ROME — Pope Francis expressed “consternation” over the way progressives have rejected his decision not to change Church practice regarding priestly celibacy or women’s ordination, according to U.S. bishops who met with him Thursday.
Catholic News Service (CNS), the agency of the U.S. bishops’ conference, reported that the pope was puzzled by accusations that he is not courageous or not listening to the Holy Spirit just because he had decided not to modify Catholic discipline.
“You could see his consternation when he said that for some people it was all about celibacy and not about the Amazon,” Bishop William A. Wack of Pensacola-Tallahassee told CNS.
As Breitbart News reported, there has been a sharp liberal backlash to a new letter by the pope that affirms traditional discipline regarding priestly celibacy and women’s ordination.
Following proposals from last fall’s Vatican synod of bishops on the Amazon, it was widely believed by progressive Catholics that Francis would follow the bishops’ advice, which did not happen.
With the publication of his 15,000-word apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia Wednesday, Francis seems to have alienated his biggest fan base: radical Catholics seeking sweeping changes in Catholic practice.
According to reports from a group of U.S. bishops who met with the pope Thursday, the pontiff seemed dismayed by the reaction.
“He said some people say he is not courageous because he didn’t listen to the Spirit,” Bishop Wack said. “He said, ‘So they’re not mad at the Spirit. They’re mad at me down here,’” as if they assume the Holy Spirit agreed with them.
Even though months or even years go into producing documents, the pope told the bishops, what gets reported by the media “is one line” or that “the pope didn’t have the courage to change the rules of the Church.”
The pope told them that the synod had met “‘to talk about the issues of the Church in the Amazon. Other people wanted me to talk about celibacy. They made that the issue. But that wasn’t the issue of this synod,’” Wack said.
Many of the reactions to the pope’s letter from liberal groups revealed bitterness that the pope had missed an opportunity to change Church teaching.
“We are profoundly shocked and disappointed,” said Linda Pinto, co-chair of CORPUS, a U.S.-based advocacy group pushing for the ordination of women and a lifting of the priestly celibacy rule.
“We were hopeful that this process would begin a Vatican II approach to governance and that leadership would listen to the needs of the people,” Pinto said.
Another group agitating for radical reform, the Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC), voiced similar criticisms of the pope’s letter.
“With Querida Amazonia, the Pope is willfully turning his back on the calls of women for recognition of the sacramental ministries they offer the people of the Amazon and the global church,” declared a statement from WOC.
“This shows, yet again, that a synod without the equal voice and votes of women will never produce fruit that satisfies the urgent needs of the people of God,” the statement said.