From day one in the Pope Francis era, the so-called insiders who do so much to shape public opinion have said "conservatives" -- inside the Vatican and outside -- were grumbling about this shepherd's unorthodox style.
That is certainly true in some corners of the church, noted Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, a prominent voice on matters of doctrine and public life. However there is a bright side to all the jarring news reports about Pope Francis.
The famous Catholic writer G. K. Chesterton once noted that "every age gets the saint it needs. Not the saint people want, but the saint they need -- the saint who's the medicine for their illness. The same may be true of popes," said Chaput, in a July 26 speech at the Napa Institute in California.
"John Paul II revived the spirit of a church that felt fractured, and even irrelevant. ... Benedict revived the mind of a church that felt, even after John Paul II's intellectual leadership, outgunned by the world in the public square. Francis has already started to revive the witness of a church that, even after John Paul II's and Benedict's example, feels as if we can't get a hearing and that we're telling a story no one will believe."
But there's the rub. In many cases, this down-to-earth pope's words are being edited and warped in public reports, said Chaput.
Take, for example, these striking lines on wealth and poverty in the pope's apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel)."
"The great danger in today's world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience," wrote Francis. "Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. ...
"Today's economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric."
That was simply too much for talk-radio superstar Rush Limbaugh, who said the pope was "dramatically, embarrassingly, puzzlingly wrong" in these "socialist" attacks on capitalism.
"This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope," said Limbaugh. "Unfettered capitalism? That doesn't exist anywhere. Unfettered capitalism is a liberal socialist phrase to describe the United States. ... To hear the pope regurgitating this stuff, I was profoundly disappointed."
Speaking to the La Stampa newspaper, Pope Francis noted that merely defending the "social doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church" doesn't make him a Marxist. "Marxist ideology is wrong," he added, but "I have known many Marxists who are good people, so I don't feel offended."
What is happening? Anyone who wants to understand this pope must grasp why he took the name "Francis," and thus embraced St. Francis of Assisi, stressed Chaput, who is a Capuchin Franciscan. Pope Francis has repeatedly said he wants to lead a church that "is poor and for the poor."
Because of his pastoral experience in Argentina, this pope also "knows poverty and violence. He knows the plague of corrupt politics and oppressive governments. He's seen the cruelty of human trafficking and other forms of exploitation. He's seen elites who rig the political system in their favor and keep the poor in poverty," said Chaput.
"When we Americans think about economics, we think in terms of efficiency and production. When Francis thinks about economics, he thinks in terms of human suffering. We're blessed to live in a rich, free, stable country. We can't always see what Francis sees."
Also, it's crucial for news consumers -- Catholics included -- to understand that it's hard to accurately discuss centuries of doctrine and faith while using political terms like "conservative" and "liberal." Chaput stressed that people should read the pope's writings and sermons and hear what he is saying, unfiltered.
They will find that political language of this kind tends to "divide what shouldn't be divided," said the archbishop. "Service to the oppressed and service to the family; defense of the weak and defense of the unborn child; belief in the value of business and belief in restraints on predatory business practices -- all these things spring from the same Catholic commitment to human dignity. ...
"There's nothing 'conservative' about ignoring the cries of the poor."