Don’t look now, but the Pope is starting to show signs of morality. Pope Francis has enamoured himself to the liberal wing of the Catholic Church and most of the Western world by speaking in amicable terms about homosexuals (“If someone is gay and is looking for the Lord, who am I to judge him?”) and atheists (“just do good, and we’ll find a meeting point.”). His progression on such issues, particularly in regards to the former has been a welcomed and necessary step for the Catholic Church to remain relevant in the 21st century. Although aides close to the Pope suggest that he is still a ‘conservative’, his brand of conservatism is a far less antagonistic one than that of his predecessors. For the sake of human rights and human dignity, everyone should take a sigh of relief that @Pontifex has moved to a more central ground. It can do nothing but good for a world that is populated with 1.2 billion Catholics.

Image courtesy of presidencia.gov.ar, © 2013, some rights reserved.

Image courtesy of presidencia.gov.ar, © 2013, some rights reserved.

Let’s not get carried away though. The Pope has continued some despicable and horrifying traditions of the Holy See. Consider an excerpt from an interview he recently gave to America Magazine, a Jesuit publication in the USA, where he discusses the role of women in the Church:

‘Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed. The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the church…The challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places where the authority of the church is exercised for various areas of the church.”

This is a nonsensical ramble that should upset every serious proponent of human rights. It is a pertinent example of the Pope euphemising the realities of the Catholic Church’s archaic positions on women’s rights. As the Catholic conservative George Weigel wrote in the National Review, “Francis [has] underscored [in past interviews] that ‘the teaching of the Church is clear’ on issues like abortion, euthanasia, the nature of marriage, and chastity and that he is ‘a son of the Church’ who accepts those teachings as true.”

So, the Pope, we can see, goes from ‘Who am I to judge atheists or gays?’ (I don’t know, perhaps the Vicar of Christ?) to ‘I can definitely judge women’. We can see here a pick and choose mentality from Pope Francis. He’s very liberal on issues that he understands get on the front pages of newspapers, but when it comes to entrenched subordination of women, he continues to kick the can down the road. It is unfortunate that the media have not held his feet to the fire on this issue and instead been so amazed that he washed a poor man’s feet. If that is the sign of enlightenment, count me as unimpressed. Pope Francis has silently continued his predecessor’s  bygone stance on the ordination of women, saying in an interview in early May that “that door is closed.” What a liberal.

Yet the media has crowned him as such. ‘A breath of fresh air.’ But those who are actually serious about the rights of all humans know that he has much work to do with women’s rights. The subordination of half of the world’s population simply cannot sustain for much longer. At some point, the Catholic Church will have to become more liberal in their appeal to women. Frustratingly, this fault of Pope Francis’ leadership has not been given the air-time it deserves. If only Pope Francis would heed his own words that, ‘the church has sometimes locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules.’ I can think of no greater example of such group-think than believing and proselytising that women cannot be seen as equal to men under the eyes of God.

It seems for now that Pope Francis is too weak of a leader to stand up for women’s rights. While he’s heading in the right direction, let us be aware that he and his church have much work to do before they can be considered a truly inclusive and liberal entity. We can one day hope (and some may even pray) that a future Holy See will see that the current policies of ordination are grounded on nothing but male-chauvinism and tradition – both of which, have never been particularly good yardsticks of morality. Until that ‘divinely inspired’ day comes (and it undoubtedly will), the Pope and the Catholic Church will continue to lag far behind the rest of the Western world in its observance and commitment to women’s rights.

None of what I have so far pointed out is new or world-shattering. But that is what it so amazing about the Catholic Church – that society and the media have come to tacitly accept the Vatican’s sexist position. As we develop into an ever more tolerant global society, we must continue to pressure the Pope on the Church’s treatment of women (like we have with gay rights) so that the Catholic Church cannot continue to persist with such blatantly offensive positions towards 51% of the world’s population. Only when women can be seen as equal to men under the eyes of their god, can we then start discussing whether or not the Pope deserves our praise.