Pope Francis – Man of the Year 2013 – Yes – Yes – but what about the women ???

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Does Time magazine do a Woman of the Year issue ? If not, surely it is about Time ?

I am pleased that Pope Francis got the Time Man of the Year award 2013. Hopefully, the proof of the pudding will become real reform, renewal and change in our church  soon.  As leader of a very large church, he is in a position to help bring about much change for the better in our world. He seems to have raised the hopes and spirits of people worldwide during the honeymoon  period since last March. He has given good example and spun some nice words, pictures and shapes  during 2013. Hopefully, he will have the health, strength and time to bring about substantial reform and renewal.

He is raising serious challenges for us all to live in accordance with the Jesus of the gospels and to work for social justice for all. He appears genuinely concerned about the extent of poverty and inequality in our world. He seems aware of the growing gap in many countries between the wealthy few and the impoverished multitudes. He speaks about the obvious evils within the capitalist system as the only game in town. He appears ready to lead Catholics worldwide to grapple with this core moral issue of money plus fair distribution of wealth.  I presume he is not just talking about increased handouts. I presume he is operating from  some key tenets of liberation theology such as active involvement by us all to become involved in the struggle to reform money systems and political structures which may be root causes of poverty. That will raise serious personal challenges for us all.  It could well be the mother of all struggles in this century and we will all have to hang on to our hats !!

However, I am worried that he is snookered on the issue of equality for women. I am deeply concerned that his great crusade for social justice and development of sound Catholic doctrine in this vital area is totally undermined or neutralized by his statement some months ago of loyal old boy adherence to previous Papal teaching that  the very important role of ministry/priesthood/celebration of eucharist/proclamation of word/community leadership/church governance within the Roman Catholic Church is the reserve of males only for all time and that it is not a question open for discussion! Sick shades of “ whites only beaches” and the awful memories of racial segregation, slavery and apartheid in past centuries!!

Any credible discussion today about social injustice and poverty must include the dimension of equality, justice and power sharing for women. The majority of poor in the world today are women and they suffer the brunt of abuse and violence from men imbued with  an outdated patriarchal mentality. Surely, Pope Francis must understand that his fine words about the widening gap between those who have and those who must be content with the crumbs applies as well to the outdated Papal teaching that ministry and power sharing are to be forever denied to women. This outdated patriarchal  teaching has bad effects on the lives of women everywhere. Surely, Pope Francis must have some qualms of conscience about this all male decision or this all male interpretation of the mind of the historical Jesus 2000 years ago. Tragically, it appears that Pope Francis may be trapped in the cul de sac of infallibility and somewhat blinded by his loyalty to the old boys club which restricts access of women to ministry and wishes to keep them well apart from the holy men living under an abusive regime of enforced celibacy.

God surely got it all wrong in asking for the cooperation of Mary in the ministry of bringing Christ to the world and building up his kingdom if our Papal teaching today insists that only men can properly fulfil that role ?. Does Pope Francis not see the inherent absurdity of calling on the crowd in St Peter’s Square on New Years day to repeat pious mantras to “ Mary, Holy Mother of God “ while at the same time upholding the Papal teaching that ministry and power sharing be denied to real women named Mary today ?

Pope Francis, in his message at New Year rightly highlighted the awful happenings in Syria and elsewhere today. Surely, he must be aware that those countries are dominated by aggressive males operating in outdated patriarchal mode involving violence, abuse and refusal to share power ? The crucial complementary talents, insight and influence of women are badly needed in those countries, our church and throughout the world. Catholic people do not want to be on the same side as the Taliban in stopping education and opportunity for women.  Catholic people are horrified at the ongoing incidents of sexual violence towards women in India and are well aware that the mindset of some men needs to change.

Those of us Catholics who think that ministry must be open to women and that this position is a fundamental component of any coherent or credible  social justice program should continue to communicate this viewpoint to Pope Francis and all clergy. Our prayers and good wishes are with him in his pivotal position as he leads us to join wholeheartedly with other Christian churches and people of good will further along the road to social justice for women and all human beings.

Joe Mulvaney

Dundrum, Dublin 16.