MSNBC's Matthews Cheers Francis As Foil to Conservative Wing of Church Among American Catholicism

September 8th, 2015 9:22 PM

A few weeks ahead of Pope Francis's visit to the United States, liberal cradle Catholic Chris Matthews -- who once opined that it was somewhat en vogue for "really anti-gay" folks to convert to the faith -- used the upcoming visit as an opportunity to praise the pontiff as a foil for more conservative and traditionalist wings of the Catholic Church, particularly in the United States.

[Oddly enough, in something of an odd curveball in the segment, Matthews explained why he doesn't have a problem with displaying the Ten Commandments on government property.]

In a tease before the commercial break immediately preceding the evening's roundtable discussion, Matthews held forth that "social conservatives" were "dig[ging] in" and "fight[ing] against" the "changing tide of history" which the "liberal" and "compassionate" Pope Francis was riding (see video below).



"The pope's leading something of a liberal crusade, you might also call it a crusade of compassion," Matthews hailed after noting Tuesday's morning's Washington Post front-pager, "Inside Vatican, dissent grows: Conservatives challenge direction of liberal pope who advocates change."

"What he's doing... is I really believe that what's he's done is saying, it's the sin not the sinner," Matthews told panelist Michelle Bernard, approving of the pope's "wonderful embrace" of offering absolution to repentant women who have had abortion.

"I love this pope, for one, as an Episcopalian, and for people who are gay, for women," Bernard gushed, hailing how "he is talking about what it is to be equal" and "opening it up" to those who have felt "excluded" from the church.

<<<Click on the image below to help us with your tax-deductible gift>>>

<<<Thank you for your support!>>>


Right after that, Matthews asked USA Today's Paul Singer, "why would the right wing not like the guy?" before immediately offering his "theological theory":

They don't like it 'cause they like the fire and brimstone. They like the terror of sin, that if you committed sin that you are -- it's so horrible and so evil that you can't even imagine it, and once you commit it, you're an outcast, therefore you will be less likely to become an outcast, which I think is crazy. Because I don't think it works that way.

Of course, I'm no Catholic scholar -- and I have my share of disagreements with Rome as a Presbyterian -- but even I am pretty sure the conservative view within the Roman church doesn't exactly work the way Matthews is caricaturing it to be.

For his part, Singer demurred from weighing in theologically, although he did make an opening for Matthews to make a joke at Dick Cheney's expense:

PAUL SINGER, USA Today: You know, I'm not a religious scholar, by a stretch of imagination, I'm a reporter who covers politics, and I'd like to see more politics where we believe that it is the sinner, not the sin, sorry, the sin not the sinner. Where we can disagree with each other on a policy issue and not think that you are bad for America and probably beat your dog when you go home.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: How 'bout Dick Cheney?

SINGER: Well, you know...

MATTHEWS: Do you have some exceptions there? Ha ha!

RUTH MARCUS, Washington Post: No absolution! No absolution there!

SINGER: Even Dick Cheney, go to confession, you know.

MATTHEWS: I like what you said, generally.

SINGER: It's the language of let us love each other and disagree with our ideas, not with our humanity.

Returning to a serious note, Matthews did add something to the discussion that might cheer and, well, surprise liberals and conservatives alike. He's perfectly fine with displays of the Ten Commandments on government property:

Religion has a role in ordering society. You know, keeping marriages together, parents look out for the kids. All these values, by the way, the Ten Commandments are pretty much human values. You know, that's why I don't have a big problem with them appearing in some building somewhere, a government building, because they're really human values.