Pope Francis criticizes "backward" and "reactionary" US Catholic Church

18:40 28.08.2023

In a private meeting with Portuguese members of the Jesuit religious order during his visit to Lisbon on August 5, Pope Francis criticized some conservatives in the United States Catholic Church, referring to their backwardness and the replacement of faith with ideology. The pope's comments highlighted the divisions within the U.S. Catholic Church, with progressives and conservatives being at odds on various issues, including abortion and same-sex marriage. While conservatives have been critical of Francis' emphasis on social justice and his openness to allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive sacraments, the pope believes that a correct understanding of Catholic doctrine allows for change over time.

The transcript of the meeting, which was published by the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, revealed a conversation between Francis and a Portuguese Jesuit who had faced criticism during a sabbatical year in the United States. The Jesuit expressed his disappointment in encountering many Catholics, including some bishops, who criticized Francis' papacy and the Jesuit order itself. The pope acknowledged the existence of a "very strong, organized, reactionary attitude" within the U.S. church, which he deemed as being "backward." He warned that such an attitude leads to a climate of closure and disconnects from the roots of the church, ultimately having devastating effects on morality.

Francis firmly stated that backwardness is useless and urged those who hold such views to understand that there is a correct evolution in the understanding of matters of faith and morals. He argued that the vision of the doctrine of the church as a monolith is wrong and that turning to ideologies for support replaces faith. The pope reminded his critics that even in the past, the church has undergone evolution, citing examples such as the Church's tolerance of slavery in previous centuries. He emphasized the need to move forward and consolidate doctrine over time.

This is not the first time that Pope Francis has faced criticism from conservative sectors of the U.S. Church. However, he has also acknowledged it with humor, once commenting that it was an honor to be attacked by Americans. Over the past 10 years, Francis has been advocating for reforms within the Catholic Church, including giving women and lay Catholics more roles and making the Church more inclusive and less judgmental towards marginalized groups such as LGBT individuals.

Conservative religious groups in the United States, often aligned with politically conservative media outlets, have been vocal in their opposition to the pope's stances on various issues such as climate change, immigration, and social justice. Pope Francis' calls for gun control and his opposition to the death penalty have further fueled criticism from these conservative factions. One of his staunchest American critics, Cardinal Raymond Burke, even wrote in an introduction for a recent book that a meeting of bishops called by Francis in October to help shape the future of the Church risked causing confusion, error, and division.

Overall, Pope Francis' comments during the private meeting in Lisbon shed light on the ongoing divisions within the U.S. Catholic Church. The pope's emphasis on the need for a correct evolution of doctrine and the dangers of being backward-looking has further ignited the debate between progressives and conservatives within the church. As the papacy continues, it remains to be seen how these divisions will be addressed and whether any significant changes will be implemented.

/ Monday, August 28, 2023, 6:40 PM /

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