A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


Five (More) Lessons from Francis

While all of the publicity has gone to Francis’ gentle and entirely helpful remarks about homosexuality in the clergy, which MSW nails in a few sentences today, a full read of John Allen’s excellent summary of his comments reveals some other gems worthy of note:

1. “John XXIII was the figure of a country priest who loves all of his faithful and knows how to take care of them. He was a great bishop, and also a great nuncio. When he was in Turkey, he was responsible for so many false baptisms in order to save Jews ... he was courageous.” Here we get a stunning reminder of what the pope might mean by “creating a mess” in the Church. I am guessing sacramental theologians do not have an account of the theology behind “false baptisms,” and that the use of the Church’s primary sacrament as a social screen to protect the lives of the vulnerable would make some nervous (to say the least). But here we see John XXIII’s saintliness displayed in his willingness to lie and to use the Church’s sacraments as tools of deception!

2. “I'll tell you something about the Charismatic Movement ... at the end of the '70s and in the '80s, I wasn't a big fan. I used to say they confused the holy liturgy with a school of samba. I was converted when I got to know them better and saw the good they do. In this moment of the life of the church, the movements are necessary.” Two insights packed into the same quote. First, notice the pope’s willingness to change his mind by becoming acquainted with practices that at first he sees as questionable. This is not a blithe acceptance of everything, but rather a humility that refuses to stop at initial impressions. Second, it suggests a liturgical flexibility that does not dismiss the importance of “reverence” and holiness and tradition, but rather refuses to make them ultimate. There are limits to liturgical flexibility (or else we would cease to be Catholic), but they have significant elasticity, and one should look at the fruits.

3. “There are saints in the Roman Curia, among the cardinals, priests, religious, sisters and laity. They work hard, and also do things that are often hidden. I know some who concern themselves with feeding the poor or who give up their free time to work in a parish. As always, the ones who aren't saints make the most noise ... a single tree falling makes a sound, but a whole forest growing doesn't.” I'm totally stealing that tree/forest image. It is very hard in a media-saturated culture where we all have the ability to toot (tweet? blog?) our own horn to go about growing silently and slowly like a tree. Of course, here is Francis giving a big press conference! But the point he is making here is plainly one about the importance of persistent, daily practice of the works of mercy “in secret.” It is very easy to imagine that one is doing “important work,” and so cannot be bother by the quiet, little acts. Or one is not quiet about them. The good ones work hard and are diligent in the works of mercy.

4. “I could be close to the people, greet them, embrace them, without armored cars. During the entire time, there wasn't a single incident. I realize there's always a risk of a crazy person, but having a bishop behind bulletproof glass is crazy, too. Between the two, I prefer the first kind of craziness.” Our preoccupation with luxury goods is being challenged by Francis, but probably even more piercing is his challenge to our excessive preoccupation with personal security, the drive behind our society’s flight to gated communities, SUV’s, and the like. Surveys and experiments constantly show that people are much less vulnerable to crime and accident than they imagine. It is not that we should not use common sense. Putting a seat belt on, paying attention to your surroundings, these makes sense. But common sense means that we don’t have such a high anxiety about security (guns? Zimmerman?) that we let these anxieties result in bad, manifestly un-Christian choices. Almost always, these choices are counterwitnesses to the social virtue of solidarity. We become crazy by trying to protect ourselves against craziness. Frankly, one of the greatest problems with confronting endemic poverty in our country is our construction of so many barriers against encountering it, on the off-chance that we will be hurt. If our cities were more successfully mixed-income, they not only would be solvent, but they would likely be a lot safer and better educated, too.

5. “I love Benedict XVI. He's a humble man of God and a man of prayer. When he resigned, it was a great example. … [John Paul II] was great. Putting both together [John XXIII and John Paul II] is a message to the church, that both were extremely good.” And so perhaps everyone rightly swooning over Francis might follow his example and cease villainizing his predecessors! Please!

About the Author

David Cloutier is associate professor of theology at Mount St. Mary’s University and editor of He is the author of The Vice of Luxury (2015), Walking God's Earth: The Environment and Christian Ethics (2014), and Love, Reason, and God's Story: An Introduction to Catholic Sexual Ethics (2008). In fall 2016, he is starting a position at the Catholic University of America.



Commenting Guidelines

  • All

It is very easy to imagine that one is doing “important work,” and so cannot be bother by the quiet, little acts. 

I once heard a homilist suggest that this was the motivation of the priest in the Good Samaritan parable: he was on his way to Jerusalem to serve his rotation, a task too important to be delayed by caring for his brother.

 Frankly, one of the greatest problems with confronting endemic poverty in our country is our construction of so many barriers against encountering it, on the off-chance that we will be hurt. If our cities were more successfully mixed-income, they not only would be solvent, but they would likely be a lot safer and better educated, too.

Yep, one of my pet peeves.  My belief is that the people in my local community would be much more generous to those in need if they were more likely to encounter them in their everyday life.



Pope John Paul II was very supportive of the charismatic revewal in the early 80s.  Then Cardinal Ratzinger also endorsed it in The Ratzinger Report.

David, thanks for this and glad to see you blogging here.

Pope Francis said a lot of remarkable things, especially in that in-flight press conference, each of which could be a great post.

One that really struck me was his call for a "deep theology of women" which he said the church lacks at this point.

Fascinating. True? What is needed? Where could it lead? Lots of questions there.

Good example of popes or the church capitalizing on a movement and destroying it. JP II and Ratzinger destroyed the charismatice movement to where it is a shell of what it was; an exuberant, joyous movement celebrating the Spirit of God. It was not long before Chanceries turned charismatic movements into anti-abortion and political forays. 

The Pentecostalists are so very successful in much of Latin America because they have understood that the charismatic movement has a deep-seated emotional appeal for millions of human beings throughout the world.  People flock to their services because they are lively, joyful and capture the imaginations and emotions of their adherents.

I recently read a statement by some Latin American priest/theologian/whatever .... I can't find the source .... in which he urged the RCC to not try to replicate the attractiveness of Pentesoctal services .... because that would only make it easier for Catholics to become Pentecostals.

If that is a prevailing attitude south of the border, then the body drain is to be expected even more.

While all of the publicity has gone to Francis’ gentle and entirely helpful remarks about homosexuality in the clergy . . . . 

Entirely helpful to whom? People with "deep seated homosexual tendencies" were not purged from the priesthood, but they are no longer admitted. If you say, "Who am I to judge?" regarding the homosexual priests who were grandfathered in, why can't you say, "Who am I to judge?" regarding candidates for the priesthood? 

It would be nice not to have to be cynical, but the Catechism says, "They [homosexual persons] must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided." It sounds great, but it means almost nothing, since it doesn't apply to the priesthood, teaching jobs, coaching jobs, the military, housing, or any other area where "just discrimination" is approved by the Church. 


David N - do you think, though, that those strictures are being observed at the grassroots, in real life?  In my little corner of the world, I don't see any evidence of it.  I see the pope's words here as a sort of speaking from the grassroots, where he spent most of his pastoral life.  The goodness that could come from it is that, inasmuch as it is the Bishop of Rome who said this, it might start to nudge magisterial teaching, or at least magisterial permissiveness, more in line with what actually happens in the real world.

I'm encouraged by Pope Francis' statement about homosexuals.  No, it doesn't differ from the Catechism, but the tone is worlds different from that of Pope Benedict's statements.  He seemed to  fear gay men as if they're dragons or something.  If Francis can change some hearts he might then change some minds.

The Catechism does not define Jesus the same way Augustine, nor Athanasius do. Francis is doing everything he can in a Vatican with a history of empire and dogma. One does not easily  get rid of a structure that deals in papal legates and concordats rather than the gospel. 

Uh-oh.  Looks like Pope Francis is really starting to move.  He has ordered a Franciscan order to celebrate Mass only in the new form except when they have gotten explicit permission to use the old, "extraordinary form".  Sandro Magister says that "For the first time Francis contradicts Benedict".  That will really scare some people.

The only one of these news stories that has me a bit apprehensive is the retention of Apb. Ricca.  Francis says he has investigated Magister's accusations against Ricca, but "found nothing".  At this point it looks like either Magister or Francis is being duped, and I suspect its' the latter.  It's one thing to say that a sinner should be forgiven, but it's another thing to deny evidence of the sin.


David Gibson, I  for one find it hard to look forward to a deep theology of women from Francis based on what he has said about the subject so far.  Consider his notion that the women of Argentina are glorious, based on their response to a 19th-century war which resulted in there being eight women to every one man in the country, and their subsequent "glorious" decision  to have so many children that they repaired the gap,saved the national culture. and produced hordes of Catholics.  He calls Mary the greatest of the Apostles but doesn't think any other woman worthy to follow in her footsteps.   He says women are " important," but  the church must continue to be led by Bishops, and Cardinals, and Popes. who- according to him -- must be male. ( How would he feel if men were primarily lauded for their breeding ability and excluded solely by their gender from  de facto leadership in the Church? ) Women are probably more than half the human race, but treating them as second-class Christians dehumanizes and marginalizes them, something we have been told Francis deplores. He talks a good deal about the importance of more openness, more tenderness, more mercy in the Church. For the Church to put aside sentimental idealization of women on the one hand--and sexist prejudice on the other--would be a good first step toward that goal.

Susan --

One good sign:  Francis admitted that he was wrong about the charismatics and that he has changed.  Maybe if he looks into a theology of women he'll change about us too.  It will be interesting to see if he pursues the subject and whether or not he'll invite a great deal of input from women theologians.

Rather than the women of Argentina accepting polygamy (if that's what happened) and bearing lots of kids, the women mystics of history presented by Benedict made a better show of women's potential. I wish there had been a wrap-up session putting it all together.

I must say that I am content to wait for women to be better recognized. We do not have power, but (in our countries at least) we can live, think, work, get educated, develop: I don't see the injustice as being of the kind that cries out to heaven. If pope Francis provides an opening, I'll eagerly watch what happens (while fearing that it's like opening a hole in a dike: the pent-up pressure that has built up and is still building behind it might cause some damage). But my need for recognition is not that urgent. I know that women are fully human; I know that anything a man can do aside from the sexual act, there are women who can do it too; I trust that it is obvious to more and more people; and I hope that a time will come when the evidence will be so overwhelming, even in the remotest corners of the church, that change will  happen as a matter of course, with an ease that will make people scratch their head and wonder: "why didn't we make that change much earlier?"

In the meantime, women in church structure are powerless,  often unheard and invisible, and that is at least one way in which we are like the poor of the world. It's unjust, of course, but I don't see any reason for bitterness. When one venue is closed to us because we are women, we can just look for other venues. When someone dismisses us because we are women, we can shake the dust off our sandals and move on: we're not dismissing ourselves, because we know who we are, and our sense of our own dignity is not affected in the least by what they might think.


A "theology of women" ... really?  Is there also a "theology of men"?  Oh wait - men are people.  How depressing  :(

Susan, thank you for stating so clearly what so many women think and feel.  We are dehumanized in the church - second class beings, primarily suited for motherhood (still).  Men are not defined exclusively or mostly by their ability to father children. How can they continue to justify the man-made limits on women?

Crystal - my thoughts exactly when I heard that on the news on the car radio.  I like Francis so far, for the most part, and I'm quite sure he doesn't realize how terribly condescending that remark is, given the culture he grew up in especially. There is also the usual male cleric preference for variations on the "women's place is in the home." which he has too often expressed already. And he suggests that maybe the men in charge might crack the door for more opportunities for women to serve the church (and its male bosses) in administration.

But not as priests - which, the way the church is run now, means that there is no feminine understanding operating in the process of development of dogma and doctrine.  And because there is not, there is real harm done to real human beings as a direct result of the teaching magisterium being formed exclusively by the (mostly celibate) masculine mind. There is nothing wrong with incorporating male understanding and insights. But, operating alone without the balance of feminine understanding, it sometimes produces partial and underdeveloped  - and sometimes distorted - teachings. 

Genesis affirms that God is male and female. To have a healthy (wholistic) understanding and a healthy church that fully reflects God's image, both male and female are needed - equally. Not male bosses and female servants - even if the female is at the level of Chancellor as in Washington DC, she has no input into the development of doctrine. And giving women "leadership" roles in administration will do nothing to correct the too-male course that the church has taken for 2000 years. The men at the top have failed to learn from Jesus's own teachings - taught mostly by example.

The theology of the church needs more than a "theology of (about) women" - it needs theology OF (by) women - that incorporates feminine understanding.  Right now women teach theology at the highest levels - in seminaries and in universities. BUT, unless the theology they teach is acceptable to MEN, they risk their jobs, they risk silencing.  Women may teach theology - but they may only teach theology that is approved by men.

Ann:  Could you explain what you mean by "feminine understanding" and by "male understanding"?  Do you mean something more than insights gained, respectively, by women and by men? You know, of course, that all women do not reach the same understanding, nor do all men, so your use of the singular can't be taken to forget this. When one evaluates the insights of a Wittgenstein or an Anscombe, must one take into account that one is male and the other female?  So I'm genuinely puzzled by what you mean by the phrases. 

Theology of women: People part of a marginalized group should be nervous when they're told that they're 'special" and that, because they're special, there will  be special rules, special laws (or in this  case, a special theology) applied to them.  The special rules don't usually work to their benefit.  I would prefer tto be subject to the same rules, laws and theology that the powerful are.

But having said that, it's to this pope's credit that he's appointed laywomen to two of these important Vatican committees he's set up. it's more than any of them have done before. 



Agree that the emphasis should not be on a thelogy of women but on certain aspects of ecclesiology and specfically, the theology of sacramental priesthood.

Is it really the case that all governance needs to be done by sacramental priests. I see no reason why a woman could not, for example, head up Vatican congregations (e.g CDF, etc.). How is the operation of these functions connected to sacramental priesthood. I am not seeing it.

I just think that the Holy Father's off-the-cuff remark about the need for a more developed theology of women was a bit of a gaffe.  It seems to sort of dismiss (or perhaps to illustrate a lack of awareness of)  the work that has already been underway in feminist theology for many years.  



"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Jesus Christ." That sounds like the theology of Christians is the theology of women.

Now, and on the other hand, is it really? If not, why not? Depending on how you answer those questions, you might see Pope Francis gingerly sneaking up on a return to the insight of St. Paul while the obstacles are otherwise preoccupied. I don't know. Just hoping.

Could you explain what you mean by "feminine understanding" and by "male understanding"?

Fr. Komonchak, 

It seems to me the Catholic Church places great emphasis on the alleged differences between men and woman and also no the notion of the complementarity of the sexes. This makes a great deal of sense in terms of the reproductive roles of men and women, but it seems to extend much farther than that. I could be wrong, but I don't think the Church teaches that only men can be priests because only men can father children. The ability to father children would seem to be irrelevant where celibacy is required.

One of the arguments against same-sex marriage is that two males and two females cannot form a complementary relationship. This is obviously true in terms of biological reproduction, but beyond that, I don't understand how it can be said to be true unless the complementarity of the sexes is interpreted in a very strong sense—all women possess something (other than primary sex characteristics) which no man can possess, and all men posses something that no woman can possess. I personally don't believe that this is true, and I cannot imagine what such gender-specific traits would be. Suppose it were actually the case that women tend to be more "nurturing" than men. That would be a matter of statistics, and it would not be the case that selecting a man at random and a woman at random, the woman would be more "nurturing" than the man. 

If I am not way off base here, why would there be an objection to the idea that women had something to contribute to theology that men did not? I can, of course, see problems with that idea. For example, if women have some special insight into theological matters that men do not, would a male theologian be able to comprehend, with his male intellect, certain insights of women theologians? Would there be three branches of theology—male theology, female theology, and "co-ed" theology? It seems ridiculous, but I wonder if something like it doesn't necessarily (or at least plausibly) follow from a strong view of the complementarity of the sexes. 


I have seen feminists dismiss views of "the complementarity of the sexes" as simply code-words for keeping women in their traditional roles. But is there a feminist notion of complementarity that enables one to speak of "feminine" understanding as distinct from (if not opposed to) "male" understanding? 

The goodness that could come from it is that, inasmuch as it is the Bishop of Rome who said this, it might start to nudge magisterial teaching, or at least magisterial permissiveness, more in line with what actually happens in the real world.


I am skeptical. Two of the most "senasational" remarks by Pope Francis—the fairly recent one on atheists and this one about homosexuals—have excited the media and "liberal" Catholics. But they have been quickly explained away by conservatives, and rather convincingly, in my opinion. When a contributor to the extraordinarily conservative <i>First Things</i> like Matthew Schmitz can hail the pope's remarks in a post titled Pope Francis Makes Welcome Distinction on Gay Priests, I think it is fair to conclude that the remark was largely a matter of style rather than substance. If the people "on the ground" find enough wiggle room to evade the rather clear-cut ban on ordination of homosexual men committed the teachings of the Church that homosexuality " is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil" and that "the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder," that may be a good thing or a bad thing. But I certainly don't think Pope Francis can be said to have <i>endorsed</i> ignoring the official Vatican rules.  And Pope Francis is on record as opposing legal same-sex marriage adoption by same sex couples, saying same-sex marriage is the work of the devil and that gay adoptionis a form of discrimination against children. So it seems to me that what he has said is that as long as gay people adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church, he doesn't judge them. But the Church does judge them to be ineligible for the priesthood, teaching and coaching jobs, military service, and any legal protection against discrimination. 

It is no doubt an advance to distinguish between a homosexual orientation and homosexual behavior, but the Church does itself discriminatate on the basis of orientation along. But of course it discriminates "justly." 


Interesting question, Joseph.  (And interesting that you don't know the answer.)

Interesting post, Anne.  (Do any Catholic seminaries offer/require courses in feminist theology/theory, or are those found only in Protestant and Jewish settings?  Rosemary Radford Ruether, e.g., teaches/taught at non-Catholic universities. )

Tom, I think the claim of Paul about neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, etc., is another one of those notions (like call no man father) that is honored in the breach, not in the observance.

George, Garry Wills's book Why Priests makes it clear that the whole notion is A Failed Tradition.  Maybe that's why "the theology of sacramental priesthood" is not something the ruling masculinists want to examine.

It seems to me the Catholic Church places great emphasis on the alleged differences between men and woman and also no the notion of the complementarity of the sexes. This makes a great deal of sense in terms of the reproductive roles of men and women, but it seems to extend much farther than that. I could be wrong, but I don't think the Church teaches that only men can be priests because only men can father children. The ability to father children would seem to be irrelevant where celibacy is required.

David, the 2005 document that forbade admitting to seminaries those with 'deep-seated homosexual tendencies' had a couple of brief sentences that recapped a sacramental explanation of why priests must be male:

According to the constant Tradition of the Church, only a baptized person of the male sex[4] validly receives sacred Ordination. By means of the Sacrament of Orders, the Holy Spirit configures the candidate to Jesus Christ in a new and specific way:  the priest, in fact, sacramentally represents Christ, the head, shepherd and spouse of the Church[5].

The latter footnote (no. 5) includes this further explanation:

With regard to the priest's configuration to Christ, Bridegroom of the Church, Pastores Dabo Vobis states that "The priest is called to be the living image of Jesus Christ, the Spouse of the Church.... In his spiritual life, therefore, he is called to live out Christ's spousal love toward the Church, his bride. Therefore, the priest's life ought to radiate this spousal character, which demands that he be a witness to Christ's spousal love" (n. 22):  AAS84 (1992), 691. 

So I would say that it is not specifically the ability to father children that is decisive in this, but that the priest be male, so that the spousal character of his relationship to the church be manifest.  In other words, not so much a father as a husband.  Inasmuch as most of us learned to address priests, not as "husband" but "father" is something that perhaps needs further exploration :-)

(I am steering clear here of the document's explanation of why gay candidates can't be admitted to seminaries, in part because we've gone over it before here, and more so because I take the pope's words at the press conference to suggest that this document is now a dead letter.)


David Nickol, I am not as quick as I once would have been to dismiss acts that are more style than substance, especially in the Church. In the current matter, the substance has been rhetorically open to women and, on a different level, to gays since even before Vatican II. The style, though, has been very hurtful. Changing the style could remove some of the hurt, and when we stop hurting people maybe we'll be ready to discuss substance.

The official transcript of the press conference is now online at the Vatican website:

partly Italian, partly Spanish, depending on which language the speaker used.

Here are the parts on Remarried Catholics, Women, and Fr. Ricca/Gay Persons

Divorced Catholics


Padre Lombardi:


Gian Guido Vecchi, del Corriere della Sera: chiedo di avvicinarsi alla signora Pigozzi e a Nicole, poi, dopo.


Gian Guido Vecchi:


Padre Santo, Lei anche in questo viaggio ha parlato più volte di misericordia. A proposito dell’accesso ai Sacramenti dei divorziati risposati, c’è la possibilità che cambi qualcosa nella disciplina della Chiesa? Che questi Sacramenti siano un’occasione per avvicinare queste persone, anziché una barriera che li divide dagli altri fedeli?


Papa Francesco:


Questo è un tema che si chiede sempre. La misericordia è più grande di quel caso che lei pone. Io credo che questo sia il tempo della misericordia. Questo cambio di epoca, anche tanti problemi della Chiesa - come una testimonianza non buona di alcuni preti, anche problemi di corruzione nella Chiesa, anche il problema del clericalismo, per fare un esempio - hanno lasciato tanti feriti, tanti feriti. E la Chiesa è Madre: deve andare a curare i feriti, con misericordia. Ma se il Signore non si stanca di perdonare, noi non abbiamo altra scelta che questa: prima di tutto, curare i feriti. E’ mamma, la Chiesa, e deve andare su questa strada della misericordia. E trovare una misericordia per tutti. Ma io penso, quando il figliol prodigo è tornato a casa, il papà non gli ha detto: "Ma tu, senti, accomodati: che cosa hai fatto con i soldi?". No! Ha fatto festa! Poi, forse, quando il figlio ha voluto parlare, ha parlato. La Chiesa deve fare così. Quando c’è qualcuno… non solo aspettarli: andare a trovarli! Questa è la misericordia. E io credo che questo sia un kairós: questo tempo è un kairós di misericordia. Ma questa prima intuizione l’ha avuta Giovanni Paolo II, quando ha incominciato con Faustina Kowalska, la Divina Misericordia… lui aveva qualcosa, aveva intuito che era una necessità di questo tempo. Con riferimento al problema della Comunione alle persone in seconda unione, perché i divorziati possono fare la Comunione, non c’è problema, ma quando sono in seconda unione, non possono. Io credo che questo sia necessario guardarlo nella totalità della pastorale matrimoniale. E per questo è un problema. Ma anche - una parentesi - gli Ortodossi hanno una prassi differente. Loro seguono la teologia dell’economia, come la chiamano, e danno una seconda possibilità, lo permettono. Ma credo che questo problema – chiudo la parentesi – si debba studiare nella cornice della pastorale matrimoniale. E per questo, due cose; primo: uno dei temi da consultare con questi otto del Consiglio dei cardinali, con i quali ci riuniremo l’1, il 2 e il 3 ottobre, è come andare avanti nella pastorale matrimoniale, e questo problema uscirà lì. E, una seconda cosa: è stato con me, quindici giorni fa, il segretario del Sinodo dei Vescovi, per il tema del prossimo Sinodo. Era un tema antropologico, ma parlando e riparlando, andando e tornando, abbiamo visto questo tema antropologico: la fede come aiuta la pianificazione della persona, ma nella famiglia, e andare quindi sulla pastorale matrimoniale. Siamo in cammino per una pastorale matrimoniale un po’ profonda. E questo è un problema di tutti, perché ci sono tanti, no? Per esempio, ne dico uno soltanto: il cardinale Quarracino, il mio predecessore, diceva che per lui la metà dei matrimoni sono nulli. Ma diceva così, perché? Perché si sposano senza maturità, si sposano senza accorgersi che è per tutta la vita, o si sposano perché socialmente si devono sposare. E in questo entra anche la pastorale matrimoniale. E anche il problema giudiziale della nullità dei matrimoni, quello si deve rivedere, perché i Tribunali ecclesiastici non bastano per questo. E’ complesso, il problema della pastorale matrimoniale. Grazie.


Padre Lombardi:


Allora, Guénois de Le Figaro per il gruppo francese.


Jean-Marie Guénois:


Santo Padre, una domanda con il mio collega di La Croix, anche: Lei ha detto che la Chiesa senza la donna perde fecondità. Quali misure concrete prenderà? Per esempio, il diaconato femminile o una donna a capo di un dicastero? E una piccolissima domanda tecnica: Lei ha detto di essere stanco. Ha un allestimento speciale per il ritorno? Grazie, Santità.


Papa Francesco:


Cominciamo dall’ultimo. Quest’aereo non ha allestimenti speciali. Io sono davanti, una bella poltrona, comune, ma comune, quella che hanno tutti. Io ho fatto scrivere una lettera e una chiamata telefonica per dire che io non volevo allestimenti speciali sull’aereo: è chiaro? Secondo, la donna. Una Chiesa senza le donne è come il Collegio Apostolico senza Maria. Il ruolo della donna nella Chiesa non è soltanto la maternità, la mamma di famiglia, ma è più forte: è proprio l’icona della Vergine, della Madonna; quella che aiuta a crescere la Chiesa! Ma pensate che la Madonna è più importante degli Apostoli! E’ più importante! La Chiesa è femminile: è Chiesa, è sposa, è madre. Ma la donna, nella Chiesa, non solo deve … non so come si dice in italiano … il ruolo della donna nella Chiesa non solo deve finire come mamma, come lavoratrice, limitata … No! E’ un’altra cosa! Ma i Papi… Paolo VI ha scritto una cosa bellissima sulle donne, ma credo che si debba andare più avanti nell’esplicitazione di questo ruolo e carisma della donna. Non si può capire una Chiesa senza donne, ma donne attive nella Chiesa, con il loro profilo, che portano avanti. Io penso un esempio che non ha niente a che vedere con la Chiesa, ma è un esempio storico: in America Latina, il Paraguay. Per me, la donna del Paraguay è la donna più gloriosa dell’America Latina. Tu sei paraguayo? Sono rimaste, dopo la guerra, otto donne per ogni uomo, e queste donne hanno fatto una scelta un po’ difficile: la scelta di avere figli per salvare: la Patria, la cultura, la fede e la lingua. Nella Chiesa, si deve pensare alla donna in questa prospettiva: di scelte rischiose, ma come donne. Questo si deve esplicitare meglio. Credo che noi non abbiamo fatto ancora una profonda teologia della donna, nella Chiesa. Soltanto può fare questo, può fare quello, adesso fa la chierichetta, adesso legge la Lettura, è la presidentessa della Caritas … Ma, c’è di più! Bisogna fare una profonda teologia della donna. Questo è quello che penso io.

Fr. Ricca/Gay Persons


Ilze Scamparini:


Vorrei chiedere il permesso di fare una domanda un po’ delicata: anche un’altra immagine ha girato un po’ il mondo, che è stata quella di mons. Ricca e delle notizie sulla sua intimità. Vorrei sapere, Santità, cosa intende fare su questa questione? Come affrontare questa questione e come Sua Santità intende affrontare tutta la questione della lobby gay?


Papa Francesco:


Quello di mons. Ricca: ho fatto quello che il Diritto Canonico manda a fare, che è la investigatio previa. E da questa investigatio non c’è niente di quello di cui l’accusano, non abbiamo trovato niente di quello. Questa è la risposta. Ma io vorrei aggiungere un’altra cosa su questo: io vedo che tante volte nella Chiesa, al di fuori di questo caso ed anche in questo caso, si vanno a cercare i "peccati di gioventù", per esempio, e questo si pubblica. Non i delitti, eh? i delitti sono un’altra cosa: l’abuso sui minori è un delitto. No, i peccati. Ma se una persona, laica o prete o suora, ha fatto un peccato e poi si è convertito, il Signore perdona, e quando il Signore perdona, il Signore dimentica e questo per la nostra vita è importante. Quando noi andiamo a confessarci e diciamo davvero: "Ho peccato in questo", il Signore dimentica e noi non abbiamo il diritto di non dimenticare, perché corriamo il rischio che il Signore non si dimentichi dei nostri [peccati]. E’ un pericolo quello. Questo è importante: una teologia del peccato. Tante volte penso a San Pietro: ha fatto uno dei peggiori peccati, che è rinnegare Cristo, e con questo peccato lo hanno fatto Papa. Dobbiamo pensare tanto. Ma, tornando alla Sua domanda più concreta: in questo caso, ho fatto l’investigatio previa e non abbiamo trovato. Questa è la prima domanda. Poi, Lei parlava della lobby gay. Mah! Si scrive tanto della lobby gay. Io ancora non ho trovato chi mi dia la carta d’identità in Vaticano con "gay". Dicono che ce ne sono. Credo che quando uno si trova con una persona così, deve distinguere il fatto di essere una persona gay, dal fatto di fare una lobby, perché le lobby, tutte non sono buone. Quello è cattivo. Se una persona è gay e cerca il Signore e ha buona volontà, ma chi sono io per giudicarla? Il Catechismo della Chiesa Cattolica spiega in modo tanto bello questo, ma dice, Aspetta un po’, come si dice… e dice: "non si devono emarginare queste persone per questo, devono essere integrate in società". Il problema non è avere questa tendenza, no, dobbiamo essere fratelli, perché questo è uno, ma se c’è un altro, un altro. Il problema è fare lobby di questa tendenza: lobby di avari, lobby di politici, lobby dei massoni, tante lobby. Questo è il problema più grave per me. E La ringrazio tanto per aver fatto questa domanda. Grazie tante!


Padre Lombardi:


Grazie. Mi pare che più di così non si poteva fare. Abbiamo persino abusato del Papa che ci aveva detto che era già un po’ stanco e gli auguriamo adesso di riposarsi un poco.


Papa Francesco:


Grazie a voi, e buona notte, buon viaggio e buon riposo.


Jim Pauwels, it's interesting that the Vatican 2005 document refers to a cleric's "spousal character" when, as Professor Komonchak pointed out in a thread two years ago, John 3:29 and 2 Cor 11:2-3 indicate that the disciple/minister *facilitates* the Lord's relationship to his people.  The cleric, in other words, is (quoting Komonchak) the "paranymphos".  (See comments following dotCom's "Irish Bishop Calls for Optional Celibacy".)

This is but one more example of Rome inflating the status of the cleric.  But at the expense of sacred scripture???

Gerelyn:   If you have an answer to the question, I'd like to hear it.

Joseph, if you, the nation's pre-eminent theologian doesn't know the answer, how could I?  

The question you asked made me think you are unaware of and uninterested in feminist theory/theology, that it's beneath you.


(For anyone unaware of your position atop the theological mountain, here's a link: )

"Pastores Dabo Vobis states that "The priest is called to be the living image of Jesus Christ, the Spouse of the Church.... In his spiritual life, therefore, he is called to live out Christ's spousal love toward the Church, his bride. "

Jim P.--

Since we're being literal abou things -- I notice that while the Church is referred to as a "bride" (a feminine spouse) the priest is referred to only genericaly as a "spouse (either a bride or a groom).  No where in that text does he word "groom" apear.  Could it be that the Holy Spirit was actually influencing the writing of the text so as to allow for the possiblity of female "spouses"?

To say first that men are supposed to be priests because priests are supposed to be like Christ is an extremely broad statement -- it covers all of the positive characteristics which Jesus Himself had.  So then the question becomes: Which of Jesus' characteristics are priests supposed to exemplify?  Obviously, not all of them -- the Church has never thought that all priests must be Jews.  So now the rubber hits the road:  Which are the important characteristics which a priest must exemplify?  The hierarchy gives *no reason* for saying it is His masculinity which is most important.  The hierarchy does not even consider the possibility that the characteristics the priest should exemplify are Jesus' kindness and generosity, etc.  

In other words, the foundation of the theology of the male priesthood is an assertion without persuasive support -- that priests must be men becuase Jesus was male.  To which women reply, so was Judas and Pilate, etc.  Does their being male make them qualified to be priests?  Of course not. 

No, "Be a male" is not the message of Christ which being a priest must exemplify.  "Love God and thy neighbor as thyself" was the message of Christ and it says nothing whatsoever about either male or female.

Francis mentioned the Orthodox "theology of 'economia'" in relation to divorced and remarried persons. I found this on an Orthodox website:

But now the question remains, what is “economia”? Well, according to the canon law of the Orthodox Church economia is “the suspension of the absolute and strict applications of canon and church regulations in the governing and the life of the Church, without subsequently compromising the dogmatic limitations. The application of economia only takes place through the official church authorities and is only applicable for a particular case.”[31] This is allowed for exceptional and severe reasons, but creates no precedent. The Church, which continues to extend Christ’s redeeming work in the world, has on the basis of the Lord’s commandments, and of the apostles, determined a number of canons. Through these the Church helps the believers to come to salvation. But it should be noticed that these rules are not applied on a juridical basis, for the Church always holds in mind what the Lord Himself has said: “The Sabbath is made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2, 27).


Orthodox canon law can permit a second and even a third marriage “in economia”, but strictly forbids a fourth. In theory divorce is only recognized in the case of adultery, but in practise is also recognised in light of other reasons. There is a list of causes of divorce acceptable to the Orthodox Church. In practise the bishops sometimes apply “economia” in a liberal way. By the way, divorce and remarriage are only permitted in the context of “economia”, that is, out of pastoral care, out of understanding for weakness. A second or third marriage will always be a deviation from the “ideal and unique marriage”, but often a fresh opportunity[26] to correct a mistake”.[27]

(I mean't "don't," not "doesn't."  Sorry.  Wish we non-subscribers could edit.)

Gerelyn --

You'e just being insulting to JAK.  Put up your answer or shut up.

" If our cities were more successfully mixed-income, they not only would be solvent but they would be a lot safer and better educated too.,'

That was why white flight in the sixties and seventies was wrong sociologically and un-Christian.

There's no disputing that (some) women might have an understanding about some things that's different than men's, but that's true of any group that can be defined by some difference .... right-handed people, Asian people, disabled people, people who have a high IQ, people born into wealyh or poverty, etc. Yes, it's good to know what it's like to be different.

* But * .....  whena the choice is made to focus on the usually small thing that makes a group  different from everyone else instead of the usually large amount of stuff that makes them the same as everyone else, you've got to pay attention to why. The church seems to always note the pretty small differences between men and women and to ignore the huge similarities, and it has always been, dispite disclaimers, in the cause of marginalization.

I'm encouraged by Pope Francis' statement about homosexuals.  No, it doesn't differ from the Catechism, but the tone is worlds different from that of Pope Benedict's statements.  He seemed to  fear gay men as if they're dragons or something.  If Francis can change some hearts he might then change some minds. - See more at:
I'm encouraged by Pope Francis' statement about homosexuals.  No, it doesn't differ from the Catechism, but the tone is worlds different from that of Pope Benedict's statements.  He seemed to  fear gay men as if they're dragons or something.  If Francis can change some hearts he might then change some minds. - See more at:

I don't agree that Benedict was incapable of the pastoral understanding voiced by Francis -- or that he was scared of gay men. In an interview early in his papacy he was asked about gay marriage and he said "we want to be helpful [to gays] but we cannot admit gay marriage" -- the first half of the utterance sounded genuine enough. Jim Allison says that Benedict toned down Homosexualitatis Problema (the "Halloween Letter") from his advisers' draft -- it does not refer to "perversion" "unnatural" "grave depravity" (the Catechism) or "anomaly" (Persona Humana, and the Document against recognition of gay civil unions).


That said, its doctrine on homosexual acts and the homosexual orientation reduces the latter to an effect of Original Sin. The whole is a product of a rather tortured closet mindset.

he tone is worlds different from that of Pope Benedict's statements.  He seemed to  fear gay men as if they're dragons or something. - See more at:

Francis's comment about 'Economia' reminded me of the protypical Italian country priest who would make decisions based on what was pastorally best even if it wasn't exactly what the formal teaching was. If questioned, he would say "If the Pope were here, he would understand"


My question was not intended as a put-down of feminist theology, but if anything, a question about how it fits into the whole theological spectrum.  Is it something that only women can do ?  If so, why?  Does it represent a theology of women (objective genitive) or a theology of women (subjective genitive)? To make a comparison: When I taught courses on the theology of liberation (By the way, I was one of the first North American theologians to write an article about it.), I used to say that it was not merely a theology about liberation as a theme or topic, but a theology undertaken as a moment in the struggle for social and economic liberation, this in contrast to (or at least distinction from) a theology undertaken as a moment in the search for individual meaning and value, which I take to be what most modern theology has been.

It was initially prompted by Ann Olivier's reference to "feminine" and "male" understandings or insights. Ann often calls for a theological epistemology which I should think would have to address that question. 

But it all reminds me of a report I was given of a meeting of the editorial board of the journal Concilium at which someone suggested to Hans Küng, chief editor, that an issue be devoted to how theology was being done by various people and groups around the world. Küng liked the idea and began to ask his fellow-editors for suggestions about authors who might write about theology from Asia, and from Africa, and from Latin America, and by women, and by blacks, and by Hispanicsm etc. When he had finished his list and was about to turn to another item on the agenda, Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza intervened, "Wait, Hans! Who will do the article on theology as done by white middle-class Europeans?"  I was told that Küng was not amused.  His type of theology, you must understand, was echte Theologie, real, genuine theology, not like the particularized theologies undertaken by all those other folk. When German theologians review a work written by another German theologian, they don't speak of it as a German or a European theology, say, of grace; but when they review a work on grace written by a representative of one of those other groups, they almost always mention that this is a work written from one of those other perspectives.

All that said, epistemological questions remain, and I wonder if we can be content with the sentence with which a woman theologian began her talk at a meeting of the Catholic Theological Society of America: "All knowledge is perspectival."  I tend to doubt that she thought that statement itself to be simply perspectival.

John H. ==

"Economia", "epikeias", "internal forum" ==  Vaticanese for "moral principle which allows contradictions of absolute, inalterable natural law moral princpiles".

Two comments, neither of which is original and neither of which settles much.

First, Fr. Komonchak's 3:59 comment today concludes thus: "'All knowledge is perspectival,' I doubt that she thought  that statement to be simply perspectival."  This is an example of a frequent offhand rebuttal of such claims. I doubt that many present day philosophers would count this rebuttal as fully effective. Many people would take the "All knowledge is perspectival" to be short-hand for a position that has been developed, with evidence, at considerable length. For example, what is the scope of the word 'perspectival' here. I think that there is an analogue in medieval thought that goes like this: Quidquid recipitur recipitur secundum modum recipientis. Or, in English, "Whatever is received is received according to the mode of the recipient." The offhand "rebuttal' would ask: Who says such a thing. What is his or her mode of rereceiving?

Second, Ann, at 4:36 responds to John H. in a way that appears to pass off epikeia as a slippery dodge. If that's what Ann does mean, I think that she is quite wrong. Epikeia plays a cruchal role in Aristotle's moral philosophy and, in my view in any reasonably humane practice of judging cases of moral conduct.

"Economia", "epikeias", "internal forum" ==  Vaticanese for "moral principle which allows contradictions of absolute, inalterable natural law moral princpiles". - See more at:

 My impression in reading that explanation from an Orthodox Bishop was that their interpretation of economia was broader than Thomas's view of epikeia - and that was how they got to be able to approve of three marriages but not four. 

For Thomas, epikeia fills in the exceptions that the authors of he law intended but didn't take the time to write:


I answer that, As stated above (I-II, Q. 96, A. 6), when we were treating of laws, since human actions, with which laws are concerned, are composed of contingent singulars and are innumerable in their diversity, it was not possible to lay down rules of law that would apply to every single case. Legislators in framing laws attend to what commonly happens: although if the law be applied to certain cases it will frustrate the equality of justice and be injurious to the common good, which the law has in view. Thus the law requires deposits to be restored, because in the majority of cases this is just. Yet it happens sometimes to be injurious--for instance, if a madman were to put his sword in deposit, and demand its delivery while in a state of madness, or if a man were to seek the return of his deposit in order to fight against his country. In these and like cases it is bad to follow the law, and it is good to set aside the letter of the law and to follow the dictates of justice and the common good. This is the object of epikeia which we call equity. Therefore it is evident that epikeia is a virtue.


Reply Obj. 1: Epikeia does not set aside that which is just in itself but that which is just as by law established. Nor is it opposed to severity, which follows the letter of the law when it ought to be followed. To follow the letter of the law when it ought not to be followed is sinful. Hence it is written in the Codex of Laws and Constitutions under Law v: "Without doubt he transgresses the law who by adhering to the letter of the law strives to defeat the intention of the lawgiver.

II-II, Q. 120

 "It was initially prompted by Ann Olivier's reference to "feminine" and "male" understandings or insights. Ann often calls for a theological epistemology which I should think would have to address that question."


JAK --

Let's first distinguish 1) why a question was asked (motive).   2) how it is known (method), and 3) what is known (content).  

Motives for questions can be propelled by specifically feminine or masculine interests, and as such they can be biased insofar as they bring the questioners limits and prejudices to the question and its formulation. Biases lead to loaded questions and to omitting salient data. True, motive is usually highly individual, but insofar as women have been shut out of of many sorts of endeavor we are inclined to ask certain *kinds* of questions.  For instance, women theologians are more likely to be interested in the role of Mary Magdalen in Jesus' life than male ones are.  Same with the whole notion of "naturally feminine roles" and "naturally male roles".  So our motives for asking questions are determined by interests -- and the same thing goes for men, but this doesn't determine the *truth* being sought, it only tells us the interests of the askers.

I don't think our motives for asking questions are subject to epistemology.  However, both humility and logic require that both the men and women theologians must be self-critical enough to try to search out our own individual biases, and all must be willing to accept criticism on that score. 

Method, on the other hand, *might* be more determined by intrinsic capabilities of the questioners, and here, I think, that there might be some typically male and female methods.  The psychologists are saying these days that, yes, there are differences (on average) between male and female brains and thinking, with females being better at handling language and males being being better at quantitative thinking.  Just how this might affect doing theology, I don't really know, but there might be some differences in how men and women sift or focus on quantitative and verbal evidence.  Men might more easily grasp quantitative evidence (for instance, what was happening in the field in a battle between the Israelites and the Hittites) while women might read literary works more easily, e.g. the Psalms.  But I see no reason to think that such differences in methods would necessarily skewer the answers once the questions are asked.

Please, don't tell me that men are more logical than women.  Men might be more logical about quantitative thinking, but I daresay that women are more logical in handling non-quantitative words.  Both must be subject to exactly the same logical criteria.  There's no such thing as "feeling" your way to a logical conclusion.

My big conclusion about methods of answering questions:  because individual males and females differ widely in all sorts of intellectual capabilities, when we try to judge the value of a particular theological work the sex of the writer should be totally irrelevant.

As to content, again the quantitative and verbal capabilities might possibly determine to some very small extent the kinds of answers the questioners are interested in, but I don't see that as being a big factor  If it were, somebody would have pointed it out before this.

It seems to me that because of the subject matter of theology -- all those ultimate existential questions -- that men and women are equally interested in the subject.  So I don't really see much difference in the questions finally asked and answered, nor in the methods for trying to find the answers.

In other words, the theological epistemology for women would be the same as that for the men.

I have ignored the role of "heart" (or "intuition"??) in grasping truth.  But since that is a terribly murky topic, I don't see how any sort of epistemology can handle it well at this point.  It needs a great deal more analysis and understanding before we can start to be rational about it.   

(Wouldn't it be interesting to submit some blind (no-name) theological papers about some gender-neutral subject (say grace or the sacrament of baptism) to the CDF and ask those elders to figure out whether the papers were written by male or female theologians.  Bet they couldn't do it,)

Sorry to go on at such great length, but it's a huge subject, and much of it is still very murky.



Fr. K mentioned in another post, that part of the problem with Vatican II had to do with a lack of organization structures to facilitate the vision articulated in the Council. This is largely ture.

The discussions on theology of women, interesting as they are, obscure the fact that there remains unjustified institutional barriers to the participation of women at senior leadership positions in the Vatican curia. This is simply unsupportable and should not continue. In many dioces, women already occupy administrative, leadership positions. Why is this not happening, right now, in the curia?

Simply put, the problem of access for women to leadership positions in the Vatican is not so much a theological problem as it is an organizational one. Good heavens, if Rome was in charge of the upper room during Pentecost, Mary would not have even been there! Off the cuff, impromptu discussion on airplanes and interviews are one thing. Tangible, concrete choices are quite another. We should evaluate leadership based on deeds not words.


Knowledge is indeed perspectival (to a large degree and I like Bernard's support of that). The quip to Hans Kung by Forenza was spot on!





RE: Intution. I recall reading Levinas some years back and he made an interesting point that what we often refer to as "intuition" is in fact a reading. It might be a fast reading, it may involve making disparate connections quickly, but it is in fact a rational process that occurs very quickly. Kahneman discusses this in his book Thinking Fast and Slow.

Ann O:  even though he acts like an Archbishop, I think Ricca is still a Monsignor.  At least this week.  But I understand that he and Ray Burke have been socializing together a lot, so who knows ....


Sometimes I think that the Church overreads its own comparisons and misunderstands the purpose of them. Metaphors and similes bring together two disparate things—the more disparate the better—having one or a few things in common whose juxtaposition offers a new and usually charming insight. They are never meant to establish a point-by-point identity of the two, even less to argue from that false identity to unwarranted conclusions. When Robert Burns writes, "O my luve's like a red, red rose that's newly sprung in June," no one supposes that he means his bonnie lass is thorny or that her legs are pedicels.

But the Church has taken the lovely metaphor of the Good Shepherd and the Sheep, which is about Christ's tender care for all that follow him, the strayed even more than the folded, and tried to turn it into a  self-serving tale of unerring clergy instructing a muttonheaded laity, although millions of ordinary Catholics may be as wise, Christ-conscious, and open to the promptings of the Spirit as any bishop. It is a bad reading.

So too for the Spouse of the Church/Bride of Christ comparison. Fine and true as poetry, but a doubtful foundation for theology, if it is to used by an all-male hierarchy to read the mind of God and claim—unsurprisingly—that he will tolerate none but males celebrating the Divine Sacrifice at his altars.


"My question was not intended as a put-down of feminist theology, but if anything, a question about how it fits into the whole theological spectrum.  Is it something that only women can do ?  If so, why?"


Joseph, if a scholar whose stature in history was equivalent to yours in theology asked those questions about the history of women, would it not seem like a put-down?

(How does a deep history of women fit into the whole historical spectrum?  Are studying, writing, teaching women's history something that only women can do?  Etc.) 

Maybe male theologians avoid the theology of women because they've observed the abusive treatment of female theologians.  It wasn't that long ago that women were barred from earning advanced degrees in "the queen of sciences."  

I don't read theology journals, so I don't know if any men are interested in the theology of women.  I took a look online at this one:

All the editors and contributors to the current issue are women, but the rules for submitting manuscripts do not exclude men.

Ann:   Thank you for your clarifications, and for taking my question seriously. I don't have any doubts that the differences between the sexes may account for the probable choices of certain areas of investigation (e.g., your example of Mary Magdalene); I am less certain (as you also seem to be) that there are differences on the level of method that can be turned to account; otherwise only women would be able to review the work of women. To insist that women's intellectual work must be judged and evaluated by distinct criteria from those used in evaluating men's work would be fatal to the advance of knowledge and to any sense of intellectual community, and could just as easily be turned back upon women as upon men.

Bernard:  My comment about the claim that all knowledge is perspectival was not an "offhand rebuttal," but was considered and meant seriously. It is a response to such claims that is at least as old as Aristotle and as contemporary as Thomas Nagel's refutation of Richard Rorty in The Last Word. There are plenty of contemporary philosophers who see a contradiction in the use of reason to construct an argument that it is true that we cannot reach the truth. If it is true that "all knowledge is perspectival," what is the perspective from which that statement is true, and are there other perspectives from which it is not true?

Bernard --

No, I don't think that epikeia is essentially a dodge, but the principle is intrinsically indefinite -- it does not say exactly *which* laws might have exceptions.  As far as I know Aristotle does allow that  when a law is unjust or is not for the common good then exceptions might be made, but Aristotle doesn't tell us how to weigh the individual circumstances which allow for exceptions to be made.  ISTM that this allows for the Slippery Dodgers of this world to interpret  at least some laws and particular circumstances in their own favor.  Further, it is my understanding that Thomas himself did not allow exceptions to the basic principles of natural law though he allowed exceptions to man-made laws. 

As to the Orthodox theology of economia, I know next to nothing about it, so you're right, I really shouldn't be talking about it.  But on the surface I don't see how it differs from epikeia.

As to the internal forum, I think I must have been 50 years old when I first even heard that such a thing existed, and I"m still not sure exactly what it provides for or how it works.  But I think that anything that is kept under wraps the way the internal forum is must be the product of slippery minds.  (OK, so maybe it's just slippery minds that are particularly fond of it.)  Granted, some matters should remain private, and granted sometimes only the person confessing knows the exact circumstances of a situation and what the facts were, but if that is all there is to the principle, then why in practice is its very existence kept secret?  Sounds like something that can't bear sunlight,

In sum, though all three are no doubt moraly useful at times they would all seem to be easily liable to misuse.

George D. --

Yes, Kahnemann is very interesting on what he calls "intuition".   His use of the term, as i understand him,  seems to include all sorts of *unconscious* mental operations that result in a consciously non-discursive judgment, and they include reasoning and other sorts of mental processes, apparently.  

But I was using "intuition" in the sense of "heart", which is quite a conscious act, as when I see someone maltreating a cat and *feel* that it is evil and therefore morally wrong.  I do think there are such things as mental acts of "the heart" but just what is the heart and how does it work? 

We have many sorts of feelings about things -- what makes some of them objectively valid?  

jAK --

i agree that there is no big difference between the methods of thinking of men and women, though maybe there are some small differences in performance due to men's superior quantitative thinking and women's verbal thinking.  But the differences would be only in degree, not in kind, if they exist at all.  Interests, however, do differ, as do biases which cause us to ask different questions.

I also agree that there can be only one set of criteria of sound theological thinking, and it will be individuals, not classes of people, who measure up to those criteria more or less well.

Gerelyn wrote this to Joe Komonchak:

The question you asked made me think you are unaware of and uninterested in feminist theory/theology, that it's beneath you. 

His question didn’t make me think any of those things.  I found nothing in it to make me think he was “unaware” or “uninterested,” nothing to make me think he found feminist theory “beneath” him.

On the contrary.  We don’t have a list of the books he’s read on the subject, but when he writes,

I have seen feminists dismiss views of "the complementarity of the sexes" as simply code-words for keeping women in their traditional roles.

the only conclusion we can draw is that he has, at the very least, read some feminists.

If—as was alleged -- he was “uninterested,” why did he bother to ask the question?  Isn’t it fair to assume he asked it because he was genuinely interested in what the answer might be?  And if there was any doubt about that, wasn’t it eliminated when he wrote, in a follow-up comment, “If you have an answer to the question, I'd like to hear it.”  I see no reason to think that was an insincere statement.

Most important of all:  Given his track record on this blog, doesn’t he have the right to a presumption of innocence in his favor? Is there any reason for not taking him at his word, any basis for drawing any conclusion except the obvious one? The obvious one is that he meant what he said: “I'm genuinely puzzled by what you mean.”  Someone had said something, he didn’t understand it, so he asked, “what do you mean by it?”  I see in that no reason for labeling him as someone who is “unaware” and “uninterested” and sees the subject at hand as “beneath” him.

So far, Pope Francis is saying and doing all the right things!  But, is he still clinging to all the outmoded rules, regulations, formulas and doctrines---some of which are in urgent need reform?  In other words, does he really want to change anything?  That is the question which still needs to be answered.

As to the internal forum, I think I must have been 50 years old when I first even heard that such a thing existed, and I"m still not sure exactly what it provides for or how it works. 

Although most of the discussion about the press conference has been about gays, i think an equally unexpected statement was that the 0ctober meeting of the Council of 8 Cardinals and the subsequent Synod of Bishops would try to find a pastoral solution for divorced and remarried Catholics. From several comments by Francis, it sounded as if he may see the need to rethink the "no internal forum - i.e. personal conscience" position that Cardinal Ratzinger took in the 1994 CDF Letter approved by JPII. 

7. The mistaken conviction of a divorced and remarried person that he may receive Holy Communion normally presupposes that personal conscience is considered in the final analysis to be able, on the basis of one's own convictions(15), to come to a decision about the existence or absence of a previous marriage and the value of the new union. However, such a position is inadmissable(16). Marriage, in fact, because it is both the image of the spousal relationship between Christ and his Church as well as the fundamental core and an important factor in the life of civil society, is essentially a public reality.

And I guess they both think that they are conveying he same message Francis did:

Cardinal George:

Pope Francis, on his way back to Rome from the World Youth Day celebration in Rio, reaffirmed the teaching of the Catholic faith and other religions that homosexual genital relations are morally wrong.  The Pope also reaffirmed the Church’s teaching that every man and woman should be accepted with love, including those with same sex orientation.


Cardinal Dolan:

He said the pope's words "may be something people find new and refreshing. I for one don't think it is, and I hate to see previous popes caricatured as not having that," he said in the interview.


I agree that pope Francis' announcement that they're going to get to work on finding a solution for divorced and remarried Catholics is a happy surprise. I have friends in that situation and know that it is painful. If it gets resolved in the near future, we'll open some champagne to celebrate!

Maybe it didn't make headlines because for most people it is a non-issue. Most Catholics who are divorced and remarried have made their peace with it and happily go and receive communion with no guilt (and most pastors let it go). The ones for whom it is an excrutiating dilemma are the ones paying close attention to the catechism. From the viewpoint of P.R., if a solution is found, it'll come too late, after people have found solutions on their own. From the viewpoint of the few faithful ones who are paying attention, it'll be a liberation.

Perhaps the same would happen if church authorities reversed direction on contraception: it'll be too late. Is the love affair between the hierarchy and the people over?


Ann, the so-called "internal forum solution" is a means whereby a divorced and remarried couple *might* legitimately be able to receive communion in the church.  I use the word 'might' because, if properly pursued, it might be determined that they have no basis for readmission to the sacrament.  The process necessarily involves the participation of a cleric who can help the couple evaluate their situation in light of church teaching and canonical practice.

Normally, a couple would be expected to petition for a declaration of nullity in the so-called "external forum", i.e., a local church tribunal.  This approach is a legal/canonical one.  Evidence is gathered and evaluated to determine if annulment is warranted.

However, there can be instances when recourse to the external forum would not serve the ends of justice.  For example, all the important witnesses are dead, or relevant documents were destroyed in a fire or flood.  Perhaps important witnesses refuse to cooperate with the local tribunal.  In such cases, the tribunal might very well have no choice but to declare the marriage a valid sacramental one --- even though the missing information would/might be grounds for a declaration of nullity.  The local tribunal may only act on the basis of available evidence.

In the latter case, the couple would be expected to approach a cleric to discuss their situation.  If he concludes that, but for the absence of relevant supporting witnesses/information, the couple would most likely qualify for a declaration of nullity, he could legitimately advise them that they are free to join with others in the communion line.  Depending on circumstances, the cleric might also advise the couple to transfer their membership to another parish community not familiar with their previous marital situation in order to avoid giving "scandal".

I googled two references (out of many):

+ "Remarriage in the Church: Pastoral Solutions" at, sponsored by the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church, and

+ "Chapter 66 Internal Forum Solution or 'Good Conscience Solution'" at

As the first link points out, there is a division of opinion about the merits of the internal forum solution.  Some bishops and clergy support it; others do not.  Nonetheless, the writer mentions a CDF letter (1973) referencing both the "external forum" and the "internal forum".  In light of the "JPII priest" phenomenon today, I would advise divorced and remarried Catholics to be very careful in selecting a cleric for counseling. is a very helpful and detailed and pastoral response on annulments and internal forum which I have used in class.     


I would advise divorced and remarried Catholics to be very careful in selecting a cleric for counseling

I second that. 

I also note the existence on another friend who was advised by her spiritual director to keep her marriage a civil marriage only, at least for a few years, because of the difficulties that would come up if she divorced (my friend are old enough to know that marriage is more about hope than about certain knowledge that the bond will last a lifetime).

I also have yet other friends, a Catholic couple, who had a civil marriage but didn't have a religious marriage until, some number of years later, a priest refused to baptize their child unless they had a religious marriage first. (So now they're married religiously, but I am optimistic that, should they ever get divorced, the marriage-under-threat situation would be good grounds for a quick annulment.)

So, here again people a finding their own solutions to the pastoral problems that come up.

I wonder if a pastor who had some vague reservations about a marriage couldn't conveniently forget to do some of the paperwork, so that, should the couple get divorced some day and the spouses look for an annulment, the conditions for nullity would be fulfilled in a straightforward manner (because the form would be faulty). And if they stayed married, well, surely God's blessing did not depend on the witness filling out the forms in the requisite manner, so it would not matter. This would create a loophole for easy annulments. 

Gene:  Jamie Manson at NCR had a good column today in which she said:

Pope Francis' words about women were spirit-breaking. The idea that we need a "deeper theology of women" is remarkable only because, for the past half-century, Catholic women theologians, many of them women religious, have been developing, writing and teaching a profound theology of women. Just because the hierarchy has not cared to read it doesn't mean it doesn't already exist. I shudder to think whom Francis would ask to formulate this "deeper theology.

That might help you understand why I was surprised that Joseph asked the questions he did. 


You have misunderstood me.  My questions had nothing to do with whether or not women have been writing significant works in theology. Of course, they have been, and I've been reading them.

My questions were sparked by phrases used by Ann Olivier, when she spoke of "feminine understanding or insights" as, it seemed, distinct from "male understanding or insights." I wished to know what Ann, a trained philosopher, meant by these phrases--Did they mean, for example, that women or men have insights that are in principle not open to members of the other sex?--, and you can see from her lengthy reply above that she thought this a valid question and took it seriously. A second comment of mine, written before Ann's reply to the first was posted, asked about integration, which I think is a genuine problem if we are to claim that there are sex-specific insights and understandings, but is not if there are none.

Hi, Joseph:

Thanks for the explanation.  

I apologize for misunderstanding you.  

(I was surprised that a theologian of your renown, experience, history, accomplishments, etc. would ask the questions.  Since I hadn't read Ann Olivier's posts, I didn't get the connection.)

I agree with Jamie Manson that the hierarchy cannot be bothered with reading women's theology.  

Glad to know I was wrong in thinking your questions indicated a similar lack of interest.



David C - thanks for that link to the information on annulments and the internal forum.  It really does highlight the pastoral side of the legal requirements.


I think you are apt to get very different responses depending on which priest you ask about the internal forum. My sense is that that may be what Francis wants to clarify. The Ratzinger/CDF memo I linked above essentially said that some people have proposed letting divorced and remarried Catholics receive Communion if they consult a priest before making their decision - and it seemed to reject that proposition.


3....In recent years, in various regions, different pastoral solutions in this area have been suggested according to which, to be sure, a general admission of divorced and remarried to Eucharistic communion would not be possible, but the divorced and remarried members of the faithfus could approach Holy Communion in specific cases when they consider themselves authorised according to a judgement of conscience to do so. This would be the case, for example, when they had been abandoned completely unjustly, although they sincerely tried to save the previous marriage, or when they are convinced of the nullity of their previous marriage, although unable to demonstrate it in the external forum or when they have gone through a long period of reflexion and penance, or also when for morally valid reasons they cannot satisfy the obligation to separate.


In some places, it has also been proposed that in order objectively to examine their actual situation, the divorced and remarried would have to consult a prudent and expert priest. This priest, however, would have to respect their eventual decision to approach Holy Communion, without this implying an official authorisation.


In these and similar cases it would be a matter of a tolerant and benevolent pastoral solution in order to do justice to the different situations of the divorced and remarried.


4. Even if analogous pastoral solutions have been proposed by a few Fathers of the Church and in some measure were practiced, nevertheless these never attained the consensus of the Fathers and in no way came to constitute the common doctrine of the Church nor to determine her discipline. It falls to the universal Magisterium, in fidelity to Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to teach and to interpret authentically the depositum fidei.


With respect to the aforementioned new pastoral proposals, this Congregation deems itself obliged therefore to recall the doctrine and discipline of the Church in this matter. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ(5), the Church affirms that a new union cannot be recognised as valid if the preceding marriage was valid. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God's law. Consequently, they cannot receive Holy Communion as long as this situation persists(6)....


9. In inviting pastors to distinguish carefully the various situations of the divorced and remarried, the Exhortation Familiaris Consortio recalls the case of those who are subjectively certain in conscience that their previous marriage, irreparably broken, had never been valid(17). It must be discerned with certainty by means of the external forum established by the Church whether there is objectively such a nullity of marriage

Here's part of what Francis said:

Cardinal Quarracino, my predecessor, said that his view was that half of all marriages are invalid. But saying so, why? Why marry without being mature enough, why marry without realizing that it is for life, or why get married because socially you should marry?. That's an issue in the pastoral care of marriage. As is the judicial problem of the nullity of marriages. That must be revised, because the ecclesiastical tribunals are not sufficient to deal with it. The problem of pastoral care of marriage is complicated. 

John H., Joseph j., and David C. - -

Thanks for all the information about annulments, etc.  Given Pope Francis' recent remarks it looks like it's going to be a hot topic in the not too far future, especially since Pope Benedict also thought that the whole topic needed further investigation.  I wouldn't be surprised if the CDF has already done some work on it.

Regarding Francis and his words, I'd also like to call attention to this article by Michael D'Antonio in Foreign Policy, asking the question, "Is Francis too radical for his flock?"


I don't know if anyone is still reading this thread. I have been away and still do not have time to answer Fr. K's question about "feminine understanding". But in reading the thread to catch up, I think that Fr K may have confused me (Anne) with Ann O.  If you are still reading, Fr. K, I will try to respond. If you are not, I will email you.  But not yet. I still don't have time.

Anne Chapman:   Yes, I meant to reply to Ann Olivier, but must have added that "e" at the end.  But feel free to jump in!

Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment