Surprise choice for Pope? Jesuit, Argentine, lives simply.But still a man


Card._Jorge_Bergoglio_SJ,_2008So it’s Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. A Jesuit who lives simply and shuns pomp and show. Francis I. The new Pope.

The problem, of course, is that whoever was chosen, from whichever continent, we could only ever say one thing with certainty: it would be a man. There’s the rub.

How much more out of date can the Catholic Church be?

As my former colleague Shobhan Saxena says from Brazil, “they’re not yet ready for pink smoke”.

If only there had been the late Cardinal Carlo Martini, the former archbishop of Milan. In an interview released after his death, the Cardinal said that the Catholic church was 200 years behind the times. Had there ever been a Martini papacy, it would have been radical and progressive. Fourteen years ago, at a bishops gathering, Martini had attacked the  church’s conservatism, urging a rethink of the role of women, marriage and divorce.

If only.

The church isn’t regressive on everything. It has historically stood with those who suffer.When John Paul II came to Haiti, he spoke out against the conditions under the Duvaliers and arguably triggered the massive movement that dislodged a dictatorship. In South Africa, Catholic bishops were among the Christian clerics who spoke out against apartheid. In Salvador, the Catholic archbishop spoke out against state torture. His bravery cost him his life. The church continues to work with the poor, the damned, disinherited and dispossessed.

On most issues, the church stands with the little man. But not with the little woman. On  issues of gender and sexuality it is hopelessly out of date.