In the first year or two of Pope Francis’s pontificate, conservative-minded Catholics made heroic efforts to place the perplexing ways of the new pope in continuity with the thought and deeds of his immediate predecessors. It was said that he had been a forceful critic of liberation theology, at least in its Marxist expressions, that he was a man of traditional piety, that he spoke about the machinations of the Evil One with surprising regularity, and that his style — brash, critical of established ways, anxious for dialogue with the modern world — was a refreshing way of bringing Christian orthodoxy to bear on the modern world. But there were early signs that challenged this reassuring consensus. Francis seemed suspicious of the most faithful Catholics — they were, in his estimation, rigid, obsessed with the evils of abortion and sexual sins, closed to the need for a Church open to humanitarian activism and a de-emphasis on dogma and even truth.
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