Tina Beattie is professor of Catholic studies at the University of Roehampton in London:
Women do not seem to have a place in the pope’s vision of a Catholic church that cares for the world’s poor people.
Pope Francis has repeatedly said he wants a poor church of the poor. At a time when millions of people are experiencing the impact of brutal economic policies and unbridled corporate greed, he has attracted admiration from Catholics and non-Catholics for his condemnation of the economic system and the simplicity of his own life.
He has also acknowledged the need to give women a greater say in the life of the church, though he has done little to achieve this. Yet poverty impacts unrelentingly and acutely on women’s lives, and nowhere does the absence of women’s influence manifest itself so clearly as around the church’s teachings on sexual and reproductive ethics.
While papal encyclicals abound with negative references to contraception and abortion and positive references to motherhood, marriage and the family, one can search in vain for any discussion of maternal mortality. Like his predecessors, Pope Francis has a tendency towards romanticism when speaking about motherhood. This is a dangerous fantasy when it occludes the harsh realities and struggles of women’s reproductive lives.