It’s not exactly a new idea, but few people have said it better.
Discussing the pontiff’s plans for an October synod so bishops can review questions of family life in Catholic doctrine, former Irish president Mary McAleese (below) had some very direct remarks; she said it was “completely bonkers” as well as “profoundly wrong and skewed.” But if you ask me, the money quote is this:
How many of the men who will gather to advise you as pope on the family have ever changed a baby’s nappy? I regard that as a very, very serious question.
It’s a particularly sharp and elegant way to make the point that, of all the people the Pope intends to ask about family life as it’s experienced by faithful Catholics everywhere, he’s chosen to gather only the opinions of people who have no experience of adult family life, parenthood, or marital relationships.
In fact, they are people who have deliberately selected a life without those experiences, which might indicate a significantly different perspective on family life than you’d find in your average lay Catholic.
Oh, and there is the fact that only men are allowed to become bishops… which means that these issues, so central to the lives of Catholic women, will be decided entirely in the absence of a female perspective.
McAleese made these comments during an interview at University College Dublin, where the Catholic hierarchy and its relationship to its rank-and-file was just one of many topics covered. Although McAleese currently studies canon law in Rome, she was visiting Dublin to receive the university’s highest honor, the Ulysses Medal. She says she hopes the planned synod will be “a process of real introspection and debate” but her expectations are not particularly high.
The synod is often described as focusing on the question of whether divorced-and-remarried Catholics — or, as the Church would call them, adulterers — are allowed to receive Communion. (Yes, this is really still a question.) But bishops remind Vatican-watchers that the synod is aimed at considering all kinds of issues related to Catholic marriage and family life across the world, including legalized polygamy in African nations, forced marriage in some eastern cultures, premarital cohabitation, same-sex marriage, and that familiar bugaboo, contraception.
Although Pope Francis is widely heralded as a pope for change, McAleese believes that “the odds of change are very poor” — probably not a controversial point of view among Friendly Atheist readers.
“You don’t need a new theology of women, you just need to end the old boys club,” she said.
Not that a new theology of women would hurt.