Pope Francis: Nuns Still Need to Shush About Feminism, Gay Rights

[Content note: misogyny, homophobia, anti-choice]

Welp, looks like all that Popey-Changey stuff has yielded us more of the same:

The Vatican said in a statement Monday that Francis had reaffirmed the doctrinal evaluation and criticism of U.S. nuns made last year by the Holy See under his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. The assessment accused the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an organization that represents most U.S. female Catholic orders, of promoting "radical feminist themes" and ignoring the Vatican's hard line on same-sex marriage and abortion.

...Kenneth Briggs, the author of a book about the Vatican's clash with U.S. nuns, said Francis' backing of the Holy See's unyielding line was "a major blow" to prospects for more dialogue. "It seems like the Vatican has put a more appealing salesman in charge of the same old product," Briggs said.

That's right ladies! It's New Coke Pope! Shiny new package, same old shit!

I really don't know what to say about this. Father James Martin, a Jesuit supporter of the nuns, is quoted in the article as being hopeful that the nuns will receive "a sympathetic hearing" from Francis, because, as a Jesuit, he's a member of a religious order himself. Perhaps.

But is it really too much for a member of an order with the highest intellectual reputation to not only be sympathetic, but to intellectually engage with the questions raised by feminism? That he could, instead of adding it to the list of the nun's sins, see that feminism and feminist theory play an important role in analyzing social justice concerns? That in aiding the poor and needy, an understanding of the systemic ways gender-based oppression plays into poverty and abuse is helpful?

And yeah, I know: serious engagement with feminist theory is going to raise the problem of truly respecting women when they have been doctrinally forbidden the highest leadership roles (including the highest roles in defining and teaching doctrine) all of which require ordination. And that's going to be uncomfortable, especially in light of the work that nuns do for the Church. But if any Catholic Pope has the intellectual courage to explore that, I'd think it would be a Jesuit.

As someone who is the product of a Catholic education, it saddens me to see Church leadership increasingly turn its collective back on intellectualism and especially on the insights of the social sciences. It's as if the Curiae have their fingers stuck in their ears, eyes shut, yelling "I CAN'T HEAR YOU LALALALALALAAAAAAAAA!" with each new piece of evidence. No, homosexuality is not the cause of pedophilia. Reproductive rights can be key to women's economic and physical well-being. Families can take on many different forms and still raise perfectly happy children. Ad infinitum.

This isn't the Catholic intellectual tradition in which I was schooled, in the post-Vatican II window where reason and experience shone new light on doctrine, tradition, and faith. Unfortunately it's a window that, for now, Francis is keeping firmly shut.

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