By Mick Krever, CNN
Mary Elizabeth Williams thinks the Vatican is strict, dogmatic, and backward-looking. She is also a committed Catholic.
With so much scandal and conservatism on the key issues of today, it is not unreasonable to ask why progressive Catholics stay in the Church.
“I think to be questioning, and to call out hypocrisy, and to illuminate injustice when you see it is about as Christ-like as you can get,” Williams told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.
After Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation earlier this month, Williams, a writer, penned an op-ed titled “No matter what, I’m still Catholic.”
“What I would hope, and what I think we see based on just the stepping down of this pope, is that the Church realizes that it is in a moment of extreme crisis,” she said. “I don’t expect to see gigantic change, but I do expect to see a message that says, ‘Our priorities are going to be different from now on.’”
As cardinals begin to gather in Rome to elect a new pope, Williams says she is hoping for more consistency between the Vatican and the reality of life for the billion-plus Catholics around the world.
“What we see in parishes across the world, certainly I see it in my own parish, is so different from what we hear coming out of Rome,” she said, which she described as “very strict, very dogmatic, and a very backward-looking worldview.”
As a child, Williams recounted, she fought and lost a battle to become an “altar girl.”
“When I now go to my church and I see girls up there on the altar,” she said, “that to me represents an understanding, and a little bit of progress.”
It is progress she has not seen reflected by her pope.
“We live in a different world now,” she said, “and I think that the Church has revised itself philosophically in the past, there’s no reason that it can’t revise itself philosophically in the future, and take an attitude that’s just more encompassing.”
It is important, she believes, for Catholics to keep up their pressure on the Church’s leadership to change.
“We need,” Williams said, “to have people understand that for a lot of us, Catholicism isn’t about towing some backwards-looking line. It’s about living a faith that is about service, and is about love, and is about compassion.”
READ MORE: Too liberal to lead his parish?
CNN’s Meredith Milstein produced this piece for television.