Hilary White: Conservatives Take Aim at Pope Francis’ Politics

A tale of two critiques: US conservatives begin criticizing Pope Francis on politics, while Italians focus on matters of faith


Hilary White

The two months between the closing of the Synod of Bishops on the family in Rome at the end of October and the New Year has seen a surprising shift in the approach of many US Catholic commentators on the pontificate of Pope Francis. After nearly two years of support, or at least muted criticism, strong words are being lobbed at the pope over his political involvement. This is contrasting with the growing critique of Pope Francis in Italy over his governance of the Church and his commitment to the defense of Catholic doctrine.

Some conservative political eyebrows raised in the US on December 17 with the announcement from the White House that the pope had been instrumental in helping the US cut a highly controversial deal with Cuba. This was followed by reports that the pope is preparing an encyclical on the environment, which media say will support the theory of man-made “climate change.” These appear to be something of a last straw for some US conservative Catholics who have until now remained largely neutral or cautiously supportive of Francis. The encyclical is reportedly due to be released in order to influence the UN’s next climate meeting in Paris…

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