I've been watching the fallout from Pope Francis' recent interview. I'm 100% behind him - no surprise there, given the argument I had on WWWtW over this very thing. But what's fascinated me is the reaction not just from conservatives, but from the liberals. The moment I started seeing official 'Dear Pope Francis, thank you. Signed, pro-choice women everywhere' pictures circulating on the web, it confirmed for me something I've long suspected about the LGBT movement, and the leadership of social liberals in general.
First though, let's talk about what has the conservatives upset. I think it's simply that the Pope basically rapped the knuckles of the social conservatives, primarily in the US. Not just Catholics, but social conservatives generally. The Pope suggested that there was way too much of an emphasis on these issues - contraception, abortion and gay marriage - to the point where it was practically monotonous, and mentioned how he was expressly trying not to harp about those things. At no point did he even hint at a change on the issues - in fact, it didn't take long for him to denounce abortion expressly after his interview. But his message was still pretty clear: social conservatives have screwed up their approach on these issues. They've focused on them too much, they've communicated poorly.
Now, here's the thing about political topics. There's an unspoken rule that you're never supposed to criticize someone 'on your team', especially not in a major public venue. Even if you're correct, it's demoralizing. And the Pope? He's not just another social conservative - even to non-Catholics he's a major figure in the fight against abortion and gay marriage, etc. Not only is it demoralizing to take friendly criticism on the topic from a friendly source, but worse - let's be honest - it encourages the social liberals. After all, anything that pisses off a SoCon has to have a silver lining at the very least, just like anything that pisses off the SoLibs is a silver lining for the SoCons. So the Pope said something which upset the SoCons, and at the same time it's made worse because the SoLibs show up to cheer on the Pope and use this as an opportunity to rub salt in the SoCon wounds.
But... there's something more going on here. Something important.
When you think about it, cheering on the Pope doesn't make all that much sense from a SoLib point of view, does it? Sure, he criticized the approach of SoCons... but really, only their approach. Pope Francis hasn't given a hint of liberalizing on sodomy, abortion or even contraception. He immediately followed up his interview with the aforelinked anti-abortion speech. He's not NARAL's friend. So why the hell is NARAL out there sending the Pope virtual thank you messages, expressly from 'all pro-choice women'? Part of it is easy to explain: they want to give the impression that the Pope approves of abortion, because they probably feel that if they can lie their way into a papal stamp of approval, they may win more people over to their cause. But for anyone who actually cares about what the Pope says, and who isn't dirt stupid, this isn't going to really pay off. There's the Pope the next day, preaching against abortion. So what gives?
Here is the hardest lesson, in my experience, for SoCons to learn. SoLibs want SoCons to be hostile. They want them to be angry. And they want to not only have them perpetually ranting and raving - they want to make the SoCons truly afraid of ever being anything less than hostile. So the moment any social conservative (like Pope Francis) starts talking kindly, or forgivingly about people with same-sex attraction, or people who have had abortions, etc - the moment the Pope says 'Look, just because you're gay doesn't mean you're a terrible person, and someone who has had an abortion and repents can be forgiven' or words to that effect, is the moment the SoLibs need to Nip That Shit in the Bud. But they can't directly attack the Pope, or anyone else who says such things, most of the time - they'd look like jerks. So, they attack in a roundabout way: by trying their asses off to warp the message being sent. Basically they communicate, "If you are EVER civilized and compassionate towards gays, if you EVER show that you regard sexually active people with anything short of hate, we're going to make you regret it. We're going to try and transform your humanity into endorsement, we're going to try and penalize you for acting like this - because the idea of someone who opposes abortion or who opposes gay marriage, and who is calm and humane and level-headed, scares the piss out of us."
And it's effective. All the high-strung SoCons look at the reaction and, remember - when something makes the SoLibs happy, the SoCons are automatically unhappy. And if you say something that makes the SoLibs cheer - even if they're only cheering on an intentionally warped, dishonested mangling of the message - the SoCon instinct is to panic a little bit and try to find a way to Never Do THAT Again. Which, of course, is exactly what the SoLib wants, because if the image of the person who opposes gay marriage isn't "angry person screaming about how all faggots are child molestors" but "well-meaning person who cares for gays, but thinks same-sex behavior and sexual culture is harmful", they're in trouble. Likewise, the SoLib - and I'm talking about the diehards here, the dedicated 'politics is my religion' SoLibs - absolutely needs the anti-abortion advocate to be some bizarre "I don't give a shit about single moms, all I care about is that fetus being born - it's a great way to punish the sluts!" caricature. Once it's someone concerned about treating human life as sacred and having people behave responsibly in light of that, the whole conversation will get dramatically difficult in a heartbeat.
So what you're seeing among SoLibs in response to Francis? That's not totally sincere praise and affection. None of them really see much hope for Francis to suddenly become the pro-abortion, pro-gay-marriage, "Go ahead, orgies aren't a sin" Pope. They're actually pretty terrified. There's only room for one kind of compassionate person in this world, and that's them. So if the Pope is going to act compassionate towards gays and such, well, their only option is to try and desperately misrepresent him as The Socially Liberal Pope, and try to mangle his message in the process. What absolutely terrifies them is the introduction of the socially conservative person who nevertheless is and, even worse, appears to be kind-hearted and sincere. At this point they're cornered, and are exhausting their options. If the Pope insists on acting kind towards gays, forgiving of repentant women who have had abortions, etc, then they're going to try and discourage that by screwing with his message, or - lacking that - misrepresenting him to the public to try and fool everyone for as long as possible.
The take-away from all this is, don't take the praise of Pope Francis by SoLibs at face value. There's a meta-game going on here, and it's pretty easy to understand why.