Pope Francis Says Catholic Church Should Support Women Seeking ‘Greater Justice and Equality’

Pope Francis speaks to journalists on his flight back to Rome on November 1, 2016. The pope told a reporter that women would most likely be banned from the Catholic priesthood forever. Photo by REUTERS/Ettore Ferrari/Pool

In a major new document addressed to “all Christian young people,” Pope Francis calls 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 shows the pontiff’s hallmark advocacy for a version of Catholic teaching that is willing to evolve with the times. But the document does little to advocate for concrete steps that would improve women’s roles in the church, nor does 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 think the pope has loosened the church’s firm moral teachings, 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 apostolic exhortation, titled “Christ Is Alive.”

The document comes at a time when young people across the West are abandoning organized religion, including the scandal-hit Catholic Church. Bishops gathered at the Vatican in October to discuss this, and the pontiff’s document was a follow-up to that meeting. The Vatican held a meeting in February to address the sexual abuse of minors by clergy, and although the problem has thrown the Catholic Church into crisis, it was not a primary focus of Francis’s latest document.

Instead, the pontiff devoted several paragraphs to the clerical abuse issue, mostly reiterating words from previous papal speeches and from a church document produced after the October meeting. 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.”

He offered a reminder that “those who committed these horrible crimes are not the majority of priests.” Although Francis has previously acknowledged the power gap between abusers and victims, he wrote in this document that “if you see a priest at risk, because he has lost the joy of his ministry, or seeks affective compensation, or is taking the wrong path, remind him of his commitment to God and his people, remind him of the Gospel and urge him to hold to his course.”

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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Chico Harlan