When Benedict XVI and John Paul II were pope the conservative Catholics loved to throw around the phrase “cafeteria Catholic” as a term of derision.

It’s a name I used a fair bit to parody those Catholics who would pick and choose what bits of Catholicism they liked and rejected the bits they didn’t like. The “cafeteria Catholic” was a liberal who picked peace and justice issues but was silent on abortion. The “cafeteria Catholic” picked up on the fellowship of the Lord’s Supper but declined the idea the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Cafeteria Catholics liked the authority of the individual conscience but put Humanae Vitae on one side. They chose ecumenism but turned up their nose at Catholic exclusivism. They were all for “we are church” and rejected any form of hierarchy.

Isn’t it interesting how the shoe is on the other foot?

Now with Pope Francis the cafeteria Catholics are the conservatives. They splutter and fume at Pope Francis. He’s the pope, but they disagree with him about this and reject his words about that just as avidly and with as much fervor as the liberals used to reject Pope Benedict. They pick him to pieces, refuse to give him the benefit of the doubt and paint him as a terrible pope—just like the liberals did with Benedict. The liberals thought Benedict was a bad and inadequate pope. Ditto the conservatives with Francis.

The liberals were disrespectful and referred to Benedict as “Nazi Ratzi” and “the Enforcer”. Now the conservatives call Pope Francis “Casual Frank”, “Mr Bergoglio” or “The Unholy Father.” The liberal cafeteria Catholics had their theological arguments. They quoted this church document or that theologian. The conservatives either reject the Second Vatican Council altogether or they “correct” it by pulling up quotes from this Pope who condemned all heretics or that Council that rained down anathemas.

The conservatives liked to call the liberals “Protestants” because they were trying to make the church just as they wanted it. Now they’re doing the same. They didn’t like when the liberals grumbled and dissented against Pope Benedict. Now they grumble and dissent against Pope Francis.

Is it okay to criticize a pope? Sure. I’ve criticized Pope Francis–so much so that I’ve been called ” a fierce critic of Pope Francis.”

However, what I sense among some conservative Catholics is not only a growing dislike of Pope Francis, but a very unpleasant and self righteous hatred of him, and any attempt to put the Pope into context, explain the wider implications, praise Francis or unlock his gift to the church is met with cynicism, scorn and ridicule.

When Benedict was Pope the conservatives wanted the liberals to listen and learn from Benedict. They wanted the liberal cafeteria Catholics to take on the whole of the Catholic faith and submit to the authority of the rightful pope.

Now with Pope Francis they find it rather difficult to listen and learn.

Where did I put that dictionary of literary terms? I want to look up “irony”

Don’t forget my article Ten Things to Remember if Pope Francis Upsets You.