Published October 13, 2023
For decades now, evangelicals in the West have increasingly looked at the Roman Catholic Church as a bulwark helping hold back the progressive flood, or even an example in how to escape the worst excesses of modernity. During the conservative pontificates of John Paul II (1978-2005) and Benedict XVI (2005-2013), evangelical leaders often embraced Catholics as allies. Some even abandoned Protestantism altogether, confident that Rome offered a better answer to the moral chaos of our age. After ten years of Pope Francis, such confidence seems increasingly misplaced—and never more so than after the pope’s recent hints in favor of blessing same-sex unions.
The pope’s incendiary remarks, penned in response to a set of Dubia—formal queries expressing doubt or concern—by five leading cardinals, touched on several hot-button issues, including the authority of divine revelation and the possibility of women’s ordination, as well as the paramount question of same-sex blessings. The Dubia, in short, presented the question: “is the Roman Catholic Church going to go the same direction as liberal Protestantism—adapting Scripture to suit contemporary culture, ordaining women, and accepting the legitimacy of same-sex unions?” Pope Francis’s answers, as always, were neither “yes” nor “no,” but a cleverly woven thicket of prose capable of many interpretations. He certainly did not say no.
Brad Littlejohn, Ph.D., is a Fellow in EPPC’s Evangelicals in Civic Life Program, where his work focuses on helping public leaders understand the intellectual and historical foundations of our current breakdown of public trust, social cohesion, and sound governance. His research investigates shifting understandings of the nature of freedom and authority, and how a more full-orbed conception of freedom, rooted in the Christian tradition, can inform policy that respects both the dignity of the individual and the urgency of the common good. He also serves as President of the Davenant Institute.