Is the Press Wrong About the New Pope?

Pope Francis I has been full of surprises. But even more startling has been the news media’s incredible inaccuracy as they embrace the Pontiff as a liberal, an evangelical, a renegade and one of their own.

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“They assume, in other words, that the pope isn’t Catholic. Last year, few left-leaning commentators could resist falling for the foot-washing

Jesuit from Buenos Aires. In column after column they projected their deepest hopes on to Francis – he is, they think, the man who will finally bring enlightened liberal values to the Catholic church.

“In November, Guardian writer Jonathan Freedland argued that Francis was ‘the obvious new hero of the left’ and that portraits of the Supreme Pontiff should replace fading Obama posters on ‘the walls of the world’s student bedrooms.’”

“There’s no doubt that Francis has breathed fresh life into Catholicism. In particular, his interest in limiting the power of the bulky Vatican bureaucracy, cutting back on church expenditure and encouraging compassion and practical aid for the vulnerable has met with widespread approval from a global media that, let’s face it, leans left. He had them at ‘Who am I to judge?’

“To be fair to Francis’s predecessors, both John Paul II and Benedict XVI also spoke about the need for the wealthy to care for the poor. But to the tradition-bound Vatican, there was something comforting, rather than challenging, when an ermine-clad Benedict spoke about charitable giving with an air of noblesse oblige. It gave the impression that assisting the poor needn’t come at the expense of personal creature comforts. Not so Francis: He has shunned the trappings of his office, using a minibus instead of a limousine after his election and forgoing the luxurious papal apartments accorded to him in favor of more humble digs.”

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“But the buzz that has greeted Pope Francis’s advocacy for the poor against the powerful exaggerates its novelty. And it’s certainly not a rejection of church doctrine: It goes back to Jesus and has been a dominant feature of Catholic social teaching since the very beginning. Francis may be the most photographed priest to adhere to his vows of poverty, but he’s far from the first.”

“ Whenever he proves himself loyal to Catholic teaching – denouncing abortion, for instance, or saying that same-sex marriage is an ‘anthropological regression’ – his liberal fan base turns a deaf ear,” notes Coppen.

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Rob Kerby, Senior Editor
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