The Women's Ordination Conference/Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOC/WOW) conference in Philadelphia this coming weekend is critically important for the church and the world. Pope Francis needs to hear the message of gender equality from this conference.
I am moderating an interfaith panel as part of the program. This problem of gender inequality -- as we all know – is not limited to Catholicism. But the Catholic church is highly influential in circles well beyond its own membership when it comes to the role(s) of women -- or lack thereof. Just ask Muslim women, or Mormon women or Orthodox Jewish women. If the Catholic church changed and decided to ordain women as priests, it would speak volumes to the whole religious world.
In fact, this whole area has rightly been dubbed "Francis' blind spot." For some reason, he does not seem to "get it" when it comes to the roles of women.
And, I don't fully understand his stance, except that he may not want to tackle the traditionalists in the Vatican on this one (As in: he has enough enemies there already). Or, he may not have given this the thought he has given to other issues like poverty or climate change.
But, speaking of poverty, the majority of the poor of the world are women, and a large reason for their poverty is their treatment as inferior beings. They are victims of discrimination in thousands of ways … literally. So, if Francis is interested in alleviating world poverty, the greatest contribution he could make -- with one action -- would be admitting women to ordination, and making the Catholic Church a model of gender equality. He could say to the world that it is no longer acceptable to discriminate against women, or to treat them as second class, including sacred roles, and by implication, economic roles. Yes, change would be slow, but it could begin if he wanted it to.
OK, I'm not holding my breath. But with Pope Francis, anything can happen.