Pope Francis has been turning heads with his more progressive views on church doctrine ever since he took to his bully pulpit and has not backed off. He just recently attacked capitalism by saying that the culture of prosperity has deadened us, which has caused quite a ripple in the conservative movement and they have been trashing him for it---religiously. Here's two examples of those criticisms--one by Rush Limbaugh and one by Stuart Varney of Fox News.
So it was to nobody's surprise that the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan appeared on Meet The Press to try and calm down the hard-liners from freaking out over his courageous viewpoints. By the way, when have you ever heard a prominent member of the Catholic Church actually try to diminish the power of their pontiff, who is supposed to be infallible in all things?
The doctrine of infallibility relies on one of the cornerstones of Catholic dogma: that of petrine supremacy of the pope, and his authority to be the ruling agent in deciding what will be accepted as formal beliefs in the Roman Catholic Church.
Cardinal Dolan is quite smooth as a speaker and he bamboozled right past David Gregory when he said that Pope Francis is just the head spokesman for the church.
DAVID GREGORY: He's not making any doctrinal changes.
CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN: Nope. Uh-uh (NEGATIVE).
DAVID GREGORY: Church doctrine remains the same. By have described it as a change of tone.
CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN: I would say a change of tone, a change of strategy. Right, a pope by his nature can't make doctrinal changes. In fact, his sacred responsibility is to protect the integrity of the faith and to pass it on. He can make a lot of changes in the way, the style, the manner in which it's presented. You know the best analogy of that? John XXIII, who by the way, the Italians are saying Pope Francis reminds them of John XXIII. He was the pope from '58 to '63. He said, "Look, we've got the gift of faith. That gift can't change. But it can sure be gift wrapped in a better way to make it more appealing, to make it more radiant.
See, the Pope is really designed to be nothing more than a big talking windbag. Did you know that? I didn't. If he can't change anything then why all the fuss with the white smoke? In reality, Pope Francis can change many things, including their responses to contraception, gays, poverty, capitalism and whatever he so chooses.
Papal supremacy refers to the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church that the pope, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ and as pastor of the entire Christian Church, has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered: that, in brief, "the Pope enjoys, by divine institution, supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls."
Cardinal Dolan knows all about Papal supremacy, but he had to ignore it or he couldn't downplay the power that Pope Francis actually has to the Anton Scalia's of the religious right.
DAVID GREGORY: But he said, "We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods." He talked about there being too much obsession within the church about talking about those issues. You have said there's nobody to the right of you on some of these doctrinal issues. Is that a problem for you, that he believes that?
CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN: No, not at all. I gave him a standing ovation when he said that. Because most of the time I say, "I don't know if it's so much the church is obsessed with that, it's the world that's obsessed with those things." They're always asking us about it. I look at myself, David, in my almost 37 years as a priest, rare would be the times that I preached about those issues.So Francis is right. He's saying, "First things first. First let's talk about God, about his mercy, about his love, about his forgiveness, about his invitation, about his embrace, about his promise of life eternal through his son Jesus. You talk about that, and then morals, doctrine, that will fall into place."
Cardinal Dolan relishes how conservative he is, but can't admit that Pope Francis is a problem for the rightest of the right wingers because he's the Pope and they are not.
CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN: Well, I would tell you this, for us as I would say for committed Catholics, and thanks be to God, there's a lot of them, I love them, I'm grateful for them this Thanksgiving weekend, they would say what Pope Francis has done is reminded us of the latitude of Catholic beliefs and Catholic principles. Those who would try to closet us maybe and just what you might call below-the-belt issues, where that be gay marriage or abortion or contraception or divorce, whatever.
And those are important. No doubt about it. The church's teaching on that is unwavering. But that's not it. What Pope Francis has said, the way we forgive, the way we help the poor, the way we help the immigrant, the way we reach out to the sick and to the refugee and to the forgotten, those at the side of the road. That is as strong and as cogent a moral imperative as anything else.
Notice he said their views are 'unwavering' on their very decisive anti-contraceptive platform. I'm sure Bill Donohue noticed. And the reason church leaders are asked so much about below-the-belt issues is because they stick their noses in the American political system all the time and cause us all sorts of problems, especially for women. The U.S. Catholic Bishops almost derailed the ACA as it was about to pass the congress after the summer of hate from the tea party over coverage for women on contraception issues and just recently they requested the shutdown of the U.S. Government.
I'd say Pope Francis has really shook up the Catholic hierarchy and that's a very good thing. Change takes time, but it needs to start somewhere for the Catholic church and the change has begun. Let's hope Pope Francis has enough time to really do some good.