I celebrated many of Pope Francis’ early acts of compassionate humility — especially his subversion of the Maundy Thursday ritual by washing the feet of youth prisoners, including two Muslim girls. I’m always grateful when I hear about prominent Christian leaders actually doing Jesus-like acts of justice and love. (For more, see “Red Shoes or Black Shoes? Does It Matter?: On the Symbolism of Pope Francis.”)
However, I was disheartened to read this morning in The New York Times that the new pope is doubling-down on misogyny:
Pope Francis has reaffirmed the reprimand of American nuns issued by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. The Vatican said that the nuns’ group was tinged with feminist influences, focused too much on ending social and economic injustice and not enough on stopping abortion, and permitted speakers at its meetings who questioned church doctrine.”
I am unswayed by critics who reprimand Protestants for complaining every time that “Catholics act like Catholics instead of like Protestants.” There is so much that I admire about Catholic Social Teachings, and I maintain my critique that the Roman Catholic Church — and all religious communities — need more (not less) feminism, more social and economic justice, and more freedom to question traditional doctrine. And long before I admired some of Pope Francis’ early decisions, I have been impressed with the radical work of many Roman Catholic nuns for social and economic justice. And I’m sorry to see Francis, so to speak, throwing the “Nuns on the Bus“ under the bus.
I said publicly back in late March that I see approximately zero chance that Pope Francis will change the Roman Catholic Church’s reprehensible exclusion of women from the priesthood, the bigoted stance against same-sex marriage, or the onerous requirement of priestly celibacy. But I expressed hope that maybe he would at least call off the dogs that were let loose on American nuns under Benedict. I’m saddened to see this is not the case.
For more analysis of why Francis’ foot washing, for example, troubles conservatives, but also why liberals shouldn’t get too excited about his papacy, see “Vatican defends Pope Francis’ washing of women’s feet.”
The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg is a trained spiritual director, a D.Min. graduate of San Francisco Theological Seminary, and the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick, Maryland. Follow him on Facebook (facebook.com/carlgregg) and Twitter (@carlgregg).
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