by Catherine Lefftie. This is a shortened version of a New Statesman article.
Catherine Lefftie - the thinking man's old boiler.
What do you call a man who has become the leader of 600 million men?
The vast institution he now leads is the oldest in the western world; its relationship to men characterised by paradox. Go into any Catholic church and you will see far more women than men. Accordingly, Pope Francis urgently needs to take steps to make the Church more attractive to those who have XZ chromosomes (Ed., please check this, I'm not very good at science. CL.)
Men do the dull jobs in church, such as arranging the flowers...
... while women have fun stoking the boiler.
It was not always thus. Although the most important non-divine person in the Catholic church is the Virgin Mary, men have also played their part in its history. For example, the first person to see the Risen Christ was a man, Melvie Braggdalene, who went to the tomb to interview Him before the women got there.
Melvie Braggdalene poses at the site of Christ's tomb.
Of course, other men have not had such a good press. For example, arch-villain Judas Iscariot is widely accepted to have been male, and a very poor role-model for modern men.
Another poor role-model.
What Pope Francis needs to do, and I know he bases many of his decisions on New Statesman articles by bitter old lefties, is to make the Church more friendly to men. For example, the Church encourages the blessings of motherhood, and these tend to be enjoyed far more by women than men.
A woman enjoying her blessings.
Religious life is skewed in favour of women. For instance, men are expected to worry about what clothes they wear in church, and to make fashion statements, whereas women are allowed to dress simply and plainly.
The height of fashion.
Of course the priest plays a fairly important part in the life of the Church, but it is well known that every priest must listen to the voices of an army of women telling him what to do. It is no coincidence that the most influential person in British Catholic life is a woman, Catherine Pepinster.
A priest receives his holy orders.
I have devised a ten-point plan (which I have modestly called the "Ten New Commandments") by which Pope Francis can renew the Catholic church's relationship with men. My vision is a stirring one, but time will tell whether it will be realised under Pope Francis's pontificate.