I stalwartly refuse to make judgments on the specifics of Pope Francis’ interview in America Magazine. There are hundreds (literally) of commentaries on every side of every fence putting words in his mouth and authoritatively telling us what he meant by this sentence or that nuance or even pitting one pope against another. So there is nothing left to say except God Bless that Holy Father of ours. I would encourage you to read the actual interview in its entirety, if you haven’t already. Set aside several minutes of quiet and soak in the words and the subtleties. Take his thoughts and words to prayer – because at some points his words are hard to take. He’s pastoral, loving, discerning, convicting and yet encouraging. He shares his thoughts, allowing us all, Catholic or not, into the heart and mind of a pope. I perked up when I read this portion:
"And what about the role of women in the church? The pope has made reference to this issue on several occasions. He took up the matter during the return trip from Rio de Janeiro, claiming that the church still lacks a profound theology of women. I ask: “What should be the role of women in the church? How do we make their role more visible today?” He answers: “I am wary of a solution that can be reduced to a kind of ‘female machismo,’ because a woman has a different make-up than a man. But what I hear about the role of women is often inspired by an ideology of machismo. Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed. The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity. We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the church. The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. The challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places where the authority of the church is exercised for various areas of the church.”I too am wary of the ‘female machismo’ as he puts it and I look forward with great interest and eagerness to the ‘profound theology of the woman’ that he speaks of working to develop. I often think our society “thinks small” – ie. advocating for women to take on specific clerical roles – but reading this makes me think that perhaps there is a whole horizon of roles and functions for women of which nobody’s even dreamed.
Alexandre Havard, the founder of the Havard Virtuous Leadership Institute, said the exceptional leader looks for talents everywhere and puts them to work in the proper places thereby bringing out the best in those with whom (s)he comes in contact. With this view, achieving excellence is about bringing excellence out in others. Isn't this what Pope Francis is doing in encouraging a profound theology of woman? What is the feminine genius? Gifts? Talents? Where do we fit? How can our contribution be best utilized? This is a very exciting time for the Church not because I see the Ship taking off in a different direction inconsistent with what we know of the Church, but rather that the Ship, staying the course, is uncovering new territories that perhaps we didn't know existed. Hold on ladies, this is going to get interesting.