In an interview published in America Magazine today, Pope Francis ‘mansplained why women cannot be ordained as priests, but he emphasized the important role they can play in the life of the Church.
“Many women feel pain because they cannot be ordained priests. What would you say to a woman who is already serving in the life of the Church but who still feels called to be a priest?” asked Kerry Webber, executive editor of the monthly magazine published by the Jesuits of the United States.
Pope Francis explained by referring to two distinct principles: the Petrine and the Marian. “The Petrine principle is that of ministry,” he said. Since this is the principle that guides the Church, it means that women cannot ever be ordained. “But there is another principle that is still more important, about which we do not speak, that is the Marian principle, which is the principle of femininity (femineidad) in the Church, of the woman in the Church, where the Church sees a mirror of herself because she is a woman and a spouse.”
The Petrine Principle, or Theory as it is also called, refers to Christ’s bestowing of the “keys of the Kingdom” on Peter (the first pope, according to Roman Catholic tradition) and partly on Christ’s words: “And I tell you, you are Peter [Greek: Petros], and on this rock [Greek: petra] I will build my church.” It makes no mention of gender or indeed, of ordination, as the Catholic Church had not been founded yet in the time of Jesus and therefore fails to justify the banning of women to ordination.
Reiterating often-cited images of the Church as marriage and women as spouses, Pope Francis hoped to strengthen his argument by pointing out alternatives: “The way is not only [ordained] ministry. The Church is woman. The Church is a spouse. We have not developed a theology of women that reflects this,” Pope Francis said.
“A church with only the Petrine principle would be a church that one would think is reduced to its ministerial dimension, nothing else. But the Church is more than a ministry. It is the whole people of God. The Church is woman. The Church is a spouse. Therefore, the dignity of women is mirrored in this way,” he once again repeated.
“This is an abbreviated explanation, but I wanted to highlight the two theological principles: the Petrine principle and the Marian principle that make up the Church.”
Hoping to mollify anyone who has not yet found the metaphor of women being mere spouses to the Church as satisfactory, the Pope adds that if “the woman does not enter into the ministerial life [it] is not a deprivation. No. Your place is that which is much more important and which we have yet to develop, the catechesis about women in the way of the Marian principle”.
Pope Francis said that in addition to the Petrine and the Marian principles, there is still another function of the Body of Christ that is particularly suited to women: “There is a third way: the administrative way… which is not a theological thing, it is something of normal administration. And, in this aspect, I believe we have to give more space to women,” Pope Francis said.
The Holy Father then pointed to the women he has appointed, noting that women generally do a “better” job managing things.
He praised the women who work in “administration” by inadvertently recalling the long-established image of women as accomplished domestic organizers and managers: “Here in the Vatican, the places where we have put women are functioning better…When a woman enters politics or manages things, generally she does better. Many economists are women, and they are renewing the economy in a constructive way,” he said.
Finally, in a stunning reiteration of the stereotypes that have kept women relegated to the home and the office merely as nurturers or support for men, he stated that, “The woman is a mother and sees the mystery of the Church more clearly than we men. For this reason, the advice of a woman is very important, and the decision of a woman is better.” And for that reason, she is valued as an “administrator”.