On October 10-12 the Pontifical Council of the Laity–Women’s Section, a dicastery of the Vatican, held a seminar in Rome for the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter* on women, Mulieris Dignitatem. The lettere was written in particular on the “Dignity of Women”. If you have not read it, I encourage you to do so. Here you will read about the beauty of what the late and beloved Pope John Paul the II confirmed about women; what the Church, to this day teaches (and has taught) about women.
The seminar was entitled “God entrusts the human being to the woman”. “The moral and spiritual strength of a woman” wrote Blessed John Paul II, “is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way. Of course, God entrusts every human being to each and every other human being. But this entrusting concerns women in a special way – precisely by reason of their femininity – and this in a particular way determines their vocation.” (MD, 30).
I attended this three day seminar in Rome with three others from the Emmanuel community. One sister from Belgium, one from the Philippines and a brother priest from France. We were privileged to listen to an array of amazing women from all walks of life and from all parts of the globe. They reflected upon the influence this document has had on them personally and their respective fields of study and their various movements and communities. It was enriching, enlightening and humbling. I thought, while women of the west fight for “rights” to free contraception and tax funded abortions, other women are fighting for their very lives and their right to even exist as human beings.
As Pope Francis mentioned during an audience at the end of the seminar, this entrustment of the human being to women is fulfilled through her call to motherhood (paraphrased). He went on to point out that although motherhood is a defining attribute of woman, that which allows her to care for “humanity”, this should not “set the woman and her potential aside”…[so as to]…. “not fully esteem her value in the structure of the community.” And yet the other danger we have seen since the initially good “feminist movement”–now turned radical in denying the very beauty of motherhood and femininity in order to somehow compensate for the fact that women have suffered inequality–is “… a reaction…[in] that of promoting a kind of emancipation that, in order to fill areas that have been taken away from the male, deserts the feminine attributes with all it precious characteristics.” As the Catholic Church proclaims, we are equal but different. Equal in dignity, different in vocation and beauty.
In a society where we strive to be unique, what is wrong with the uniqueness of man and woman? This difference is only made more beautiful when the reality of the woman’s dignity is appreciated and defended. The Church does this. Contrary to popular belief, the Church is NOT misogynistic. In actuality has been one of the few institutions to defend the true dignity of women throughout the centuries.
Here is Pope Francis’ address to the women of the seminar:
Saturday, 12 October 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
I wish to share a few words with you, even if briefly, on the important theme that you have been discussing these days: woman’s vocation and mission in our time. I thank you for the contribution you have made as we commemorate the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem a historic document, the first of the Papal Magisterium entirely dedicated to the subject of woman. You have especially studied the point which states that God entrusts man, the human being, in a special way to woman (cf. n. 30).
What does this “special entrusting”, this special entrusting of the human being to woman mean? It seems evident to me that my Predecessor is referring to motherhood. Many things can change and have changed in cultural and social evolution, but the fact remains that it is woman who conceives, carries and delivers the children of men. And this is not merely a biological fact; it entails a wealth of implications both for woman herself, her way of being, and for her relationships, her relation to human life and to life in general. In calling woman to motherhood, God entrusted the human being to her in an entirely special way.
Here, however, two dangers are ever present, two opposite extremes that mortify woman and her vocation. The first is to reduce motherhood to a social role, to a task which, though regarded as noble, in fact, sets the woman and her potential aside and does not fully esteem her value in the structure of the community. This may happen both in civil and ecclesial circles. And, as a reaction to this, there is another danger in the opposite direction, that of promoting a kind of emancipation that, in order to fill areas that have been taken away from the male, deserts the feminine attributes with all it precious characteristics. And here I would like to stress that woman has a particular sensitivity to the “things of God”, above all in helping us understand the mercy, tenderness and love that God has for us. I also like to think of the Church not as an “it” but as a “she”. The Church is woman, she is mother, and this is beautiful. You must consider and go deeper into this.
Mulieris Dignitatem is set within this context, and offers a deep and organic reflection with a solid anthropological basis illuminated by Revelation. It is from here that we must endeavour once more to deepen and promote an undertaking that I have wished for many times already. In the Church as well, it is important to ask oneself: what sort of presence does woman have? I suffer — to tell you the truth — when I see in the Church or in Church organizations that the role of service, which we all have and should have… when a woman’s role of service slides into servidumbre [servitude]. I don’t know if that is how you say it in Italian. Do you understand me? Service. When I see women carrying out acts of servitude, it is because the role a woman should play is not properly understood. What presence do women have in the Church? Can it be developed further? This question is close to my heart and that is why I wanted to meet with you — outside the norm, because a meeting of this kind was not scheduled — to bless you and your undertaking. Thank you, let us carry it forward together! May Mary Most Holy, the great woman, Mother of Jesus and of all God’s children, accompany us. Thank you.
If you are interested in reading more about women’s topics from a Catholic perspective from everything to education, philosophy, culture and religion, please visit the Pontifical Council of the Laity Women’s Section at www.laici.va
*An apostolic letter is an ecclesiastical document issued by the Pope or in his name.
Alejandra M. Correa