Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has a message for the conservative clerics loudly criticizing Pope Francis in the press – don’t be afraid, the sky isn’t falling.

During a mass in Dublin this week Archbishop Martin boldly defended the pope from claims he had caused confusion among the faithful by calling for an open discussion on how best to reach out to groups long condemned by the church during the recent Synod of Bishops on the family.

Archbishop Martin said he was “quite surprised at the remarks of some commentators within church circles about the recent Synod of Bishops, often making accusations of confusion where such confusion did not exist and so actually fomenting confusion.”

Although Archbishop Martin refrained from naming names or offering specific comments it was clear to observers he was speaking of conservative firebrand Cardinal Raymond L. Burke.

Burke told the press last week that some discussions held during the synod could lead the faithful “into error with regard to the teaching about marriage and other teachings.”

But Archbishop Martin scoffed at Burke’s claim. During a mass at the Dublin Institute of Technology this week Martin questioned how strong the faith of the pope’s critics can be can be if they are so threatened by discussions about groups they usually prefer to condemn?

Archbishop Martin said he believed that “a longing for certainties may spring from personal uncertainty rather than strong faith.”

“A strong – and indeed orthodox faith – is never afraid of discussion,” he added.

Burke was reportedly appalled by the inclusive tone of the synod's midterm report, which had emphasized the importance of the church reaching out to families, cohabiting couples, divorced and remarried Catholics and gay couples – with the aim of welcoming them back into the church.

Instead, Burke spearheaded a campaign to have this welcoming language removed, ensuring the synod's final report upheld long-standing teachings on marriage. The words of welcome to cohabiting couples, divorced and remarried Catholics and gay couples were rescinded. The revolution in Catholic teaching didn’t last a week, new inclusivity was replaced by old exclusivity.

But Archbishop Martin suggested this week that by choosing dogma over an open door, Burke and other conservative church leaders had simply demonstrated the limits of their own compassion.

“They fail to see how Pope Francis shows that his concern for people who suffer is far from being a sign of dogmatic relativism, but rather is a sign of pastoral patience,” Archbishop Martin said.

He added that "a church which becomes a comfort zone for the like-minded ceases to be truly the Church of Jesus Christ."

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin speaking with Pope Francis in Rome.Photocall