During a meeting with theologians on November 30, Pope Francis (pictured here on October 23, 2023) praised the “feminine” nature of the Church. (Photo by TIZIANA FABI/AFP)

By Loup Besmond de Senneville

Dec 5 2023

Pope Francis has told members of the International Theological Commission (ITC) they need to do more to “help make the Church less masculine”. 

The pope, who is battling a nasty bout of bronchitis and is short of breath, began his meeting with the 28 members currently on the commission by handing them his prepared address. “There is a good address here dealing with theological matters,” he said. “But because of my health, it is better not to read it. ” 

That did not stop him from speaking, however. And in a frank manner, no less.

“Theology, theological reflection, is very important,” he told the ITC members. “But there is something about you that I do not like,pardon my sincerity,” he added, as he looked over the group assembled before him. “One, two, three, four women: poor women! They are alone! Ah, excuse me, there are five,” he said.

Francis, who is the one who actually chooses the theologians who are on the ITC, then spoke off-the-cuff for several minutes, expanding on remarks he’s made before regarding the “feminine” nature of the Church. 

The “Petrine” and “Marian” principles

As he has already done on several occasions, Francis highlighted the “two principles” he distinguishes in the Church: the “Petrine” principle, in reference to the first of the Apostles, and the “Marian” principle, in reference to the mother of Jesus. 

The Jesuit pope said the first is a ministerial principle, and is therefore linked to the Church’s ministries. He said that it is because of the Petrine principle that only men can be priests. But he insisted that the Marian principle is more important.

“The Marian is more important than the Petrine, because there is the bride Church, the woman Church, without being masculine,” said. The pope said this means we need more women theologians and a more feminized theology. “We must advance in this,” he said. “Women have a capacity for theological reflection that is different to that of us men.” 

The pope said he plans to ask the Council of Cardinals to “reflect on the feminine dimension of the Church” the next time he calls together this privy council of advisors that he created at the beginning of his pontificate. And he explained why.

“The Church is a woman,” Francis said. “If we do not know what a woman is, what the theology of a woman is, we will never understand what the Church is. One of the great sins we have committed is to ‘masculinize’ the Church,” the pope continued. “And this is a task that I ask of you,” he told the ITC members. “Please, make the Church less masculine.” – La Croix