Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Did Pope Francis Say Women Are Unfit for Political Office?

There are different ways to approach the pursuit of truth. One way is to start from what we believe to be true, or what we think may be true and then work backwards from there. We all do this; it is neither good nor bad.

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.
Hmm, he doesn't sound like a raging misogynist to me.

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.


Ella Bakes said...

Wow! Thank you for clearing this misquote up and expanding upon Pope Francis' writings about women. It is really hopeful for me as a Catholic woman, who often feels on the fringes of the church, to see talk among its leaders of how to more fully engage the feminine spirit! I cannot wait to see and hear more from our dear Papa.

bleusmon said...


I am one of those with several concerns about Pope Francis regarding liturgy, his friendship with progressives like Cardinals Hummes & Kasper, and claims made by his own biographer (if reported accurately) that he endorses civil unions for homosexuals. The fact that VP Biden and Nancy Pelosi were not denied Holy Communion yesterday is also quite disturbing, as this occurance is not in dispute.

Yet, like many others I am taken by his humility and piety and, combined with the prayers offered by millions that the conclave cardinals opened their hearts to the Will of the Holy Spirit charged with protecting the Church, I believe time alone will tell what's what with this man. So I counsel myself to pray rather than overreact to what I cannot fully know right now.

Therefore, I thank you for articulating the best position I've been able to determine for myself so far when you wrote:

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?

I'm grateful that you confirmed what the Holy Spirit may have already placed upon my heart.

Sr. Lorraine said...

I'm glad you wrote about this, Theresa, since this hoax has been going around so much.

Von Balthasar wrote about the Marian principle in the Church, which is part of her deepest dimension. The Petrine principle is the hierarchical one of teaching, etc. But the Marian one is more fundamental.

Pope John Paul quoted von Balthasar in a footnote in Mulieris Dignitatem:

“This Marian profile is also--even perhaps more so--fundamental and characteristic for the Church as is the apostolic and Petrine profile to which it is profoundly united.... The Marian dimension of the Church is antecedent to that of the Petrine, without being in any way divided from it or being less complementary. Mary Immaculate precedes all others, including obviously Peter himself and the Apostles. This is so, not only because Peter and the Apostles, being born of the human race under the burden of sin, form part of the Church which is ‘holy from out of sinners,’ but also because their triple function has no other purpose except to form the Church in line with the ideal of sanctity already programmed and prefigured in Mary. A contemporary theologian has rightly stated that Mary is ‘Queen of the Apostles without any pretensions to apostolic powers: she has other and greater powers’ (H. U. von Balthasar, Neue Klarstellungen)

Micha Elyi said...

Any idea of where, outside of consecrated orders, can be found, "Church life in so many areas which are now, in part, open only to men"?

Michelle said...

@bleusmon: read Jimmy Akin's explanation of Pope Francis's position on homosexual unions. It will clear the mud - http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/pope-francis-on-homosexual-unions.
It sure feels like the attacks are heating up against the Church!!

tagnes said...

@Ellabakes - So happy to hear this, thank you for your commment!

@bleusmon - Your comment really made my day. So happy that the Holy Spirit worked through this post for you. I think it is so important for us to let Pope Francis be who he is before making any rash judgments. He is his own person, thank God for that, and I trust that the HS will work through him, with all his gifts and flaws.

@Sr. Lorraine- Thank you for pointing that out, can't go wrong with Balthasar!

@Micha - I am not sure what Cardinal Sandri was referring to specifically. But in the article, they mentioned that "At present women, most of them nuns, can only reach the position of under-secretary in Vatican departments, the number three post after president and secretary, which so far have been held by ordained men. Currently only two women are under-secretaries, one a nun and one a lay woman." I have a feeling Cardinal Sandri was referring not just to the Vatican but I am not sure what else he would point to however, as he was speaking from an Argentinian context. But this is one example for you.

@Michelle - Thank you, that was a great article!

Many blessings,

Sr. Theresa