The Roman Catholic Church has a new pope, and The New Yorker’s Jane Kramer brings her readers the astonishing news that “you will not see women in the priesthood anytime soon; or married clergy; or an end to the bans on divorce, abortion, and contraception; or a reprieve for the nuns in trousers who go forth to give food, music, and solace to the poor; or even an acknowledgement that ‘unrepentant’ gay and lesbian Catholic men and women might, conceivably, get to heaven.”
Kramer got scooped by National Journal’s Amy Sullivan, who reported yesterday that “the cardinals . . . were never going to elect a pope who supports married clergy or female priests.” Sullivan explained that “there was some discussion in the media about whether the cardinals would elect a ‘reformer.’ But that word does not mean the same thing in a Catholic context that it might elsewhere.”
Sullivan seems to think her readers are too ignorant to understand the difference between an election for pope and one for, say, U.S. Senate, and perhaps she’s right. Kramer actually seems to be that ignorant. Her last bit, about “ ’unrepentant’ gay and lesbian Catholic men and women,” is especially thick-headed. She doesn’t seem to understand that Christianity calls on everyone, not just those with unusual sexual tastes, to repent.
The underlying assumption behind coverage like this is that the Catholic Church is a primitive institution in need of being brought up to date. Sometime in the past 50 years or so, it was revealed that men and women are more or less interchangeable, that sexual liberty is a blessing, that homosexuality is normal and celibacy is deviant, and even, as per Kramer, that women ought to wear pants. By now all right-thinking people agree on all these points. Those old men in Rome not only doubt them but act is if they actually think they know better! What is the matter with them?