On March 10, Pope Francis said that he is considering allowing married men to be ordained as Catholic priests. Over the four years he has been pope, several statements that Francis has made have caused many to label him as a "liberal" pope. His recent statements regarding the ordination of married men will probably contribute to this image.
Francis' attitude toward several religious matters -- while perhaps more liberal than those of other Church officials and past popes -- have not resulted in significant changes within the Catholic Church. They offer a new way of looking at things but not a new way of actually doing things. This shows that the pope is, in fact, still quite conservative and not as liberal as some people believe him to be.
One way in which Francis has garnered his inaccurate label as liberal is through his comments regarding homosexuality. In 2013, The New York Times reported that Francis had adopted a more forgiving stance toward homosexual priests, asking, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"
Again in 2016, Francis indicated some sympathy toward the gay community. In June of that year, CNN reported that he said that all Christians were obligated to apologize for acts of exploitation committed against homosexual individuals.
While Francis' comments do indicate a more liberal attitude toward the rights of gay individuals than the Catholic Church has had in the past, they have not resulted in any concrete changes in Church's teachings. The pope still believes homosexual acts themselves to be sinful, and gay individuals are still not able to marry within the Catholic Church. This lack of any real change shows that the pope is, in fact, more conservative than he is liberal.
Francis has also garnered praise for being liberal as a result of his stance on abortion. In November of 2016, the pope granted Catholic priests the power to forgive women who confess their abortions, reported The New York Times. However, once again, Francis' actions indicated a change in attitude rather than Church teaching. In changing the Church's stance on abortion, he was sure to reiterate that abortion was a "grave sin," thus showing that he is not liberal.
Francis' most recent ground-breaking proclamation -- while slightly more concrete than statements he has made in the past -- follows this long-established pattern. While the change in Church policy would indeed allow married men to become priests, it would probably only do so in remote communities. In addition, it would not allow those who are already ordained as priests to get married, reports CNN.
In addition, Francis might not even make this change at all. "For the time being, I am in favor of maintaining celibacy with the pros and cons that it has, because it has been ten centuries of good experiences more often than failure," he said, according to CNN.
With all this in mind, it is clear that while Francis may be liberal by the Church's standards, he is not actually a liberal. At the very most, he is a conservative individual with a few liberally leaning ideas.