Having enjoyed the ear and favor of popes for much of the past forty years, conservative American Catholics are taken aback when criticized by the current pope or his acolytes. They should learn to roll with the punches, no matter how below the belt. That’s what many of their more liberal coreligionists did during the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict, and it was a useful exercise in both faithful dissent and spiritual tenacity.
High on the list of such annoyances at the moment is the article “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A Surprising Ecumenism,” published in the Rome-based Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica. The article was written by Antonio Spadaro, SJ, editor of that magazine, and Marcelo Figueroa, a Presbyterian theologian from Argentina, appointed by Pope Francis to edit the Argentine edition of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. Both men are close to Pope Francis, and articles in La Civiltà Cattolica are often a reliable reflection of this Jesuit pope’s views.
Pope Francis has expressed skepticism about the way the U.S. Catholic hierarchy has entangled itself in the culture wars, siding with the Republican Party when it comes to such issues as the legal status of abortion, homosexuality, and same-sex marriage, but also joining in opposition to the Affordable Care Act because of its contraception mandate. Presumably the pope is aware of the many studies showing that the rejection of institutional religion in the United States by younger people can be linked to the politicization of religion by conservative Protestants and Catholics. A third of those under thirty describe themselves as “Nones,” refusing to be affiliated with any religion.