Where Pope Francis Has Failed: On Women's Equality

Nuns in St. Peter's Square
Nuns in St. Peter's Square
Juan Carlos Botero

BOGOTA — It is no easy task trying to talk about the errors of Pope Francis. The achievements of Argentina's Jorge Bergoglio, both in words and deeds, have been frankly quite startling.

Acts of humility by the Supreme Pontiff have had a tremendous public impact, like kneeling to wash and kiss the feet of prisoners, including a Muslim woman, or officially recognizing the Palestinian state. He has generously stretched his hands out to atheists and raised it unstintingly to excommunicate the Italian mafia.

Before ongoing, eternal doubts on homosexuality, instead of stating an opinion and calling it an "abomination" as the Bible does and as popes have done for centuries, he responded with a more inclusive and understanding attitude. "Who am I to judge?" he said.

He has contributed to the renewal of ties between the United States and Cuba, and denounced the economic model of capitalism that offers no compassion for the less fortunate. He eschews the pomp that power bestows and lives in modesty and simplicity, asking his colleagues to renounce the deceptive lure of luxury to devote themselves to the needy.
He has not hesitated to call the massacres of Armenians "genocide," nor to cleanse the Vatican"s finances, demanding transparency in its investments. Employees suspected of corruption have been dismissed, and secret accounts used for massive money laundering revealed.
Let it be said that the pope was expected to behave just like his predecessors. The fact that he has turned out to be an exception speaks well of him and badly of the Roman Curia, where it appears people with Francis' scrupulous honesty and humility are actually very few.
So what is Pope Francis"s mistake? Sadly, it's a big one, brought to light recently when he denounced the inequality of wages between men and women. What he said was right, of course: There is no justification for paying someone less than another person to do the same job merely because of gender. In the European Union, a woman earns 16% less than her male colleagues, and in the U.S., she earns 77 cents for every dollar paid to a man.
The pope called this inequality a scandal. But if he is right, his own comments are perhaps not so much an error as an act of incoherence, since he heads one of the world's most sexist institutions. There is no reason why women should not officiate mass as they do, perfectly well, in the Episcopal Church, or become priests, cardinals, bishops and even pope.
Female leadership, so necessary and fruitful in the worlds of finance, politics, sports and design, remains banned in an institution that declares itself the defender of Christian morality. This incoherence has proved costly to the Vatican, and it is time for this humane and revolutionary pope to apply his reformism to the matter of the place of women in the Church. Only good things would follow.
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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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