After a thrilling week: A ‘downer’

by Maureen Fiedler

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This communication just came from the Women’s Ordination Conference:

On the papal plane from Philadelphia to Rome, Pope Francis was asked:

"Will we one day see women priests in the Catholic church as some groups in the U.S. ask, and some other Christian churches have?"

His answer:

"[O]n women priests, that cannot be done. Pope St. John Paul II after long, long intense discussions, long reflection said so clearly. Not because women don't have the capacity. Look, in the Church women are more important than men, because the church is a woman. It is "la" church, not "il" church. The Church is the bride of Jesus Christ. And the Madonna is more important than popes and bishops and priests. I must admit we are a bit late in an elaboration of the theology of women. We have to move ahead with that theology. Yes, that's true.

OK, I was willing to say that Francis had a great week in the United States. I applauded his words on immigration, caring for the needs of the poor, climate change and the abolition of nuclear weapons. He was kind, loving, pastoral. He visited a prison and had lunch with the homeless. He participated in an interfaith event at Ground Zero in New York. Three cheers for all of that!

And he was even a bit vague ... at least not “defined” on LGBT issues, and issues surrounding divorce and remarriage. Progress looked possible.

But this pope — however great on other issues — just does not “get it” when it comes to women. And it’s not just women’s ordination, where his theology and thinking are way off base.

It’s his whole to approach to women. When he appointed five women to the International Theological Commission recently, he said they were like “strawberries on a cake.” Really? That sounds like something that may have been seen as a compliment in the 1940s or 1950s, but today, it’s an insult because of its triviality. But Francis apparently does not know that.

He says that women are more important than men in the church. Really? When they can’t even be deacons, let alone priests? I want to say, “Francis, be real!”

He uses the outmoded metaphor of the church as a “bride of Christ,” as if the whole community is somehow female. And he keeps talking about the need for a “theology of women,” as if we are some strange, odd creatures that need to be studied and put it our own theological niche.  

Francis needs to meet with feminist theologians who can explain to him the realities of women in this world and this church.

Then — and only then — will he be a truly transformative pope.

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