In Daily Beast Screed, Vanity Fair Contributor Slams Pope Francis Over 'Closed Door' on Women Priests

You knew the warm fuzzies for Pope Francis couldn't last that long. While the media initially went gaga over Pope Francis, hoping beyond hope he was some liberal reformer who would open up the Catholic Church to all kinds of heterodoxy, the reality is slowly setting in. The first-ever Latin American pontiff is warm, genial, charismatic, and an excellent communicator with both the public and the press, but he's solidly conservative in doctrine, particularly the issue of biggest concern for the liberal media: sexual ethics.

The other day, it was TIME's Tim Padgett, blasting the pope over the Church's teaching on homosexuality. Today it's Vanity Fair contributing editor Janine di Giovanni, who penned an attack on Francis in a "world news" feature at the Daily Beast that was not tagged as commentary and headlined, "What About Women, Pope Francis?" Out of the gate, di Giovanni went after the bishop of Rome (emphasis mine):

Every time the Catholic Church takes one step forward, it seems to take one giant step back.

This week, after a heady, youth-driven swing through Brazil, Pope Francis, the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, made a major leap forward by giving a slight nod to gay priests. In a news conference aboard the papal plane, Francis said homosexual Catholics “shouldn’t be marginalized … If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?”

This was by no means an official go-ahead or a change in official doctrine, but at least it’s a crack in a door in a more or less closed institution.

Unfortunately, His Holiness’s following statements about women were rigid and clear. There would not be female priests, he decreed: “That door is closed.” It was the first time Francis has spoken about publicly on women in the priesthood, and it sent the Vatican right back into the dark ages again. He allowed that women have a special mission in the Church as "first witnesses" of Christ's resurrection. But as for becoming priests, forget it.

Of course, plenty of Protestant denominations have women clergy, most of them fairly liberal in theology, although a fair number of conservative evangelical denominations also have women pastors, like the Assemblies of God, the Church of the Nazarene, and countless non-denominational Pentecostal holiness churches. In religiously pluralistic America and indeed, in much of the developed world, it's possible for Christians to find a church which allows in theory if not in practice for women to hold clerical office.

But that, apparently, is not good enough. Di Giovanni is insistent on the Catholic Church changing its ways, apparently because Ms. di Giovanni believes the Catholic Church must change to meet her values and standards (emphasis mine):

True, religious institutions are the last bastion of sexism, but there is some movement elsewhere. Judaism has some female rabbis. Protestant denominations have begun ordaining women, which should put some pressure on the Church. In Britain, there are plans for the first women bishops to be ordained in the Anglican Church as soon as 2014. (This step is not without controversy—it has caused a deep rift between traditional Church of England members and reformers.)

According to the Telegraph, the idea of women joining the Anglican Church pushed many devoted worshipers back to Rome—a place they had not loyally followed since the 16th century. “A group of 70 disgruntled clergy met with a Catholic bishop on Saturday to discuss plans to defect to the Roman Catholic Church and hundreds are said to be poised for an exodus to Rome.”

It’s hard for the Catholic Church to accept change. When the mass was no longer said in Latin, loyalists went into mourning for years. But the decision to exclude women from the higher echelons sends a fundamental message of injustice. This goes directly against the basic doctrines of the Catholic Church, the teachings of Jesus Christ (which were all about justice and fairness) and the gospels.

After all, are women any less pious than men? Was St. Therese any less holy than St. Peter? If the pope is not judging gay priests, than why such rigid judgment based on gender?

Nothing makes sense in the Catholic Church, and I say this as a veteran of 16 years of Catholic schooling.

Even as a small child, I wondered why the Dominican nuns who educated me were subservient to the Jesuit priests who educated my brothers. Why did the priests wear the cool robes, read the gospel, and get to drink wine? my curious 8-year-old self once asked a nun.

There was no answer. I got whacked as a result.

Di Giovanni's photo via TED.comOddly enough, di Giovanni (pictured at right, image via left the Eastern Orthodox unscathed from her criticism, and that ecclesiastical tradition is just as if not more so averse to "change" as the Roman church. Eastern Orthodox churches likewise do not ordain women, nor is there any strong likelihood they will in the future.

But this isn't so much about some abstract principle of women's equality. No, this is about di Giovanni requesting, no, demanding that the Catholic Church conform to her image. Unfortunately for her, the Church has its own mission. From

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 738:

Thus the Church's mission is not an addition to that of Christ and the Holy Spirit, but is its sacrament: in her whole being and in all her members, the Church is sent to announce, bear witness, make present, and spread the mystery of the communion of the Holy Trinity...

Unfortunately for Ms. di Giovanni, that trinity is not abortion, gay marriage, and women priests.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is a writer living in New Carrollton, Md.