor who are struggling to feed their children. Applying the term to large families per se is, as far as I know, a fairly recent thing (and I’m not certain because I haven’t actually heard of it being used that way). Of course I can’t say for sure, but I would guess similar variations are applicable to the Argentinian term.

      Again, I can’t speak for Argentinian use, but as someone with a few similar cultural traits, I would say the translation is not as narrow or specific as some might want others to believe.

      • Suburbanbanshee

        The other connotations would certainly make more sense.

        • orual’s kindred

          I think so (obviously 😀 ) However, Lori Pieper (her comments are below) has been able to not only dig for the whole transcript, she has translated the Italian. Apparently the population thing was prompted by a journalist, who mentioned the seeming conflict between support of Catholic doctrine in polls and reported birth rates in the Philippines, and which the Holy Father responded to. It would make all the more sense for him to address “breeder” stereotypes and irresponsible, unchaste behavior.

  • Paul

    This is one of those times when you have to realize that the Pope is in fact human.

    He made a human mistake with his comment and amplified the level of persecution that is already heaped upon those with large families.

    There are so many ways he could have communicated what I think he was intending to communicate without resorting to the particular words that he used – words that will be used by those that wish to persecute the parents of large families for decades to come.

    I would rather forgive the Pope and move on than attempt some tortured justification of his choice of words. Yes, there are Catholics who are not responsible in their family sizes, but the Pope’s choice of words unintentionally rolled parents of all large families under the bus.

    Can we please not make this whole issue into something less than it really is?
    He screwed up.
    I’m not going to chuck my faith or start a Christopher Hitchens’ fan club because of it.
    It’s time to say additional prayers for him and move on.

  • orual’s kindred

    It seems to me that Pope Francis thought that people would not think in buzzwords, especially those who consider themselves intelligent, unbiased reporters/observers, as well as those who would call for complex language in liturgy. Perhaps Pope Francis, like his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI (when he discussed condoms, Islam and other topics he got so much flak for) chose to speak in accordance with Church teaching and not worry about baiters and haters doing their thing. But alas, I’m naive 😀

  • Instead of one more round of metaphorical kicks to the groin, how about a little variety in your approach to conservative Catholics? You could try asking questions. Here’s mine:

    Sometimes anti-Catholic media try to convince Catholics to cause scandal by misreporting what the Church says or the Pope says. What do you do to not fall into their trap?

    Discernment free Catholics of all ideological stripes will not have an answer to this question but nobody is going to be offended by it and you might get a higher quality level of discussion and more progress on spreading effective techniques to improve discernment.

    There are alternate forms of the question that are not so hard on the media. Please, feel free to modify as you please or use a different question entirely. It’s an act of basic respect to ask an honest, information seeking question and will tend to get people out of a fighting mood and into a dialogue mood. I think that would serve your purpose better.

    • jaybird1951

      Amen! You expressed in a very diplomatic way what I have felt about Mark’s knee jerk reactions layered with his usual stock phrases like “right wing noise machine.” Man, it really is getting tiresome. Everything I have read about Pope Francis’s interview on the airplane from Manilla I saw in the secular media. No right wing noise machine instructed me how to react. Actually, I had little problem with what he said except for that “breeding like rabbits” comment that I learned the media distorted.

      • HornOrSilk

        Yes, yes, yes. We all get it. It’s ok to have constant knee-jerk “Francis is bad” reaction. Those who point out the cause of it are the problem. Yes, we get it.

        No. The issue is a predetermined bias has been made to reject Francis since before he was made Pope, and that narrative is forced by the same people; and in the US, they have an ideology which has been shown to be anti-Catholic, so they scream the loudest against the Pope.

        • Sin is not a serial protocol, neither is error, nor poor judgment. They are fully capable of happening in parallel. There is no “the issue” because more than one thing is happening at a time. There are multiple issues.

          When I do encounter anti-papal knee jerks on the right, I’m pretty firm with them and I do it with an eye to improving things both to protect the Church I love from unjust criticism and to help the critic to increase discernment. Why should I do less here?

  • Joseph

    Mark, honestly, I agree with your angst towards the hasty kneejerk reaction… but the fault here does not completely lie with these *conservative* Catholics. Once again, this was the media on parade. They did what they do best, they cherry-picked comments from the Pope and elaborated on them in a way that would get a rise out of confused Catholics and anti-Catholics looking in. They were bad with Pope Benedict XVI, but Benedict was clear and used definitive language which any intelligent person could parse (take Regensburg for example).
    Not that my personal *feelings* matter, but I love Pope Francis as well and, like you, I see no inconsistencies with what he presents and the teachings of the Church. However, the more he speaks to the media, the more I see a parallel with George Bush Jr (not defending “W”, here… don’t read me wrong). “W” was a two-term president and was *liked* for the most part because he refused to script his public statements. Though he studied at Yale and was fluent in Spanish, I think it can be said that he didn’t have the necessary wit or foresight to do it. In the same way, Francis earned a lot of capital in popularity by not presenting himself as an academic but rather a “man of the people”. The problem is that he cosies up to an objectively anti-Catholic media with an agenda that salivates at his openness and lack of academic clarity, itching to misconstrue what he says. I’m wondering if he needs to limit his exposure to them a bit more… otherwise they are going to eat him alive. When he starts clearly sticking to the teachings of the Church they’re basically going to start labelling him a dumb, backwards, hayseed.

    • orual’s kindred

      Perhaps. His statements on contraception, abortion and gay marriage seem quite explicit to me, though. And I can see how Pope Benedict’s words, though clear, can be difficult to grasp for those unfamiliar with Catholic teaching. I wonder if selective hearing/seeing is at least also in play here as well.

      • Joseph

        The difference between Benedict and Francis is that it was much more difficult to misconstrue Benedict’s words as a careful reading would also invalidate their attempts. Francis reminds me of Bush Jr. in the sense that he talks too much off the cuff often without context and without academic accuracy which gives the media exactly what they want. Much like the thoughts of those critics of Bush Jr. were “*This* is the leader of the free world?” followed by cynical laughter, people may also think “*This* is the leader of the largest religion in the world?”. I don’t know how helpful it is for evangelisation. Benedict’s intelligence demanded respect from even anti-Catholic Protestants. So far, Francis has sort of been a laughing stock, sad to say.

        • orual’s kindred

          Benedict’s intelligence demanded respect from even anti-Catholic Protestants. So far, Francis has sort of been a laughing stock, sad to say.

          This strikes me as a very broad generalization! For some, it may be true. I suppose some Protestants would take this view (I really haven’t come across that much). My experience has been rather the opposite, except for the fact of people openly sneering at or shrinking back from Pope Benedict, viewing him as a bitter doctrinaire who uses fancy words to shore up hierarchical power and bludgeon followers to submission. And I personally know people who are taking a less cynical view of the Church/church hierarchy because of Pope Francis. Also, had not Rick Warren recently called him the ‘Pope of All Christians’?

          I think I can safely say that not everyone views Pope Benedict as a man worthy of respect, and that a lot of people have a much higher estimation than Pope Francis than that of a laughing stock.

        • Mariana Baca

          I laugh at people saying Benedict is harder to misconstrue. Remember his statements on gay men and condoms? And numerous other statements throughout his papacy?

          And lots of people respect Francis — to say people didn’t laugh at Benedict is very myopic.

          Also, people forget that although benedict often spoke in english, Francis is almost always “in translation” — people should get used to not having the privilege of receiving his comments in their first language, while a large portion of Catholics in the world finally are getting the message in their mother toungue.

          • orual’s kindred

            Benedict is harder to misconstrue.

            I failed to mention this earlier, but even granting that this is true, people went ahead and did it anyway. Far too many have and still believe the false reports, and refuse to allow the possibility that his words have been misrepresented.

          • Joseph

            I remember that and I called it out specifically in one of my comments. What I stated was that if someone took the time to read exactly what Benedict said in that circumstance, his words were sufficient to dispel the commentary meant to distract people.
            In the case of Francis, he isn’t clear. He doesn’t speak as a teacher, he speaks as a chum from the bar. He leaves out the context and, therefore, when you go back to read what *he* specifically says, you must do a lot of parsing, gap filling, and scrambling for paragraphs embedded deep in the Catechism to fully understand what it was that he was trying, and failing, to communicate. That’s the fundamental difference.
            I remember *condomgate*, but the minute I read Benedict’s words I knew exactly what he meant and it was easy for me to show those who were saying ‘you see, the Pope loves condoms’ that they were wrong. With Francis, it’s like us Catholics have to do a lot of covering up the tracks. Such as this post. Mark rightly pulled the paragraph from the Catechism to show what it is the Pope was saying… but the guy in the pews who doesn’t even know what the word Catechism means wouldn’t go that far and would just be left in confusion.

          • Fr. Denis Lemieux

            Well, yes. But… since when do popes normally have English as their first and normal language for speaking it? Benedict normally spoke in Italian; so did John Paul II. For neither of them was English a language they particularly excelled in.

      • Joseph

        And *of course* there is selective hearing… that’s what the media banks on. However, tying up everything in context and with academic accuracy acts a political cover. Francis doesn’t do that so he leaves his message exposed to manipulators.

  • OBJ15

    Simcha Fischer has a much better response than Mark. At least understands why some might be confused by Pope’s comments, taken at face value apart from any media parsing. Admits the Pope is kind of a “blabbermouth” while pointing that what he communicated was both entirely obvious and correct.

  • HornOrSilk

    What I think this “fight” demonstrates is that a lot of the so-called American “right” does not understand Catholic thought on sexuality, and instead, tries to combine the over-sexed ideology of America with the demand for free sex, all the time, with Catholic principles of what happens when you have sex (what you can and can’t do). They ignore that the Catholic position rejects the first, because much of it is lust, even in marriage, and that such lust needs to be tempered, while the free-sex ideology thinks we should go all out with our lust. The Catholic position would therefore say sex is important for marriage, but if there is risk, if there are real serious issues which make reproduction a concern (and yes, if you read Vatican documents, family size and population size can be such a concern), you have to act accordingly, and not just like “rabbits” — that is, not just go out have sex irregardless of other concerns. In this way, not only do I think the Pope is right, he was right to use the word, in relation to traditional Catholic thought on sex which is against the modern over-emphasis on sex.

    • Joseph

      I’m not so sure it’s a *right* or *left* thing. But I suppose that’s really the problem, it’s how the media wants us to perceive it so that they can create these sorts of fights. Also, I’m pretty sure that it’s not just an American issue. America isn’t the centre of the world.

      • HornOrSilk

        It’s the so-called “right” in America which is constantly crying out against the Pope, and it is that group here which is making this statement an issue. Not all in it, but it comes out of and from that ideology.

        • Joseph

          To my knowledge, it was the so-called “left” that jumped off the Francis bandwagon recently when he explained that he is opposed to their blessed sacraments of homosexual activity and condom use. So, what exactly are you characterising here? I’d say that both sides of the secular political spectrum get heartburn when they listen to Francis on any given day.

          • HornOrSilk

            We are talking in this thread the so-called “right” in America, which is constantly demeaning the Pope for his “comments” as if he were not following the “pure” Catholic faith. We are talking about specific comments, and the specific general attitude against the Pope by those who are “more Catholic than the Pope.” Please, you are fooling no one Joseph.

            • Joseph

              Didn’t the American left just demean the Pope for speaking against gay marriage, contraception, and abortion? Not sure what you mean. Doesn’t the knife cut both ways?

              • HornOrSilk

                The American “left” isn’t proclaiming itself more Catholic than the Pope and saying he is a disgrace to the tradition of the Church. We are, in this conversation, talking about a specific issue, with a specific context. Nice attempt at deflection.

                • Joseph

                  No? So, you’re saying that the Catholic left believes that they aren’t Catholic and are complaining because the Pope is more Catholic than they are? Confused much?

                  • HornOrSilk

                    Yes, you are confused. And playing more games.

                    • Joseph

                      Aww… shucks… Cry me a river.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      Thanks for proving my point. And here, to end this discussion from my side, is to restate the point: the “left” is not saying Francis is less than Catholic, that Francis is denigrating the faith, that he is rejecting tradition. They understand flexibility, though of course, some of them go too far in that flexibility. Yet, right now we are discussing Francis and the “right’s” reaction: the left’s reaction is not not to say “that’s so unCatholic, heretic!” The right’s is, for anything they want, often out of ignorance. The left’s problem is they want too much flexibility and open things which should not be opened, the right’s is closing what has not been closed by the church and demanding uniformity instead of the church’s diversity in unity. The right is monist, the left, polytheist, in metaphysics, while the Catholic Church is… Trinitarian

                    • Joseph

                      So, here’s how it goes, Mr. Politico. The Catholic *left* vacillates between “He’s one of US!” and “Awww… so he’s *not* one of US after all… I’m so disappointed”… and somehow that’s not the same thing as condemning him as a heretic? That lens is foggy, you should remove it.

            • Joseph

              Also, I’m unclear on how or why I’d be trying to *fool* anyone. Fool me once… shame on… shame on you… you fool me can’t get fooled again.

  • Cmcv

    Hail Mary,

    Full of Grace,

    The Lord is with thee.

    Blessed art thou among women,

    and blessed is the fruit

    of thy womb, Jesus.

    Holy Mary,

    Mother of God,

    pray for us sinners now,

    and at the hour of death. Amen.