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- Sure, Pope Francis looks like he's smiling today, but tomorrow the Vatican will release a statement that he had bad gas.
Pope Francis has demonstrated a tendency toward the classic good cop/bad cop routine over the first months of his papacy. First, Francis says something that comes across as genuinely humane, causing the media to go wild for him. Then, a few days later, the Church walks the statement back, which typically gets a whole lot less coverage. This has happened again and again since Francis has become Pope.
Yesterday the good cop struck again, with a statement acknowledging that gay Christians have "gifts to offer." The statement also seemed to halfway accept cohabitation outside of marriage. The press went berserk! Hooray for Good Pope Francis and his kinder, gentler, more open Catholic Church! Except now that the world is basking in the afterglow of that statement, the Church is quietly backing away from it, telling CNN that the media-reported friendliness toward gays and unmarried couples is "not what we're saying at all." The Church said the statement was a "working document," even as other bishops around the world said that the people praised in the report were "irredeemable," calling it a "betrayal" that ignores Scripture.
But who pays attention to nuance? The important thing for the Catholic Church is all the headlines they won yesterday, providing the kind of ridiculously positive PR you simply can't buy. It's easy to promise change if you're not required to actually follow through on those promises. The question is, how long is the media going to continue to buy these loving words before demanding actions to back them up?