When it Comes to Women, Pope Francis Isn’t the Progressive Everyone Wants Him to Be
Pope Francis has gotten a lot of love from the political left and progressive Catholics for his support for a more equitable economic system that values people over profits. With his focus on the poor, he’s become wildly popular. But there is still one group of people the leader of the Catholic Church won’t fight for, and that’s women.
Francis recently had his first interview with a woman since becoming pope, and it left a lot to be desired. Not only that, but parts were just downright dismissive, as explained in Raw Story:
But when his interviewer, the Vatican correspondent of the Rome daily Il Messaggero, Franca Giansoldati, asked him whether he did not detect an underlying misogyny in the Catholic church, Francis replied: “The fact is that woman was taken from a rib.” Giansoldati wrote that he then laughed “heartily” before saying: “I’m joking. That was a joke.”
Hahahaha! Good joke! It’s only the first story in a book that is apparently the infallible word of God, and it only places women at the outset as being just derivatives of men who are responsible for the banishment from paradise. The story of Eve is even referred to later in the Bible as a reason to exclude women from leadership positions. But no, by all means, let’s make a joke about it.
I don’t know why I’m particularly surprised, though. What was Pope Francis supposed to say? That no, he doesn’t see misogyny in the Catholic Church? He’s not a stupid man, and the evidence of that misogyny is everywhere. When being ordained a priest is considered a sin worthy of excommunication or when bishops feel the need to put the screws to a group of nuns who wish to focus on issues other than abortion and gays, no one will take you seriously if you say there is no misogyny in the Catholic Church. (One can, of course, be just fine with misogyny. But one can’t say it’s not there.)
This isn’t the only weirdly tone deaf thing the pope said in his interview. When asked whether he thought a woman could be the head of any Vatican department, he said, “Priests often end up under the sway of their housekeepers.”
What does that even mean? That women are smart enough to hold these positions of power, but…what, exactly? Our natural place in life is serving men? That the closest women can hope to get to power in the Catholic Church is cleaning up after the men who rule? Do you hear yourself, Francis?
Again, I don’t know why I’m surprised. This is the same person who condemned childless couples to a life of loneliness. I mean, women can’t hold down serious jobs if they’re pregnant all the time, right?
In his defense, Pope Francis did say that the role of women in the church deserved more discussion and that you can’t understand the Church without understanding a woman’s role in its development. However, the Bishop of Rome did not seem willing or able to be specific on what he’d like to see done. I mean, why make substantive changes when you can just pay lip service?
There’s another way to read this. It could be that Pope Francis has been vocal about his thoughts on capitalism because it’s popular to hate on capitalism. I mean, I’m sure the Koch brothers aren’t pleased, but it’s not like the Pope needs to run for re-election. Blasting income inequality seems bold, but it’s actually kind of a safe move. The answers Pope Francis gave to pointed questions about sexism in the Catholic Church could indicate an uncomfortableness with the subject. Maybe those are the answers of a man who wants to be more bold, but for various political reasons can’t be.
Admittedly, that’s a pretty generous reading of Pope Francis’ answers. One thing is clear, though. No matter how progressive this pope is on economic issues, he still won’t stick his neck out for women.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons