Mary Gordon – a steady light among American writers labeled ‘Catholic’ – has strong, mixed emotions about the Pope who loves the same steamy Anna Magnani movies that the Catholic church used to ban. She “burst into tears,” Gordon remembers, when she first read Pope Francis’ open-hearted interview in the Jesuit magazine America — his identification of himself as, first, “a sinner;” his picture of his church as “a field hospital after battle,” his sharp turn from “obsessive” fixations on sex. She got “hysterically giddy,” she’s telling me, then “scared.” Her tears signaled “how sad I’d been, for so long” about her church. Hope seems possible again, and disappointment, too. She makes writerly distinctions here – that “tone” matters and the Pope’s is a radical turn; but that his “diction” is different when he speaks of women in the priesthood. “His phrase was ‘the door is closed.’ What’s the one thing he won’t talk about? Giving full power to women.”
Mary Gordon gave us a roster of female theologians we all might get to know better: Elizabeth Johnson of Fordham, Sandra Schneiders of Santa Clara, Lisa Cahill of Boston College, Margaret Farley at Yale and Mary Boys of the Union Theological Seminary in New York.