The Francis Feud: Why and How Conservative Catholics Squabble About Pope Francis
By Karl Keating
Rasselas House, 2018, 234 pages
It’s quite ironic that over the past year some of the strongest criticism of pope Francis has come, not from Bible Christians, but from conservative Roman Catholics. In his efforts to loosen dogma and liberalize the Catholic church, the pope has increasingly alienated the conservative and traditionalist factions of the church’s clergy and laity to the point where they feel they can no longer remain silent.
The four books below that are critical of Francis were all published in the last nine months (click on the title to see my review):
- The Dictator Pope: The Inside Story of the Francis Papacy by Marcantonio Colonna (aka Henry Sire)
- Lost Shepherd: How Francis is Misleading His Flock by Philip Lawler
- To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism by Ross Douthat
- The Political Pope: How Pope Francis is Delighting the Liberal Left and Abandoning Conservatives by George Neumayr
Conservative dissatisfaction with Francis centers around his lifting of the ban on communion for remarried divorces in his Amoris Laetitia encyclical and for his heavy-handed administrative skullduggery targeting conservative prelates. Since these books were written, Francis has further infuriated conservatives by taking the first steps in allowing intercommunion with Protestants.
In “The Francis Feud,” Karl Keating, the founder of the conservative Catholic apologetics organization, Catholics Answers, analyzes the first three books and their reception within the conservative and traditionalist camps.
Keating sees “The Dictator Pope” as the most problematic of the three books with its several undocumented claims including alleged Vatican financial support of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. Keating views “Lost Shepherd” as an improvement, but still prone to hyperbole. “To Change The Church” is presented as the most objective of the three and would evidently be the one that Keating might come close to personally endorsing if he had the fortitude for such candidness.
Positive and negative reviews of the three books from various conservative sources are included. It’s obvious that part of the reason Keating wrote this book was as a platform to respond to Catholic apologist, Dave Armstrong, who views any public criticism of the pope as disloyalty to the church. Keating makes clear that Armstrong is as prone to hyperbole as the most polemical anti-Catholic. I believe another reason for this book is that Keating has decided to take a few steps back from his previous glowing compliments of Lawler’s book, which were featured on that book’s dust cover.
It’s interesting that the founder and former president of Catholic Answers chose to analyse the “squabble” within conservative Catholicism over Francis’ papacy rather than directly critiquing Francis himself.
Bottom line: This book would be of interest strictly to an evangelical Vatican-watcher who is already somewhat aware of the mounting resistance to Francis by Catholic conservatives and traditionalists and the internecine squabbling that has resulted. But, whether it’s the conservative or the liberal version, Catholicism still teaches a false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit.