“Therein lies a theological problem,” Francis answers. “Women have a function within the Church because the Church itself is female … The Church is a wife, Christ’s wife. It is not his husband. Christ is the husband. That is our faith.”
A few young women smirk, but the pope goes on, saying: “There are two constituting streams within the Church. Two principles. So, the ministry is for men. On the maternal side, which is far more important, are women. The promotion of women is aligned with their own vocation as women … otherwise, women would be diminished.”
The dignity of life
Milagros also objects to the pope’s description of abortion as “hiring a hitman” and argues that abortion is a woman’s right.
“I think Jesus would walk with that woman. He wouldn’t judge her like they would during Mass at a church,” Milagros says.
With tears welling up in her eyes, Milagros hands the pope a green bandana with the words “Keep abortion legal, safe, free” written in Spanish. She shared that she would keep that bandana in her backpack as a symbol and wanted to give it to him “lovingly and respectfully.” The pope accepted the gift with a smile, kissing Milagros on the cheek.
Though he agrees that the Church should never condemn a woman for having an abortion, Francis stands firm in his position that abortion kills an innocent child.
“Any embryology book shows us that a month after conception, the DNA is aligned, and all the organs are drawn. It is therefore not just a bunch of cells put together, but a systematized human life. So, the question that should be submitted when talking about the morality of this is: ‘Is it valid to eliminate a human life to solve a problem?’”
His response sets off a debate among the young women in the room in which many insist abortion must be kept legal to protect women, while one lone girl, Maria, from Spain, disagrees, asking Milagros; “You are surrounded by women who have had abortions. Don’t you see the suffering abortion causes?”
Throughout the exchange, the pope listens attentively and waits until the conversation has settled to give his thoughts.
“A woman who has an abortion cannot be left alone, we should stay with her,” Francis says. “We should stay by her side. But we should call a spade a spade. Staying by her side is one thing, but justifying the act is something else.”
(Story continues below)
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Child sexual abuse
Tearing up, one young man in the group by the name Juan, from Spain, shares that when he was 11 and 12, he was sexually abused by a teacher at a Catholic school in Spain.
“There is so much hypocrisy [in the Church],” Juan says through tears. “What about pederasty in the Church?”
“It’s usually said that lives should be protected, there’s a right to live … But then, when it comes to other aspects … many people from within the Church reject the victims or stand on the perpetrator’s side,” Juan says. “You must be aware that there are many priests and bishops below you who are bad people.”
Francis responds, saying: “There are men and women who destroy. The abuser destroys a child, and if it’s a church person, the hypocrisy and double life are horrific.”
“I can’t possibly convey the empathy I feel for a person who has been abused, but it pains me deeply,” Francis says. “We’ve been clear about this, we’ve disciplined the seminaries, we’ve punished the abusing priests or even the abusing laypeople.”