A Writer and Her “Crush” on Pope Francis

NYTimes Op-Ed Misses the Mark by Mary E. Latela, September 20, 2015

In her “First person” op-ed, (September 20, 2015) Lily Burana writes about her crush on Pope Francis. Entitled, “His Holiness, My Heart,” she writes about Francis as if he were a pop star. “Sparking new hope for the R.C. Church through a more forgiving stance and a genial, media friendly persona, Pope Francis has inspired lapsed parishioners to return, [… while extending.. ] the fan base to those who aren’t Roman Catholic, Christian or even particularly religion.

I believe that the author sees herself like those “teeny-boppers who must have felt awaiting the Beatles’ landing in New York in 1964.”

A half page on the NYTimes is valuable space, and I can think of ways to use this space to celebrate the coming of Pope Francis besides this emotional fan letter.

If I were a mother whose child were sitting on death row, because the R.C. church has not condemned Capital punishment strongly enough to make a difference, I would fill the page with facts, thoughts, and my deep disappointment.

If I were expecting to become the first woman priest, and knew Canon Law, I would understand that the tradition of male only priests is nearly set in stone. I would encourage more open participation by women in the working out of the Encyclical Laudate Si – on the environment. I’d talk about Mrs. Wangari Maathai, who started the Green Best by working with women to resurrect the dead land in Kenya by planting trees.  I would talk about Women for Women International, Inc., which empowers women to improve their life situation through training, gifts of a sewing machine, goats, cows. Women share these gifts – from women in the U.S. and other free nations – so that one woman’s tool impacts an entire community. And men are not threatened by the success of women doing “women’s work.”

The Catholic Schools in the U.S. provided free education to the children of poor immigrants from Ireland and Italy. They still do, but tuition costs have risen and even some church-going, Christ-loving Catholics cannot afford to send their children to Catholic School. Even the well-prepared teachers who work far under the minimum wage for teachers sacrifice their solvency to teach.

I’m afraid that Burana veers two far with her statement that “the cross as a symbol has become too fraught [with what?] that it alone can no longer do the talking.” Faith is her virtue of choice,  so pushing aside the cross is a bit dangerous.

Women have not been sent to the laundry room, to the back of the bus, to the nursery. Perhaps the most hopeful thing Pope Francis has said about women is that the church needs a new theology of women in the church. This is an extraordinary statement from the official who used to be presented as the man who had an answer for everything. By saying that the church does not have an adequate theology of women, the pope is inviting all the church (women and men, theologians and bishops), into a conversation about women.

In his interview with Jesuit magazines, published in English in America in September, Francis said, “It is necessary to broaden the opportunities for a stronger presence of women in the church” and “We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman.” Francis told the pontifical council’s seminar, “I suffer — I speak truly — when I see in the church or in some ecclesial organizations that the role of service — which we all have and should have — that woman’s role of service slips into a role of servitude.” http://ncronline.org/news/women-resist-call-new-theology.


Mary Latela, M.Div., teaches Religious Studies & Philosophy for Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. She is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.


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