Political Animal


April 16, 2013 1:09 PM Liberal Honeymoon With Francis Ends Abruptly

By Ed Kilgore

Anyone familiar with the vast and complex edifice of the magisterium—the body of official Roman Catholic teaching—knew this was coming; that all the secular liberal high-fiving over Pope Francis’ charming and evocative defiances of papal pomp and prevarication was not going to conclude in some sort of Vatican III where women were ordained priests and LGBT folk were treated like anyone else and a truce was declared in the fight against abortion and contraception.

Still, the occasion of this realization must have been jarring to American liberals in and beyond the Catholic communion, per this news summary from Tom Kingston of the L.A. Times:

The Vatican said in a statement Monday that Francis had reaffirmed the doctrinal evaluation and criticism of U.S. nuns made last year by the Holy See under his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. The assessment accused the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an organization that represents most U.S. female Catholic orders, of promoting “radical feminist themes” and ignoring the Vatican’s hard line on same-sex marriage and abortion.
At the time, the Vatican dispatched an archbishop to rewrite the group’s statutes and set up reeducation programs to bring nuns back into line, alleging that leaders of U.S. orders had challenged the church’s teachings on women’s ordination and ministry to homosexuals.
The move was denounced by Pat Farrell, then the head of the organization, as creating “pain and scandal.” Protest vigils were held outside churches, and a petition attacking the Vatican’s decision attracted 50,000 signatures.
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious represents about 57,000 sisters, or 80% of U.S. nuns.

There’s no reason for anyone to attack Francis for “backsliding” or “hypocrisy.” Behaving more like a servant than a monarch during the early stages of his reign, and even taking seriously challenges like Vatican reform or the child abuse scandal, never for a moment meant this Pope was going to abandon teachings and disciplinary actions systematically entrenched by his two predecessors over decades. Had that been a real possibility, he would have never been elected in the first place.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • K in VA on April 16, 2013 1:19 PM:

    Frankly, I'm surprised he didn't say something particularly nasty against gay folk within his first week as pope. But it's coming, and it will undoubtedly be as bad as Ratzinger's worst.

  • c u n d gulag on April 16, 2013 1:23 PM:

    I'm sorry, but I'm amused that anyone could even think that Francis would be some kind of Liberal.

    The default position of the church for well over a millenium, is the continued subjugation of women.
    Gay people are just the whipped cream and cherry on their mysogynist sundae.

    And like Ed said, if the powers-that-be behind their titular figurehead had any suspicion he might be a Liberal, his name would never have appeared on any list.

    Let him wash all of the feet of the poor, even the female poor, that he wants - but don't let him for a nano-second give women idea that they're some sort of equals to men.

  • Barbara on April 16, 2013 2:01 PM:

    You would be hard pressed to find a better example of wishful thinking or the triumph of hope over experience than liberal Catholics. Saying that as an ex-Catholic of the liberal persuasion.

  • Michael on April 16, 2013 2:03 PM:

    Its very early in his papacy, he hasn't earned any rights yet to put all his cards on the table...Vatican bureacracy
    is as difficult to move as republican intransigence,don't lose all hope yet...

  • DJ on April 16, 2013 2:06 PM:

  • Steve P on April 16, 2013 2:12 PM:

  • rrk1 on April 16, 2013 5:57 PM:

    It's a fantasy to believe that Francis is cut from a different bolt of ermine than his two predecessors. Plus he wouldn't likely survive very long if he did head off in a radical (for the church) direction. Never forget John-Paul I.

  • DJ on April 16, 2013 6:12 PM:

    Never forget John-Paul I.

    Yes, a lovely man who had a history of heart trouble and high blood pressure, who came from a family filled with people with high blood pressure. A man who took his blood pressure medicine -- powerful medication at that -- rather inconsistently. Honestly, people who believe this "John Paul I was murdered" conspiracy bulls**t need to step away from the computer for their own mental health's sake.

  • Anonymous on April 16, 2013 7:07 PM:

    The foot washing might well have been a PR stunt. A lot of non-Catholics will remember that, since it made news, and the "re-education" of nuns on the magesterium will barely register.

    Public rebranding and private repression. Got it.