Conservative US Cardinal Raymond Burke has identified women as the real problem in today's Catholic Church.
In an interview with the website The New Emangelization, the outspoken cardinal suggests that the Catholic Church has become too feminised, adding that the use of altar girls may have led to a decline in vocations.
However, Vatican sources say the Cardinal's views on the role of women in the church will cause no stir whatsoever in the Holy See, which has long become accustomed to his controversial ways.
In the interview, Cardinal Burke said many of the church's current problems began with the advent of the women's rights movement in the 1960's. The push by "radical feminism" for female participation in the church has obscured the "goodness and importance of men", he argued.
“Apart from the priest, the sanctuary has become full of women . . . the activities in the parish and even the liturgy have been influenced by women and become so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved. Men are often reluctant to become active in the church. The feminised environment and the lack of the church’s effort to engage men has led many men to simply opt out,” he said.
Cardinal Burke, often portrayed as a leader of the conservative opposition to Pope Francis, was in Rome last week for a meeting with him.
Vatican sources say the hardline Cardinal's latest statements did not feature in his audience which was concerned with his recent move, some would say demotion, from the Apostolic Signatura to the Knights of Malta.
Most recently, during the October Synod on the Family, he appeared to oppose Pope Francis’s reform programme, saying in an interview that under the pontiff, “there is a strong sense that the church is like a ship without a rudder”.
When an interim document at the Synod used inclusive and conciliatory language about same-sex marriage, Cardinal Burke was among the first to strongly protest.