I grew up in the Catholic faith. I went to Catholic school for 12 years. Wore a jumper. Went to Mass. Prayed daily. And when the church decided girls could become altar servers, I did that too. But as I became a teenager, I began to realize that the church wasn’t a welcoming place to women.
I could be the best altar server, but not a priest. When I asked a priest who was a close family friend about that, he told me, “Women’s lib is a fairly new trend,” and shrugged it off. And then came sex ed, at a Catholic high school. I’ll save you my full rant on that disaster, but it ended with our religion teacher telling the girls they should by no means EVER have sex before marriage, but boys will be boys. And hey, boys, remember the pope is against birth control. So don’t use condoms. Use the rhythm method.
Anyhow, this is one of the reasons my family has been referring to me as a “lapsed Catholic” for close to two decades. I didn’t think the faith I was raised in had a place for me. I saw the pope as a leader wildly out of touch from the world in his ivory tower. I never in my life thought I’d have reason to think the pope might be a feminist. But man, this Pope Francis.
He’s a kinder gentler less hellfire preaching pope seen as being less damning of divorce, birth control, and gay people. He’s freaking out conservatives by supporting Climate Change. And now he’s promoting equal pay and flat-out gender equality. Honestly, I never thought I’d see the day.
National Catholic Reporter states unequivocally that Pope Francis is calling for “radical equality” between the sexes. He says this equality is meant to be a major part of Christianity, and so should be supported and demanded by Christians around the world.
“For example: Supporting with conviction the right of equal compensation for equal work,” said the pope, “Why is it expected that women must earn less than men? No! [They have] the same right. The disparity is a pure scandal.”
Addressing crowds in St. Peter’s Square, he went on to lament the the decline in marriage among young people, but the pope (the friggin pope!) even said that feminism should not be blamed for this. “Many consider that the change occurring in these last decades may have been set in motion by women’s emancipation. This is … an insult! No, it is not true!,” Francis added that blaming feminism (though neither NCR or Francis ever dares use that word) “is a form of chauvinism that always wants to control the woman.”
The pope has just charged Christians—not just Catholics—around the world to be feminists. Most news sites are running the remarks about equal pay, but are shying away from distilling what these remarks mean: The Pope is a feminist. A problematic one, sure. But ladies and gentleman, I’ll take an ally like him any day.
Kristy Puchko is having a weird morning.