Where is Pope Francis leading the Catholic Church?

by Nick Eicher
Posted on Friday, April 15, 2016, at 1:50 pm

Each week, The World and Everything in It features a “Culture Friday” segment, in which Executive Producer Nick Eicher discusses the latest cultural news with John Stonestreet, president of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Here is a summary of this week’s conversation.

Catholic conservatives recoiled this week after Pope Francis issued a new letter on marriage and family. The pope set out to address several issues, including marriage, divorce, homosexuality, contraception, and “gender ideology.” Although Francis did not explicitly say divorced and civilly remarried Catholics should be allowed communion, he seemed to signal a path for priests to offer communion at their discretion.

Ross Douthat of The New York Times called the pope’s statement a slippage of confidence in his own church’s theological principles. This week, John Stonestreet and I discussed whether the Catholic Church is on a downward slide away from morality similar to what U.S. mainline Protestanism experienced.

“I think the Catholic Church has a long way to go before it becomes like mainline Protestantism has gone,” Stonestreet said. “When mainline Protestantism was doing its slide, it did not have the robust understanding of authority and church history that the Catholic Church has had.”

Catholics also have strong leadership from conservative priests and bishops in Africa and South America who can try to stem the pressures of postmodernism on the church.

“I’m not saying that there’s not an issue here,” Stonestreet said, agreeing with Douthat, who wrote that the pope’s letter “carries a distinctive late-Marxist odor—a sense that the church’s leadership is a little like the Soviet nomenklatura, bound to ideological precepts that they’re no longer confident can really, truly work.”

“That rings true as I look at what the pope is saying from the outside,” Stonestreet said.

Listen to “Culture Friday” on The World and Everything in It.

Nick Eicher

Nick lives in St. Louis, loves the Blues (as in the NHL), is executive producer of WORLD Radio, and co-hosts WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickEicher.

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  • PJG
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:22 pm

    I usually am not enamored with what this Pope says, but he nailed the
    issues on marriage (one man with one woman), gender nonsense (can't replace mother/father with unisex parent), the abhorrence of abortion, and rights/authorities of fathers and mothers to raise their children including the content of their education. We should strongly affirm the things like this that he says that are biblical, even if we are not Catholic.

  • DWBrown
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    With every fiber of my being I believe and am every day aware of and eternally thankful that Jesus excepted me and cleansed me to make me acceptable to be in his and his Father's presence. I am by no means special, but wish all would except him and have the same Joy that can not be taken away. Rainy or sunny day the Joy Jesus gives in knowing his love and plans for us are true. I believe just as Jesus said there is no other way than through complete faith in him. Heard something recently that blew my mind. It was said the Mother Theresa was miserable before her death. She wrote in a book and told others she felt like she had not worked hard enough in her life to be excepted into Heaven. It is my understanding that Jesus is our key to salvation and our efforts to live the rest of this life for him doing our  best to do his Father's will is the way Jesus has made for us. It's sad to me that many are deceived by believing otherwise.    

  • Joe M
    Posted: Mon, 05/02/2016 04:23 pm

    "...the robust understanding of authority and church history that the Catholic Church has had" ... I believed this for a very long time. No more. The papacy since Vatican II has unofficially embraced one aspect of Modernism after another: limited inerrancy, universalism, the primacy of social work... And it is busily canonizing all the postconciliar popes to cement the new emphases. Readers here would do well to pick up David Wells' very old but on-the-money appraisal "Revolution in Rome,' which intuits the coming upheavals prior to the positive face John Paul II managed to put on things with his fusion of Nouvelle thought and a more old-fashioned Polish authoritarianism. Francis' message may sound refreshing to evangelicals who have stereotypes of mean nuns, dark monasteries, and works-based salvation, etc, but make no mistake, his is a corrosive papapcy much like the emergent church movement has been corrosive for evangelicals.