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Does Pope Francis have too many enemies on the right?

Traditionalists don't seem to appreciate the pontiff's preference for simplicity over 'high Church' grandeur

  • David Gibson, Charisma News
  • International
  • August 9, 2013
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For more than three decades, the Vatican of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI operated on a version of the conservative maxim, “No enemies to the right.”

While left-wing theologians were silenced and liberal-to-moderate bishops were shunted aside in favor of hard-liners, liturgical traditionalists and cultural conservatives were diligently courted and given direct access to the apostolic palace.

But in a few short months, Pope Francis has upended that dynamic, alienating many on the Catholic right by refusing to play favorites and ignoring their preferred agenda items even as he stressed the kind of social justice issues that are near and dear to progressives.

“I’ve personally found many aspects of this papacy to be annoying, and struggled against that feeling from the beginning. I’m hardly alone in this,” Jeffrey Tucker, editor of the New Liturgical Movement blog, wrote as Francis basked in the glow of media coverage of his recent trip to Brazil.

“Every day and in every way we are being told how glorious it is that the bad old days are gone and the new good days are here,” he lamented.

Tucker and other traditionalists who are dedicated to high church rituals have been especially miffed at Francis’ simple—they might say simplistic—style since the moment the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was introduced to the world as the new pope back in March.

“How can I love a pope who doesn’t even want to be pope?” Katrina Fernandez, a popular conservative blogger, wrote in a column about her disillusionment.

Since Francis’ election, the anxiety on the right has only mounted as he has continued to model a radically different pontificate—preaching about the evils of the globalized economy while repeatedly reminding his followers to care for the poor and marginalized.

Indeed, he barely mentioned abortion directly or even gay rights until he was asked about gay priests during an impromptu press conference on the flight back from Brazil and, in a line heard round the world, he said, “Who am I to judge?”

Catholics on “the right wing of the church,” Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said on the eve of the Brazil trip, “have not been really happy about [Francis’] election.” Chaput, a vocal conservative in the US hierarchy, told the National Catholic Reporter that Francis “will have to care for them, too, so it will be interesting to see how all this works out in the long run.”

In fact, the risks for Francis in disappointing Catholic conservatives are high given their disproportionate presence in the pews and in the upper echelons of the church.

“They have loyally supported the church with donations and activism and can be expected to oppose any change in direction of the sort Francis has signaled,” Michael D’Antonio, author of a book on the clergy abuse scandals, wrote in a Foreign Policy magazine essay that asked, “Is Francis too radical for his flock?”

“But this constituency cannot sustain the church in the long term,” D’Antonio said, “and the church now needs a figure able to bridge the gap between its rightward movement and the reality that Westerners are leaving the church in droves. That problem requires a wily pope with the skill and charisma to pull off the high-wire balancing act of unifying these two disparate impulses.”

Full story: Author asks: 'Is Pope Francis too radical for his flock?'

Source: Charisma News

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