Do we blame pundits for this????
CRUX magazine and others have reported on a new poll (which I hate and politicizes the papacy too much, but alas) which shows Pope Francis' popularity taking a deep plunge mostly amongst politically conservative Catholics who are also religiously conservative (politicized terms which I hate, but alas).
Part of the article states the following:
Stephen Schneck, head of the Institute for Policy Research &
Catholic Studies at Catholic University of America in Washington, blamed
pundits on the right and left, like Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow,
for “politicizing” the pope’s teachings.
“He’s not a conservative or progressive, not a Democrat or
Republican. So stop trying to clobber him with those yardsticks,”
Schneck wrote in an email. “How many times do our pundits need to be
told that he’s carrying the same message as John Paul II and Benedict
Schneck said that as the visit approaches, he expects Francis’ poll
numbers “to rebound to his strong, earlier levels — that is, if both the
right and the left will stop dragging him into their partisan
Is it too late? Has “Francis fatigue” displaced the “Francis effect”?
After the Latin America trip, popular conservative Catholic blogger
Elizabeth Scalia wrote a lengthy post saying she is “frankly just tired
of feeling scolded.”
“I love His Holiness Pope Francis, but for a while now, I have been
feeling harangued by him, as he’s been harping on us to do more, and
ever more, to practice mercy on the world; to welcome the stranger, to
clean up the rivers, to bring about justice and peace in our time; to
level the playing fields, visit the sick, and so on,” Scalia wrote.
That lament was picked up by other conservatives, such as Carl Olson,
editor of Catholic World Report, who complained about what he sees as
Francis’ constant “haranguing, harping, exhorting, lecturing.”
“It probably doesn’t help,” Olson added, “that Francis obsesses over particular points, to a degree that is, frankly, grating.”
My Comments: Steven Schneck is placing the blame on the wrong people. It isn't Rachel Maddox or Rush Limbaugh who need to be chastised. It is the manner of Pope Francis' writings, speeches and off the cuff remarks that has opened a wide door for pundits to manipulate what Pope Francis says and does. The blame has to be laid at the feet of Pope Francis and no one else. We've not seen any recent pope used and abused by a number of people, Catholic or otherwise, orthodox, heterodox, conservative, progressive, traditionalist or liberal and based on the mixed messages the pope sends as well as the symbolic things that he does and since day one.
I have never seen the Church as polarized as she is and since Pope Francis. There is only one person that we can point a finger, but we must remember when we point, three other fingers are pointing back at us as Mr. Brady of the Brady Bunch would point out to his mixed family!
I have to say that I felt sick to my stomach when Pope Francis received the "Hammer and Sickle" crucifix from a South American despot. What does a Banana Republic nation in turmoil for most of the last century and today have to say to the world today about economies, politics, global warming and peace and justice? Nothing, absolutely nothing! Why would a pope receive and keep such a repugnant symbol. Pundits can have field day with this. It isn't the pundits fault, but the Holy Father's.
Saint Pope John Paul II was able to criticize the communistic regimes of Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and his own Poland. He brought to the dictators of his country and those around it the true message of the Church and dictators were seen to be shaking in their boots as their grip on power was eroded by the solidarity of Catholics and others who took back their freedom!
Pope Francis is too enamored with the Peronist politics of his own country and the instability of the governments, many of them right and left wing, that have created such a political and religious disaster for the South American continent. They have nothing to teach Western Europe or North America about politics, economies, the poor and the marginalized. They are responsible for a shrinking middle class and the polarization and political instability this creates in countries. Catholicism's true identity is in free fall in many once strongly Catholic South American countries.
And then there is this from Crux Magazine concerning Bishop Robert Barron being moved out of Chicago to become an auxiliary bishop in Los Angeles:
(Bishop Robert) Barron was a protege of the late (Cardinal Francis) George, whom he called his “mentor”
during a press conference in Los Angeles Tuesday. Barron said George
taught him about “evangelizing the culture” and presenting Catholicism
to “politics, law, the arts, higher education, and entertainment,”
saying he couldn’t think of a better place for this work than Los
Angeles, which he called “one of the great cultural capitals of the
(Archbishop) Cupich, whose appointment to Chicago was a personal selection of Pope
Francis, released a statement on Barron’s appointment: “Fr. Barron has
been a singular blessing to our local Church and is recognized
nationally for his great abilities and talents. We know that he will
continue to make us proud as he begins his new ministry on the West
Coast,” he said.
Barron also issued a statement assuring Word on Fire fans that the work “will certainly continue,” although it’s unclear what role he will play.
During the press conference in Los Angeles, Barron responded to a
question from a reporter about engaging Hollywood by saying he believes
in promoting “affirmative orthodoxy,” an idea attributed to Pope
Benedict XVI. The theory goes that the best way to evangelize is by
holding strong to orthodox beliefs even in the face of what some view as
a hostile culture, and attempting to engage that culture.
Barron is often described as center-right, perhaps putting him at
odds ideologically with the center-left Cupich. In fact, absent from
Barron’s statement and from his comments at the press conference in Los
Angeles were any acknowledgement of Cupich.
As rector of Mundelein, Barron reworked the curriculum to focus on
the New Evangelization, an idea promulgated by Pope John Paul II and
institutionalized at the Vatican in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI aimed at
engaging contemporary culture with the Catholic faith.
Whether Cupich’s choice to replace Barron changes the focus of that
curriculum — and in what direction — will be closely scrutinized by
My comments: What Bishop Robert Barron articulates about the New Evangelization as articulated by Saint Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI is sound and still the most legitimate and logical way for the Church to move forward in an ever increasing secular world fueled by individualism and narcissism. Engaging contemporary culture with the Catholic Faith and doing so in an attractive convincing way can't be wrongheaded!
But what is replacing the previous popes' vision of the new evangelization as articulate by Bishop Barron and symbolized by Pope Francis' pick of Archbishop Cupich?
I knew Archbishop Cupich when he was rector of the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus Ohio. He was not what I would call a radical or liberal. He was progressive though, in terms of liturgy but not in the creative, horizontal way in which we think of liturgical iconoclasts, but he ran a tight seminary ship and understood the need for the human formation of priestly candidates, something even more needed today. He asked me to become a dean of students for the college level. I'm no radical. He knew that. I declined the job offer. Confused college aged seminarians aren't my cup of tea!
I am not sure that Archbishop Cupich's vision for the Church is any different than that of Cardinal George although style, language and symbol may be more in keeping with Pope Francis.
We can live through personality changes. It is small minded to carp about these things. But if Catholic teaching and identity is at stake, then we should sound the alarm bell. Is it or is it not? It isn't clear and herein is where the blame must be placed in the proper place.