When I was leaving Barcelona for the airport last Monday, there was a vigorous discussion on the taxi's radio about whether the nuns who cleaned the altar at last Sunday's consecration of the Sagrada Familia gave the wrong image - or for some, an accurate image - about the place of women in the Church.
The nuns who mopped up the oil of chrism were not the only women involved in the Mass. A lay woman did one of the readings; a woman with her children were part of the offertory procession; and -- invisible to viewers at home -- a woman played the organ. And of course hundreds of women sang in the choir.
But it was the sight of the four nuns -- two Spanish, two Mexican -- on their knees with cloths, the only women in a sea of men in the sanctuary, which sparked the controversy. Feminists, progressives and liberals of all stripes -- as well as Catholics -- have been warmly debating the topic ever since, asking why women get given the demeaning tasks in the Church.
"At a moment when Catalonia was projected across the world thanks to a ceremony presided by the Pope, the opportunity was lost to give greater emphasis to the role of women in the Church, and that pains us greatly," says Gertrudis Nin, Abbess of the Benedictine convent of Sant Pere de les Puelles.
Montserrat Biosca i Duch, who heads the Catholic women's group Collectiu Dones en l'Església, agrees: "It is clear from what we saw that the church hierarchy considers women to have a different mission from that of men, and that women are only there to offer secondary services," she says.
Now the nuns, surprised by the furore, have spoken to the Barcelona daily, La Vanguardia, and of course they don't see it as demeaning at all.
"For us it was a wonderful gift, to take our daily work into a very solemn place with enthusiasm and expectation, " says Sr Antonia Caro, the mother superior of the the Parish Auxiliaries of Christ the Priest (I translate: Auxiliaries Parroquiales de Cristo Sacerdote), which maintains the sacristy of Barcelona cathedral.
In fact the whole vocation of the Auxiliares is to prepare liturgies, looking after vestments and chalices and other items needed for the Eucharist.
"Why do they focus on that one moment when we were cleaning?" she asks, adding that it was a marvellous liturgy which they were privileged to be part of. "What we did was an honour. We did it with pleasure and gratitude to the Lord, not because the Pope was there, but because the most important thing is the direct service of the Lord".
The nuns see themselves as the modern-day equivalent of the deaconesses of the early Church. "The women of the early Church had a great presence in the liturgy," says Sr Antonia.