Sister Simone Campbell hopes so:
I must confess that I am a little nervous about what will happen. Currently there are no women in significant decisionmaking positions in the Vatican. There are few in dioceses around the world. Our church has lagged in the acknowledgment of the role of women in shaping faith traditions and as leaders of prayer. In that institutional lag, many of us in religious life and our nonvowed sisters have found ways of supporting each other. The fact is that women are leading by example and witness to the Gospel in their lives and not within the formalized power structure, and that power structure has lost out from not having significant contributions of women. It is difficult for me to believe that women in significant leadership roles would have tolerated the sexual-abuse cover-up.
The question becomes, Will Pope Francis follow through by actually including women in the decision-making as he moves ahead with reforms?
Of course I devoutly hope so, if Francis’s view of the “genius of women” reflects the actions of Jesus who, radically for his time, treated women as equals, outrageously consorted with women such as Mary Magdalen, former prostitute, sided with an adulteress over an all-male stoning squad, and even stayed overnight as a single man with his dear friends, Mary and Martha.
Women, remember, were the most loyal of all his followers. Women, not men, were at the foot of the Cross, as he died. The men were too afraid or too cowardly to be there. Women, not men, were the first to witness the resurrection. One woman, his mother, represents the apex of human acceptance of the divine in Catholic theology. No man comes close to her example.
It therefore pains me deeply that this half of humanity is still treated as some kind of second-class group in the church of Jesus. For me, the ban on female priests is simply absurd, as well as antithetical to the message of the Gospels.
The Church will not turn quickly – and it shouldn’t. But one of the great errors of the Ratzinger-Wojtila era was to insist that such matters cannot even be discussed in Catholic universities, seminaries and churches. What Francis should do first of all is allow that conversation to proceed, to explore explicit ways to include the “genius of women” in the Church that do not consign them to mere adjuncts. The Church will never treat men and women as identical – because they are not. But there must be a way to treat men and women as fundamentally equal in the eyes of God. Because
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Painting: Detail of Mary Magdalen kissing the feet of the crucified Jesus, Italian, early 14th century. Via Wiki.)