Is Pope Francis Catholic?

This is an absurd rhetorical question, but it bears asking, because according to Jon O’Brien, president of the hilariously named “Catholics for Choice,” Pope Francis is not nearly Catholic enough (or too Catholic, depending on how you look at it). Writing in the Washington Post, he provides a list of complaints which, in his view, the Catholic Church badly needs to address. Like Martin Luther and John Calvin before him, Jon O’Brien knows far better than the Vicar of Christ what it means to be a faithful Catholic and he is not afraid to tell all Christendom what he thinks we should believe.

Let’s dive in to O’Brien’s modern-day ninety-five theses (give or take 88) then, shall we?

Pope Francis doing Catholic stuff (CNA Photo/Alan Holdren)

Pope Francis doing Catholic stuff (CNA Photo/Alan Holdren)

1. “Catholics desperately want change in our church…”

Really? We do? I don’t recall being consulted on this issue. Do you? Was there a synod convened recently that was somehow overlooked?

2. “Pope Francis is a theological conservative—just like his recent predecessors—and theology inevitably becomes policy.”

Only his recent predecessors? Which not-so-recent pope was a theological liberal? The biggest change in Catholic theology over the last hundred years was the promulgation of the Assumption of Mary as an official dogma of the Church. Vatican II may have given us the Novus Ordo liturgical reforms, but it didn’t change what it means to be a faithful Catholic. Our beliefs are the same.

"The pill you will always have with you; but you will not always have me." Matthew §5.3.25(C)(d)

“The pill you will always have with you; but you will not always have me.” Matthew §5.3.25(C)(d)

3. “This resulted in a College of Cardinals unlikely to elect a pope who will bring about the changes the Catholic majority so urgently desires.”

This sounds like a no true Scotsman fallacy. For this statement to be true, the “Catholic majority” can only be defined as people who agree with Jon O’Brien’s dissenting views.

4. “At two meetings at the U.N. in June, the Vatican’s representative stood up to oppose sexual and reproductive health, just as he and his predecessors have always done. Pope Francis talks of compassion for poor but has done nothing to change the hierarchy’s ban on contraception, something that would help interrupt the cycle of poverty perpetuated in developing nations where lifesaving contraception is unavailable.”

Compassion for the poor consists of preventing them from being born. Got it. Thanks for the clarification.

Jesus Giving An Annoying Lecture by Carl Heinrich Bloch, 1877

Jesus Giving An Annoying Lecture by Carl Heinrich Bloch, 1877

5. “Pope Francis may have spared us the usual lecture about abortion but we can’t expect much movement on this issue.”

And as Catholics, we have a right to expect the Pope to lecture us on topics we want to hear—just like Jesus did—not on difficult subjects with which we personally disagree!

6. “Pope Francis did state that he won’t judge gay people, but continues to deny them the right to express their love in the same way as do heterosexuals…”

This contortion of the English language underscores just how silly the whole debate over “gay marriage” really is. Homosexual relationships, by their very nature, are not the same as heterosexual relationships. They cannot possibly be the same! Advocates of same-sex marriage seek the same legal recognition as heterosexuals, but they cannot change biology.

Also, Pope Francis said he won’t judge gay people who seek to live according to Christ’s teachings. There’s a big difference.

The Virgin in Prayer by Giovanni Battista Salvi "Il Sassoferrato," c. 1640

The Virgin in Prayer by Giovanni Battista Salvi “Il Sassoferrato,” c. 1640

7. “…when Francis was asked about the role of women in church, and the possibility that one day the church could enjoy the gifts of ordained women, he insisted that door was closed…The doors and windows in the Vatican have been closed for a very long time. The air is stale. Faithful Catholics pray for real transformation—perhaps through Pope Francis.”

It is said that when God closes a door, He opens a window. Pope Francis has spent much of his young papacy describing the gifts of women and how they contribute to the life of the Church. [N.B., as Catholics, we capitalize that word.]

As for praying for a real transformation, O’Brien finally gets one right. Every day, faithful Catholics pray for the reconciliation and conversion of dissenters and unbelievers and every year we welcome new converts and returning Catholics back into the Church at the Easter Vigil.

Of course, if Jon O’Brien actually believed in Catholic teaching, he would know all this, but he doesn’t. There’s another name for “Catholics for Choice.” They’re called Protestants, but even that is not fair to Protestants, most of whom are more familiar with the teachings of Christ than O’Brien seems to be. The Washington Post does a great disservice to its readers by giving a forum to the likes of O’Brien who speaks only for himself and his political pressure group whose mission is apparently to attack the faithful for holding to our beliefs.

  • James

    Thank you. I pray that the Church can grow in a greater unity of faith on these issues by conforming themselves to revelation.

  • Arthur

    Catholics for choice? That’s like pigs for bacon!

  • patrick cassidy

    Pope Francis is more than enough of a Catholic, it’s just most of the rest of the Catholic Church is not Catholic enough. We’re all too busy looking across the fence to see differences, instead of seeing similarities. Let’s Love one another as Christ loved us, through forgiving, helping, not judging, condemning. Lend a helping hand instead of grabbing from the other guy.

  • John Sposato

    The pope doesn’t “deny (homosexuals) the right to express their love in the same way as do heterosexuals.” Nature does.

  • WhyPriest?

    If you’re interested in some real analysis from the rector of a seminary in Chicago on the recent comments by Pope Francis and Cardinal George on “gays”, check out this article:

  • michelekc

    Love the commentary. Especially the caption calling the Sermon on the Mount an “Annoying Lecture.” This reminds us that Christianity is supposed to transform society, not be transformed by society. Mr O’Brien’s “theses” present no challenge to modern secular status quo, so… does he propose to transform it?



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