One of my daily joys is watching ultra-conservative Catholics squirm ever since Pope Francis was handed the keys to the Vatican. The cool new Pope has renounced the extravagance of his predecessor, Pope Evil XVI, he has tried to uplift the poor, and rein in the comfortable and corrupt hierarchy in Rome. Further infuriating mega-Catholics, is Pope Francis’ relatively kind remarks on LGBT people, as well as his warning to zealots within his church not to obsess on social issues.
Now that Pope Francis is in office, he will have to battle the Frankenstein monster created by his predecessors, who elevated fighting abortion and gay people to central tenets of the faith. As the pontiff seems to understand, this was always the callous, lazy man’s version of Catholicism, because it’s much easier to bash the homos than help the homeless, or scream “baby killer” than lift wages so that families can afford to raise children.
On some level, the Pope seems to “get” that one of the great cons of our age is modern social conservatism. It was created in violent reaction to various civil rights movements and refined into a slick product by hucksters and talk show hosts. Cleverly billed as a defense of Christianity, it was really a scheme cooked up to manipulate the veneer of religion to justify unholy passions. This divisive ploy was cunningly financed by Big Business and their Republican political arm, who exploited an opportunity to recruit rubes, under the rubric of “family values,” to vote against their own economic interests.
Social conservatives had gained enormous traction with the previous pope, by presenting their worldview as naturally cohesive with Catholicism. Indeed, Princeton scold Robert George regularly invokes the sham of “natural law” to make his wobbly case. Thankfully, Pope Francis appears to comprehend that Americanized social conservatism is not in cohesion, but is in competition with real Roman Catholicism.
This, of course, is a difficult wafer to swallow for his church’s fanatics, who went from praised to pilloried virtually overnight. Their plight was covered by reporter Laurie Goodstein in aSunday New York Times article, “Conservative U.S. Catholics Feel Left Out of the Pope’s Embrace.”
For the remainder of this article, I’ll print excerpts and translate what the “faithful” are really saying:
NYT: When Pope Francis was elected in March, Bridget Kurt received a small prayer card with his picture at her church and put it up on her refrigerator at home….But Ms. Kurt recently took the Pope Francis prayer card down and threw it away.
“My neighbors and co-workers whisper behind my back that I think I’m more Catholic than the Pope. What they don’t understand, is that I really am more Catholic than the Pope.”
NYT: Steve Skojek, a blogger who has written for several conservative Catholic websites, wrote of Francis’ statements: “Are they explicitly heretical? No. Are they dangerously close? Absolutely.”
“Liberals who pick and choose doctrines based on personal tastes are ‘Cafeteria Catholic.’ However, a conservative who picks and chooses which Pope to follow based on personal tastes is a good Catholic.”
NYT: Mr. Skojec had come to suspect that Francis is a “self-styled revolutionary” who wants to change the church fundamentally: “There have been bad popes in the history of the church. Popes that murdered, popes that had mistresses. I’m not saying Pope Francis is terrible, but there’s no divine protection that keeps him from being the type of guy who subtlety undermines the teachings of the church …”
“I would never publicly describe Pope Francis as a terrible, lest he repossess my Catholic card. But, would anybody be surprised if he were a communist serial killer into autoerotic asphyxiation, who probably screwed an Argentinean goat?”
NYT: They believe that he is saying things in ways that the news media and the church’s “enemies” are able to distort, and that there are consequences.
“This damn Pope is gumming up the Vatican public relations machine. He needs to stamp out all the positive press he’s been getting, so Rome can return to the good old days of defending pedophile priests and cooking up conspiracy theories of a gay clerical mafia that secretly meets in the Sistine Chapel at midnight when the moon is full.”
NYT: Matt C. Abbott, a Catholic columnist in Chicago with Renew America said, “I wish that he could have chosen some different words, expressed himself in a different way that wouldn’t have been so easily taken out of context.”
“Thank God the Pope was somewhat ambiguous. I’m not sure what I’d do if he explicitly said my agenda was a festering boil on the buttocks of the Catholic Church.”
Don’t you just love how social conservatives scream “holy sh**” these days when they hear from the Holy See?
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”