No girls allowed

There’s a new man in the Vatican, and he seems to be a humble man. He’s not interested in all the pomp and glory, not does he want to lead an isolated life. So instead of living in the grand (grandiose?) papal apartments, he’s going to live at St Martha’s House.

Pope stays put in St Martha’s House

His reason for doing this? He likes living in community.

Pope Bergoglio’s fondness for community life in St. Martha’s House is quite obvious to everyone. The chance of meeting people, sitting down for meals with them, sharing parts of his day with the other residents and celebrating mass in a chapel that is able to hold a good number of people: all these reasons contributed to Francis’ decision to stay, which he communicated to the other guests of St. Martha’s House, first of all to the fifty priests and monsignors who work in the Roman Curia and were able to return to their rooms following the Conclave.

Isn’t that nice? The Vatican Insider certainly thinks so, saying that:

Bergoglio has essentially chosen normality. A normality and approachability that has struck representatives of other Christian denominations in recent days, particularly the Orthodox delegations representing the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Moscow, who were glad to have had the opportunity to sit down to table with the Pope.

It’s all about “normality”.

Except there’s just one critical facet of “normality” that Pope Francis and the Vatican Insider have overlooked.

St Martha’s House is a no-girls-allowed zone. The hostel is for priests and prelates. And in the Roman Catholic church, those priests and prelates are all men. So there will be no chance meetings with women, no possibility of a casual conversation that might give the pope an insight into women’s lives and women’s realities, no passing the time of day with members of half the human race.

Mind you, it’s not quite true that there are no women in St Martha’s House. The House is run by members of the order of Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. That’s right. There are women there, to do the housework.

And that’s normal, isn’t it?