Friday, 12 December 2014

Pope Francis Just Can't Hide His Misogyny

Lost in translation? 7 reasons some women wince when Pope Francis starts talking - Religion News Service

Poor old Pope Francis just can't hide his misogyny no matter how hard he tries to look like a modern liberal reformer. These seven examples of where his prejudices are showing comes from religionnews.com a site not normally associated with religious criticism.

The former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, the son of Italian immigrants, comes from a background and a clerical tradition not normally associated with its liberal progressiveness and support for women's rights and emancipation, let alone support for women being involved in Catholicism other than as nuns. It's not really surprising then that he finds it hard to act like a modern man who accepts women as equals and deserving of equal opportunities and entitled to respect as full members of the human race.

Did he really think the ultra-conservative cardinals who elected him, and who recently effectively vetoed his attempt to make the Catholic Church look a little less homophobic, elected him because of his innate progressiveness? Of course not. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was chosen because he projected an affable, avuncular and warm personality in contrast to his deeply repugnant immediate predecessor who had done so much to damage the Catholic Church and threaten its income streams with his tolerance only for paedophile priests and those who had helped to cover up their crimes and bully their victims.

Pope Francis' recent statements showing his underlying misogyny, or at best his inability to understand women and so see the insensitivity in his remarks, include:

  1. Referring to the appointment of five women to the 30-strong International Theological Commission, he patronisingly praised their 'female genius' and described them as 'the strawberry on the cake'. Like the cherry on the icing, the strawberry on the cake is a mere garnish - there for appearance to make it more appealing to the eye - and adds nothing to the cake itself. Just hope the little dears have some nice pretty frocks to wear.
  2. A couple of weeks ago, searching for an appropriate metaphor to describe the European Union as being moribund, irelevent and badly in need of reform, he said:

    In many quarters we encounter a general impression of weariness and ageing, of a Europe which is now a grandmother, no longer fertile and vibrant.

    So, in Pope Francis's thinking, a woman only has any use when she's fertile and vibrant. Women can be written off when they become grandmothers, no matter the repositories of wisdom that they may have become or the invaluable and irreplaceable role they may play in the family. Nope! You can insult an organization by calling it a grandmother.
  3. Addressing 800 superiors of orders of nuns from around the world, he told them nuns should not become 'old maids', apparently in an attempt to use motherhood as some sort of obscure metaphor for nuns somehow producing 'sons and daughters for the Church' with their chastity, thus making it a 'fruitful chastity'. I wonder if the chaste old maids in his audience followed that metaphor or wondered why he thought of remaining chaste and unmarried as something to be avoided.
  4. In an interview with the Jesuit National Catholic Review he said, on the role of women in the (Catholic) Church:

    It is necessary to broaden the opportunities for a stronger presence of women in the church. I am wary of a solution that can be reduced to a kind of ‘female machismo,’ [his actual words in Italian were "machismo in gonella" (masculinity in a skirt)] because a woman has a different make-up than a man. But what I hear about the role of women is often inspired by an ideology of machismo. Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed. The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity. We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the church. The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. The challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places where the authority of the church is exercised for various areas of the church.

    So, apart from being tired of women in the church being 'men in skirts' (kindly mistranslated to water it down a little), Francis see the challenge as deciding what role women should be given. Obviously, they are never to have the power to decide that for themselves and people's roles in the church are to be assigned according to gender - that goes without saying.
  5. In an interview with the Italian daily newspaper Il Messaggero, in reply to a point about the fact that the church seems to see women entirely in terms of motherhood and marriage, Pope Francis said:

    Women are the most beautiful thing that God has made. The Church is a woman. Church is a feminine word. You can not do this without feminine theology. You are right, we do not talk about this enough. I agree that we should work more on the theology of the woman. I've said before we are working in this direction.

    [Interviewer: Do you not see a certain misogyny in the background?]

    The fact that woman was taken from a rib.. (laughs with gusto). Joke, I am joking. I agree that we should go deeper into the issue of women, otherwise you can not understand the Church itself.

    Hmm... apart from his expected insensitivity to the Christian fundamentalist belief that God created women from a man's rib, and that this informs much of the inferior position of women in traditional Christian teaching, what else does Francis find amusing in Genesis and something to be dismissed as a joke? Why doesn't Pope Francis just come out and tell Catholics that Genesis is merely an amusing story that shouldn't be taken seriously? Could this have anything to do with the fact that if you throw Genesis out, you throw out the nonsense about a fall from grace, the need for forgiveness and redemption and the need for Jesus in Christian theology, maybe?

    Much better to laugh off the absurd bits that the church once taught were literal truths, but keep the theology which it gave rise to, obviously. Perhaps women are just metaphorically men's ribs.
  6. In the same interview with Il Messaggero, asked if women would ever head up a Vatican department, Pope Francis warned that "Pastors often wind up under the authority of their housekeeper!" Well, what with their inferiority and all, that's obviously to be avoided. It's women who should be under the authority of their pastors, obviously. Women having authority? The very idea!
  7. At Morning Mass on 9th December he said:

    When the church does not (evangelize), then the church stops herself, is closed in on herself, even if she is well-organized, has a perfect organizational chart, everything’s fine, everything’s tidy — but she lacks joy, she lacks peace, and so she becomes a disheartened church, anxious, sad, a church that seems more like a spinster than a mother, and this church doesn’t work, it is a church in a museum.

    Well, obviously, like a woman who is only complete, well organized, working properly and joyful when she is a mother, so the church needs to be well organized or it too will be irrelevant and lacking purpose, just like a woman who isn't married with children.

What seems to be lacking in this Pope is any appreciation that women might just be the social and intellectual equals of him and his male clerics and that gender itself should be irrelevant. Steeped in a tradition which sees women as made from men's ribs as a God-given 'helpmeet' for men, and thus their biological inferiors, and a theology which sees women as the cause of original sin with their moral and intellectual inferiority, he and his church are incapable of shaking off their traditional misogyny and can't even make a decent fist of hiding it.

The only way to do so would be to abandon all their basic theology and admit to the irrelevance of their church itself.

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