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Commentary » International

Is it all over for Catholic traditionalists?

The widespread assumption may be a misconception, says commentator

Is it all over for Catholic traditionalists?

Picture: Time Magazine

Mary Eberstadt for Time magazine International

October 2, 2013

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No doubt about it: religious traditionalists are spooked, especially within the Catholic Church. Many were edgy enough before Pope Francis' interview in which he said the church could no longer afford to be "obsessed" with issues such as homosexuality, contraception and abortion.

Tired of being laughed at in all the best places for their defense of these perennially unpopular teachings, many of the orthodox faithful had already grown accustomed to maintaining a defensive crouch in the public square. Now the nontraditionalists--both inside and outside the church--are positively giddy, hoping that the new Pontiff will finally do what they want: namely, back off from all that archaic stuff.

But is Francis really throwing Catholic traditionalists under the Popemobile? The answer is more intriguing than first responders to the interview have discerned.

In the first place, and as the pope himself stressed throughout the interview, the occupant of the Chair of Peter is not exactly free to rewrite the teachings of the church. As he also said to America and La Civiltà Cattolica and everybody else, "The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear, and I am a son of the church." Translation: Any papal capitulation to vox populi on matters of morals has a proverbial snowball's chance.

Second, in a way that many people today do not understand (and Francis does), even if the teachings that put a 'kick me' sign on the church could be changed by fiat, it would be self-defeating to do so. The mainline Protestant churches have all tried just that--throwing out the unwanted baby of the traditional moral code with the theological bathwater. Yet they're still drowning. Over the centuries, people have found plenty to complain about in the church's bans on abortion, contraception and extramarital sex. But that fact doesn't undermine the code's internal consistency--or its appeal to those who have found in it a tough but beautiful truth.

Full Story: The Pope Is No Radical 

Source: Time Magazine

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