Well now, there’s an original complaint…
But the complaint has a new target, namely, a new book for children based on passages from the Holy Father’s weekday catechesis on the apostles and called “Gli Amici De Gesu” (“The Friends of Jesus”).
The complaint, originating from (drumroll) “We are Church” with the “National Catholic Reporter” joining in is that all the 14 “amici” in the book are MEN – that he has “edited out” all the “friends of Jesus” who were WOMEN:
Valerie Stroud of the Catholic organisation We Are Church, a support group for Catholics, said: “In giving children the idea that Jesus only favoured men, Pope Benedict sends a very strong message that women are second-class citizens in the Christian religion. This was never Jesus’s intention. The Supreme Pontiff completely abandons the modern idea of equality within relationships.”
The book was criticised in comments on the website of the influential US National Catholic Reporter. Jacob R wrote: “Oh dear . . . how profoundly disappointing. Can this really be true that he edited out Mary Magdalene, the first ‘friend’ to see the risen Lord?”
Probably the problem is with the expectation that the title sets up, namely the use of the word “amici”/”friends”. In fact, the book is specifically about those who are recognised as “apostles” by the Church. The 14 “amici” are thus the twelve apostles (including, nota bene, Judas Iscariot – was he a “friend” in the conventional term?) + the two “johnny-come-lately’s” of the apostles, Matthias and Paul.
I have often noted, for instance in children’s addresses at church on Sundays, that when talking to Jesus the term “friends” is regularly used instead of “disciples”. That seems to have been the intention of the use of “amici” here. The complaint seems to have originated, therefore, in the misplaced expectation that the book would be about ALL the people who could be described as Jesus’ “friends” (which, of course, includes many women as well as men), rather than specifically about those “friends” who were also his apostles.
The latter, however, is clearly the intention, as the inclusion of Paul indicates. Paul could not be called (in the conventional sense) a “friend” of Jesus, as he never met or knew him during Jesus’ life and ministry. That all the apostles WERE men remains both a fact and a signficant point which those making this present complaint would themselves like to have “edited out” of the historical record for their own purposes.
As for malicious intent on the part of the Holy Father against women, such a complaint is simply perposterous. Mary Magdalene and the other women aside, what about his own Mother Mary, who was surely the greatest of all Jesus’ “friends”? The idea that a Catholic Pope would intentionally “edit out” the Blessed Virgin Mary from a book about Jesus’ “friends” in general is perposterous, and yet it is perfectly understandable that she would not be included in a book about Jesus’ apostles. This fact alone demonstrates that this book had a particular scope and intention, which is being ignored by those making the present complaint.