Pope Francis laments America’s “reactionary,” politicized Catholic Church

Pope Francis leads the Angelus prayer from his window in the Vatican, August 27, 2023. Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo Acquires License Rights

VATICAN CITY, Aug 28 (Reuters) – Pope Francis has lamented what he called the “reactionary” Catholic Church in the United States, where he says in some cases political ideology has replaced faith.

In the decade since his election, Francis has faced criticism from conservative sections of the US church, who oppose reforms that give women and laity more roles and make the church more open and less biased toward some people, including LGBT people.

Francis made the comments during a private meeting in Lisbon on August 5 with members of the Jesuit order to which he belongs, during his World Youth Day trip. They were published by the Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica on Monday.

In a question-and-answer session, a Portuguese Jesuit said that during a sabbatical in the United States he was saddened that many Catholics, including some bishops, were hostile to the Pope’s leadership.

“You saw that the situation in the United States is not easy: there is a very strong reactionary attitude. It is organized and shapes the way people belong together, including emotionally,” the Pope replied.

Religious conservatives in the United States have often joined forces with politically conservative media to criticize the pope on a range of issues including climate change, immigration, social justice, his calls for gun control and his opposition to the death penalty.

“You’ve been to the United States and say you felt a sense of isolation. Yes, you can experience that climate in some situations,” said Francis.

“And that’s where you can lose the true tradition and turn to ideologies for support. In other words, ideology replaces belief, membership in a branch of the Church replaces membership in the Church,” he said.

Francis said his critics should understand that “there is a fair development in understanding questions of faith and morals” and that it is “useless” to look to the past.

As an example, he said that centuries ago some popes tolerated slavery, but the church evolved.

One of the Pope’s harshest American critics, Rome-based Cardinal Raymond Burke, wrote in the introduction to a recent book that a meeting of bishops called by Francis for this October to plan the Church’s future risked ” “to sow” confusion, error and division.

Reporting by Philip Pullella; Edited by Angus MacSwan

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