Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Radical Pope's gender flaws

  • 13 March 2014

Last year I experienced firsthand the hospitality of the Catholic Church in its incredible country of origin. During my holiday in Italy I stayed at two convents: one in the south, halfway up a mountain overlooking the coastal town of Sorrento; the other, right in the centre of Rome, a stone's throw from the Colosseum.

At both I was warmly welcomed, fed free breakfasts, and communicated with using whatever English the sweet, serene nuns could muster. Any problems I had were addressed with a true willingness to serve. The times I managed to communicate my gluten-free requirement (an interesting challenge in a country synonymous with pizza and pasta) they went to whatever lengths necessary to provide for me.

I mention this to demonstrate that although I am not a Catholic, I don't easily write off the positives of the Catholic Church. After all, a worldwide membership of over one billion undeniably represents a broad cross-section of good people.

And when Pope Francis was first elected a year ago, I was excited. Like a lot of people, I felt change in the air. Here was a Pope who seemed to have a real focus on alleviating poverty, and who cared more about speaking out in love rather than toeing the line in fear. A Pope who did not too easily alienate the LGBT community or people of other faiths, or use his platform to push contentious arguments about the use of condoms and AIDS.

My Christian friends became enamoured with the man, and my Facebook feed filled with Pope-pushing platitudes and odes of love to the new leader who some christened 'the change the Church needs'. I shared their enthusiasm — at least at first.

The shine started to wear off when the Pope opened up about his position on the role of women in the Church. In a well-publicised Q&A with journalists during a flight back to Rome after World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Francis stated, 'With regards to the ordination of women, the Church has spoken and says no.'

It seems the malleability he calls for on select issues doesn't apply to fundamental beliefs on gender roles.

He is quick to give a tick of approval for the increased participation of women in the Church (just not as leaders), while keeping in mind 'the irreplaceable role of women in the family'.

But, he has asked, 'How is it possible to expand an effective presence in