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*Image: Shoes by Vincent van Gogh, 1888 [The MET, New York]

By Stephen P. White, The Catholic Thing. Sept. 7, 2023

Stephen P. White is executive director of The Catholic Project at The Catholic University of America and a fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.


Much has been made of the remarks Pope Francis recently made about “backwardists” in the United States who have replaced the faith with ideology. The Holy Father did not say who, exactly, he was speaking about, but plenty of commentators have been happy to fill in the blanks for him.

Some Catholics of a more conservative bent, convinced the Holy Father is speaking about them, feel aggrieved by the Holy Father’s words, as any child would be when a father accuses him, behind his back, of some infidelity or rebellion of which they are innocent.

Some more progressive Catholics have responded gleefully to the pope’s criticisms, finding in the pope’s words a convenient weapon to use against their fellow Catholics with whom they disagree on various matters both ecclesial and political. …

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