Ross Douthat: The right way to understand this pope

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  • Updated: December 2, 2013 - 6:05 PM

For conservative Catholics, he’s a challenge — and an opportunity.

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pumiceDec. 2, 13 8:08 PM

Out of Mr. Douthat's verbosity: "Catholic liberalism didn’t go into eclipse because it failed to let the Vatican dictate every jot and tittle of its social agenda. Rather, it lost influence because it failed to articulate any kind of clear Catholic difference, within the bigger liberal tent, on issues like abortion, sex and marriage." Coupla quibbles: (1) Catholic liberalism has gone into eclipse because it failed to articulate a difference on moral issues? Take note, Mr. Douthat, that the views of Catholic liberalism prevailed on the issues of sex and marriage. (2) Catholic liberalism has gone into eclipse??? Take note, Mr. Douthat, that you wrote of the new Pope's "sharp critique of consumer capitalism and financial laissez-faire" and of his laser-like "focus on the church’s mission to the poor"--in other words, Catholic liberalism writ large.

okaybruceerDec. 2, 13 8:58 PM

Pope Francis has said that same sex "marriage" is from Satan, abortion and contraception are intrinsically evil, and the door is closed on women's ordination. I fail to see how pumice claims "Catholic liberalism has prevailed" on these issues. It lost and lost badly.

shawnstcloudDec. 2, 1311:20 PM

okaybruceer: what is your interpretation of Pope Francis when he said that the Church could fall like a house of cards unless it is able to focus more on the essentials of preaching the Gospel and less on politics and bureaucracy?

haybrnr23Dec. 2, 1311:55 PM

When the Catholic Church made the decision to protect abusive priests and endanger children placed in their care, the Pope lost authority to speak on issues of morality. The best thing to do is ignore him.

owatonnabillDec. 3, 13 6:22 AM

What many including apparently Mr. Douthat fail to realize is that there is no Liberal - Conservative battle in the Catholic Church on matters of faith or morals because there can be none. There may be debate on the relative importance of issues but that is all. On issues such as abortion, gay marriage, female ordination, etc. etc. Previous Popes have already spoken ex Cathedra and the doctrine of Papal infallibility prevents Francis from contracting them. Francis may ascribe a different level of importance to the issue such as casting it in a relatively minor light and emphasizing others which he deems more important, and he definitely has on the issue of homosexuality, but that is all. The Church will never condone abortion or gay marriage because it CAN'T. Those are settled issues.

okaybruceerDec. 3, 13 6:29 AM

@shawnstcloud: We all, including His Holiness, know that the Church will never fall. But she will be unable to focus on her mission if she is too wrapped up in internal politics and bureaucracy. What he said has nothing to do with politics as you are referring to them, nor do the issues I have cited. Those are matters of doctrine, which he has (of course) stamped his approval on as a "son of the Church" (his words). In other words, shawn, we're not going anywhere and our teachings (i.e., the truth) on sex and marriage are not changing either.

briechersDec. 3, 13 7:21 AM

Apparently there is no hope for communism, socialism or collectivism...even the pope can't come up with anything to improve those systems. Free will is a fundamental precept for all Christians. Free will goes hand in hand with free markets and self government. It comes with the expectation to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ and to change one's heart which leads to change in behavior, particularly in terms of the poor. It does not promote the idea that the collective or a democracy (which is an organized mob without the bill of rights) will take your money by force and give it to the poor so that your soul will be saved.

cstoney48Dec. 3, 1311:14 AM

briechers said: " Free will is a fundamental precept for all Christians. Free will goes hand in hand with free markets..." Must have missed that one...Didn't realize that the Christ was a laissez-faire capitalist. I guess that's what He meant when He said "Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me." Luke

okaybruceerDec. 3, 1311:28 AM

@cstoney48: Correct. All is God's. Those given much have more expected of them. St. Francis of Assisi recognized the hand of the poor as an altar upon which to make a sacrifice to God. Every Catholic should think the same.

briechersDec. 3, 1312:32 PM

cstoney48...It seems to me that He was laissez-faire, but perhaps not the way you think of free markets. I haven't read anywhere that He was for plundering the assets of others, disregarding property rights or violating contracts to support the tithing that is referenced throughout the bible. My understanding is that the tithing is to come out of earnings that one fairly earned. In any case, one has to make the personal choice, not be forced by folks like Joe Biden, who is well known for his underwhelming commitment to charity when the money comes from his own pocket, but is happy to be the check-writer for charity when the money is provided by taxpayers.


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