However, when we start with something that is fundamentally uncharitable (e.g., Pope Francis is a bad man or a misogynist), then I would suggest a different approach. Would it not make sense, make the world a better place if we approached life assuming the best, while at the same time avoiding naïveté and always remaining open to the facts?
A quote supposedly attributed to Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, SJ, now Pope Francis, has been making its way around the Internet:
Women are naturally unfit for political office (…) The natural order and facts teach us that man is a politician par excellence, the Scriptures show us that woman is always the supporter of man, the thinker and doer, but nothing more than that.A post on Reuters and an Examiner article both mentioned the quote. An "Antitheists" page on facebook with more than 66,000 followers shared a meme with a picture of the pope and the quote.
So, understandably many people are wondering, "Did Pope Francis really say this?"
As someone who tries to be open to the facts, I did a little research. Turns out this quote is already on Snopes as an urban legend. It looks like it was a hoax. Unfortunately, most people who read this false quote will not do the research, and seeds of doubt and hate will be planted in their minds.
Some may say that Pope Francis belongs to a Church with misogynist views, whether he said this or not. But simply because women are excluded from priestly sacramental ministry does not, in and of itself, prove a religion's views to be misogynist. One must be able to prove that the source of such teaching is hatred of women, or a belief that women are somehow unequal to men. Read Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter On the Dignity and Vocation of Women and tell me if you find sexism or misogyny there.
For those of you who are interested in Pope Francis' actual views on women, here is an excerpt from Sobre el Cielo y la Tierra, a book he co-wrote with Rabbi Skorka while he was Cardinal of Buenos Aires, (this is my rough translation):
The woman has another function in Christianity, reflected in the figure of Mary. She is the one who welcomes in the community, the one who holds, the mother of the community. The woman has the gift of maternal love, of tenderness, if all these riches are not integrated in a religious community, it not only becomes a “machista” (or macho) society but also austere, harsh and badly sacramentalized. The fact that women cannot exercise the priesthood does not mean they are less than males. In our view, the Virgin Mary is superior to the apostles. According to a second-century monk, there are three dimensions of the female role among Christians: Mary, Mother of God, the Church, and the Soul. The presence of women in the Church has not been emphasized much, because the temptation of machismo has not made room for women to fully play their role in community.
The former Cardinal's thoughts on women in the Church, especially his opinion that there is a need to make sure they are fully integrated into the life of the Church, reminded me of a recent interview with Cardinal Sandri where he expressed the need to improve women’s role in the Church:
The role of women in the world has increased and this is something the Church has to ask itself about. They must have a much more important role in the life of the Church ... so that they can contribute to Church life in so many areas which are now, in part, open only to men ... This will be a challenge for us in the future.Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard of Mechelen-Brussels also voiced something similar at last fall's Synod of Bishops:
"[We should] never hesitate to entrust more important roles to women in the life of the church. We must find new and strong ways to do this."Sounds to me like the Holy Spirit is moving...not toward women in the priesthood, but toward integrating women into the life of the Church more fully. The Church needs women, not as priests, but as the softer, more maternal face of the Church, a face that many people do not see when they think of Catholicism, a face they need to see if the New Evangelization is going to attract people back to the Church.
So is Pope Francis a misogynist?
I'd say it's pretty obvious he is not. Unfortunately, some people have already made up their minds about the new pope and there will be no convincing them otherwise.
If you know others who are true truth seekers and are open to the evidence, please share this with them and encourage them to follow the pope and read the things he really says before making up their minds.