De­cree Will Rock You

Hot Press - - Front Lines -

There’s been dis­may at Pope Fran­cis say­ing that there will never be women priests in the Catholic Church. But did he re­ally say it?

Top Ir­ish prelate Ea­monn Martin cer­tainly thinks that Pope Fran­cis was un­equiv­o­cal on the sub­ject of women priests be­ing a non-run­ner. Fran­cis was merely re­it­er­at­ing one of the time­less truths of Catholic teach­ing, he has in­formed the rat­tled faith­ful.

Long-time read­ers of this col­umn will know that I have had to put se­nior Ir­ish Catholic cler­ics right on mat­ters of doc­trine more than once in re­cent years. Now I am called upon again.

The wide­spread dis­may at Fran­cis’s pro­nounce­ment re­flects the com­mon per­cep­tion of the man from Ar­gentina as a sin­gu­larly un­dog­matic class of Pope, com­pas­sion­ate, hum­ble, breath of fresh air, etc. Why, he has even ex­pressed sym­pa­thy for gay mar­riage marchers in Mex­ico. A de­cent man with an un­der­stand­ing heart, then .... Thus the sighs at his seem­ing re­ver­sion to the un­feel­ing ways of the past.

Fran­cis’s dec­la­ra­tion was made in con­ver­sa­tion with jour­nal­ists on the plane back to Rome after a visit to Swe­den where he had been wel­comed by the fe­male head of the Lutheran church. Asked whether he could see the day when women en­joyed equal­ity within the Catholic Church too, he replied that, “St. Pope John Paul II had the last clear word on this, and it stands.”

The re­porter pressed on: “For­ever, for­ever? Never, never?” To which Fran­cis re­sponded: “If we read care­fully the dec­la­ra­tion by St. Pope John Paul, it is go­ing in that di­rec­tion.”

Not, well-read Hot Press read­ers will im­me­di­ately have spot­ted, a ring­ing state­ment of per­sonal con­vic­tion.

On the other hand, he was, in­deed, en­dors­ing the un­am­bigu­ous view of the hard­line misog­y­nist John Paul II, who had not only said no, nay, never to women priests, but had had his spokesman em­pha­sise af­ter­wards that this was an in­fal­li­ble teach­ing to be held by the whole Church for all time.

No room for wrig­gling there... Or so you’d think. But it’s the Catholic Church we are deal­ing with, which hasn’t held sway over the souls of bil­lions for 2,000 years with­out de­vel­op­ing a cer­tain preter­nat­u­ral slip­per­i­ness.

Within a few weeks of John Paul’s stern 1994 in­sis­tence that no woman could ever con­se­crate a host hit­ting the world head­lines, the dis­tin­guished Amer­i­can Je­suit the­olo­gian Av­ery Dulles was ex­plain­ing in spe­cial­ist jour­nals that when the Pope said that the ban on women priests was an in­fal­li­ble teach­ing, he wasn’t speak­ing in­fal­li­bly...

Nice one, Pope, I thought at the time, a sen­ti­ment which, in con­trast to the easy-oozy ma­noeu­vres of the Vat­i­can, I con­tinue to es­pouse.

I also con­tinue to be­lieve that when pres­sure for equal­ity from women and the world can no longer be re­sisted, an­other im­mutable Law of God will be re­pealed with­out com­punc­tion.

All of which re­minds of the fel­low who ran into Mad­den’s su­pe­rior to­bac­conist’s in Water­loo Place and asked the woman be­hind the counter, “Do you keep sta­tion­ary?”, an in­quiry which she cog­i­tated upon for a mo­ment be­fore re­ply­ing, “Well, some­times I wrig­gle about a bit...”

The air has been filled with cat­er­waul­ing and yelps of rage at the cheek of the great un­washed of Eng­land vot­ing to get out of the EU.

Na­tion­al­ists in the North are particularly ex­er­cised. We refuse to recog­nise the re­sult, they say. The North voted 56 per­cent to 44 to stay. That’s what mat­ters. A bunch of knuck­le­drag­ging racists across the water who prob­a­bly trav­elled to the polling sta­tions in white vans and ear-studs can’t be al­lowed to drag us out of a club we are chuffed to have been al­lowed into.

I have no prob­lem with the idea of a ma­jor­ity in the North trump­ing a ma­jor­ity across the UK as far as Ir­ish is­sues are con­cerned. Nei­ther do I have a prob­lem with the EU fall­ing apart, or the UK dis­in­te­grat­ing ei­ther.

But I am struck by the fact that just last year the Greek peo­ple voted by a larger ma­jor­ity than the Re­main­ers man­aged in the North – 61 per­cent to 39 – to re­ject the EU’s aus­ter­ity drive, and lit­tle good did it do them. Fuck democ­racy and fuck you too, was the re­sponse from the un­elected boot-boys of Brus­sels, sup­pu­rat­ing with cor­rup­tion, seething with con­tempt for com­mon peo­ple.

The most re­pel­lent ar­gu­ment of the bay­ing fac­tion which ap­proaches the EU with all the crit­i­cal acu­ity of a sta­dium of school­child­ren squeal­ing for Justin Bieber, is that free­dom of move­ment be­tween EU mem­ber states rep­re­sents the best hope Europe has of a fu­ture free from racism.

The ar­gu­ment is of­fered even as the barbed wire fences around the EU grow higher by the day, to keep out fam­i­lies flee­ing wars and mis­ery which Europe had some hand in bring­ing about. What’s the dif­fer­ence in prin­ci­ple be­tween this and the wall against Mex­i­cans with Don­ald Trump wanted built?

The Hun­gar­ian prime mas­ter Vik­tor Or­ban says that his coun­try will ac­cept “no more Mus­lims.” Is this not word-for-word what Trump wanted Amer­i­cans to vote for?

It’s okay to keep out peo­ple with dusky skins and ex­otic re­li­gious be­liefs as long as white Euro­peans can travel freely within the EU bor­ders. And all in the in­ter­ests of com­bat­ing racism...

Pope Fran­cis ex­plains to an­other woman why she can’t be a priest

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