Myself and others at The American Spectator have written about the unusual fans that Pope Francis has attracted via his various controversial remarks, particularly those relating to the Church and abortion, contraception, and gay marriage. Those remarks have been greeted by the Church’s detractors like a gift from the heavens. For secular progressives and liberal and fallen-away Catholics, the pope’s comments have been cause for wondrous celebration, ushering in an era of “tolerance” and “change” from Rome.
In truth, Francis’s statements have been consistent with Church teachings, even when butchered and misunderstood and misrepresented, especially by the New York Times. That, however, is a problem in and of itself — one that Francis needs to be attentive to. Enthusiasts on the left are running wild with his remarks, particularly the imprecise ones, remaking them and him in their own image. He’s like their personal Vatican II; they seize his statements and exaggerate and exploit them for their contrary purposes.
A friend of mine who attends a parish in Western Pennsylvania told me what his liberal priest did with Francis’ comments on contraception. The congregation was told that the issue is now “dead and just remains to be buried.” The priest’s discourse on gay marriage and abortion was even more enlightening. “In a nutshell,” said my friend, “we were told that we didn’t need to worry about either gay marriage or abortion.”
That’s just one reaction. Here’s another I wrote about recently here at The American Spectator:
Upon doing my regular perusal of People’s World, the flagship publication of Communist Party USA, I encountered not one but two pieces exalting the Bishop of Rome. One was titled, “Welcome Pope Francis, campaigner against corporate greed!” The other was likewise tellingly titled, “Pope Francis: a breath of fresh air.” Said the writer: “We Communists … have much to learn” from Pope Francis.
For the record, these communists, like secular progressives, are excited about this new pope not because they’re suddenly thinking about becoming Catholic; no, they’re excited because they believe he’s more like them.
Likewise, another really disturbing example was reported here by George Neumayr, who wrote about a liberal Catholic who calls herself a “Nancy Pelosi-Pope Francis Catholic.” She firmly rejected the advice of a Catholic family counselor who was too pro-life and too “traditional marriage” (i.e., too Catholic) for her tastes. She wanted the counselor to be more like Nancy Pelosi and Pope Francis.
That’s a halting thought that leads to the question: Is this how Pope Francis would like to be identified? Is that the Catholic company he prefers to keep, to be affiliated with? I doubt it.
All of that is background for this latest whopper, and my focus here today. If you’re a faithful Catholic, be forewarned. What I’m about to share with you is outrageous.
In Illinois last week, Democrat lawmakers passed legislation approving same-sex marriage in the state. Leading the charge were Catholic Democrats who brace yourself — cited Pope Francis in support of their actions. Here’s an excerpt from the Chicago Tribune:
Advocates [of gay marriage in Illinois] soon received additional help from Pope Francis, who warned that the Catholic Church could lose its way by focusing too much on social stances, including opposition to homosexuality.
"If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?" Francis said in July.
The comments sparked a wave of soul-searching by several Catholic lawmakers who had battled to reconcile their religious beliefs with their sworn duty to represent their constituents who were increasingly supportive of gay rights even as Cardinal Francis George remained opposed.
"As a Catholic follower of Jesus and the pope, Pope Francis, I am clear that our Catholic religious doctrine has at its core love, compassion and justice for all people," said Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, a Democrat from Aurora who voted for the bill after spending much of the summer undecided.
House Speaker Michael Madigan also cited the pope's comments in explaining his support for the measure.
"For those that just happen to be gay living in a very harmonious, productive relationship but illegal — who am I to judge that they should be illegal?" the speaker said.
Madigan had come under fire from some gay rights groups who argued that he wasn't doing enough to build support in the chamber he controls, but advocates say he was critical in rounding up the final needed votes in the last several weeks.
This is stunning but predictable fallout from Pope Francis’ various remarks. Think about the absurdity: gay-marriage advocates in Illinois got the help they needed in persuading House Speaker Michael Madigan and other Catholic legislators; they believe they got it from Rome, from Pope Francis. And they believe they got it from the pope in direct opposition to their bishop, Cardinal George. By their understanding, Pope Francis and Cardinal George — their pope and their cardinal — are opposed to one another on gay marriage, and they have thus sided with Francis. I imagine that they, too, consider themselves “Nancy Pelosi-Pope Francis Catholics.”
As for Madigan, he’s a University of Notre Dame grad, Loyola University School of Law grad, and before that attended St. Ignatius College Prep school. He’s a lifetime product of Catholic formation, an education that he’s continuing by looking to Rome for guidance; that is, looking to Pope Francis.
Illinois now has gay marriage in part because of Pope Francis — or at least because of how Pope Francis is being interpreted. His words didn’t slow gay marriage in Illinois; they facilitated it.
To be sure, Francis has never endorsed gay marriage. When he was a cardinal, he blasted same-sex marriage as a literal diabolical effort by “the Father of Lies” (i.e., Satan) to “destroy God’s plan… and deceive the children of God.” He insisted that gay marriage discriminates against children “in advance,” depriving them of “their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God.” At stake, said Cardinal Bergoglio, was “the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts” and the very survival of the human family, which he defined as “father, mother, and children.”
He said that, however, while he was cardinal, not as pope. Indeed, as he said in his controversial 12,000-word interview, he intentionally hasn’t talked much about issues like gay marriage and abortion.
Well, what he has said has been just enough for liberal Catholics and other leftists. They are taking the little he has said and turning it into a crusade for legalization of gay marriage. That misappropriation of the pope’s words is their fault, but Francis isn’t without blame as he fails to offer clarifications and corrections of their misunderstandings.
Thus, I say with all due respect, deference, and sincerity that this pope needs to be really careful about what he’s saying. If he doesn’t, this boil will continue to fester. Unless he clarifies things better, and more strongly affirms and articulates Church teachings, this situation will get worse, spreading major errors throughout the Church, the country, the culture, and the world.