Know Your New Pope: A Feminist Guide

W8555990888_2f505ee579e know he’s the first pope from Latin America, the first Jesuit pope and the first pope (probably) with only one lung. But where does newly elected Pope Francis stand on the issues feminists care about? The Catholic Church is not just a religious entity but also a political one, and often uses its social and economic power to push an anti-gay, anti-abortion and anti-women agenda.

For example, last election cycle the Catholic Church donated almost $2 million to anti-LGBT efforts. In December, former Pope Benedict XVI demanded that Catholic charities cease activity that “offends Catholic teaching”–such as advocating the use of condoms for safe sex and the practice of other forms of birth control.

So how does the new Pope Francis stack up?

He’s Anti-Marriage Equality
Despite visiting a hospice to wash the feet of AIDS patients, Pope Francis has asserted that gay marriage isof the devil.” In a letter to the monasteries of Buenos Aires, he wrote, “Let’s not be naive, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God.” In 2010, he was a strong advocate against an Argentinian bill that would legalize same-sex marriage and gay adoption (which he believes to be a form of discrimination against children).

He’s No Friend To Women
The new pope may have been deemed a “breath of fresh air” by certain women’s religious groups, but his record on women’s issues is  pretty abysmal. As a conservative, it’s no surprise that he is both anti-abortion (describing the pro-choice movement as a “culture of death“)  and anti-contraception (he opposed Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s efforts to distribute free contraceptives). Bridget Mary Meehan of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP) hopes that Pope Francis will take care of “the elephant in the church’s living room” and “recognize women and men as equal partners in the Gospel” by allowing women to occupy top jobs in the Curia (the central governing body of the Catholic Church). But despite protests, the Vatican does not recognize the priesthood of the women of ARCWP or the validity of the women’s priesthood movement.

His Human Rights Record May Be Iffy
Pope Francis was a priest in Argentina during the “Dirty War,” a time of military unrest and guerrilla warfare in the ’70s and ’80s. As many as 30,000 people died or disappeared, and Pope Francis has been accused of not doing enough to help, as well as failing to protect two Jesuit priests who were challenging Argentina’s regime. Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi defended Pope Francis, saying “nothing concrete or credible” had ever been brought against him and that the accusations were promoted by a “publication which specializes in campaigns which are sometimes slanderous and defamatory.”

Pope Francis is now the most powerful man in the Catholic Church, in charge of leading the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. He may be a “man of the people” who took the bus to work every day and refused to stand taller than the cardinals around him during his first address, but he has yet to enact any real policies. Let’s hope his track record so far isn’t indicative of his new reign.

Image via Flickr user Catholicism under Creative Commons 2.0


  1. The fact that he was an Argentinian cardinal piqued my interest, but when I saw his name, realized he’s still an Italian/European elected by the hierarchy of the Church. Same old, same old.

  2. Miriam Lupfer Reed says:

    Well, we are still in the 16th century somewhere with the new pope. Women are chattel and have no equal rights in the church of the pope. Being anti-gay and and anti-woman puts this pope in the hazardous to all who strive for equal rights position. Just ducky.

  3. The way I see it, the “new” pope is pretty much the same as the old one. Only the name is different, plus a few small lifestyle changes, which are hardly impressive. The Catholic Church obviously doesn’t want real change, which is why they elected this guy.

  4. Sandra Tucker says:

    I agree with Nancee. He is an Italian since Argentina is more European than most south American counties. Nothing new form this religion and most Christian religions, and unfortunately closed minded and patriarchal. After reading the book of Mathew in the bible, I don’t recall reading anything about gays or women inequalities. All I wrote is to love, forgive, and respect. Now if this was said by Jesus the son of God, why the hell people believe more what other man wrote in the bible? So I started form the beginning of all Genesis I have never hear of so many absurd stories and so unfair for women in general. The Pope is nothing but the president of a catholic nation just like any president but this one has the whole world allied. People are so hungry for a change and religion uses this to plant fear of misconduct, to be left our from God, and the false hope for a new world full of eternal happiness.

  5. He’s not a friend to women by definition, catholic church sees a woman as a support system for a man and a child bearing entity, nothing more (nothing less); there’s no change to be expected in this area probably not ever

  6. does anyone else thinks it’s incredibly wrong that the one post starts out with: “Despite visiting a hospice to wash the feet of AIDS patients, Pope Francis has asserted that gay marriage is “of the devil.”

    So HIV/AIDS is a gay issue? Isn’t that very small minded? I don’t see how a disease that afflicts all genders and orientations has anything to do with gay marriage.

  7. Why don’t wymin simply quit the Catholic Church and form their own worldwide religious organization?

  8. Hi, I’m Catholic. I am a 17 year old girl and, to be honest, I am currently trying to stay calm while typing this because I am so tired of hearing these types of remarks about my religion. On the first subject you talked about, yes, we are for traditional marriage. We believe that marriage is a sacred sacrament between a man and a women, BUT that does not mean that we are judging or condemning those who think differently then us nor do want lesbians, gays, transgenders, or bisexuals bullied or harassed. Please realize that name calling and stereotyping those of us who stand for what we believe is exactly what you don’t want done to you. We have a right to speak what we believe, same as you have a right to speak what you believe. Second, the Catholic Church is not anti-women. How can we be anti-women when we hold the Virgin Mary in such high respect? Yes, we are against abortion. We believe that life begins at conception and that abortion is the killing of the most innocent form of life. We also believe that women deserve much better than abortion. And yes, we are against contraceptives. Birth control has been known to cause many health risks and we believe that sex shouldn’t be for pleasure, but for creating a new human being, a new life. Also, there are no women priests because the Catholic Church is thought of as a she, which is why when a priest is ordained he is marrying the Church. A women, on the other hand, marries Jesus. She becomes a nun and lives a life of celibacy. These are OUR beliefs. I’ve heard so many people speak of equality for all, but are they really talking about equality for ALL or just those who share the same beliefs as them? Equality for all means that we should be able to believe what we want to believe. It should mean that PRIVATE Catholic medical institutions can decide whether or not they provide abortions or contraceptives and it means that Catholic Churches should be able to marry who they believe should be married. So, please, next time you’re about to degrade another religion for its beliefs, remember that what you are doing to us is exactly what you don’t want done to you. Thank you and God bless.

    • catholickeepingitreal says:

      Chiming in late but I had to speak up
      In reply to Mirna
      Hun Im catholic too but the facts are the facts. Just cause youre offended doesnt negate their truth. If youre offended, you probably shouldnt ask the question or come to sites like these. Nobody has degraded the faith, they are merely stating what has been observed about Pope Francis and their opinion. Any person with a brain On the question of Pope Francis no matter how much you sugar coat his election is a continuation of the status quo that has led the church for centuries. White European older than sixty year old man. The fact that he is Argentina is paying lip service to the need from reform because he hails from South America. He has the same narrow unbending and unyielding viewpoint on issues such as women, birth control, etc as his predecessor. Thats not going to change. What two consenting adults do in their bedrooms is their business and nobody else’s not yours or the Holy Fathers and not anybodys place to judge. And as far as the question of abortion sorry to say this but thats really not yours or the popes place either to tell a woman how she should live her life unless you are planning to help her deal with the consequences(feeding clothing and raising) especially since you want to deny her viable preventative measures such as birth control and offer nothing in its place. “Just dont do it its a sin” and
      “abstinence till marriage” are beautiful concepts but Ive been around long enough to know that people are going to do it regardless of what the parish priest, monsigneur, archbishop, bishop or even the Pope telling them they shouldn’t. If private Catholic institutions dont want to support it fine, then they shouldnt be able to get the tax benefits (as non profit religious organizations) of a country that prides itself on separation of church and state and life liberty and pursuit of happiness for every living human. As a caseworker in poverty area for years, Ive counseled women dealing with unwanted pregnancies and yes some of them got abortions. Was it my place to tell them they shouldnt? No because I wasnt living their life I didnt know the circumstances that lead them to make that decision. The Catholic Church’s practices are more rooted in Roman and patriarchal tradition than the teachings of Christ. I would recommend that before you jump on the defensive you actually listen and read what people are saying and read a little history yourself. Blind faith is just as bad if not worse than false

      • Hi, well to start right off, saying you are Catholic and then saying “but” right after kind of diminishes what you said right before. You either are Catholic and abide to all of the church’s teachings or are just speaking out of your own accord. It isn’t a pick what I like and not what I like religion, you either are or you are not. Also, of course the pope is going to have the same viewpoints as the pope before him. They were both Catholic? I’m not sure what you were trying to tell me about that. The Catholic church’s views might be “narrow” to you, but for us it’s just what we believe and to say that what someone does in this bedroom is not the Holy Father’s business? I just..I’m really confused as to why you think that if you are Catholic. Of course everything we do has God in it. Sex WAS created BY God. And as for the part of us not telling women to not have abortion unless we help them with the “consequences” If you go to the church I can guarantee you that they will help you in some way. Whether they help you by helping you find a pregnancy crisis clinic that will give you the right aid or help you think about other options like adoption, the church will help. Also, I never said anything about the church getting tax benefits, I just said that the government shouldn’t force on them abortion and birth control since that is not part of their beliefs. And to say that the Catholic Church’s teachings aren’t rooted in the teachings of Christ? I’m really at a loss for words on that one. The Catholic Church REVOLVES around Christ. The Catholic Church is ABOUT Christ. I may not know every single little bit of information about my church, but I know enough to say that we are rooted in Jesus. I think the problem that most people have with the church is that it doesn’t conform to what they WANT. The Church follows the Magisterium which is, in short, the teachings and laws of the Catholic church. We follow what is true, not what society depicts as true. The church will not change for anyone, we, instead, should change ourselves in order to fit our beliefs and as a Catholic, I believe the word of God is true, not mine or anyone else’s. I would really recommended that you read the bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church before calling yourself a Catholic and responding as a Catholic. You say that my beliefs are false, but the truth is that I live by faith and not by sight. I clearly may not have the same views as you or anyone else, but they are my views and as I have freedom of speech I felt like expressing them on here. I didn’t want their to be any confusion as to what we Catholics believe and though my post may not change anyone’s point of view, I, like you said, had to speak up. I also understand that I can’t change your decisions or anyone else’s for that matter, but I pray that you and everyone understand that this what we believe and no matter how much you disagree with someone else’s beliefs you should respect them. Thanks for responding and I hope you have a great rest of your night.

    • Yay! A catholic who knows and understands what her faith teaches! Thankyou. And, you said it all very well.

    • Lenie Lenape says:

      Well said, Mother Church needs more women like u

  9. And a highly educated women died in Ireland recently due to the Catholic beliefs that a dying fetus means more than a woman’s life. Another feather in their anti-abortion beliefs cap. Look, don’t want one, don’t have one. Then again, at 17 you are what your parents are at the moment. No matter what your faith. As a bisexual I listen to Catholic lip service all of the time. You may say, just like the pope, that you do not have a problem with the LGBTQ community but they are just not allowed to marry. Wrong, it should be my right as I was made this way, and given free will to do with my life as I desire. No? If I regret my decisions that is my choice alone thanks to my free will. Not the popes, or any other religious leader. In my tribe, we are taught that our Creator made us the way He wanted us. Gay, straight, bi, red, black, white, etc. Your pope only controls you lot, not the rest of the world. And as a religious head, he should have no say in how the rest of the world behaves. Keep it to his 1 mile country, and stay out of my politics. No one really has a clue what Jesus would have wanted, if he even existed, as the New Testament was written hundreds of years after his death. Plus the Council of Nicea chose what you are to believe, and how. They left books out of your bible that they believed too forward thinking. Those books have still not been added. Why? Too controversial. They would have to admit that maybe Mary was more than just a prostitute.

    Anyway, we could beat this dead horse forever. Unfortunately, you are so blinded by your beliefs you cannot see that you should have no say over anyone else’s free will, birth right, or the rights of their own body. You do what works for you, and leave others be. Help those who need it without a condition. If most people in the world did that, the world would be a better place to live. I was a Catholic once, and then I went home to my elders. Amazing how differently you see the world when your religious leaders tell you to seek the truth, instead of telling you the truth you must believe. Blessings kiddo.

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