Time Still Hopeful For 'Transformer' Pope – Even As Francis Gives 'Same Answers' on 'Uncomfortable' Dogma

Time magazine's left-leaning reasons for choosing Pope Francis its 2013 Person of the Year were apparent in the cover story written by Howard Chua-Eoan and Elizabeth Dias. Chua-Eoan and Dias trumpeted how supposedly, "in a matter of months, Francis has elevated the healing mission of the church...above the doctrinal police work so important to his recent predecessors." The two later underlined that the Pope's "vision is of a pastoral—not a doctrinaire—church."

Despite their emulation of the Norwegian Nobel Committee's reasoning for giving President Obama the Peace Prize in 2009 – to nudge along liberal "progress" and hoping that "somehow" doctrines will change – the writers grudgingly acknowledged that the Bishop of Rome doesn't sound like he will bring the change that the left hopes for:

...Francis signals great change while giving the same answers to the uncomfortable questions. On the question of female priests: "We need to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman." Which means: no. No to abortion, because an individual life begins at conception. No to gay marriage, because the male-female bond is established by God. "The teaching of the church … is clear," he has said...

Chua-Eoan and Dias also expressed their ideologically-tinged fears that Catholicism's emphasis on doctrine and tradition could very well return with a vengeance in the future, even under Francis: "It is important to remember that Francis has been Pope for less than a year, and a papacy can change character in midstream. In 1846, Pope Pius IX came to the throne as the great hope to liberalize Catholicism but by the end of his pontificate had become the great champion of conservatism....The entrenched dynamics of the church can transform the would-be transformer."

Throughout their cover story on the pontiff, the journalists demonstrated the liberal media's characteristic two-dimensional view of the Catholic Church (Chua-Eoan's misunderstanding is a bit puzzling, given his Filipino background). Among the more egregious: Chua-Eoan and Dias contended that "Francis says by example, Stop bickering and roll up your sleeves. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good—an important thing for the world to hear, especially from a man who holds an office deemed infallible." In reality, the popes have exercised this authority very rarely. The last major time was when Pope Pius XII promulgated the doctrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1950.

Four paragraphs into the article, the Time journalists remarked that "the elderly traditionalist who pines for the old Latin Mass and the devout young woman who wishes she could be a priest both have hopes" about a newly-elected pope. However, a modicum of research would have corrected their caricature of two prominent camps inside the Catholic Church. The "young devout woman" is more likely to be a Latin Mass devotee than an aspiring priest. There certainly weren't any among the dissenting Catholic women who were "ordained" in Kentucky on Monday – a ceremony which, of course, USA Today gave coverage to on Sunday.

Chua-Eoan and Dias then used their "elevated the healing mission of the church...above the doctrinal police work" line. After listing some of the liberal media's favorite quotes from Pope Francis, they soon added that "this new Pope may have found a way out of the 20th century culture wars, which have left the church moribund in much of Western Europe and on the defensive from Dublin to Los Angeles." But the writers also hinted at their lament in the sentences that immediately followed:


But the paradox of the papacy is that each new man's success is burdened by the astonishing successes of Popes past. The weight of history, of doctrines and dogmas woven intricately century by century, genius by genius, is both the source and the limitation of papal power....A Pope sets his own course only if he can conform it to paths already chosen.

The writers spent much of the rest of their article extolling Pope Francis's commitment to the poor and to reform. But their bias against the Church's social teachings and against the institution in general still popped up from time to time. They made a backhanded compliment about how "the church has always made the poor a priority – a mission that has been the biting paradox of the treasure-laden Vatican". Later, they noted that the pontiff had suggested that the Church "ease up on the hot-button issues", but soon bemoaned that "if there appears to be some wiggle room on homosexuality and the role of women, there is none for abortion."

Time's largely positive treatment of Francis should be compared to the last time they gave a pope the Person of the Year honor – Blessed John Paul II in 1994. Writer Paul Gray zeroed in on how the native of Poland "can also impose his will, and there was no more formidable and controversial example of this than the Vatican intervention at the U.N.'s International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in September [1994]. There the Pope's emissaries defeated a U.S.-backed proposition John Paul feared would encourage abortions worldwide."

Gray then hyped that "the consequences may be global and – critics predict – catastrophic....In public relations terms, it was a costly victory. There he goes again, the standard argument ran, imposing his sectarian morality on a world already hungry and facing billions of new mouths to feed in the coming decades". If Pope Francis ends up taking the path that Chua-Eoan and Dias fear he will, their publication, along with the rest of the liberal media, might end up attacking their current hero, as they did in the case of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center