I guess I'll simply never figure out how people think ... at least some people. For years now, I've come to expect certain responses to my opinion pieces. Usually testy responses and especially if I write criticizing some church leader or denominational conference or gathering. Popular thought is that since A) I am a bleeding heart liberal, and B )I am a member of the lame-stream media, and C) I am a raging hedonist with no respect for things spiritual, than D) I should simply shut my gob when it comes to matters of religion. So ... if I write a critique of the Pope, his bishops, or some silliness emanated out of the Catholic Church, it is simply proof that I supposedly hate Catholics. I also supposedly hate Lutherans because I have written about some of their theological decisions with which I disagree. But that's OK 'cause at one stage or the other I have also been accused of "hating" Methodists, Baptists, and Latter Day Saints. Further more, it has been suggested that I "hate prayer" "hate the Bible" and "hate Christianity." As mentioned, the "you hate" responses generally come following a critique of some church leader's stand on something. So imagine my enthusiasm when former Alaska governor Sarah Palin came out with a rather strange, (in my opinion), commentary on the expressed theology of Pope Francis. Palin, a Pentacostalist Protestant, simply had to take a shot at the Holy Father when she last appeared on an interview program with CNN. When asked for her thoughts on the Pope's personal theology, Palin responded: "He's had some statements that to me sound kind of liberal, has taken me aback, has kind of surprised me ..." Yessir. The Pope is too liberal for Sarah Palin. I shifted in my seat in anticipation of an outraged response from the Catholic world, (at least the local Catholic world ... the same ones who get so upset with me.) But ... nada. Nuthin. Then it dawned on me, (I can be a little slow on the uptake.) It's not about Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, or whatever. It's about politics. The same Catholics who got so righteously indignant when I criticized comments made by Pope Benedict, or disagreed with some socio-theological statements by American bishops, got real quiet when Ms. Palin took a shot at the present-day Pope for being too "liberal." The same stand-and-defend church-goers who accuse me of "hating Catholics" when I opine on the scary theology of some local bishop, suddenly become much less vociferous when a hyper-conservative like Pat Buchanan accuses the Pope, (his own church's spiritual head), of some odd form of spiritual relativism. Frankly, I'm not too sure that Ms. Plain has actually read, heard, or studied what Pope Francis said about anything, but I'm also sure she would much rather the Pope be coming out full in support of all of those good conservative causes she herself claims to espouse. I'm sure Palin, Buchanan, and others of their ilk would much rather have the Pope ranting and raving about the social issues they hold so dear - the anti-gay, anti-contraception, anti-everything non-Christian stuff. And yet ... he won't. Without giving up his traditional, and very conservative theological beliefs, Pope Francis has been publicly proving he and his church are not going to be theological Mafiaso. In fact, not too long ago the Pope said very clearly that the church had been "too obsessed" for far too long with a very few hand-picked social issues - at the expense of a more compassionate and loving outreach to the whole world. This, of course, set off a firestorm of criticism with the Latin Mass crowd, with one blogger claiming Pope Francis was a "self-styled revolutionary who wants to fundamentally change the church." Sigh. The Pope understands that the same-sex marriage debate, and stuff like the "ObamaCare is anti-Christian" silliness are just a distraction from the larger mission of the church. This worries the conservatives who have long tried to politicize the universal church and its universal message to humanity - a message of compassion rather than a message of anger and hellfire. So ... let's review ... Palin, Buchanan, and a slew of others think the Pope is "too liberal." And out in the pews ... silence. 'Cause at the end of the day, when Crees writes something criticizing the bishops, he is a hater of Christianity. But when Palin lets loose with one of her stupid comments, she has gets a green flag. Hmmmmmm ... Could it be that the real matter at hand isn't one of Catholicism, but rather an issue of political conservatism?