The pope’s “big tent” approach for Catholicism is bound to diminish the church’s presence as a moral force in society.

First, the pope’s comments are going to take the wind out of the sails of some faithful Catholics — the 28 percent who still attend Mass regularly and financially support the church. Most affected are those who have borne the heat of the day in the culture-war protests against abortion and same-sex marriages. The once-sure moral support that these groups enjoyed under past popes has been undermined. Pope Francis‘ message is clear: Cool it.

Second, the pope’s words provide a sword for those critical of the church’s moral teachings on life and of the purpose of human sexuality. It will now be quite easy for them to say, “Why don’t you just listen to the pope and move on?” This sentiment has already been advanced in a letter to the editor in the New York Times by a Planned Parenthood official, who applauds the pope for “getting in step with modern times.”

Finally, the pope’s musings have provided cover for Catholic politicians who support liberal abortion laws and legalization of same-sex marriage. They can now claim that they, like the pope, are concerned about the bigger issues, such as poverty and concern for the poor. For sure, Catholic politicians such as Vice President Joe Biden, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo can point to their liberal social-welfare policies as being Gospel-motivated. They can simply claim they are following the pope’s direction. Pope Francis has thus tied the hands of those bishops who have tried to rein in this hypocrisy.

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1 Comment

  1. Rather than blurring a handful of red lines, His Holiness needs to keep them in sharp focus, while drawing many more. He did the latter in re the proposed war on Syria, but weakened the perception of his resolve there by going squishy on other grave issues.


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