Asking the Pope for More
Like many protestants, I have loved the papacy of Pope Francis.
How could you not love a pope who lives not in the lavish papal apartments, but in the Vatican guesthouse? How could you not love a pope who randomly calls parishioners who have dropped him a note? Heck, how could you not love a pope who rides a Harley? And then sells it to bless the poor?!?
He’s amazing. And in large part he’s been amazing for women. Though he hasn’t seen fit to erase the Vatican’s historic bias toward men in the priesthood, he has made it a point to elevate women. In fact, when the pope affirmed the fundamental value of women, I blogged about him here.
So I read this article yesterday with a hearty helping of sadness.
Because on Saturday, Francis addressed a room full of Italian women. Here’s a bit of what he said:
Francis told his audience that he had stressed “the indispensable contribution of women in society, in particular with their sensitivity and intuition toward the other, the weak and the unprotected.” He said he has been heartened that “many women share some pastoral responsibilities with priests in looking after persons, families and groups” and he said he had hoped that “the spaces for a more diffuse and incisive presence in the church be expanded.”
In some parishes, women visit parishioners too frail to come to church, run prayer groups and outreach programs to the poor, as well as help distribute communion to the faithful at Masses, especially in churches with large congregations.
“These new spaces and responsibilities that have been opened, and I strongly hope that they can further be opened up to the presence and activity of women, both in the church environment as well that of the public and professional” spheres, Francis said, “cannot make us forget the irreplaceable role of the woman in a family.”
A couple of comments in response.
First, in that last sentence, I’m tempted to read a bit of “a woman’s place is in the home” into Francis’ words. Can you see it too?
I mean, of course a woman’s place is in the home.
But so is a man’s.
If I’ve learned anything on my parenting journey, it’s that it takes two to tango. In fact, it takes more than that, as help from family and friends is crucial. Honestly, I’m really not sure how single parents do it.
Let’s be clear. Both women and men have irreplaceable roles in the family. And, to go a step further, I would say that husband and wife are called to share the leadership role in the family, with specific roles being assigned by gifting/personality, not by gender. This week, blogger and writer Sarah Bessey beautifully described her egalitarian marriage (here), a marriage where she and her husband share leadership.
That’s the kind of marriage Amy and I are after too.
Second, I appreciate the fact that the pope is valuing and even calling out the particular gifts that women bring. And he is right. Women do bring sensitivity, intuition and pastoral skills to the work of the Kingdom. Elsewhere in the article, Francis is quoted as saying that women bring “gifts of delicateness, special sensitivity and tenderness.” I’m sure he’s right about women bringing those things too.
But that’s not all that women bring.
What about decision-making? Discernment? Peace-making? Administration? Faith? And a hundred more things. Heck, what about women bringing…
Furthermore, it’s not just women that bring the gifts that Francis is noting. Men do so as well.
The bottom line here is that I will continue to cheer on the pope, particularly as he relates with women.
And yet at the same time, I long for the day when there is gender parity both in marriage and in ministry, not just the Catholic Church, but in any church.
Come to think of it, maybe Pope Francis will call me sometime and we’ll have a chat. Clearly, I’ve got a few things I’d like to share with him.
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