If you pay any attention to news surrounding the Catholic Church, you have probably heard someone call Pope Francis liberal, woke, a leftist or all three. Many traditionalists believe he is a modernist, and secular media often heralds him as a progressive. 

Just recently, Pope Francis came under fire for Fiducia Supplicans, a document issued by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. The declaration, which the media portrayed as an approval of blessings for same-sex unions, acted as confirmation in the minds of both traditionalists and progressives for their already established opinions regarding the Supreme Pontiff. In a follow-up press release, however, Cardinal Fernandez clarified that the declaration did not allow “any type of liturgical rite or blessing similar to a liturgical rite that can create confusion” and it did “not intend to justify anything that is not morally acceptable.” In other words, the blessing of two individuals in an irregular relationship was not a blessing of the union, but rather a blessing of the individuals who happened to make up that union. In the same way any individual, regardless of how grave a sin they may have on their souls, could receive a blessing, individuals participating in a sinful relationship may receive a blessing. While Fiducia Supplicans was confusing at first glance, subsequent clarifications have made it clear that the Vatican, and Pope Francis, did not alter church teaching to align with modern cultural norms. Despite this, many used the declaration as an excuse to condemn or praise Francis as a progressive. 

It is true that Pope Francis has adopted an inclusive and slow-to-judgment pastoral approach, but this does not make him a modernist. In fact, the Bishop of Rome, as I would like to show in this article, has been quite orthodox in his public statements regarding gender, marriage, and the family. It is rare to see anyone call the current Pope a traditionalist, and in many respects, he is not, but on these moral issues I believe he is. 

Back in 2018, Francis stated, “The human family as an image of God, man and woman, is only one. It is only one.” For anyone who looks past how the media portrays Francis, this comment should be of no surprise. It falls in line with paragraph 2202 of the catechism which teaches, “A man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family.” 

Less than a year ago, in May of 2023, Pope Francis called gender ideology “one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations” because it “blurs differences and the value of men and women.” This view of modern gender ideology may seem foreign to many, especially those living on a college campus, but again, it aligns with church teaching. Pope Francis is teaching that men and women are equal in value and complementary in nature.

The final comment from Francis that I would like to mention essentially kills the idea that he is a progressive attempting to change church teaching to align with modern leftist values. In a General Audience address in 2019 regarding the topic of abortion the Pope explained, “it is not lawful. Never, ever eliminate a human life” and would go on to say that abortion is “like hiring a hitman.” I do not believe a modernist would say something like this, yet many still want to paint Francis as one. To me, this is an expected comment from a Pope aiming to uphold traditional Catholic teaching.

Echoing what I said above, in many respects, Pope Francis is not as traditional as his predecessors. However, the current successor to St. Peter does remain as an adherent to historical church teachings. Whether you agree or disagree with something the Pope has said or taught, we should all strive to be charitable in our opinion of Francis. At the end of the day, he is the Supreme Pontiff, the bishop we all must be in communion with to call ourselves Catholic. We should remember that Francis must lead over one billion people in his ministry and may, from time to time, be confusing in his words or vague in his teachings. When this happens, instead of scrambling to accuse him of being a heretic, we should exercise patience and remember his many previous public comments that are clearly in line with tradition. Like the 265 Popes before him, Francis is not perfect, and that is okay. St. Peter was far from perfect when he denied Jesus three times, yet Christ still built the Church upon him.

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