Pope urges church to back justice, equality for women
ROME – In a new major document addressed to “all Christian young people,” Pope Francis called for a church with “open doors” that can acknowledge past ills and be attentive to women seeking “greater justice and equality.”
The 33,000-word letter released Tuesday by the Vatican showed the pope’s hallmark advocacy for a version of Catholic teaching that is willing to evolve with the times. But the document did little to advocate for concrete steps that would change the role of women in the church. Nor did it break ground on two other issues critical to young people: the church’s handling of sexual abuse and its teaching on homosexuality.
Without mentioning criticism from traditionalists, who feel the pope has pulled the church away from its morals, Francis wrote that a church always on the defensive stops listening to others, “leaves no room for questions” and “turns into a museum.”
“How, then, will she be able to respond to the dreams of young people?” Francis wrote in the so-called apostolic exhortation, entitled “Christ is Alive.”
The pope’s document comes at a time when young people across the West are abandoning organized religion, including the scandal-hit Catholic faith. Bishops met at the Vatican last October for a meeting on the topic of youth in the church, and the pontiff’s document was a follow-up to that meeting. The Vatican in February held a separate meeting to address the sexual abuse of minors, and though the problem has thrown the Catholic Church into crisis, it was not a primary focus of Francis’s latest document.
Instead, the pope devoted several paragraphs to the clerical abuse issue, mostly reiterating words from previous papal speeches or from a church document produced after the bishops meeting in October. Francis, in his latest encyclical, wrote that anger toward the church is “justified,” and he thanked those who “had the courage to report the evil they experienced.”