Six months ago the Vatican named Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio its new pope, marking the first time a pope has been appointed from the New World
Pope Francis I took over the reins of a church that had been rocked in recent years by child molestation scandals that had some Catholics leaving the church in droves.
In addition to the well-publicized scandals, the church has continued many of its long-standing policies that have alienated a large number of its 1.2 billion members.
Issues such as birth control, abortion, female clergy, divorce, same-sex marriage, celibacy and gay rights have shaken the very foundation of the church’s base and has Catholics throughout the world calling for change.
Last week the pope shocked the Catholic world by warning the church that it may “fall like a house of cards” if it does not address its rigid views on these issues with emphasis on abortion, contraception and gays. Long before the misconduct scandal surfaced, I had been long disillusioned with the church’s refusal to join the 21st Century, but the pope’s comments last week has given me renewed hope that change may be coming.
Francis called these issues divisive and that the church must become a more “merciful and welcoming place for all,” reinforcing comments he made this summer about the three issues. “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules,” said Francis to La Civilta Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit magazine.
While making his historic comments have been encountered with open-arms by progressive Catholic liberals, especially in the United States, there also exists the conservative hard-liners that want to keep the status quo. Although Catholic liberals and conservatives each have a unique take on the pope’s comments, one fact remains – nothing has changed within the church because of his comments.
What he has done is bring to light the issues that have divided Catholics in recent years, which is a positive thing. If the pope has opened a dialogue that addresses these very important issues to debate, he falls short in other areas, specifically the role of women in the church.
In late July, while on a flight from Brazil to Rome, Francis seemingly opened his arms to the gay community, but at the same time ignored the plight of possibly the most disenfranchised members of the church – women. Calling women in the church more important than any priest or bishop and even more important than the apostles, he added that women would never be included into the ordained ministry.
This contradiction boggles the mind. Why is it OK to start a dialogue that would embrace one minority, while at the same time continue a hard line against another?
Francis freely admits that women play a large role in the Catholic community serving in many capacities including as nuns and lay teachers. What type of message is the pope sending to young girls who are born into the church and are discovering the church regards them as second-class citizens?
If females are such an integral part of the church, why would the pope disallow their ordination into the priesthood?
Although it can be argued that Francis has made great ripples in the fabric that is the Catholic Church, I would implore him to not stop short of his ideals and include all members of society in his vision for the new church.