Pope Francis greatest weakness: Women!

I have been full of admiration for Pope Francis during his U.S. trip.  I thought his addresses to Congress, the United Nations and the U.S. bishops were excellent.  But on the way home in the plane, during the press briefing, he addressed the issue of womens ordination.  This is how it was reported by Joshua McElwee of the NCR:

“”Pope Francis has again forcefully rejected the possibility of female priests in the Catholic church, saying simply that his predecessor Pope John Paul II decided “that cannot be done.”

In response to a question during a press conference on his flight back to Rome late Sunday/early Monday after an historic ten-day trip to Cuba and the U.S., Francis said that while women may “have the capacity” to be priests John Paul clearly made a negative decision in that regard.

“Women priests — that cannot be done,” the pontiff said bluntly. “Pope St. John Paul II — after long, long discussions, long reflections — said it clearly.”

“Not because women do not have the capacity,” said Francis.

“But, look, in the church, women are more important than men because the church is woman; it is ‘la’ church, not ‘il’ church,” he said, speaking in Italian and referring to the gendered article used before the Italian word for church.

“The Church is the bride of Jesus Christ,” said the pope. “And the Madonna is more important than popes and bishops and priests.”

“I must recognize we are a bit late in an elaboration of the theology of women,” he continued. “We have to move ahead with that theology. Yes, that’s true.”

Francis’ answer on the papal plane is the latest in a series of somewhat controversial and frequently unclear remarks he has made about the role of women in the church.

The pope has previously said that the door to ordination for women was “closed” and has spoken of needing to develop a special theology of women.

He has also said he has stayed away from appointing women to high-level positions in the Vatican bureaucracy for fear of promoting some sort of “functionalism” of women’s roles.

One recent book of 43 essays by Catholic women said the pope’s call for a theology of women “reduce[s] women to objects of study, a separate category of reflection.”

“We resist … any suggestion that the Church needs a theology of ‘Woman’ or ‘womanhood,'” wrote the authors of Catholic Women Speak: Bringing Our Gifts to the Table.

“Rather than a deeper theology of women, we say that the Church needs a deeper theology of the human — a theological anthropology that can be developed only by the full inclusion of women in the process of theological reflection informed by the experiential realities of daily life,” they said.”

What is striking about the way he addresses this topic is the lack of clarity, the blatant contradictions, the general confusion of what he has to say.  So much in contrast to the simplicity and clarity he normally shows. He clearly feels bound by the decision of his predecessor. If that is the case, and if he does not feel he can make any move in this area, it would be much better if he did not address the topic at all. Waffling on about how important women are, and how the Madonna  is greater than any man, is meaningless and unhelpful.

The lack of equality for women in the Church is an issue that will not, and can not, go away. It will continue to fester, and drive more and more women out of the Church.