WashPost Touts 'Conservative Rebellion' in Catholic Church Against Pope

September 8th, 2015 12:03 PM

Anthony Faiola hyped how Pope Francis is "grappling with a conservative backlash to the liberal momentum building inside the [Catholic] [C]hurch" in a front-page, above-the-fold item in Monday's Washington Post. Faiola played up the "growing sense of alarm among strict conservatives, exposing what is fast emerging as a culture war over Francis's papacy," and underlined that the "conservative rebellion" against the pontiff is "taking on many guises."

The journalist first zeroed in on notable "staunch conservative" Cardinal Raymond Burke in his article, "Inside Vatican, dissent grows" (titled "Conservative dissent is brewing inside the Vatican" in the online version). Faiola pointed out that Cardinal Burke "sat in his elaborately upholstered armchair and appeared to issue a warning to Pope Francis." He added that "Burke said he would 'resist' liberal changes — and seemed to caution Francis about the limits of his authority. 'One must be very attentive regarding the power of the pope,' Burke told the French news crew....'The pope does not have the power to change teaching [or] doctrine.'"

Faiola continued with his "growing sense of alarm among strict conservatives" line, and noted that the Pope's "progressive allies are hailing him as a revolutionary, a man who only last week broadened the power of priests to forgive women who commit what Catholic teachings call the 'mortal sin' of abortion during his newly declared 'year of mercy' starting in December." Actually, priests already had the power to grant absolution to women who had abortions. What the pontiff did was grant them the ability to remove the automatic excommunication – something that is usually reserve to bishops, and something that most priests in the United States were already able to do.

The liberal newspaper's Berlin bureau chief then highlighted the "conservative rebellion" that is "taking on many guises — in public comments, yes, but also in the rising popularity of conservative Catholic Web sites promoting Francis dissenters; books and promotional materials backed by conservative clerics seeking to counter the liberal trend; and leaks to the news media, aimed at Vatican reformers." He soon added that these "conservatives" have also "been thrust unfairly into a position in which 'defending the real teachings of the church makes you look like an enemy of the pope, 'a senior Vatican official said on the condition of anonymity."

Faiola later cited several examples of the "public comments" from "conservatives" in the Catholic hierarchy:

In an open letter to his diocese, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, R.I., wrote: "In trying to accommodate the needs of the age, as Pope Francis suggests, the Church risks the danger of losing its courageous, countercultural, prophetic voice, one that the world needs to hear." For his part, Burke, the cardinal from Wisconsin, has called the church under Francis "a ship without a rudder."

...Commenting on the pope's call for dramatic action on climate change, Pell told the Financial Times in July, "The church has got no mandate from the Lord to pronounce on scientific matters."

....Conservatives have launched a campaign against a possible policy change that would grant divorced and remarried Catholics the right to take Communion at Mass. Last year, five senior leaders, including Burke and the conservative Cardinal Carlo Caffarra of Bologna, Italy, drafted what has become known as "the manifesto" against such a change. In July, a DVD distributed to hundreds of dioceses in Europe and Australia, and backed by conservative Catholic clergy members, made the same point. In it, Burke, who has made similar arguments at Catholic conferences, issued dire warnings of a world in which traditional teachings are ignored.

The journalist added that "rather than targeting the pope, conservative bishops and cardinals more often take aim at their liberal peers. They include the German Cardinal Walter Kasper, who has suggested that he has become a substitute target for clergy members who are not brave enough to criticize the pope directly."

Earlier in 2015, Faiola co-authored a front-page article that praised Pope Francis for his environmental encyclical. He also spotlighted, in a May 2014 item, that the Argentinian pontiff is supposedly "the most old school of any pope since at least Paul VI" with regard to his consistent teaching on the Devil. He hyped that "Francis has not only dwelled far more on Satan in sermons and speeches than his recent predecessors have, but also sought to rekindle the Devil's image as a supernatural entity with the forces of evil at his beck and call."