The same views that are making Pope Francis popular among progressive Catholics, other religions and even nonbelievers — most notably his take on the environment, inequality and Palestine — also make him reviled by staunch conservatives, who often conflate religious doctrine with political theory.
Some of the Pontiff’s more liberal views are causing cognitive dissonance from those who talk the talk, but do not want to walk the walk, when it comes to Catholicism.
1. The U.S. Republican Party
Former Republican vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin summed up the problem U.S. conservatives have with Pope Francis saying, “He's had some statements that to me sound kinda liberal, it has taken me aback, it's kinda surprised me.”
She later made some kind of apology via Facebook, writing, “my many Catholic friends and family, including some excellent Catholic writers, who have since assured me that Pope Francis is as sincere and faithful a shepherd of his church as his two predecessors whom I admired.”
Most of the recent problems have come from the release of the pope’s environmental encyclical, which issues an urgent call for “decisive action” on climate change. This causes huge problems for the main players in this years Republican presidential primaries candidates, who all call themselves Catholics, and who are all climate-change deniers.
Bob Cesca, over at Salon, says this leads to politicians cherry-picking doctrine they like, arguably for the sake of political approval, while ignoring or criticizing the parts they do not support. But this logic, Cesca warns, means right-wingers quickly run smack into a hypocrisy they will not like, “Simply put: If it’s okay for Bush, Santorum and Rubio to simply waive the Church’s teachings on the climate crisis, why is it impossible for them to do the same when it comes to their religion-based positions on abortion, contraception and same-sex marriage?”
“The Young Turks,” which describes itself as “the largest online news show in the world” cut together the right wing media attack on the Pope:
In the video, host Cenk Uygur responds to a quote by Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, explaining another facet to Republican hypocrisy when choosing what parts of Church doctrine to ignore: “you built your whole philosophy on how your church should rule our state, so when all of a sudden, your church agrees with progressives...conundrum!”
The encyclical expresses “clearly progressive, rational decisions and they hate that,” says Uygur. By way of explanation on why the Pope’s words cause such a huge problem for right-wing politicians he says, “we've been told our whole lives … what the Vatican thinks is so important that it needs to be considered when we're writing our laws here in America. All of a sudden they don't agree with the Pope and here comes the full frontal assault.”
2. U.S. Right-Wing Media
For many, the unofficial mouthpiece for the Republican party is U.S.-based Fox News, whose presenters find it hard to come up with a good word for Pope Francis. Some of those were seen in The Young Turks video above, but Rupert Murdoch’s channel is also being watched by Media Matters for America, which provides several key pieces of video evidence. Fox does not have to perform such a delicate balancing act as the politicians and its favorite attack on Pope Francis seems to be on economic theory: the channel regularly paints Francis as a communist or Marxist for his views on inequality and wealth.
Fox regular Rush Limbaugh calls the encyclical “an unfettered anti-capitalist dictate,” reminding the world, “if it weren't for capitalism, I don't know where the Catholic church would be.”
In another video, Limbaugh says the Pope "doesn't even disguise his marxist beliefs with talk of man-made climate change.”
On another show, British Fox presenter Stuart Varney says decisively, “I disagree with a Pope who doesn't agree with free-market capitalism.”
One of the commentators asks whether the Pope is saying “Catholics have to get behind the left on global warming,” while Greg Gutfeld called the Pontiff "the most dangerous person on the planet."
“All he needs is dreadlocks and a dog with a bandanna and he could be at Occupy Wall Street,” Gutfeld said, referring to the anti-capitalist protests in New York City’s financial district.
3. Conservative Christians
Pope Francis is not even safe from other Christians.
Infowars reports the following “concerned” comments about the pope on Catholic.com.
“I’m concerned the Pope is going to alienate many, many people with this encyclical because of his personal political viewpoints: people who would be faithful Catholics but disagree with his personal politics, but don’t understand the Pope is not infallible on science or politics”: screen name zz912
Another comment said: “I’ll give [Pope Francis] the benefit of the doubt on his intentions, but he is making a huge mistake and it is embarrassing and discouraging for hundreds of millions of Catholics.”
Bartholomew B. made an interesting observation: “by promoting a new ‘global authority’ to fight ‘climate change,’ Pope Francis is transforming the Catholic Church from a Christian institution into a non-government organization.”
Meanwhile, on thetrumpet.com, the online mouthpiece for the Philadelphia Church of God, Brad Macdonald writes regarding the pope's formal recognition of the state of Palestine:
“take a closer look at his decisions and actions. In actuality, the Vatican is creating tension, disunity and instability that are likely to lead to conflict and war.” Later in the article, he expands on his theory: “the Vatican’s endorsement of Palestinian statehood provides ideal cover as it pursues its own enduring ambition to wrest control of Jerusalem from the Jews and Muslims.”
4. The Current Israeli Government
Some 100,000 Catholics live in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, which would indicate the Church would be hard pressed to remain completely neutral on the Middle East. Foreign Policy writes that most of these Catholics identify as Palestinians, which would mean it would be logical for the Church to back the Palestinian cause and the cause of peace in a bid to protect its own.
However, this is certainly not the view of the current Israeli government, as steered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When the Pope formally recognized the state of Palestine, the attacks from Netanyahu’s people came thick and fast.
“This move does not promote the peace process and distances the Palestinian leadership from returning to direct and bilateral negotiations,” Israel’s foreign minister said in a text message to the Associated Press.
Former prime minister’s deputy communications director Michael Freund wrote threateningly in the Jerusalem Post, “given its sordid history of antisemitism, book-burnings, forced conversions and Inquisitions, the Catholic Church should think a hundred times over before daring to step on Israel’s toes.”
Meanwhile, Dror Eydar, a well-paid speechwriter and adviser on Christian affairs for the prime minister’s office wrote “An open letter to Pope Francis," in a national newspaper, saying that it would be a "pathetic decision" on the Vatican's part to sign a treaty with what the columnist calls an "Arab-Palestinian state." Eydar also said it would be "the latest attempt to nail the entire Jewish people to the cross."