Pope Francis, with his pointed overpassing of Philadelphia Abp. Chaput for the cardinalate and declining, at the request of Cardinals Burke, Brandmüller, Caffarra, and Meisner to clarify Amoris Laetitia, his apostolic exhortation on the family, on whether divorced and remarried Catholics can receive communion, has likewise placed a number of the rest of us in an ambiguous position.

At Touchstone, for example, when we fished around for an answer to the frequently-asked question of what kind of Catholics the magazine appealed to, and wanted something better than “conservative” (for many conservative Catholics have no use for us), we found ourselves saying things like, “Well, the Ignatius Press or First Things kind of Catholic,” and often, “papal Catholics.”

But this journal took its rise during the pontificate of St. John Paul II, and rejoicing was heard in its halls at his succession by Benedict XVI, for both of whom we all, including the Protestants and Orthodox among us, had the profoundest respect, and whose careful, scholarly teaching we could easily understand as the teaching of the Catholic Church.

In view of the confusions of the new Pope, however, I sense (and of course I am speaking of my own perceptions here) we are hardly in the mood to call the Touchstone kind of Catholic “papal” in the sense we once did. “Cardinal Burke Catholics” seems to find the mark better. Alas for our Roman faithful! It seems the present incumbent of the papal office, by re-introducing the question of whether the pope is Catholic, has invited them to become something like members of a sect.

As a Protestant I can say, “I know the feeling.”