I Can't Believe I Agree With Maureen Dowd: Yes, It's Time For A Female Pope

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It's not often I'm with Maureen Dowd, but I have to agree with her on this one: The scandal is too big, the pope is in too deep. (He's still in denial, calling the scandal "petty gossip.")It's time the Catholic Church had a female pope. (Heck, if Alanis Morrisette can portray God, why not pry open those closed minds even further?)

Pope Benedict has continued the church’s ban on female priests and is adamant against priests’ having wives. He has started two investigations of American nuns to check on their “quality of life” — code for seeing if they’ve grown too independent. As a cardinal he wrote a Vatican document urging women to be submissive partners and not take on adversarial roles toward men.

But the completely paternalistic and autocratic culture of Il Papa led to an insular, exclusionary system that failed to police itself, and that became a corrosive shelter for secrets and shame.

If the church could throw open its stained glass windows and let in some air, invite women to be priests, nuns to be more emancipated and priests to marry, if it could banish criminal priests and end the sordid culture of men protecting men who attack children, it might survive. It could be an encouraging sign of humility and repentance, a surrender of arrogance, both moving and meaningful.

Cardinal Ratzinger devoted his Vatican career to rooting out any hint of what he considered deviance. The problem is, he was obsessed with enforcing doctrinal orthodoxy and somehow missed the graver danger to the most vulnerable members of the flock.

The sin-crazed “Rottweiler” was so consumed with sexual mores — issuing constant instructions on chastity, contraception, abortion — that he didn’t make time for curbing sexual abuse by priests who were supposed to pray with, not prey on, their young charges.

My late aunt Agnes (my godmother) was explaining to me some years back that she didn't approve of women who wanted to be priests.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because Jesus was a man, and so were the Apostles. That's why priests have to be men," she told me.

"Well, Aunt Aggie, if you really want to be literal, you should have to be Jewish to be a priest. Because Jesus and the apostles were," I said. (I can't help it. I love to mess with people.)

A devout woman, she looked at me, shocked at my blasphemy. But she still couldn't come up with an answer.

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