The news that 76-year old Jorge Mario Bergoglio had been elected pope surprised many in the crowd who had gathered to witness the historic moment. People were expecting a much younger, more vibrant pope, perhaps even a reformer. At the very least, someone that would bear the mantle of the Catholic faith with a bit more vim and vigor than perhaps is possible for a 76-year-old. What the world got is a tough man. A man resilient in his faith, unflinching in his conviction on women's reproductive health issues and gay marriage. Francis won’t be the man the Catholic faithful need to carry them into the 21st century.
The former cardinal of Argentina will now be known as Pope Francis I. The president of that country, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, congratulated Francis on Twitter and in a letter released by the government.
Their relationship hasn’t always been so conciliatory, as the two have repeatedly clashed on the issue of gay marriage. In 2010, President Fernandez signed a law that allowed same-sex marriage and Bergoglio waged a campaign in opposition of it. He wrote a declaration that was to be read at every pulpit, he warned that same-sex marriage called into question the very survival of the family. Fernandez has called his positions medieval.
And that is exactly what they are.
Some women believe that because Francis is a Jesuit that he will usher in a new era of reform for the role of women at the church. Executive director of the Women’s Ordination Conference said, "It’s a breath of fresh air, Jesuits are known to be more progressive."
If women of the Catholic faith believe that their status in the church will rise with Pope Francis I at the helm, they are mistaken. He is vehemently opposed to contraception, divorce, and artificial insemination. Even as he kissed the feet of twelve AIDS patients at an Argentinean hospital, a disease that might have been prevented by the use of contraception. His faith flies in the face of reality.
It has been fifty years since the Vatican Council promised fundamental reform for women’s involvement in the church. Since then, little has changed. Women still cannot be ordained as priests, or even as deacons. Nuns of the Catholic Church have been calling, begging for reform for women. Now they are faced with a new pope, known for his orthodoxy.
The sad part about all of this is that most women are not looking towards the new pope to actually even make any changes. They just want him to be open to the idea of reform. That should give you a sense of what the status of women is within the Catholic Church.
The cardinals weren’t looking for a man that would heed the call of the Catholic faithful for a reformer. What they were looking for is a skilled bureaucrat who can lead them out of the mess of sex abuse scandal. The church is the maker of its own increasing irrelevance, and that’s the one thing the new pope won’t be able to blame women for.