Is the Left’s Honeymoon with Pope Francis Finally Over?

Okay, here we go. We finally have maybe the moment we’ve been waiting for. A major national case of gay marriage, specifically in the country of Slovakia, has prompted Pope Francis to come out firmly and actively against redefining traditional marriage as the Roman Catholic Church has long understood it. In so doing, progressives/liberals who were gung-ho for Francis as their first Gay Marriage Pope are feeling betrayed. They believe they’ve been lied to, or at least cruelly misled.

Before detailing the current situation, I’d like to put this in larger context by briefly recapping what I’ve been writing here in recent weeks:

Despite concerns to the contrary by many orthodox Catholics, Pope Francis, and, before that, Cardinal Bergoglio, has long resisted same-sex “marriage.” In Argentina, he declared it a diabolical effort of “the Father of Lies” to “destroy God’s plan … and deceive the children of God.”

Orthodox. Faithful. Free.

Sign up to get Crisis articles delivered to your inbox daily

Email subscribe inline (#4)

More recently, as pope, there were his widely unreported remarks just after the synod, when he protested: “How … much relativism there is in the concept of the Sacrament of Marriage!” He complained: “What they are proposing is not marriage, it is an association, but it is not marriage! It is necessary to say things very clearly and we must say this!”

There were his likewise strong words at the “Humanum” conference, where he affirmed that “family is a family,” and that such is an “anthropological fact” that “can’t be qualified by ideological notions.”

And then came his comments in the Philippines last month, where he warned that the family is being undermined by relativistic “powerful forces” looking to “disfigure God’s plan for creation” and to “redefine the very institution of marriage.” As even his sympathetic secular media confirmed, Francis was referring to the most obvious attempt to redefine marriage: same-sex “marriage.”

I have argued that gay-marriage liberals, who—without evidence—have convinced themselves that Francis’ merciful tone toward gays signals a certain reversal of 2,000 years of Church teaching on marriage, have been setting up themselves for a serious letdown. Liberals tend to be dictated by an emotional way of thinking that hampers their conclusions. When someone like Francis says that we shouldn’t “judge” or discriminate against gays or (of course) treat them unfairly, the liberal mind takes a giant leap in logic. Liberals assumed that this meant that Francis, by absolute necessity, thereby supported redefining marriage to include same-sex “marriage.”

One of my favorite examples came when the Illinois legislature in November 2013 approved same-sex “marriage.” Leading the charge were Catholic Democrats, in particular House Speaker Michael Madigan, who directly cited Pope Francis in support of their actions. As the Chicago Tribune reported, “Advocates [of gay ‘marriage’ in Illinois] soon received additional help from Pope Francis, who warned that the Catholic Church could lose its way by focusing too much on social stances, including opposition to homosexuality.”

Really? And, if so, did this mean that Francis and his Church suddenly had a Saul-like conversion to gay marriage? In the mind of many liberals, yep, it sure did. The Tribune article continued with some jaw-droppers:

“If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?” Francis said in July.

The comments sparked a wave of soul-searching by several Catholic lawmakers who had battled to reconcile their religious beliefs with their sworn duty to represent their constituents who were increasingly supportive of gay rights even as Cardinal Francis George remained opposed.

“As a Catholic follower of Jesus and the pope, Pope Francis, I am clear that our Catholic religious doctrine has at its core love, compassion and justice for all people,” said Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, a Democrat from Aurora who voted for the bill after spending much of the summer undecided.

House Speaker Michael Madigan also cited the pope’s comments in explaining his support for the [gay marriage] measure.

“For those that just happen to be gay—living in a very harmonious, productive relationship but illegal—who am I to judge that they should be illegal?” the speaker said.

Madigan had come under fire from some gay rights groups who argued that he wasn’t doing enough to build support in the chamber he controls, but advocates say he was critical in rounding up the final needed votes in the last several weeks.

Madigan, for the record, is a lifelong product of Catholic education: University of Notre Dame, Loyola University School of Law, and before that, St. Ignatius College Prep school. He and liberal Catholic allies in Illinois literally pointed to Pope Francis in their decisive shift to enact gay marriage.

For liberals, there is not a lot of nuance on these things. If you believe in A and B, then you must, by necessity, support X, Y, and Z. If you support gay people not being fired from their jobs for being gay, then you must also support redefining marriage for them.

So, alas, as I’ve repeatedly warned, once it becomes painfully clear to Francis-loving liberals that the pope isn’t with them on redefining marriage, the Holy Father shouldn’t expect any charity from them. All hell could break loose. Francis should not expect much tolerance from these self-styled apostles of tolerance.

This brings me to the current situation in Slovakia. Francis had openly given his blessing to Slovakians to vote against redefining marriage in their national referendum earlier this month. There were billboards in the country with Francis’ face urging voters to support traditional marriage. And as Francis’ position is becoming known here in America, all hell is breaking loose with his sudden former friends on the left.

I could fill this website with examples, but I’ll share just a few from readers responding to the news articles posted at the Huffington Post and a leading gay-rights website, LGBTQ Nation.

I’ll start with the Huffington Post, one of the most popular daily news sources for liberals/progressives, replete with a section dedicated to gays. I’ll share only the first names of those who provided comments:

This from Bart: “Soooooooo tell us again how he’s the most supportive Pope in history to LGBT people? I’ll grant him, he talks a good game. But when it comes to actually taking action… same as it ever was.”

From Anna: “One step forward and then he takes three steps back.”

This from “Pappa John:” “My admiration turns to condemnation.”

A gem from David: “As the French say, ‘The more things change, the more they remain the same.’ Catholics are no better than ISIS.”

From Fran: “And that is how a Theocracy begins…. Anyone else recognize that this is just the ‘Christian’ version of Sharia law? Once religious principles become established as law … like it has been in much of the Muslim world … it is a self-perpetuating dictatorship … and whether it is Christianity or Islam makes NO difference.”

From another reader named David: “So Francis finally reveals his true self. I’m relieved. I was starting to like him, but he has now shown that he is a fan of the mingling of church and state by sticking his nose into a civil issue.”

From Michael: “Seemed obvious from the start. Just because this pope learned not to be so blatantly evil than the last doesn’t mean he’s much better.”

From Joe: “And to think an atheist like me was starting to like this guy. Oh well. I guess I was right all along.

From Conrad: “New wrapper, same crap inside.”

And from Lisa: “Well, against equality. Against the poor (no birth control). Against women.”

These examples are taken only from roughly the first 50 reader responses. I could go on and on. Bear in mind that this is one of America’s leading liberal news sources. These perceptions should not be dismissed.

And here are a few examples from a leading gay publication, LGBTQ Nation:

From Charlie: “I really hoped Francis was different. He is in a few ways but he’s still behind the times. Glad I left this institution.”

From Nick: “But, I thought this pope was on the side for freedom of good people.”

Harold: “So Francis finally shows his true colors. Maybe he will bring back the Inquisition and continue the other sins of the Catholic Church as well.”

Another reader: “Some one needs to put up a billboard asking the Pope when the Catholic Church is going to stop skirting it’s responsibilities and pay off these molestation lawsuits instead of hiding the money or filing for bankruptcy. It’s a disgraceful organization. Actually it’s child molestation organization.”

And this: “This pope, as any other, is on the side of his damn church. A lot of bullsh-t, and sick people.”

Another LGBTQ Nation reader writes of Francis “shame on him,” with others following up with “so much for the cool pope,” “bad move, Francis,” and “exactly what I thought,” and on and on.

I’ve only quoted the shorter assessments. Some of the longer ones are especially angry.

We should not be surprised by this. Pope Francis reached out as much as he could. His liberal/progressive detractors will respond without the charity and understanding he has been offering in spades. When you don’t agree with them, they condemn you. They admire you only when they agree with you. They tolerate your position only if they agree with your position—which, of course, is not true tolerance.

Francis’ position all along has been the Church’s position, the only difference being his bending over backward to emphasize the mercy and forgiveness aspects. He never indicated that he would or could change the Church’s teaching on marriage. But to a very emotional left, that didn’t matter. Liberals/progressives projected what they wanted on Pope Francis and believed what they wanted to believe. And now that it’s becoming clear that their views do not accord with his, their love for him will dissipate into the very hate and intolerance they will now accuse him of having.


  • Paul Kengor

    Paul Kengor is Professor of Political Science at Grove City College, executive director of the Center for Vision and Values. He is the author, most recently, of The Devil and Karl Marx (TAN Books, 2020).

Join the Conversation

in our Telegram Chat

Or find us on

Editor's picks

Item added to cart.
0 items - $0.00

Orthodox. Faithful. Free.

Signup to receive new Crisis articles daily

Email subscribe stack
Share to...