Francis has succeeded in doing what no Pope has ever done: divide the ‘c’atholic Left

Read reactions and analysis of Evangelii gaudium and you will quickly see that the catholic Left’s take on the Apostolic Exhortation inexorably veers into “Isn’t it great that the Pope hates traditionalists? He’s one of us!”

Heh heh.  Not so much.

The catholic Left has nearly completely accepted that their flagship issue has been torpedoed.

When you read liberal and squishy-to-left Catholic blogs and news sites you will see that they shuffle the women’s ordination thing in Evangelii gaudium either into some few asides or down to the bottom of their lists.

Go ahead!  Go out and see what they are doing.

What appears at the top of their lists, however, are quotes from the Apostolic Exhortation that seem to cut down conservatives.

What’s this all about?  What’s going on under the surface?

Liberals are so happy that the Pope seems to be bashing conservatives, that they are ready and willing to accept that women will never ever be ordained.

The “Joy of their Gospel” is to see conservatives get whacked.  They are so overjoyed, as a matter of that, that they are willing to sacrifice their flagship.

Yes, you will find a few waayyyy out on the even leftier fringe of their fleet – you know, the Gray Panthers – for whom Francis denial of women’s ordination this is still a problem.  But, for the most part, Francis hit their liberal sweet spot so perfectly that they are taking the bitter hit amidships.

“Trads to the WALL!”  To them, it’s worth it.

Make no mistake.  The Big Issue for liberals is women’s ordination. Francis, the fluffiest and most wonderfullest Pope since Peter has now taken the issue away from them.

This Franciscan slight of hand has put liberals into a serious dilemma, almost like to that of Buridan’s Ass.  This time, however, the catholic Ass chose.

The Pope has won liberal support for his decision not to reopen the question of women’s ordination.  He won them over by ostensibly sacrificing those who desire traditional expressions of liturgy, etc., at least in his rhetorical flourishes.  They took the bait.

catholic liberals have been co-opted not only into accepting that women will never be ordained, they are, in their acquiescence, now supporting it.

The Pope wins.  The Church’s doctrine wins.  The Catholic faithful win.

Will Francis manage to drive a wedge between extreme feminists and other liberals?  When he does, he will have succeeded in doing what no Pope has ever done, or ever tried to do: create divisions in the catholic Left.


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  1. BTW… I switched on the moderation queue.

  2. Ryan says:

    It occurred to me some time ago that many of the Holy Father’s statements, written as they are in rather modern language, vague and too wordy, which seem to criticize Traditionalists, are actually, technically and precisely criticisms of the modernists/liberals. For instance his references to neo-Pelagians, to those who want to return to an older form of catholicism, to those restorationists, etc…are all criticisms of those moderns who turned the altars around, “returned” to communion in the hand, seem not to believe in original sin, want a “return” to lady deacons, etc.
    This man knows what he is doing and what he is saying, even if those he is criticizing aren’t getting the message. Like Jesus, his words are for those who need to hear them.

  3. Doesn’t the fact that liberal bloggers (like PT) are overjoyed when traditional liturgy is thrown under the bus, and unperturbed when the door to women’s ordination remains closed, reveal where their passion really lies?

    In any event, the long-settled issue of women’s ordination is not up for grabs, while the revitalization of the liturgy hangs in the balance, still not yet in sight for so many in the Church. So how can the two issues be conflated rhetorically, as though they were of comparable significance and urgency? Rather than one more like a flea and the other an elephant in the big picture.

  4. Phil_NL says:

    With respect father, but that’s the 2nd time in as many days I have to disagree. The left operates only submarines, also for their flagships, and they are unsinkable: they will always resurface sooner or later. the core of the problem is that the left’s daydreams are impervious not only to authority or doctrine, but also to reason itself.

    That’s why even now there exist ardent communists who would still think communism would have worked, if only it would have been executed better. Not even factual falsification will convince them their hobbyhorses are dead. And that also holds true for woman’s ordination; i fear that canard will be with us till judgement day.

  5. Sandy says:

    We’ll see if they really give up the fight. This morning at church I picked up a copy of U.S. Catholic (the Claretians) which I’ve never read before. I wanted to see which way they slant articles and views. In the “letters” section, were references to a previous article about cardinals, and sure enough there was one letter writer arguing for women cardinals! [One. Yes. Not 29, as usual over there.]

    Ryan, I sure hope you are correct!

    God bless you, Father, and happy Thanksgiving!

  6. Chuck3030 says:

    forgive me, but shouldn’t it be H.H.S. (His Holiness’s Ship) Francis? Oh, wait, I know why now…

  7. Cantor says:

    The GATO-class is SOOO pre-Vatican II. But it doth approach with cat-like tread.

    Then WHAM!

  8. Supertradmum says:

    Well, today I was attempting to put out mini-fires among some liberals Catholics who told me that Pope Francis said we have to accept homosexuals as they are….hmmm. Not quite! It is hard to unpack for the person in the pew what the msm stated and what our Holy Father has actually said.

    Still, on the whole, I like the new exhortation. But, more specific language in the press sound bites would be appreciated.

    Hopefully, we shall see no more ridiculous “interviews” a la America Magazine, or Scalfari, who made up stuff….

    Happy Thanksgiving, btw, Fr. Z.

  9. Rellis says:

    I’ve been shocked at the somewhat negative reactions I’ve read to the liturgy sections of the document. They struck me as entirely positive and constructive.

    The liturgy and its beauty (N.B. that the liturgy is assumed to have inherent beauty–say the black, do the red) are powerful tools of the new evangelization. At the same time, the new evangelization is empowered by the liturgy and its beauty (echoes of “source and summit”).

    However, there are certainly those for whom beauty in the liturgy is the be all and end all. We all know those people. Maybe, if we are honest sometimes, we are those people. These people are far more concerned with whether or not Father is wearing a maniple than on how many new people I’ve brought to a TLM this year, or if I’ve been remembering to say my Rosary, or even whether the gospel is preached to a pagan culture somehow by this liturgy or not.

    The liturgy is at the service of the great commission. It’s a powerful lesson for us to internalize.

  10. donato2 says:

    The reaffirmation of the Church’s teaching on abortion was quite beautiful.

  11. Nathan says:

    For a document that only tangentially mentions the liturgy, it is difficult to honestly interpret it as attacking traditionalists. And, at least in the first two chapters, the fraternal correction seems to apply in spades to the “novus ordinarian” establishment:

    24: “Evangelization with joy becomes beauty in the liturgy, as a part of our daily concern to spread goodness. The Church evangelizes and is herself evangelized through the beauty of the liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelization and the source of her renewed self-giving.”

    94: One is the attraction of Gnosticism, a purely subjective faith whose only interest is a certain experience or a set of ideas… The other is the self-absorbed promethean neopelaganism of those who ultimately trust only their own powers or feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past.

    It would seem to me that the Holy Father’s criticism applies as much, if not more, to the intransigently faithful to the 1960s liturgical rebellion as expressed in triumphalist gatherings such as the LA Religious Ed Conference main liturgies. I would argue that the criticism in para 95 that “an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine, and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel have a real impact on God’s faithful people” would also apply to the situations where the ideologically motivated liturgical abuses occur.

    In Christ,

  12. Elizabeth D says:

    I like this angle. On the other hand I am far from wanting to have any note of mockery toward left-leaning Catholics’ fondness for Pope Francis, but if this makes sense, I want to have a reverence toward them about that. In itself it is healthy for Catholics to be attached to the Pope, and that relationship and love becomes an opportunity to grow in the Faith. Pope Francis is challenging many to grow, in different ways. The reason I like the angle that he is appealing to them on economics and dividing them over “women’s ordination” is of course that this issue inherently divides people from the Catholic Church; it is something that inherently breaks the communion of the Church. This is the realization of reality that needs to be brought to light. There are many who have a utopian or “alternate universe” Catholicism in mind from a feminist/marxist perspective or some other perspective and then want to actualize that. Thus they (actually I am paraphrasing Sr Joan Chittister here) speak of building a new church in the shell of the old one–which they have vilified as unjust so much that they believe it and are fine with seeing destroyed. But the utopian vision is just that, utopian and not real, and not Catholic. They need to be called to choose between the real Church which stands for real justice and mercy, and the utopian vision.

    In regards to Pope Francis’ economic comments, the truth is that it has gotten more and more difficult for young people to afford to raise a family, while investors prosper. The old have notably more wealth than they used to, while the young have notably less than they used to. This is the truth. I believe this is the bottom line concern, and saying “trickle down economics isn’t working” is one not unreasonable way of trying to grasp at the reason behind the state of things.

  13. Evovae says:

    RE: Francis’s criticisms of “capitalism”, English-speakers should beware of interpreting his remarks as though the US were the main target. The Pope speaks in a global context and especially with decades of direct experience in Latin America, where the degree of inequality and “capitalistic” oligarchy positively dwarfs anything we’ve ever seen in the US.

  14. TNCath says:

    I’m not so sure he has “divided” the ‘c’atholic Left as much as he has caused them to further “pick and choose” only what they like about Pope Francis, very similar to what they did to Blessed (soon to be St.) Pope John XXIII. Instead of “Catholicism a la carte,” it’s now “Francis a la carte.”

  15. KingofCharity says:

    My original intuition about Pope Francis is spot on. His first official writing proves this unequivocally. First and foremost, the Pope has explicitly defended the immutable nature of Catholic Dogma and Tradition. Catholic Dogma and Tradition = the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Apostolic Deposit of Faith. Secondly, Pope Francis understands that he is the “first among equals” who “presides in love” from the Chair of Peter as the bishop of Rome. Like all the roles Jesus delegated to Peter, he knows that he is the Chief Shepherd who feeds and tends the sheep, Confirmer of Faith, Holder of the Keys of the Kingdom, Binder and Loser, and Rock of the Church. Pope Francis understands the collegial nature of the See of Peter without sacrificing universal jurisdiction, infallibility, and indefectibility, and that the conciliar nature of the Bishop of Rome can be reconciled with a more Orthodox understanding of the papacy. He is a pope who is attempting to bridge a divided Church. He is trying to dust off and wake up a sleeping giant. He is a prophet calling the Church back to the radical center of the Gospel in order to save souls and restore the moral credibility of Holy Mother Church. He is forcing the heterodox, progressive left to confront and reject their heresy while patting them on the back for everything they’ve done right since VII, yet he is forcing the radical traditionalists to confront their excessive legalism and hyper-focus on small t traditions, moral rigidity, disciplines, piety, canon law, etc. while sometimes downplaying the pastoral, ecumenical, evangelical, and missionary call of the Body of Christ. He is forcing dialogue. Forcing honest, open discussion. Forcing us all to be on the defensive. Forcing us all to better know and articulate the Faith. In other words, he’s making a big mess of things in order to clean up. In the modern, secular humanist world where Materialism, commercialism, hedonism, occultism, individualism, and atheism are spreading like wildfire among a faith-weary world, we need the See of Peter to smack us upside the head. We are fighting over disciplines and rubrics, when a suffering world needs the Body of Christ to bring a fresh face of God to them. Pope is shaking things up and calling us all out. There is no room to be complacent or content under his watch. No one is safe from self-reflection and a call to renewal. No one is under the radar of criticism, correction, and admonishment, not even the safe, orthodox center (Catholic Answers, CUF, EWTN, etc.). We can all improve. We can all be better Catholics. We can all follow Jesus more perfectly. We can all deepen our understanding of the differences between Tradition and small t tradition. The Catholic Church”s catechism is deep and wide. The Apostolic Deposit of Faith as preserved and interpreted by the Catholic Church is not left or right. Democratic or Republican. Liberal or conservative. It is Catholic. The authentic Gospel of Jesus, as transmitted by the Catholic Church, vanquishes the political jargon that creates a false dichotomy between Left and Right.
    Pope Francis is just following Catholic teaching (the Catechism to a t). The Catholic Church, on paper and in her official doctrines, has never strayed from Jesus. Pope Francis is neither Liberal or Conservative. He is a faithful follower of Jesus and His Church. Pope Francis is calling out everyone in the Church to live more fully and perfectly the entire gamut of Catholic Doctrine.
    Reform and self-criticism are nothing new in the Church. We have self-reflected before. We have called ourselves to renewal before. It doesn’t make us look weak or a house of liars. Through self-criticism we do not negate our credibility or nullify our authority. We show profound humility. The human side of our Church has an perpetual search for Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. When we stray off this path,we always call ourselves back. This continual self-renewal is a sign of our authenticity and veracity.
    He is freakin crazy, radical, Eucharist-centered Pope. He understands that next to the Blessed Sacrament, human bodies are the most sacred thing in this world. Children of God. Images of Divine reason and will. Every human soul is impoverished in someway and thirsts for justice and hungers for mercy. He is calling us all to return to the Beatitudes, spiritual and corporal works of mercy, theological and cardinal virtues, and to seek the Gifts and Fruits of the Spirit. He is Catholicism 101- the heart of the Gospel.
    And at the end of the day, it was never the MSM using Pope Francis. Rather, it is the Holy Father, Bishop of Rome, the Servant of the Servants of Christ, who has been using them.
    Using them to bring Catholicism to the center stage of the world.
    He is trying to bring to fruition the full blossoming of the authentic pastoral, evangelical, and missionary vision of VII and its continuity with Tradition.
    He has the MSM and secular world talking about Catholicism and Church teaching on a daily basis and on a global scale! Ha . . . He wins.

  16. AnimatedCatholic says:

    Father, I’ve have one question . Is there a certain economic system that the Catholic Church does endorse or there is no economic system that is supported by Church dogma and Tradition ?

  17. RJHighland says:

    I have figured it out folks. Pope Francis is our first true Vatican II Pope. That is why nobody can peg him down, just like the documents of Vatican II are ambuguious and open to interpretation so is everything that comes out of this Popes mouth. Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI were products of the old theology, old liturgy and old Church aspects so they were clear, whether you agreed with them or not you understood what they were saying. Pope Francis is truly the Pope of Vatican II. So I find it difficult to interpret Pope Francis through Pope Benedict because one is a theologian and one is pastoral. Nathan in 24. I don’t think the Pope is talking about the beauty of the liturgy in the TLM, he does not offer the TLM. In 94 he is taking a swing at the ultra liberals and all traditionalists because as traditionalists we all cling to the old liturgy. So the norm in the Church of Pope Frances and the goal of Pope Francis, I believe, is to have all Catholics be happy middle of the road modernists. I believe that also was Pope Benedict’s goal but his center was a little bit more to the right of Pope Francis. They do not want to restore the TLM they want to blend what the NO has become with a little more reverence that is found in the old mass and less freak show/irreverent stuff from the new. I believe that is wrong. I don’t believe I am a neopelagian I think anybody can repent for going to the NO and have the hope for everlasting life. I believe in One God, the Father almighty…… Happy Thanksgiving All.

  18. frjim4321 says:

    Although I’ve yet to hear a convincing argument for excluding women from the presbyteral ministry I’ve never seen inclusive ordination as the very salvation of Catholicism. I would not relish the thought of working with any of the women I know who want to be priests. I’ve always thought that eventually there will be women priests, but certainly not in my lifetime or in the next couple centuries. Disagreeing with the pope on this issue certainly does not “spoil” the Franciscan movement for me. He’s an amazing man, but he like all of us is a product of his culture. He also seems to have a marian piety that I find off-putting, but that hardly prevents me from appreciating the impressive positive impact of this papacy. He’s only divisive of those folks on the left who have an “all or nothing” mentality. Indeed there are probably a few out there, but I suspect that the majority of moderate-to-progressive types can live with a little ambiguity in their lives. [No, they really can’t. I may not have been that way at one time, but women’s ordination is the flagship issue.]

  19. bposullivan says:

    Catholic Leftists are always already divided—between being “Catholic” and being “Left.”

  20. Dundonianski says:

    Grateful thanks to RJHighland-I have been struggling to re-attach my lower jaw reading how wonderful (orthodox) is this exhortation from Francis. Indeed there will be no decisive encouragement to those faithful to the TLM, Summorum Pontificum was not enthusiastically received in the arch-diocese of Buenos Aires. He, Francis is, as you say a Vatican 11 pope, and the “spin” will continue but we continue to pray for him and the Church as is our catholic duty.

  21. frjim4321 says:

    clever, pbosullivan … in the spirit of the holiday i’ll give you credit for being clever, even though I would not agree with the sentiment

  22. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I think it’s amusing that the outmoded hippie types don’t recognize themselves in the Pope’s comment about people who try to put their own faces on the liturgy, and who are devoted to a characteristic Catholic style from the past.

    “So, King David, what would you do to a rich guy who wanted a poor man’s ewe lamb and murdered him to get it?”

    “Oh, man, I’d kill that greedy sucker dead… um, General Uriah’s ghost is standing right behind me, isn’t he?”

  23. bposullivan says:


    Thanks. Maybe you’ll agree with this more–the Catholic Right is always already divided, too. I think that identifying with an ideological “direction” is different from identifying with the Church, so there’s probably always going to be at least a little internal conflict for someone who identifies with both.

    But that also means that even if a Catholic Leftist, as Leftist, is disappointed with the Pope, he or she could also be, as Catholic, proud of the Pope. And I’m with you in questioning how deep the disappointment is likely to be. I doubt that very many leftists expected that the conclave would result in a paper whom anyone could imagine opening the priesthood to women. Maybe once we got Francis, a few of the more optimistic and vocal Leftists dreamed that he might reopen the question–but I think most have learned not to be that hopeful for progressivism in the Church. So how disappointed can we be?

    Of course, even though Francis has against closed the door on the priesthood to women, he hasn’t closed other doors, like those to the diaconate and the College of Cardinals. And if those doors open in the near future, might they make the Church more likely to see the issue of women in the priesthood differently in a generation or two?

  24. Pingback: Pope Francis to Create Commission on Sex Abuse of Minors - Big Pulpit

  25. our great dignity derives from baptism…….”

    Really? Am I mistaken in thinking that our dignity, as with that of every one of our fellow humans, derives from our all:

    being made in the image and likeness of God?

    If my understanding is fundamentally correct, perhaps those who publish such tripe deserve a new appelation, in line with that accorded to the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC, a few days ago by Jonah Goldberg, namely Mr./Mrs./Ms. making crap up as I go [handily abbreviated Mcuaig]

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  26. Pingback: Evangelii Gaudium: Ordination of Women | The American Catholic

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