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Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

September 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — In an unprecedented move, conservative Evangelical leaders in the United States have warned conservative Catholics that Pope Francis is moving the Church to the left.  These same leaders have for years worked with pro-life and pro-family Catholics in a common approach to defend life and family.

The most extensive criticism came from one of the leading Evangelical thinkers in the United States, Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Also speaking out was Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention, who lamented that Pope Francis’ address to Congress last Thursday lacked clarity. “I do think that the pope's address was an opportunity to address urgent moral issues like abortion culture and religious liberty with more clarity and directness than what was delivered,” he said.

Mohler, who signed on to the famous Manhattan Declaration with Catholic and other Christian leaders, warned that the pope’s appearance in Congress, “must send a very clear signal to conservative Catholics that they have faced exactly what they feared, a Pope who is not only leaning left, but is going to take the Roman Catholic Church to the left with him.”

Mohler was most alarmed that in Congress the Pope “never even mentioned Jesus Christ.”

“Furthermore, among the things he didn’t mention were specifically the Catholic Church’s concern about abortion and its definition of marriage as exclusively the union of a man and a woman,” added Mohler. “Instead what the Pope referenced in terms of those issues was a very fuzzy and evasive approach that left many people wondering if he was actually talking about either abortion or marriage at all.”

Mohler on Pope Francis’ performance in Congress

The pope, Mohler noted, did mention marriage, “but he never defined it and he certainly didn’t draw attention to the fact that the Roman Catholic Church identifies marriage as and only as the union of a man and a woman.” Mohler continued:

Instead he offered a statement that can be interpreted by virtually anyone as that individual may wish to interpret it, mentioning marriage and the family without defining either. And speaking of the future of marriage in such a way that virtually no one regardless of their position on the moral revolution can disagree with him. Furthermore, even though the sanctity of human life is a fundamental teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, it was virtually missing from the Pope’s statement; explicitly missing was any reference to abortion and to the fact that abortion is now one of the most controversial frontline issues in America today.

Quoting the Huffington Post, Mohler notes, “Only 75 words out of the 3400 words” of the pope’s address to Congress “had anything to do with anything even close” to life and marriage.

According to Mohler, the pope “has been leaning left with so many symbolic acts and with so many gestures and statements, but there is no question that in this unprecedented opportunity for the Pope to address a joint session of the United States Congress, he let his priorities be clearly known and those priorities are the ones that in terms of the political spectrum undeniably lean left.”

Mohler on Pope Francis’ overall approach

Analyzing the pope’s approach, Mohler says that “a part of the success of Pope Francis has been his personality and his open mode of engagement,” and calls for those attributes to be emulated. He adds, however:

It represents an opportunity to avoid having to get to the hard edges of Christian truth. It is an intentional effort to avoid a direct confrontation with the secularizing culture. It is an effort to try to get along in terms of this moral revolution, not so much at this point by changing the teachings of his church, but by soft peddling them or in the case of his address to Congress not even mentioning them. Not even daring to define marriage which is so central to the Catholic Church that it is actually one of the sacraments recognized by the church, but the Pope didn’t reference marriage and he didn’t define it and that is incredibly telling.

Mohler attributes Francis’ wild popularity to the approach.  “That is why so many people are attracted to Pope Francis, who would otherwise be repelled by the teachings of his church and would oppose them publicly,” he said. “It’s because evidently you can like Pope Francis, because he doesn’t particularly represent any kind of defense of those teachings that cause such offense.”

Mohler on where Francis’ approach will lead

“Even though there has been no fundamental change in the actual teachings of the Roman Catholic Church,” says Mohler, “it’s clear that in terms of its pastoral processes and application this Pope is not only steering in a more liberal direction, but now he has sent signals of his priorities and those priorities are those that will take the church in a further more liberal direction.”

In Francis Mohler sees exactly the type of religious leadership the secular media and the theological left are longing for.  “An example of leadership that does not define the issues, an example of leadership that moves from theology to piety, an example of leadership that doesn’t bring up the awkward questions and doesn’t lean into the hard issues where the truth has to be defined and defended.”