The Washington Post ran an op-ed on April 13 on Pope Francis’s so-called “feminism.” Interestingly, the blog was written by a man, not my first-choice gender to discuss feminism. And the man in question, Christopher Hale, cited Hillary Clinton’s remark that a woman could both be “pro-life” and feminist as proof that the pope’s “pro-life” positions should not disqualify him.
Hale heads up what I consider a “faux progressive” Democratic-leaning Catholic group, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. Shortly after the dissemination of what would soon become a widely discredited video purporting to show a Planned Parenthood official discussing the sale of fetal tissue, Hale was quick to denounce Planned Parenthood’s “crude” commerce in “baby parts.”
I’m not sure how many members the group has, but it’s certainly given Hale a large platform to claim to speak for Catholics.
I also didn’t realize that Hillary Clinton got to define feminism, or to decide who qualifies. I agree that to be pro-life personally certainly does not disqualify one as a feminist. However, it is difficult to make that case if “pro-life” means that you are okay with government intervening in the most personal decision a woman is forced to make – whether to continue a pregnancy or not.
Nevertheless, Hale’s op-ed makes the claim that Pope Francis may indeed be a feminist.
His evidence? The fact that in his April 8 “apostolic exhortation” on the church and the family, the Pope had some nice things to say about women.
The pope did wax rather eloquent when he discussed the equality of the sexes, and spoke out against the oppression of women. But his praise of feminism was conditional. It was okay for women to excel as long as they never forgot that their primary role was motherhood.
I’m sorry, as a woman, I find that very limiting. I am a mother, and value motherhood. But I have never felt that motherhood defined me. Other women may feel differently, and that is their choice. I just don’t think a 78-year-old Catholic prelate has the right to tell me that feminism is okay, as long as it doesn’t “negate motherhood.”
Of course, there are other, much larger, factors that disqualify the pope as a feminist. He’s willing to deny ordination to women based on the flimsiest of evidence: that since only males were present at the Last Supper, Christ must have intended that only males can be priests. As a female theologian remarked to me, given that logic, only Jewish men should be ordained, since only Jewish men were present at the Last Supper.
The pope talks a good game, but he has done very little to expand the role of women in the church. He’s done nothing to recognize the reproductive rights of women. He is willing to let women in the developing world risk exposure to AIDs through sex without condoms, even when their spouses are unfaithful and potential carriers of the disease. He heads up a church that has been “hell-bent” on supporting laws that ban abortion and would punish Catholic healthcare providers if they permit a fetus to die to save the life of the mother.
So, no. I don’t think Pope Francis is a feminist. I think he is far, far more tolerant and wise than the last two popes. I think his tone and rhetoric are refreshing. But women in the church deserve far more than he has yet to deliver.
This post originally appeared on Daily Kos