ABC’s Sunday show, This Week, used its last edition of the year to review 2014’s key stories, and given the media coverage of the Catholic Church and Pope Francis this year, it’s fitting that one of This Week’s contributors, radio host Michael Smerconish, labeled a few things Pope Francis didn’t say as one of the key stories. Smerconish dubbed Pope Francis a “game changer” of the year “because on issues from the treatment of women to the treatment of gays to even whether our pets are going to make it through the pearly gates, he put a soft, overdue face on the Catholic Church.”
Unfortunately, Pope Francis definitely didn’t do at least one of those things. An Italian newspaper reported, incorrectly, that he’d said something about the existence of animals in heaven. It was Pope Paul VI who in fact said what Francis was reported to have said. Pope Francis did deliver a recent homily promising eternal significance to “everything that surrounds us,” but little more, and the correction was widely reported. (It’s possible Smerconish’s comments, which were probably taped and not delivered live in studio, may have come after the initial report before the correction, in which case the fault is not his but ABC’s.)
Smerconish may be right that the pope has struck a softer tone on homosexuals in the Church, although his comments there were widely misunderstood and more or less a restatement of the catechism, too. He’s made few comments on the role of women at all, so what Smerconish is referring to in that regard isn’t clear.