Earlier this month, the Washington Post‘s Michelle Boorstein and Elizabeth Tenety had the temerity to suggest, as the headline put it, that “Conservative Catholics Question Pope Francis’ Approach.” Yesterday, Godbeat Cop Terry Mattingly decided to take exception to their lede:
Rattled by Pope Francis’s admonishment to Catholics not to be “obsessed” by doctrine, his stated reluctance to judge gay people and his apparent willingness to engage just about anyone — including atheists — many conservative Catholics are doing what only recently seemed unthinkable: They are openly questioning the pope.
Oh, but it wasn’t doctrine in general that Francis admonished Catholics not to be obsessed with, chastiseth tmatt, and conservatives also questioned John Paul II’s ecumenical confab in Assisi, and JPII reached out to non-Catholics too. Yeah, yeah. His real point is one dear to the GetReligion brief: “Doctrinally conservative Catholics are primarily worried about the mainstream press misinterpreting the pope’s words or yanking them out of context.”
Surely not. Doctrinally conservative Catholics are primarily worried about what the pope will actually say and do. And they have reason to be worried. Of course, their first recourse when a pope says or does something they don’t like is to blame the news media for misinterpreting it. Not to recognize that dodge is either naive or disingenuous.
Over at OSV, the hardly liberal Russell Shaw puts the dodge in context.
Among Catholics who’ve been rattled by remarks by Pope Francis in his famous interviews, some have sought solace in blaming the media. They have a point. Sensationalism, oversimplification and ignorance…really have marked some of the papal coverage to date.
But when you’re through criticizing the press, the fact remains that the reporters have gotten it essentially right. Pope Francis truly is saying something different while apparently preparing to set the Church on a significantly new path.
Shaw goes on to place Francis firmly in the camp of the late progressive favorites (and doctrinally conservative nemeses) Cardinal Carlo Martini of Milan and Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago. (RNS’ David Gibson rang the changes on the Francis-Bernardin parallel yesterday.)
“Please pray for me,” Francis asked St. Petersburg Bishop Robert Lynch in Rome a couple of days ago. “I have only just begun and I need prayers.” I have a feeling that the conservative questioning has only just begun as well.