Is the pope a liberal?
ON HIS flight from Cuba to America, where he began a six-day visit on September 23rd, Pope Francis told journalists that he really was a Catholic.
“If I have to recite the creed, I’m ready,” he joked. Yet there is some uncertainty about what the pope believes. In recent months, his pronouncements on issues from abortion to marriage have earned him a popular reputation as a reforming liberal. And in America, where such issues are fraught, the liberalism or otherwise of the Pope has generated headlines.
Those who might be broadly described as liberal Catholics hope that the Pope will lend weight to their various causes; conservative Catholics, meanwhile, regret that he does not more vehemently uphold the teachings of the church, particularly on abortion and marriage. When it comes to social teachings and the church, is the pope a liberal?
He is not. Pope Francis could not have been appointed a bishop (of Buenos Aires), then an archbishop, then a cardinal, and certainly not the Bishop of Rome if he had not cleaved throughout his clerical career to the catechism of the Roman Catholic Church. But he has often given Catholics and his wider admirers a rather different impression. Particularly in contrast to the two popes before him, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, who stamped on any debate about the church’s rules, particularly those regarding sex, Pope Francis has suggested a softer interpretation of the rules is possible. He has used strikingly conciliatory language to speak of homosexuals, saying, “Who am I to judge?” in response to a question about gay priests. He has encouraged priests to absolve women who repent of having had abortions. And he has simplified the church’s complicated annulment process, in effect making it easier for Catholics to separate from their spouses. There is speculation, too, that he wants to lift a ban on Catholics who have been divorced and then remarried from taking communion.
But the pope has also opposed gay marriage, repeatedly affirming that marriage is between a man and a woman. He has upheld church teaching on abortion (allowing women to repent and be forgiven could hardly be described as laid back). And woven into his announcement of the annulment reform was a defence of the sanctity of marriage. Pope Francis has come nowhere close, in short, to altering any of the church’s core doctrinal or social teachings.
So why the ambiguity? There is no doubt that the way he often speaks signals a desire to shake off the church’s old preoccupation with personal morality. It is difficult to imagine Pope Francis saying, as Pope Benedict did, that homosexuality is “fundamentally disordered”. In a speech to bishops from around America on September 23rd, Pope Francis said that the bishops should not remain silent toward “the innocent victims of abortion”. But he appeared to give equal weight to other woes, from migrants “who drown in the search of a better tomorrow” to the degradation of the environment. That suggests a pope more engaged with modernity's complexities and dilemmas than his recent predecessors. But it does not make him a liberal.
I don't really know what to make of Francis.
I like some of the liberal sounds he makes.
But I sometimes think he is only a good PR man?
Of course he is a Jesuit. The Jesuits are good at being all things to all men.
Its better to judge people by their ACTIONS rather than by their words.
To date Francis has NOT DONE MUCH!