Is Pope Francis losing the right wing of the Catholic Church?

Pope Francis has generally received glowing reviews since being elected pontiff in March.

Pope Francis waves to crowds as he arrives to his inauguration mass on March 19. (The Associated Press)

Pope Francis waves to crowds as he arrives to his inauguration mass on March 19. (The Associated Press)

Admirers gush over his down-to-earth style and rejection of the comforts afforded the pope. Just the other day I saw a picture of Francis carrying his own bags aboard a plane. He has been known to worry his security detail by diving into crowds and going off-script while in public.

It happened again this week when Francis, in Rio de Janeiro for the July 23-28 World Youth Day, attracted a mob scene that nearly engulfed the papal motorcade.

Likewise, about 40 nuns lost their composure when they greeted Pope Francis after he celebrated a Mass in the Brazilian town of Aparecida on Wednesday. They mobbed him with their cameras.

“There has to be some distance between the crowds and the Holy Father,” Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia told the National Catholic Reporter.

Known for speaking his mind, Chaput had some other things to say as well. To the point, he addressed growing concerns that Francis is not conservative enough for old-guard Catholic bishops.

He told the NCR that members of the right wing of the Catholic church “generally have not been really happy” with some aspects of Francis’ early months and said the pope will have to find a way “to care for them, too.”

Chaput defended Francis on concerns in some circles that he’s been silent on abortion, gay marriage and euthanasia, saying, “I can’t imagine he won’t be as pro-life and pro-traditional marriage as any of the other popes.” He insisted the bishop of Rome “has to talk about those things.”

While Chaput stressed that it is still early in Pope Francis’ reign, and he noted how beloved the new pontiff is among even non-Catholics, he was firm in his insistence that these conservative matters will come to a head at some point unless the pope addresses them.

Do you think Pope Francis is trying to take the church in a new direction? Or is this much ado about nothing?

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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