(AP) -- ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE — Pope Francis said Tuesday he wasn’t afraid of a U.S. Catholic Church schism led by his conservative critics, but sees a “rigid” ideology opponents use to mask their own moral failings has already infiltrated the American church.
Francis said during an airborne news conference that he prays a schism in the U.S. Catholic Church doesn’t happen. He nevertheless doubled down on confronting outspoken conservatives in the U.S. and beyond who oppose his outreach to gay and divorced people and his concern for the poor and the environment.
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Francis said he welcomed “loyal” criticism that leads to introspection and dialogue. Such “constructive” criticism shows a love for the church, he said. But he ideologically driven critics don’t really want a response but merely to “throw stones and then hide their hand.”