The Pope Francis Progressive Set-Up

The secular-progressive media is hell-bent on trying to shape an image of Pope Francis as a fellow liberal-progressive, just like them. Give him more time, the media suggests, and he’ll soon be allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion, allowing gays to marry within the Church, ordaining gays, ordaining women, endorsing the HHS mandate, praising Planned Parenthood, and who knows what else.

It’s an incessant, incestuous, exasperating image that liberals in the media are pushing with abandon. Almost every one of Francis’ actions or statements is contorted to try to remake the man, and thus his Church, in their (the liberal media’s) own image. He’s their personal, papal Vatican II. They are projecting upon him the kind of Roman Catholic Church they want.

It’s quite a stunt, often obscene in its crass, laughable obviousness. It flies in the face of a man who, on the whole, is simply and unapologetically a faithful and traditional Roman Catholic. Take just any one of Francis’ myriad statements on the devil, on sin, on unborn life, on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, on angels and archangels, or even on gay marriage as a literal product of Satan, and we find a man who firmly does not conform to the media’s definition of a “progressive.”

In fact, to the contrary, Francis has referred disparagingly to what he calls “adolescent progressivism,” which, he notes, always suggests that it’s right, when faced with any decision, to move along with the tide rather remaining faithful to one’s own traditions. He cautioned against this “spirit of worldliness” to “be like everyone else.” That warning by Francis is, in fact, a decidedly conservative (and Catholic) one, and most assuredly not a progressive one.

And yet, all such thinking by Francis is eagerly cast aside, ignored by secular progressives who want the pope to affirm them and to be like them. (It’s not always clear why they want the approval of the leader of a Church they do not much value.) They will appropriate and manipulate his words and intentions in whatever way best suits their purposes.

This bearing of false witness against the person of Pope Francis is bad enough in and of itself. But there are at least two additional ways in which it’s especially insidious and is having far-reaching ramifications for the Church and its faithful:

First, as we’re already seeing, loyal Catholic priests and lay people who continue to fight for and bravely defend the Church’s teachings on controversial, emotionally charged cultural issues that dominant the day are receiving a lot of flak from liberal Catholics, unfaithful Catholics, and non-Catholics. They are under fire. They are really struggling. They are being told that they’re not like Pope Francis – i.e., that they’re wrong.

This is happening right now, and it’s a big, big problem.

Frankly, my primary concern with Pope Francis, if I may say so (he says he’s open to criticism), is that not enough has been done – by him, personally, as well as by his closest associates – to rectify such damaging misperceptions of him and how those misperceptions are being exploited to harm and undermine the Church’s faithful. Surely, he’s aware of those distortions and their consequences.

Second is a major challenge yet to come: When Pope Francis leaves the papacy, which he believes will be much quicker than many of us imagined, his successor is going to be viciously attacked by progressives as the anti-Francis.

His successor, being a faithful Catholic, will be portrayed as a reactionary ogre, a retrograde throwback, as Rush Limbaugh’s pope, as the Republican pontiff, as a revamped Ratzinger, as a new right-wing Rottweiler, as a new Inquisitor, as initiating a renewed crackdown on gays and women, as narrow and “homophobic” and intolerant. “It’s so sad,” the progressive media will preach to us, “Pope Francis was saving the Catholic Church, bringing it into the 21st century, but it was too much for the old white guys. Now they’ve given us another Pope Benedict. What a shame!

The new guy will have his hands full. He’ll be in a tough spot. It will be a towering task for him to faithfully advance the Church’s historic teachings (as Francis has) and be taken seriously and not ridiculed by the international media. And some liberal Catholics, as we well know, will help swell the chorus.

That’s the secular-progressive set-up that’s being orchestrated right now. The progressive painting of Pope Francis as one of them is a genuinely destructive phenomenon with far-reaching consequences yet to come. It can probably only be dispelled and reversed by Pope Francis himself. Unfortunately, I fear that correcting others’ misperceptions isn’t high on his agenda.

Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His latest book is 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative. His other books include Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century and The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press).
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Paul G. Kengor is an author and professor of political science at Grove City College, a private Christian liberal arts college in Grove City, Pennsylvania. He is the executive director of the Institute for Faith and Freedom, a Grove City College conservative think tank/policy center. Among his books are The Devil and Karl Marx and A Pope and a President, about the relationship between John Paul II and Ronald Reagan.