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Is the pope Catholic?

The liberalism of Pope Francis was again on full display

Pope Francis holds his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on May 22. Associated Press/Photo by Andrew Medichini

Is the pope Catholic?
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Speaking to CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell over the weekend on 60 Minutes, Pope Francis provided a muddling interview with a few clear statements that have put much of Catholicism on defense, trying to rationalize and explain away one of Francis’s statements. In describing his optimism about humanity in answering the question, “What gives you hope?,” Francis declared, “People are fundamentally good. We are all fundamentally good. Yes, there are some rogues and sinners, but the heart itself is good.” His answer raises the question—is the Pope Catholic?

It is true that the Catholic Church believes humans, by virtue of being created by God, are good by nature. The Catholic catechism, however, notes, “By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed., 404.)

The Catechism goes on to say, “Original sin entails ‘captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil. Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in areas of education, politics, social action, and morals” (Id at 408). Scripture states, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19). On this passage, the Catechism says, “The struggle against carnal covetousness entails purifying the heart and practicing temperance.”

Francis’s pronouncement has encouraged theological progressives who have, over the course of the 20th and 21st century, woven humanism into theology and abandoned all sins while creating one new one—an intolerance of sin is now a sin. Francis comes across as warm, friendly, compassionate, filled with deep empathy, and a willingness to conform the Catholic Church to the spirit of the age instead of to the Holy Spirit.

His pronouncement leaves mud in its wake. Having tried to split the baby on gay marriage and blessings, Francis continues to nuance his way out of the faith. Now he suggests man is fundamentally good except for “some rogues and sinners.” One might wonder what the point is of all the liturgy, need for confessions, and sacraments if we are all fundamentally good and only some of us are sinners.

The pope’s embrace of humanism has constantly led him into serious errors in his talks about education, politics, social actions, and morals.

Just as startling as the numbers of progressives cheering Francis on, seeking to cajole conservative Catholics into silence, are the number of faithful Catholics exerting amazing energy trying to rationalize Francis’s views into something compatible with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Given his pattern, at some point the Vatican will blame the interpreter. In fact, Francis may be the earthly head of the global Roman Catholic population, but Christ remains in charge and Francis struggles under the historic weight of Catholic teachings.

Francis’s embrace of humanism has constantly led him into serious errors in his talks about education, politics, social actions, and morals. He has seemingly and confusingly blessed same-sex relationships and spoken up on American politics and border security with an ignorance more akin to an American college student than a world leader. His subtle alterations of Catholic doctrines related to sex have drawn the ire of not just conservative American bishops, but those from African nations as well.

The Christian community can and should note that Pope Francis has called for great compassion for the physically and mentally disabled. He has personally demonstrated what it means to love one’s neighbor even when that neighbor rejects the Christian faith. Francis has been an outspoken supporter of life and has pushed back on the growing secular embrace of surrogacy as a means for reproduction, including in his 60 Minutes interview.

Unfortunately, too often in his daily practice and role as pope, Francis has come off as more Jesuit than Catholic and more Humanist than Christian. His pronouncement that the heart is good may make theological progressives happy, but it defies scripture, the historic teachings of his church, and reality itself. 60 Minutes ended its program on Sunday night with a play based on a Nazi photo album from Auschwitz, a tacit reminder that, to quote the Catholic Catechism, “Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors.”

Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson is a lawyer by training, has been a political campaign manager and consultant, helped start one of the premiere grassroots conservative websites in the world, served as a political contributor for CNN and Fox News, and hosts the Erick Erickson Show broadcast nationwide.

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