Conservative Catholics, Does Pope Francis Make You Grumpy?

In a recent interview with John Allen (which is worth reading in full), Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia remarked that those on the “right wing” of the Church “generally have not been really happy” about the election of Pope Francis. The Archbishop said a lot of other things, but this remark garnered the most attention.

Over at his blog, Michael Sean Winters pounced—“the most important thing Chaput said about Pope Francis,” he called it—and cites it as evidence that Pope Francis makes conservative Catholics “grumpy.” Winters finds this conservative proclivity to grumpiness revealing because, presumably, it confirms his preexisting stereotype of conservatives as dour, joyless, scolds. The joyful Francis, by contrast, and the wildly enthusiastic response he has received, is thus, a decisive repudiation of grumpy conservatives and a validation of, well, of Winters’ criticisms of grumpy conservatives.

Winters asks:

Why, then, would conservative Catholics be so upset? If what they wanted all along [i.e, New Evangelization] is coming to fruition, why the long faces? The answer is simple, and Archbishop Chaput’s guarded, even grudging, comments about Pope Francis point us to the reason: Pope Francis, within a matter of months, has destroyed the prevailing narratives about secularization and Catholic identity among Catholic conservatives, and he has done so without even trying.

Just which “narratives of secularization and Catholic identity” Winters is talking about he doesn’t really say. Nor does he indicate which Catholic conservatives were spinning such yarns. In fact, Winters doesn’t cite a single instance of a Catholic, conservative or otherwise, saying anything disparaging about the Pope. (Odd, since such things can be found.) Winters does, however, suggest, or at least imply, that, thanks to his (supposed) admission of disaffection, Archbishop Chaput will suffice as a fair proxy for the whole, unhappy lot.


Photo: Archbishop Chaput, An Irrepressible Grump?

Winters conveniently, if not fairly, treats “right wing” and “conservative” as interchangeable terms, and since we all know (wink, wink) that Chaput is an archconservative, the following equivalence can be made: “right-wing unhappy about Francis”= “conservatives unhappy about Francis”= “Chaput unhappy about Francis.”  Never mind the fact that, in the interview, Chaput speaks of the Church’s “right wing” in the third person, not the first.

See for yourself. here’s the relevant question and Chaput’s answer, in full:

Q. Do you think there will be a moment of reckoning when the honeymoon wears off?

A. We’ll see what happens. The pope may have a way of managing all of that will be extraordinary, I don’t know. I would think that by virtue of his office, he’ll be required to make decisions that won’t be pleasing to everybody.

This is already true of the right wing of the church. They generally have not been really happy about his election, from what I’ve been able to read and to understand. He’ll have to care for them, too, so it will be interesting to see how all this works out in the long run.

Does that sound like Archbishop Chaput is giving voice to his own grievances toward Francis? Or do Chaput’s actual words make it pretty clear that the concerns of the “right wing” are not, in fact, his own, though as a pastor he is aware of such concerns? To read Archbishop Chaput’s interview as manifestly “grudging” and “grumpy” towards the popularity of Pope Francis strikes me as myopic, careless, or worse.

(Winters even applauds a fellow blogger for comparing Archbishop Chaput to the Prodigal Son’s jealous older brother: “His likening of Chaput’s comments to the older brother of the Prodigal seems especially spot-on. I wish I had thought of it!”)

As unwarranted as Winters’ reading of Archbishop Chaput’s comment about a disaffected “right-wing” might seem, when compared to some of the other things Chaput said about Pope Francis—in the very same interview—Winters’ take sounds especially contrived. Chaput, for example, says this: “My sense is that practicing Catholics love [Francis] and have a deep respect for him.” And this: “Thanks be to God that the Lord has given us a pope with such universal appeal to so many people.” And then there’s this “right-wing” talking point: “I thought [Pope Francis’s visit to Lampedusa] was wonderful. It was very touching moment. I hope it leads to concrete results, because you just never know if they really do. I think it was something that touched the heart of anybody who paid attention, especially those of who are in favor of reasonable immigration laws.”


Photo: Not a Grump

At one point, Archbishop Chaput states, “I think part of [the enthusiasm for Francis] is genuine appreciation for the pope’s extraordinary friendliness and transparency.” Yet somehow, Winters manages to interpret these words to signify the exact opposite of their plain meaning. “[W]hat excites many of us Catholics today about Pope Francis, and something that I suspect escapes Archbishop Chaput and some of his fellow conservative prelates, is that it is easier for the flock of Christ to discern that their pastors are friends of Jesus when those pastors are actually friendly.”

All of this smacks of a willingness to find discord where none exists. Winters’ reluctance to admit of, let alone celebrate, common cause on important matters (spreading the Gospel) with those with whom he disagrees on less important matters (politics) strikes me as rather…unhelpful.

Winters, to his credit, sees both continuity and complementarity between Francis and his predecessors. He also sees that Francis has a magnetic appeal that Pope Benedict never had and that even Pope John Paul II lacked, at least in his later years of illness and declining health. He takes encouragement from the powerful and unambiguous Christian witness of Pope Francis. He sees each of these facts as cause for celebration. Yet for some reason, and despite a great deal of evidence to the contrary, Winters can’t seem to bring himself to admit that “conservative” Catholics (or at least those Winters considers conservative) overwhelmingly see in Pope Francis, and celebrate in Pope Francis, the very same things that Winters himself admires.

It’s almost enough to wonder if Mr. Winters himself isn’t being, if not grumpy, at least a tiny bit grudging.


Categories:Church News Pope Francis

  • Radical Moderate

    Now we have Catholics who would rather take their moral direction from Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity instead of the Pope! Wake up People, you’ve been brainwashed! How long before they suggest gas chambers for Liberals?????

  • Sr. Dymphna Brendan

    Our Holy Father is a leader who is for the people. His humility and openness is a breath of fresh air we need in our Church.
    By the way, has anyone noticed that the Holy Father wears a silver pectoral cross and not a gold one? Black shoes instead of red, his bishops miter? I’m sure if he could he would wear a brown habit as his name sake did.
    We need Pope Francis, his humility, and his wisdom.

  • walter metrick

    I believe Pope Francis wishes to start a church that is non-doctrinal that just focuses on love…and that is fine…but one cannot do that and ignore true catholic, apostolic teaching. He is winning over the televangelists. I used to embrace their belief system. Kenneth Hagin and those like him are gnostics that preach health-and-wealth prosperity gospel. No true Christian can attach him/her self to people with those beliefs.

  • Mark Curran

    Pope Francis seems to say what Christ did — remember who chased the money lenders from the temple? Remember his name?

    Remember where the bible says you cant serve to masters, you will worship one and hate the other? The two masters were God or money.

    Remember that guy in the bible who said give all you have to the poor?

    Finally a Pope I can feel proud of, who seems Christ like with his concern for the poor.

    You remember this -right? And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

    Charity is greater than what? Greater than FAITH. Pope Frances gets that, apparently.

    Whats the greatest? Oh yeah, Charity.

    • Joshua Mercer

      “Finally a Pope I can feel proud of”? Wow. Quite the compliment.

  • Modestus

    Pope francis liberation policies is totally a stepping away from the original Christ founded Catholicism to Man-made Catholicism. He is a worldly politician, trying to establish a political Church where everything is done according to human rule instead of the Holy Spirit. For the true Catholic Church, (regarded as mystical body of Christ, Bride of Christ) everything is done not according Human experience but working Of the Holy Spirit. Since Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever the law and policies of the Church remains unchange. For heaven and earth shall pass away but no iota, comma or dot shall ever be removed from the law of God being passed down to the Original Catholic Church. As the head (Jesus Christ) remains the same forever, the whole body (Catholic Church) will also remain unchangeable both in doctrin and ethics. The modern world can be compared with Sodom and Gomorah who succeeded in adopting hellish vices as their culture. Repent Oh my people for God’s day of Wrath is fast approaching. Remember, as they are planning to chase Christ away from his Holy Sanctuary, destruction is fast approaching them. May the Virgin Mother pray for us.

  • phillyburbs

    I actually have come back to the church after 30 years because of him. Finally a man with common sense. . he teaches what Jesus taught. Man are the one’s who man up all these laws to control the masses.

    • lisa anthony

      hallelujah phillyburbs!!!!
      we are now stronger because of your prayers!! lisa


      Welcome home!



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