Carter: Pope Said He Wants to Boost Role of Women in the Church

Friday, 11 Apr 2014 12:16 PM

By Melanie Batley

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Former President Jimmy Carter has revealed that Pope Francis told him in a correspondence that the future status and role of women in the Roman Catholic Church should be "improved or enhanced."

In an interview with Time magazine, Carter said he wrote a letter to Pope Francis urging the church to do more to denounce atrocities like genital mutilation and, in some societies, the continued practice of child marriage, and he was pleased with the response.

"His letter was very gracious to me, his response. He said that he thought that the status of women and the role of women in the Catholic Church in the future should be improved or enhanced. I was very pleased to get that response," Carter said.

Francis:Pope’s Hidden Life Revealed.

"I noticed that now, about 10 days ago, Pope Francis appointed an eight-person committee to deal with the problem of priests abusing children. Half of the committee members were women, one of whom had been abused as a girl by a priest."

Carter said he hoped to have the chance to meet the Pope.

"If he comes to the United States, I'd like very much to meet him. If I go to Italy, I will certainly request to meet with Pope Francis, whom I admire very much."

In the wide-ranging interview, Carter talked about a number of the themes in his recent book, "A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power."

Carter, a deeply committed Christian, explained the contention in his book that Jesus Christ was the greatest liberator of women in his culture.

"He set an example that should be emulated down to the ages, and one of the examples that he set invariably in every word and deed of his life was to emphasize the equality of women and even to exalt women well beyond any status they had enjoyed in any previous decades or centuries or even since then," Carter told Time.

"But unfortunately there have been interpretations of what Jesus did by very wonderful theologians that wrote individual letters to individual churches all across Asia minor and so forth, that can be misinterpreted and to prove by male religious leaders that women should not be equal in the eyes of God."

Carter also talked about belief that colleges and collegiate athletic programs need to be more effective in addressing the issue of rape on campus.

"There's a common perception among college administrators that they should conceal the high level of sexual assaults that take place on their campuses because it would bring discredit to the university, bring them a bad name if it was publicized," Carter told Time.

He said that by discouraging women from prosecuting, colleges "give the men, who are inclined to be rapists, the conviction — which is accurate — that they can do it with impunity."

Carter also highlighted his concerns about human trafficking and prostitution and the ways he believes the United States could better tackle the problem.

"The United States is heavily involved in human slavery. The officials particularly at the local level throughout America look the other way for prostitution. The policemen are either bribed or they are given free sexual favors or they get orders from their chief of police that come from the mayor and city council, 'Oh, let's not rock the boat.' So prostitution thrives in the United States."

Francis:Pope’s Hidden Life Revealed.

Carter believes the current policy of punishing women involved in prostitution, many of whom he says were brought into the trade involuntarily, is misguided. He proposes a solution that would see the United States following the example of other countries, such as Sweden, by focusing on bringing charges against the brothel owners, pimps, and the male customers.

"I would like to see our country follow it, but so far there is not any question about it. Everybody just sits back and says this is the way it is to be. But if you arrest two or three prominent men in a community, in Atlanta, New York, or wherever, the prostitution would drop off immediately and you would remove almost completely the involuntary sale of prostitutes against their will in those communities," Carter told Time.

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