With thick, black smoke pouring out of the chimney of the Sistine Chapel indicating that the College of Cardinals had not elected a new pope on their first ballot, Fox News Channel's Shep Smith took to the air at 3:15 p.m. EDT to grill Catholic priest and Fox News contributor Fr. Jonathan Morris on the Catholic Church being out of touch with the modern world, particularly regarding how women cannot serve as priests.
While Morris defended Catholic orthodoxy and noted that there are some things -- such as the all-male priesthood -- which not even a pope could change, Smith objected that those notions grounded in 2,000-year-old Scripture were just, well, antiquated and irrelevant and that the Church should adapt to the ethos of the age (h/t @tomferrari on Twitter):
Father JONATHAN MORRIS: ...There's a disconnect too between what a lot of people are living and what the Bible teaches. And so, the way the Vatican, and the way the cardinals will be looking at this would be, how can we be faithful to what we believe we've been given by God -- that is the teachings of the Bible and the tradition that's been passed on -- while at the same time reaching out and presenting it in a way that's both joyful and convincing. And that's tough. And so you have to figure out, okay, what is it that we can change, and what is it that is not ours to change?
SHEPARD SMITH: Maybe a question would be, why is it that the thinking that half the population should be excluded as leadership, how can you be relevant and a figure of authority and one to whom we should pay attention when you exclude half the population when you don't allow women to be a part of things? I mean, just begin there.
SMITH: Why can't a woman be cardinal?
MORRIS: So, it doesn't necessarily mean-- If you understand priesthood, or bishop, the question of authority, well then, women should be able to do that. But the way Jesus set it up, even with his first disciples, was he had women doing all sorts of things that went against all sorts of social habits or norms. And yet he chose 12 men to pass on a spiritual paternity.
And the fact that, when we see these pictures of all men leading the Vatican, I think personally there should be more women involved here in the Vatican. I look at it like, would the sex abuse crisis, have happened to the degree that it has happened, and a coverup, if there were more women involved in serious positions of leadership within the church? I don't think it would have happened in the same way. I think you have a point.
That doesn't mean that the church can say, we are going to change what Jesus did and say that women should be priests. Priest doesn't mean necessary--
SMITH: But that was 2,000 years ago. Women didn't get to do anything 2,000 years ago. But the church doesn't evolve with society? In a time when, we don't even have to go back that far until certain races were three-fifths and women didn't get to do anything. The world has changed, and everyone now understands that women are as capable of doing anything as men are. But not within the church? There's a disconnect that --
MORRIS: I think a lot of women could give a much better homily than I could.
MORRIS: Right? Absolutely.
SMITH: I don't think that sex really decides how good your homily can be. Why does the church think it does?
MORRIS: It doesn't. It doesn't. It's a theological issue of what is the priesthood?.... Men and women are different and they have different roles. And the Church is saying, the priesthood in particular, it's about spiritual paternity. Jesus set it up that way and we can't change it. But, should women be more involved in leadership in the church? You better believe it! I would say so, and I hope they're saying that in there [the papal conclave] too.