The Guardian has been running a poll this week, asking whether Pope Francis has changed our views on the Catholic Church. For me this is a bit of an eggy one, as a footnote to the poll explains that this could be a change for the better, or for worse. Unfortunately there's no room for further quantifying a change in personal opinion. I'd appreciate some kind of tick-box scale to anchor my feelings, from: 'Same Old Patriarchal, Paranoid Nonsense- Different Smock' up to 'The Guy Knelt BACKWARDS On A Plane Seat, Come On World, And He Said 'Gay', Look At Least He's Trying'. So I'm not sure how useful it will be when the poll finally closes to see the end result. At the time of writing it's 64% Yes, 36% No.
I am happy to confess that I, maybe somewhat obtusely, answered 'no'. Predominantly because one slightly more chipper, 'switched on' pontiff has not yet convinced me that the entire Catholic Church is for turning. Excuse the wording.
It is progressive and unprecedented that the Pope openly and willingly addressed journalists during Monday's flight, with seeming good humour and patience. It wasn't even a short chat. 80 minutes would challenge my Interest Threshold, and would really eat in to potential in-flight film time which could be spent enjoying Twilight Breaking Dawn: Part 2 with a warm merlot. After the flurry of prominent questions about the role of women in the church, gay priests and recent sex abuse cases, I wonder if there was just a small part of some journalists that wished he would swing a final, punctuating, metaphorical orb, high-five them (come on, he definitely would) and sit down? But, forced to keep the conversation flowing, much like getting stuck next to the groom's old clarinet teacher at a wedding (some people stay really close to their clarinet teachers*), I hope they breathed a collective sigh and reached in to their journalistic reserves for the back-up questions stashed only in cases of emergency. Like when interviewing small children who would rather chew their anorak toggle, or Kerry Katona.
"Philip Stanley, Archangel Today. I'd like to ask, do you ever forget the real Latin phrases and just sort of make bits up? I used to do that at school all the time...'Lupus arbore stuck est'."
"Maria Flan, Shropshire Cheeses Periodical. Those are terribly wide sleeves you're wearing, could you estimate how many bread rolls you might fit down each one from your average hotel breakfast buffet?"
While it has been intriguing to imagine this mid-air papal filibuster unfolding, I was disappointed to hear the swift misinterpretation of his comments on women being relayed in the news. Sure, we're relying on verbatim from journalists who'd endured relentless masses, screaming crowds and were perhaps gratefully dozing off when they had to look sharp and switch on their dictaphones, but when Radio 4 announced in a news bulletin that the Pope wanted a 'larger role' for women in the Catholic church, the quote was simply misplaced. The prelude to that morsel of goodwill came in the form of Pope Francis actually saying that the door is "closed" on women being ordained as priests. That should have been the headline, not the flaccid concession handed out afterwards. In a week where feminism and the treatment of women is at the forefront of many news stories; where the face one of literature's most celebrated novelists has lead to threats of sexual violence and changes in Twitter policy, is it enough that some reportage still wishes to reassure us that women do really, honestly mean something to the Catholic Church? If Radio 4 had put the quote into its full context, I might have stayed listening for the New Quiz.
But before you also cry out in protest, never fear; "The role of women doesn't end just with being a mother and with housework" , Pope Francis went on to soothe. Rejoice! Having neither progeny, nor any motivation for dusting, I was momentarily left stumbling around my kitchen, blindly sobbing at my lack of purpose and smearing my face with the probiotic yoghurt I'd left out on the side for three days. Not for long however. Thankfully there is an alternative; the Pope has a place for me. Erm, just what did he say that was again? Oh he didn't elaborate. Fair enough Francis, you were probably tired and wanted to catch the end of Breaking Dawn: Part 2. And besides, it really is beyond his powers to do anything if as he fairly points out, the door was closed by John Paul II. It's not like he could open it again or anything, or that it's actually just a metaphorical door. Cut him some slack, he's only the Pope.
*I played the violin