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Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

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    Is the Pope Catholic?

    By kyle | January 31, 2014

    Yep, even the new one. Why I think Rolling Stone, The Advocate, Time and The Times are projecting a fantasy liberal dreamboat Pope Francis on top of the real one, who isn’t a revolutionary and is saying the same things his predecessors did. My op-ed in today’s Post.

    UPDATE: Thanks to Father Z’s blog for the mention.

    Topics: Religion | 88 Comments »

    88 Responses to “Is the Pope Catholic?”

    1. Moe Says:
      January 31st, 2014 at 10:29 am

      “Catholic doctrine doesn’t line up neatly with American views of left and right.”

      This says it all. That’s why both sides of the political isle look silly trying to claim or disclaim him.

    2. yankeefan Says:
      January 31st, 2014 at 2:15 pm

      It’s true that Francis’ skepticism and harsh critiques of capitalism don’t differ from his predecessors, but it’s a matter of emphasis: The Pope is putting issues like poverty, income inequality, and the excesses of global capitalism more front and center. “No,” you might say, “it’s the media that’s putting it front and center.” But Francis is media-savvy — he knows exactly what buttons to push to get his message out.

      Anyway, Francis is a Jesuit, and they tend to be much more liberal than many of their counterparts. His positions and emphases aren’t really that surprising.

    3. Kyle Says:
      January 31st, 2014 at 2:32 pm

      If you read a 10,000 word interview with him, then noticed how a single word from that interview (“obsessed”) led to mammoth coverage by the NYT, I don’t think you’d say that.

    4. yankeefan Says:
      January 31st, 2014 at 2:36 pm

      No, but that isn’t the only place he’s been talking about it. He is choosing to place emphasis on these issues, no doubt knowing full well that the media will run with them.

      If Pope Bene had placed the same emphasis on these issues — yes, he agreed; but talking about emphasis — don’t you think the liberal media would’ve run with that too?

    5. Kyle Says:
      January 31st, 2014 at 2:41 pm

      I actually don’t think he’s terribly sophisticated about the media, no.

    6. yankeefan Says:
      January 31st, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      The Cardinals didn’t pick a Aregentinian Jesuit (read: likely liberal) with a reputation for radical and humble ministry to the poor because they were looking for continuity with his conservative precdecessor — regardless of the fact that both happen to share the same antipathhy toward the excesses of global capitalism.

    7. Sam Haysom Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      Yankeefan the cardinals definitely would not have picked Francis if they had known what they were going to get. They definitely got Soutered. That said Francis’s leftism is almost entirely a put on designed to deflect the left wing media from broadcasting his collaboration with the Argentinan juanta. That’s why for instance I’ve seen pictures of Pope Benedict in Hitler Youth uniforms from every conceivable angle but have yet to hear even a peep about Francis’s collaboration with the juanta.

      And Kyle is absolutely correct Francis is embarrassingly unsophisticated when it comes to dealing with the media. This despite the fact he loves the attention. It is a pretty good example of just how big a drop in caliber it was from Benedict to Francis. Benedict was better at understanding the media culture he despised than Francis, who loves media attention. Francis gets good press because the media knows they can destroy him the second he deviates from their script.

    8. Placidus Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 3:52 pm

      Thank you.

    9. Barb Bryan Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 3:54 pm

      The Pope does not fall neatly into the categories people like to use for Jesuits, who are in reality extremely difficult to categorize, save that none of them are afraid of hitting the books. They are not men who are afraid of subtlety, nor men who choose their way without any thought.

      Unlike John Paul II, however, he did not train as an actor. He also sees himself as “Father Jorge” first, not s bishop or cardinal. He is oriented toward the personal contact of his pastoral office more than presenting himself as an administrative-type leader. That is going to show up in his “sound bites”.

    10. brendganix Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 3:57 pm

      Kyle – it is refreshing to read something by someone who understands the Catholic church a bit. Most commentary is so unbelievably stupid (Rolling Stone article, anything in the New York Times) that you can tell they are only repeating rumors that they heard.

    11. Barb Bryan Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 4:00 pm

      As for Pope Benedict, remember that he accepted the job of the Vatican enforcer, as “God’s Rottweiler,” in his office of Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He had twenty years of media pre-conception that went into his “public image.” The truth is, what he really had hoped for from the 2005 conclave was to be allowed to retire to Bavaria, a wish he will never realize. If he had been asked to head up The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the media would have had different pre-conceived notions about him.

    12. Andrew Saucci Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 4:06 pm

      I’m not concerned about the Pope. He’s doing okay. One problem is the idea, fostered incessantly by the media, that history marches inexorably in the direction of enlightenment, and that anyone or anything opposing what is considered progress is backward and Neanderthal. The other problem is that too many people don’t bother to read the original documents or interviews in their entirety and original context, and instead rely on biased, uninformed headlines and articles for their news. The media know that they can repeat what are essentially lies often enough that people will believe them, since no one will ever look at the original sources. Thus, people eventually start to believe in the media caricature of the Pope, regardless of what he actually says.

    13. Karen Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 4:23 pm

      What Moe said in the first place.

    14. Jul Russo Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 4:30 pm

      Kyle: Thanks for a good article. I read it on Fr. Z’s blog.

    15. poetcomic1 Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 4:40 pm

      Hi! I found you at Father Z.
      Those of a conservative bent who fear the image of Pope Francis as created by the mass media should also be aware of the laughable and childishly simplistic image of ‘mean ole Benedict’ that the same media invents.

    16. Marie Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 4:48 pm

      Kyle – great article.
      yankeefan – what any Catholic understands is that the whole point of the Petrine ministry is continuity. The Pope’s responsibility is to be the Vicar of Christ on earth and the guardian of the Deposit of Faith. We have a Universal Catechism. Pope Francis is not going to depart from it. It’s called “papal infallibility”, a gift of the Holy Spirit which preserves the Pope from error in matters of faith and morals. In other words: no matter where he is from or what his personal charism is, the Pope, will in fact, always be Catholic.

    17. Cardinal Fan Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 4:54 pm

      The College of Cardinals is a NOT a monolith, and no one can speak for their intentions but the Holy Spirit. The Pope is who he is regardless of what any of the Cardinals intended. Who is that? Just read his words. Kyle, I think you nailed it with this piece. Well done.

    18. Stephen Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 5:17 pm

      awesome piece. you nailed it !!!

    19. Kim S Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 5:50 pm

      Kyle, I loved your article on who Pope Francis really is! Saw it on Fr. Z’s blog and had to jump on your blog to give you kudos!

    20. Tammy Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      Someone finally got it right! Kudo’s Kyle!

    21. mtm Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 6:04 pm

      Great work with your “Meet the New Pope…” article! (Yup, Fr. Z sent me here.)

    22. Kate Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 6:50 pm

      Hello and thank you for your refreshingly accurate comments on Pope Francis and the reality that he is not what the media or other lunkheads seem to think he is.
      Very well written, fair, and clear-headed writing. Somehow you managed to write an article about the Holy Father that did not include whining or fantasies of women priests or married homosexual clergy.

    23. Moses Brown Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 6:52 pm

      Why would we expect the Pope to disagree with Catholic teaching in general. Yes, he expresses himself differently from Pope Benedict, that’s because they’re different people. But we cannot expect this Pope, nor any in the future, to reject teachings found within the deposit of faith. I wish the media could understand that.

    24. CatholicGal Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 7:24 pm

      Great writing!!!! Father Z sent me.

    25. poustinik1 Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 7:32 pm

      Good on ya Kyle!

    26. Nathan Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 7:45 pm

      Great coverage. It’s nice to read someone who actually has studied the topic before pronouncing on the intentions of the pope.

    27. Justin Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 8:40 pm

      Well done and thank you, Kyle.

      Those who are saying that Pope Benedict didn’t place the same emphasis on various issues are I think relying too heavily on what they have heard reported on the subject, which in Benedict’s case was less than not much. Second of all, I wouldn’t try to read the Cardinals’ minds, especially after caricaturing them first. Thirdly, I wouldn’t try to read Francis’s mind when it comes to the media. To do either is presumptuous.

    28. NickD Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 8:40 pm

      Spot on, Kyle. I read your article on Father Z’s Blog. I appreciate all of the research you put into your writing. God bless

    29. Heidi Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 8:54 pm

      Excellent post! You are spot on.

    30. Luke Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 9:03 pm

      Very good. Fr. Z sent me.

    31. Elizabeth Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 9:22 pm

      Read your article on Fr. Z’s blog. Nice thoughtful piece!

    32. Peyton Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 9:39 pm

      Fr.Z sent me too, so that I could read and applaud!

    33. John Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 9:40 pm

      How refreshing to see someone in the media who values accuracy and honesty! More of this sort of excellent research, please.

    34. Sean Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 9:53 pm

      Read your article on Fr Z’s blog.

    35. Benedict Marshall Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 10:15 pm


      I’m from Fr. Z’s blog, a follower, actually- I’d like to congratulate you on actually doing your homework with regards to this Pope!

    36. Eileen Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 10:21 pm

      I’m another visitor from Fr. Z. Thanks very much for an excellent piece of writing!

    37. JRuskin Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 10:26 pm

      read about your piece on Fr. Z’s blog. I really appreciate your your thoughtful take on the matter. It’s tiring to have to slog through idiocy all the time–you’ve got analysis skills!

    38. Denise Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 10:46 pm

      Great article! Saw it on Z’s blog.

    39. John Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 10:59 pm

      Great piece. When will the left understand Francis is actually Catholic?!
      I also found this on father Z’s blog,

    40. Tamquam Leo Rugiens Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 11:10 pm

      Keep this up, Kyle, and you’ll get a reputation for being fair and balanced, the kiss of death in this polarized world. So, yes, I liked your take on Francis, I think it’s mostly right. One item I’ve not seen mentioned much is that the translations we get are often … ah… lacking, shall we say? Limbaugh’s rant was derived mostly from a bad translation, in my opinion.

    41. PS Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 11:17 pm

      Well written analysis, Saw it on Father Z’s site and came down to show my appreciation.

    42. Thomas Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 11:26 pm

      Thank you for writing this.

    43. Richard Bonomo Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 11:30 pm

      I do believe you got this right. (Fr. Z. sent me as well.)

    44. Susan Peterson Says:
      February 1st, 2014 at 11:39 pm

      I am also referred here by Fr. Z to tell you what a refreshing article this was. You really read the documents! You thought the subject was worth more than sound bites. Kudos!
      Susan Peterson

    45. Charles Maloney Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 1:48 am

      Fr. Z sent me. Well done! Good intelligent discussion based on facts rather than conjecture. Refreshing. Thank you.

    46. Non Angelus Sed Anglus Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 2:26 am

      It’s refreshing to hear an article about Pope Francis that makes sense. Fr Z pointed me to your blog but I’m adding it to mine. Keep up the good work!

    47. Christine Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 2:52 am

      You had me at your “Philomena – “Another Hateful & Boring Attack on Catholics”. Couldn’t believe they tried to run you out of town for that. Also couldn’t believe yours was the only review that wasn’t fawning all over it. (I did an amateur search.)
      Love the title of this one! Saw it over by Fr Z.
      I think you’re great!

    48. Hrvoje Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 6:05 am

      Just a quick kudos for Your article on pope Francis. And yes, fr. Z sent me here as well πŸ™‚

    49. Sue in soCal Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 6:06 am

      Awesome job on this article! Fr. Z highlighted it on his blog.

    50. Lise Baur Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 7:15 am

      Great Article, Kyle. Fr. Z sent me. Thanks for work it took to produce this caliber of writing.

    51. Marnie Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 8:24 am

      Thank you. Read your article on Fr. Z’s blog.

    52. The Fact Compiler Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 8:58 am

      Fr Z sent me as well.

      A balanced and nuanced article.

      Spot on!

    53. Cody Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 9:09 am

      The media distorted Benedict by presenting him as a Nationalsozialist, and the media is distorting Francis by presenting him as a national socialist of their own variety.

      Just remember that the Catholic Church and her teachings predate America and its political categories by centuries. Any attempt to fit Catholic teaching into our modern day categories is going to fail.

      *Came via Fr. Z*

    54. Elaine Lovito Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 9:28 am

      Time, the NYT and Rolling Stone hacks, disappointed in Obama and on the rebound, turn to Francis for Pope and Chance.
      Thanks Mr Kyle Smith for getting it right.

      (Have you seen Father Z.’s kudos?)

    55. Veronica Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 9:29 am

      Excellent piece, Kyle! Well researched and balanced. I found it when reading Father Z’s blog and have to come by and give you kudos myself.

    56. Tony de New York Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 9:44 am

      RIGHT ON!!

    57. David Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 10:05 am

      Another redirect from Fr.Z’s blog. Well done, thank you, thank you, thank you!

    58. Delphin Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 10:55 am

      Yep, Fr. Z was right, you’re on to something, young man. Kudos to you for not being afraid to tell the truth- wherever it may lead us. Maybe we still have a chance at restoring honest journalism, after all.

    59. Mary Conces Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 11:32 am

      Good, balanced article–a nice change.
      I’m glad Father Z showed it to us.

    60. Louis Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 11:55 am

      Well done.

      Fr Z point me to your blog.

    61. malcolmthecynic Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 1:22 pm

      I hhave one nitpick: The Church’s teaching on capital punishment is not comparable to its teaching on abortion. Catholics are allowed to have dissenting opinions when it comes to capital punishment and its morality. There are to be no dissenting opinions on abortion. This is a critical difference.

      Otherwise, great job!

    62. Erin Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 1:44 pm

      thank you, thank you, for your common sense article. as a Catholic, I truly appreciate this, as it is tiring to keep hearing people assume that the Pope isnt Catholic. thank you for looking at context and the big picture rather than pulling isolated quotes and bending them to fit some false desire, as the mainstream media tends to do!

    63. amal raj Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 3:11 pm

      I’m a Fr.Z follower and am reading this blog post since he recommended this. i think i will add this site to my favorite blogs.

      thank you Fr.Z.
      thank you Kyle.

      Laudetur Jesus Christus.

    64. Brandon Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      Maybe the most enjoyable article I have ever read.
      “Someone’s got it in for me, they’re painting stories in the press. Whoever it is I wish they’d cut it out, but when they will I can only guess.”
      I’m an avid Dylan fan and Roman Catholic.
      Father Z sent me.

    65. Brian LeCompte Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 4:06 pm

      Good job. Fr. Z sent me

    66. Tmkent Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 4:15 pm

      Thank you for actually doing some research! Best article on Pope Francis outside the Cathoilic media!

    67. Janice Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 4:27 pm

      Fr. Z sent me as well. Kudos on your article. How refreshing to see balance for a change. Deo gratias!

    68. Lynn Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 4:54 pm

      You are on the money. Visiting from Fr. Z’s blog.

    69. James Aldrich Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 5:26 pm

      Well done, Kyle. You are a point of light in the deep anti-intellectual darkness which passes for jpournalism.

    70. kishke Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 7:56 pm

      Okay, okay, enough already with the “Fr. Z sent me.” We get it.

    71. Jacob Wall Says:
      February 2nd, 2014 at 11:21 pm

      Saw your article quoted in Fr. Z’s blog. Good work!

    72. yankeefan Says:
      February 3rd, 2014 at 8:50 am

      Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ (and your new atheist friend, Kyle): Some of us see Pope Francis’ “shift” as one of emphasis. The emphasis appears to be resonant with many. And if you think he’s touching souls just because of what the New York Times or TIME magazine is writing, you’re giving way too much credit to those institutions, and way too little credit to the eyes and ears of many in the flock.

      That Francis’ message is resonating with many erstwhile disaffected Catholics around the world isn’t a media creation.

    73. Kyle Says:
      February 3rd, 2014 at 11:23 am

      Wishy-washy Catholic does some Popesplaining.

    74. SK Says:
      February 3rd, 2014 at 11:26 am

      yankeefan, Kyle’s atheism is no more relevant here than your staunch support for abortion rights.

    75. Elisa Says:
      February 3rd, 2014 at 11:55 am

      Just read your piece. Nice work at sorting out the Mainstream Media BS vs the truth. I appreciate your honest journalism and insightful commentary on recent news and skewed perspectives. Keep it up!

      (PS Fr Z sent me πŸ™‚ )

    76. yankeefan Says:
      February 3rd, 2014 at 12:29 pm

      @Kyle: To be accurate, I’m not a wishy-washy Catholic; I’m a wishy-washy Episcopalian (even worse) — or as my papist writer friend Robert Sullivan calls, a “JV Catholic.”

      Anyway, your quibble isn’t with me — it’s with the Catholics around the world who love the guy. As a Church of England man, I don’t really have a dog in this hunt.

      I have, however, been enjoying the site of my athetist/free market friend make common cause of late with one of the most anti-capitalist institutions/pro-labor/pro-welfare institutions on the planet.

    77. Kyle Says:
      February 3rd, 2014 at 12:53 pm

      Not common cause. I say hang ’em high and free enterprise is the cure for poverty. Just enlightening the befuddled as always.

    78. yankeefan Says:
      February 3rd, 2014 at 3:24 pm

      As Francis continues to emerge and come into his own, I think we’ll see just how wishy-washy, or flexible, or “cafeteria” even conservative Catholics are. Just you wait.

      The man who uttered “Who am I to judge?” has a lot more in store for us.

    79. Gertrude Says:
      February 4th, 2014 at 8:52 am

      Kyrie Eleison on us all! From F Z blog, I visit, commend you piece. In the interest of your inquiring mind, please read about approved apparitions of the church, also consider “heaven is real” and this testimony of Dr. Gloria Polo. It’s no doubt that the devil is working hard in years past and currently to pull souls away from God and his Christ (insert complete St Michael prayer) and is successful at it as we know. My neighbor, i will pray for your soul and mine today.

    80. Obama bin Biden Says:
      February 4th, 2014 at 11:00 am

      This Pope can be a speech writer for Obammy.

    81. Tony Says:
      February 4th, 2014 at 11:49 am


      This was a well written commentary, the most accurate I’ve see so far. Thanks for writing it.


      PS: Fr. Z. sent me. πŸ™‚

    82. The Ubiquitous Says:
      February 4th, 2014 at 12:59 pm

      I wanted to express some gratitude — as Fr. Z said, you really did your homework. If only there were more writers who could “get it” even this much.

      Frankly, I’m surprised Get Religion didn’t give you a good writeup for this. Keep up the good work.

    83. Obama bin Biden Says:
      February 5th, 2014 at 10:17 am

      I’m surprised no comment on Phil Hoffman’s passing.

    84. Kyle Says:
      February 5th, 2014 at 2:15 pm

      he was a hugely talented actor and it’s a stunning loss. Both of those points are so obvious they scarcely need stating.

    85. Obama bin Biden Says:
      February 5th, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      It’s too bad every writeup about him excludes one of his best performances in Todd Solondz’s HAPPINESS.

    86. Jeannie Tully Says:
      February 6th, 2014 at 4:44 am

      Great article. I am particularly impressed that you did your research and can actually write decent English. I read it on Father Z. I would be most interested in reading anything else you may write on religious issues.

    87. John Says:
      February 6th, 2014 at 4:21 pm

      Pope is Catholic. Most likely gay.

    88. Yankeefan Says:
      September 24th, 2015 at 11:45 am