“That is madness”: Pope Francis condemns Texas migrant crackdown, rejects “conservative” Catholicism

Is the pope Catholic? Following a rare interview with an American TV channel, in which the pontiff spoke out against closed minds and a “suicidal” opposition to reform, traditionalist critics are likely to double down on their claim that Francis is betraying the faith with his rejection of dogma.

Speaking with Norah O’Donnell of CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Pope Francis was asked to respond to “conservative bishops” who oppose his outreach to the LGBT community. As The Washington Post recently reported, Francis has been regularly meeting with transgender sex workers, for example, as part of an effort to make the Catholic Church appear more open and welcoming, to the chagrin of more reactionary theologians.

“You used an adjective, ‘conservative,” Francis told O’Donnell, speaking in his native Spanish. “That is, conservative is one who clings to something and does not want to see beyond that. It is a suicidal attitude. Because one thing is to take tradition into account, to consider situations from the past, but quite another is to be closed up inside a dogmatic box.”

Francis also noted that he has endorsed the church offering blessings to LGBT parishioners, while stopping short of blessing same-sex unions. Homosexuality, he noted, “is a human fact.”

Francis also spoke out against conservatives in the explicitly political sense, addressing Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s efforts to shut down Annunciation House, a Catholic nonprofit that provides humanitarian assistance to asylum seeker and other migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border. The Texas Tribune has reported that investigators with Paxton’s office have conducted surveillance of Annunciation House employees, one of staff members accusing the nonprofit of being “engaged in the business of human smuggling.”

Texas officials, asserting control over the border, also recently blocked federal agents from responding to a report of migrants struggling in the Rio Grande river. Mexican authorities later recovered the bodies of a woman and two children.

“That is madness,” Francis responded in the interview published Monday. “Sheer madness. To close the border and leave them there, that is madness. The migrant has to be received. Thereafter you see how you are going to deal with him. Maybe you have to send him back, I don’t know, but each case ought to be considered humanely. Right?”

Paxton’s office did not immediately respond to Salon’s request for comment.


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