Pope Francis is not a liberal! (He’s not a conservative either.)

By James T. Keane, 30 June 2021
Pope Francis meets with members of the Roman Curia. Image: Vatican Media/Vatican News


Pope Francis is not a liberal!

He is not a conservative either. In fact, like most of his predecessors (and many of his brother bishops), Pope Francis does not land coherently anywhere on the axes of American politics. And we should be happy about that.

But that doesn’t stop most of us, including many journalists, from labelling him, in part because using the words “liberal” and “conservative” saves space and intellectual energy. For example, on June 20, an article in The New York Times began with this sentence: “Pope Francis and President Biden, both liberals, are the two most high-profile Roman Catholics in the world.”

I suspect both Pope Francis and Mr Biden would be amused at the pairing (and Lady Gaga might quibble with “most high-profile”), considering that many think Mr Biden won the Democratic nomination for president in 2020 by positioning himself as the centrist candidate in a field of avowed liberals. Similarly, Pope Francis was considered for much of his life by many in his own religious order, the Jesuits, to be a traditionalist and a bit of an autocrat: The buzzword on the day after his election among many progressive Catholics was cuidado, or “caution.”

Of course, saying that Pope Francis is neither liberal nor conservative is not to say that there is no such thing as a political liberal or a political conservative in the Catholic Church, that “there are only Catholics.” A more accurate statement might be to say that any Catholic attempting to live out his or her faith authentically and in accordance with church teachings is not going to fit easily into American political categories.

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James T. Keane is a senior editor at America.

With thanks to America and James T. Keane, where this article originally appeared.


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