California Catholic Daily exclusive.

What prompted you to write The Francis Feud: Why and How Conservative Catholics Squabble about Pope Francis?

The ongoing feud prompted me.

Some conservatively-minded Catholics like everything Francis says and does. Others think he’s tearing the Church apart. Some say he’s a breath of fresh air. Others say he’s sowing confusion in the ranks. I was surprised and disappointed to find so many solid Catholics butting heads with one another.

The Francis Feud looks at the way these Catholics have been arguing about the pope. Call it a study in rhetoric or a critique of good and bad arguments (there have been plenty of the latter).

Why bring out such a book now?

Because in recent months three best-selling books have appeared criticizing Francis: Henry Sire’s The Dictator Pope, Phil Lawler’s Lost Shepherd, and Ross Douthat’s To Change the Church.

These books vary in tone, accuracy, and effect. Cumulatively, they have generated lots of controversy among Catholics, who now are taking sides, for and against the pope and each other.

Where are you in all of this?

I’m no disinterested observer. I quote others at length. I also quote myself at length. Not only have I been privy to discussions, but I’ve been part of many of them. In this book I wear two hats: observer and participant.

I see no reason to affect an impartiality that I don’t have. If there has been a squabble concerning Pope Francis, I’ve played a role, if only as a secondary squabbler.

What’s the root issue here?

It’s when or whether to criticize a reigning pope. Is it ever—or never—proper? Might it be sometimes proper, even if not always proper? And is proper even the right word? The term suggests something right or permissible but not necessary or compelled.

Perhaps the question should be: when is it necessary to criticize a reigning pope? If there are necessary times, who should do the criticizing—high-level Churchmen, well-degreed academics, well-read laymen—maybe even the Catholic next door who has a gripe?

You quote many people (some of note) with whom you’ve been friends for years. What reactions have they had to The Francis Feud?

Let’s just say that I seem to have been dropped from some Christmas card lists.

—Karl Keating

The Francis Feud: Why and How Conservative Catholics Squabble about Pope Francis is available at Amazon in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats.