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Losing the Liberals

For someone with a reputation for being warm and welcoming — gossip website Gawker.com called him “Francis the Friendly Pope” — our Holy Father has proven adept at alienating and angering all kinds of Catholics.

Francis lost the traditionalists seemingly minutes after his election. Things have gotten so bad that The Remnant, American traditionalism’s flagship newspaper, recently published an article that toys with the idea that Francis might not be a legitimate Pope! (The article speculates that Francis might not possess the charism of infallibility, which, contrary to all evidence, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI decided to retain.) And so, just as every cause has an effect, that newspaper has had to run a series of articles, nestled between its routine, and routinely strident, hit pieces contra Francis, explaining to its readers why sedevacantism is a losing proposition. Here’s proof positive of the power of ideas — no matter how preposterous they might be.

Conservative Catholics were the next to turn on Francis. Cantankerous commentary is now popping up even in normally staid outlets like First Things, where an on-staff blogger recently posted a piece in which she called the Pope “an ideologue and a meddlesome egoist” who is beset by “megalomania” and given to “intemperate policy endorsements.” In yet another example of a journal speaking out of both sides of its mouth, that particular post prompted the editor, under a deluge of heavy criticism, to post his own blog item distancing himself — and, by extension, the journal itself — from his own staff writer.

According to some observers, conservative Catholics’ dissatisfaction with Pope Francis is nearing a crisis point. Echoing the traditionalists’ stock alarmism, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote that conservative Catholics might have to “consider the possibility that…this pope may be preserved from error only if the church itself resists him” (Oct. 26, 2014). Resist the Pope? Douthat, himself a conservative Catholic, worries that Francis might place the Church in such an “untenable position” that the only recourse would be “defections” and “eventually even a real schism.” Yes, he actually tosses around the S-word!

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