Cradle Catholic Chris Matthews spent the first segment of his September 23 Hardball program effusively praising Pope Francis, particularly for raising immigration and climate change in his brief remarks at a welcome ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House. But in a later segment, Matthews and guests Joan Walsh and Sister Simone Campbell lamented how even the liberal-leaning Francis is closed to the idea of women serving as priests in the Catholic Church.
At one point, Matthews offered up his theory for why the opposition was so long-standing, and it boiled down to, essentially an argument that if only Catholic priests were married men, their wives would be able to cajole them into allowing women as priests.
Here's Matthews's reasoning and Walsh's response, which encourages his rather foolish theory (emphases mine):
September 23, 2015
7:22 p.m. Eastern
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Joan, here's the question. In the United States we were a little slow. We had emancipation back in the 1860s after the war, during the war, then we had, Civil War, of course and then of course we had the 15th Amendment, 13th, 14th, 15th, to basically, at least legally, constitutionally bring black freedom, and the right to vote and all, and then women finally got it after World War I, because of suffrage, right?
But why did that work and this isn't working? Is it becau-- I will be very personal here, could it be that men have to be encouraged to open up the door to equality by women and wives probably played a big role and since these guys don't have wives, nobody's pushing them to do the -- I'm sorry, Sister -- but, do the obvious which is women can do almost everything a man can do. I'm not getting into who's physical, who can play tennis better. But on the intellectual and spiritual stuff. Please tell me the big difference. There isn't any.
JOAN WALSH: They are so --
MATTHEWS: There's total equality. And why can't the women have a role that men play, and certainly women are better at dealing better with people than men.
WALSH: Right. We definitely are, Sister Simone and I, right.
MATTHEWS: And the pastoral role. They're definitely better, more sympathetic, more understanding and you get along with each other better, better consensus builders. Men want to fight to see who the boss is.
WALSH: We do, we do get along better. I think that's a lot of it, Chris. I think they are so insulated from women. They do have mothers, they do have sisters and yet they've resisted these calls. I was so struck today. I had the honor to walk in with a group of nuns from the bus. And I was on the South Lawn with a lot of nuns, that was beautiful. But I had the same reaction Sister Simone did when I saw that all male hierarchy.
MATTHEWS: It's so peripheral. The nuns are in the periphery.
OK, first of all, isn't it rather, I don't know, sexist, to insist that women are naturally better at the sort of pastoral ministry work that priests deal with?
What's more, not all nuns nor all Catholic lay women think the priesthood should or indeed can be open to men. A resourceful producer could have easily found a conservative Catholic woman like say, Jennifer Fulwiler, to make that point on the air. To act as though Catholic women by and large are monolithically in favor of female priests is an act of presumption, which, yes, also smacks of sexism.
But hey, I suppose sexism in the service of arguing for the fundamental alteration of a Christian institution is allowable on the air at MSNBC.
At the end of the segment, Matthews thanked his guests and seemed to urge Sister Simone on to a more militant tack on the issue of women's ordination (emphasis mine):
I think he should open it at least to married couples. That could start the beginning of it. Not just former Episcopalian priests. You know, the people that have joined because we could use some nice families running the church. Anyway, Sister Simone Campbell. You're very nice and very thoughtful and also very patient. Coming up-- Don't be too patient.
Coming up, Pope Francis heads to Capitol Hill tomorrow...