Pope Francis Is Liberalizing the Church and People Don’t Notice!

A new book spells out how Pope Francis is liberalizing Roman Catholic morality according to the hopes of progressives.

Ross Douthat has written a book arguing that Pope Francis is liberalizing church teaching and practice according to liberal desires and goal. But he is doing so, as much as he has, in a way that hides his agenda because he does not want the Roman Catholic Church to split.

The American Conservative posted Rod Dreher’s interview with Douthat. Here is a sampling:

Rod Dreher: Let’s start with an easy one: What is the thesis of your book?

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Ross Douthat: That Pope Francis, through complex maneuvers, is trying to liberalize Roman Catholicism’s approach to morality and modern life in something like the fashion that progressive Catholics have hoped for, secular observers have expected, and conservatives have insisted is impossible ever since the Second Vatican Council. That his project, and the resistance he has met from bishops and cardinals and theologians, has pitched the church into a theological crisis that will be remembered and studied alongside Jesuit-Jansenist debates and Arian-Athanasian battles. That the pope himself has taken a great gamble, one that is likely to make him remembered as either a genius or a near-heretic, and either way to leave the church profoundly changed.


Francis knows that what he’s doing is fraught and dangerous and could potentially push the church toward schism; the resistance he faced from conservative bishops at the two synods on the family testified to that. So in part this crisis seems muted because he’s worked to keep it that way, proceeding through ambiguous formulations and footnotes and decentralizing permission slips. The theory in his inner circle seems to be that this is the way to get Catholicism where they want it to go without a Reformation-level blowup – that you can let national churches and local bishops conduct their own experiments, with a kind of soft pressure from Rome to liberalize, and with time conservatives will become sufficiently marginalized that they will lack the effective power to protest, and they’ll just have to subsist as a kind of church within the church, anachronistic in their moralism and sacramental theology just like the church’s Latin-Mass parishes are (from a progressive perspective) anachronistic in their liturgy today.

Read the entire interview.

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About the author

Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder is the "nom de plume" (or "nom de guerre") of a fifty-ish-year-old writer and stroke survivor. He lives in St Louis with his wife and still-at-home children. He has been a freelance writer and occasional political activist since the early nineties. He describes his politics as Tolkienesque.

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