By Hilary White and John Jalsevac

LONDON, March 2, 2009 ( – The Church “marginalizes” women and keeps them “virtually invisible” in its public face, says Cherie Blair. Speaking on a BBC television program, the wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair said that “ambivalence” towards women is a “fundamental weakness” of Christianity and of Catholicism in particular.

The controversial remarks were made during the final installment of a documentary, Christianity, that was aired on BBC’s Channel 4 on Sunday night.

During a section of the program that dealt with the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception, Blair credited her use of contraception for her personal success. Blair said that every time she didn’t use contraception, “I seemed to have a baby.”

“I’m a feminist…How could I have done all the things I have done if I hadn’t used contraception?” she asked.

Despite being a self-professed devout Catholic, Blair has been an outspoken advocate of artificial contraception, which the Catholic Church teaches is an intrinsic evil. In her recently published autobiography, “Speaking for Myself,” Blair infamously admitted that at least one of her children was conceived when she had “forgotten her contraceptive equipment” when on holiday.

During the program Blair also appeared to insinuate that it is only with the ordination of women to the priesthood that the situation of the “invisibility” of women in Christianity could be remedied.

In an interview with Cormac Cardinal Murphy O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster and the head of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, Blair rebuked the cardinal, saying, “If you actually look at the formal structures of the Catholic Church, you don’t see a woman’s face when you see people speaking for the Catholic Church. Can we change that?”

The cardinal responded, “I don’t think that [the Church] will develop towards priesthood or episcopacy [for women] because of the tradition of the Church in that role.” But Mrs. Blair objected, saying, “Until the traditional churches fully resolve their relationship with the female half of the population, how can they expect Christianity to have a future in the modern world?”

Blair, a long-time feminist and activist for “progressive” causes, said, “I firmly believe the traditional churches in Western Europe can be saved but there are a number of urgent steps that need to be taken.

“Today, while women remain marginalised, Christianity cannot flourish. Women and men must be equal partners in 21st-century Christianity.”

See related coverage:

No Comment from Bishops as Cherie, wife of Former PM Blair, Touts Catholicism While Extolling Contraception