THE statement yesterday by Pope Francis that women will never be allowed become priests in the Catholic Church is shocking but not surprising.
Shocking, because for a Church of one billion members to ignore and diminish half its number is an affront not just to humane Christianity but to commonsense.
It also ignores the fact that women priests were not unknown in the early Church, before it became a patriarchal and hierarchal structure. Indeed, there is historical evidence that our very own St Bridget was not just a priest but a bishop.
His remarks, made on a flight from Sweden to Rome, are not surprising because they are simply a re-statement of Catholic Church doctrine that has for generations sought to put women in their place. They also accord with an apostolic letter written on the matter by Pope John Paul II in 1994.
What is worrying, though, is that it appears to undermine a commission set up by Pope Francis last August to study the role of female deacons in the Catholic Church.
Last week, the Pope issued a doctrine banning the scattering of burial ashes. Now he has ruled out for all time the prospect of women becoming priests.
Far from being the liberal reformer he was viewed when he became head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis appears to be as conservative and dogmatic as the two popes before him.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved