We all know the rule from time immemorial that the Church may only be led by a woman. The first Holy Mother was Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ apprentice, whom he elevated above the 12 apostles, as it was she to whom he appeared first after his resurrection. During the following centuries, by the time of Pope Helen, mother of Constantine the Great, the idea that men are generally not suited for higher Church offices became a widespread dogma.
Since then, many notable Holy Mothers have sat on Saint Magdalene’s throne. Let us mention Monica (first to marry after being elected Pope), Joan (first to have a child during pontificate) and Brigid (first non-Mediterranean Pope, who came from Ireland). Men have, however, tried to undermine the authority of Holy Mothers. These schismatics – called ‘masculinists’ – have attempted to establish their own Church, ruled by men, with only lowly positions of servitude available to women. Out of pride and prompted by the lust for power, they have tried to upturn the natural order of things. For it is well known that men, due to their biological nature, have been created for different purposes. Because of their overripe, animal-like muscles, they need hard physical labour. Their main characteristics are patience and endurance. Men were also made for family life – it is no accident that a man can only unite with a woman in a conjugal act when he is face to face with her. This is proof that they are naturally predisposed towards openness to others; towards empathy and compassion.
I, Pope Frances, know these teachings well. Be that as it may, I try to read the signs of the times, in accordance with Christ’s instructions. Ever since the beginning of my papacy, I have encouraged my sisters and brothers in faith to try and rethink the truth about female and male duties, both the ecclesiastical ones and the temporal ones. Because there are, in my view, many unfounded ideas at play. Take, for example, the widespread view that should men rule the Church, there would be schisms and religious wars. The proponents of this theory even claim that if there were male popes rather than female, Christians under their leadership would treat the people of the New World with cruelty, possibly leading to a horrific genocide. Are such conjectures legitimate? After all, any malice goes against the very essence of our faith, and therefore even in our fancies we cannot link one with another.
The traditionalists, however, claim that what is contradictory for a healthy human mind does not necessarily seem absurd from the perspective of a male when he becomes uprooted from his natural servitude. We all know of what intellectual contortions the masculinists are capable. The best illustration is the fact that those heretics have matched Mary Magdalene, Christ’s most important disciple, with the woman taken in adultery mentioned in the Bible. Perhaps then, in their view, Christ’s teachings do not prohibit cruelty at all?
Today, as men get more say in deciding the future fate of the world, careful re-examination of these issues seems to me an extremely urgent task. Perhaps if men were allowed to hold crucial Church offices, they would feel the burden of responsibility? Or maybe sooner or later, their nature would resurface? I, Pope Frances, am not infallible. Therefore I am reaching out to you, my sisters in faith, asking for joint reflection. I am sharing my woes with you.
Frances got up and went to the window to look at Saint Magdalene’s square, full of playing children. She felt the weight of the words she had just written, and shivered. “Maybe it’s the sin of pride,” she whispered. She imagined the time, far in the future, when a man would be elected to Saint Magdalene’s throne. What would he be called? A Holy Father? Would the throne then be renamed ‘Saint Peter’s’? What would happen to the Church?
Translated from the Polish by Jan Dzierzgowski
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