Okay, a disclaimer. I recognize that Pope Francis is a progressive when it comes to pastoral sensitives, reforms in the governance of the Church, especially the Curia's much needed reform, and pastoral policies concerning ecumenism, interfaith dialogue and dialogue with non-believers and secular interests. (I would not call him a liberal, because that is a political term).
Yet, we know that Pope Francis is a believing Catholic (I won't use the political term conservative or the loaded term traditionalist) when it comes to the Magisterium, the Deposit of Faith (found in the CCC) the authority of bishops, including the Bishop of Rome, and the dogmas and doctrines of the Church to include morality, the sacraments and the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the angels and saints, including the fallen Archangel and his minions, Lucifer and the demons.
He has reiterated that women cannot be called to Holy Orders because of the infallible teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church concerning the sacramental nature of the Sacrament of Holy Orders which requires by Tradition and dogma that only men be ordained. He teaches that a woman's place is in the home being a good wife and mother while children are being formed into good practicing Christians. This does not exclude women taking on other important roles in society and the Church, after much prayer and reflection, as long as the primary vocation of a woman who is married is to be a good wife and mother.
The Holy Father is not about to change the Church's teaching on chastity as it concerns heterosexuals or homosexuals as sex outside of marriage goes against Scripture and Tradition and unnatural sex of any kind of any gender and of any orientation goes against natural law thus making these acts illicit and immoral and when turned into an agenda to overthrow traditional Church teaching on morality it becomes an ideology of the Evil One. Marriage will remain as a sacrament and institution for one man and one woman and for a life time despite any pastoral overtures to those in irregular situations.
Oh and yes, Pope Francis is not opposed to celebrating Mass ad orientem, either in facing the congregation with the pre-Vatican II set-up for the altar or facing toward the wall as he has done in St. Peter's and now in the most explicit way possible and in continuity with Pope Benedict in the Sistine Chapel for the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord.
We can say Pope Francis is a traditionalist, in the classic meaning of the word, when it comes to popular piety or what he refers to as "popular spirituality" of the lowly, the rank and file Catholics of the world, especially in his beloved South American Continent. He sees in popular piety the inculturation the Church needs. This was very profound in the pre-Vatican II Church, which he acknowledges in his recent Apostolic Exhortation, that was called into question and denigrated in the immediate aftermath of Vatican II, but with a healthy recovery in the years since, especially under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
A few years back, maybe two or three only, John Allen, who is wise enough to know that his talents were being wasted at the National Chismatic Reporter (NCR), so he quit and has moved on to a slightly higher notch at the secular Boston Globe or Glob, depending on your point of view, stated that the Vatican was quickly becoming irrelevant due to the sex abuse scandals, the internal Vatican scandals and the horrible banking scandals. It had lost its clout in the world of diplomacy which had always been its strong suit under previous pontificates.
What a difference 10 months makes. The Vatican is once again regaining lost ground as it concerns diplomacy and was a major player in preventing President Barack Obama from intervening in a war-hawk fashion in Syria. It appears the Vatican is also playing a significant role in pursuing true peace in Syria. This is the classic role of the Vatican as a City-State and Pope Francis is single-handedly responsible for this quick recovery!
But I digress. The point of this post is to bitterly complain about how the Catholic and secular press report on the Church and her pope as though the pope and the Church are some kind of human, political party with special interests when in fact she is a supernatural organization, the Mystical Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ, with Christ as her head and we as His Body. The Church is the People of God imbued with the Holy Spirit and in an indelible way.
And despite the strengths and weaknesses of her members,popes, bishops, priests, deacons, religious and laity, the vices, sins and immoral acts clergy and laity commit, Jesus Christ has said the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church!
I use Yahoo as my internet search engine. Currently there are no less than 4 stories on the pope or the Catholic Church on their home page and usually the stories are from either AP or Reuters. But the reporting is terribly political and portrays Pope Francis as a secular political leader who is going to change the Church by changing doctrine rather than pastoral direction.
The secular presses is deluded into thinking that Pope Francis will change our moral teachings on sexuality and gender identity when he says "who am I to judge" a gay person's salvation if that person earnestly seeks God and recognizes his sin and seeks God's mercy and forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance through the repentance of sin.
The secular press thinks that when Pope Francis states that some in the Church (and he really means the secular press) are obsessed with contraception, abortion and sex, that he will change the Church and make her unfaithful to her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who reveals through Scripture, Tradition and Natural Law the truths of God.
And they actually believe that when he says the Church should expand the role of women that this means they will one day be ordained deacons, priests and bishops. They do not realize the absurdity of such claims in light of what Pope Francis and other popes have said in the areas of faith and morals to which all popes must be faithful themselves. They have no authority to change doctrine or dogma or natural law, no authority whatsoever. Popes are limited in what they can do!
With the above said, read in the SPECTATOR BY PRESSING HERE, an article by George Neumayr who thinks Pope Francis is the most liberal pope ever. He is reporting his findings as a political reporter, not a religious one and cannot distinguish between Pope Francis' pastoral theology and leadership (compared to Pope Benedict) and the sure and certain unchangeable elements of Catholic dogmas, doctrines and moral teachings (with natural law included in the moral teachings) that Pope Francis will not change since he cannot change these even if he wanted, which he doesn't, because he's Catholic and has no authority to change these. But this is what politicized Catholic Neumayr believes:
"While some of the media’s claims about Francis are excessive, at least one is dismayingly real…: that Francis is more liberal than his predecessors. Indeed, not a week passes without some new papal statement or action to puzzle conservatives and embolden liberals."
My final comment: Those in the media, Catholic or secular, twisting and spinning Pope Francis for their own ideological reasons are the ones who are deluded and will be extremely unhappy by Pope Francis' successes in his progressive pastoral endeavors and in maintaining Catholic orthodoxy (right teaching) in the areas of Scripture and Tradition, Faith and Morals, (Natural Law) and what is called the Deposit of Faith and fidelity to the Magisterium!