Friday, March 30, 2007

On the dignity of women

Stations of the Cross tonight, SAA Church, 7 pm
Adoration, 7:30-8:30 pm
Anon wrote, “When I was pregnant and a little fearful about how I would meet the demands of another child, my cousin emailed me this excerpt of one of John Paull II's letters titled Mulieris Dignitatem-

Although both of them together are parents of their child, the woman's motherhood constitutes a special 'part' in this shared parenthood, and the most demanding part. Parenthood - even though it belongs to both - is realized much more fully in the woman, especially in the prenatal period. It is the woman who 'pays' directly for this shared generation, which literally absorbs the energies of her body and soul. It is therefore necessary that the man be fully aware that in their shared parenthood he owes a special debt to the woman. No programme of 'equal rights' between women and men is valid unless it takes this fact fully into account.

Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the woman's womb. The mother is filled with wonder at this mystery of life, and 'understands' with unique intuition what is happening inside her. In the light of the 'beginning', the mother accepts and loves as a person the child she is carrying in her womb. This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings - not only towards her own child, but every human being - which profoundly marks the woman's personality. It is commonly thought that women are more capable than men of paying attention to another person, and that motherhood develops this predisposition even more.

The man - even with all his sharing in parenthood - always remains 'outside' the process of pregnancy and the baby's birth; in many ways he has to learn his own 'fatherhood' from the mother. One can say that this is part of the normal human dimension of parenthood, including the stages that follow the birth of the baby, especially the initial period. The child's upbringing, taken as a whole, should include the contribution of both parents: the maternal and paternal contribution. In any event, the mother's contribution is decisive in laying the foundation for a new human personality.-John Paul II

Given what motherhood entails, especially with several children, who wouldn't have apprehensions? Also, I especially like the 'man owes a special debt' part."

Thanks, Anon. I posted on John Paul II’s writings about women last year on the St. Francis site; excerpts are below. To read Mulieris Dignitatem, which I highly recommend, please click on the title of this post.

Pope John Paul II exhorted women especially in many ways during his pontificate. He wrote about the dignity of women in his apostolic letter, Mulieris Dignitatem (1988). In this letter, the Holy Father wrote about ’the distinctively 'feminine' response of faith...about the things of God" (15) and how "women show to Christ... a special sensitivity which is characteristic of their femininity" (16). Also, he points out that at the Cross, "the women proved stronger than the Apostles" (15) and "the women are first at the tomb" (16).

In an Angelus reflection in 1995, he referred to the feminine genius:"Woman has a genius all her own, which is vitally essential to both society and the Church…[She]is endowed with a particular capacity for accepting the human being in his concrete form. Even this singular feature which prepares her for motherhood, not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually, is inherent in the plan of God who entrusted the human being to woman in an altogether special way".


At 11:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it was women who didn't abandon him at the cross, and women who first knew the ressurection, why then can't women be priests?

At 12:25 PM, Blogger Fr Greg said...

Interesting approach, but I don't see how the logic follows...Women can't be priests for the same reason men can't be pregnant: it's physically impossible. Part of acting "in persona Christi" (in the person of Christ) which priests do in the sacraments means to act in the maleness of Christ. Only a male priest can truly act, then, in the person of Christ when celebrating the Eucharist, absolving sins, etc.

God has created men and women differently, and so we have different roles. The priest is no greater than the religious sister, married person, or single person. We are all equal in the eyes of God, and have had equal dignity from the beginning. The Church, through people like PJP II, has reaffirmed this beautiful teaching like no other institution on earth.

At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But didn't Paul say 'there is neither slave nor free, Greek nor Jew, Woman nor Man but all are one in Christ Jesus' so how exactly does one's gender make a diffrence?

At 6:28 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”

This is true, and I understand how one could infer, based on this, that to St. Paul gender is meaningless, but that's not in keeping with his later writings about what each gender should do and even wear in church. St. Paul is saying that there is one Christ, and we all reach God through him, so these differences become unimportant. He isn’t saying there is “sameness” between the sexes.

For the Church to allow women into the priesthood would only be at the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But for now, it is the inspired teaching of the church that the priesthood is a vocation for men only.

At 7:45 PM, Anonymous Kelly H. said...

"God has created men and women differently, and so we have different roles." AMEN, FG! I CELEBRATE that men and women are different. I CELEBRATE that God created my husband differently - I mean he is not one of my "girlfriends," and I am not onof his "buds." It makes life great, fun, interesting, delightful. A woman, Mary, carried the savior of the world! WOW! Jesus who came to earth as a man (and the apostles were all men) is the SAVIOR of the world.

Celebrate the way God created us as men and women! That's the way I see it.

At 8:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A family member had a baby several weeks ago and has been having a hard time (no worries- we've taken shifts to help her). Basically, she is feeling out of control of her life. 'Til this point, she planned each aspect of her life in accordance with her specific wants and desires- what school she'd go to, what job she'd take, who she'd marry, where they'd live- and even when she'd have a baby (she went off her birth control to conceive).

Well, now here she is- baby in tow and is feeling like her life, atleast as she knew it, has come to an end. I'm not judging her- I'm actually finding it interesting to watch/hear her. I mean, I remember when my first child was born, being alone with him in the middle of the night for the first time and telling him to be patient with me as we got to know each other.

After witnessing my family member's anger with herself, her husband and even this baby for not allowing her to be "in control" anymore, I began thinking about a few things. She isn't Catholic a believes birth control is a woman's right, a way to be in charge of your life, if you will. I have always thought birth control wasn't that bad. I didn't use it b/c my church says no, and though I didn't neccesarily agree, I adhered. I've begun to think differently. Being open to life has taught me to check my "control" at the door and have faith in God's plan for me. It taught me flexibility that made it easier to adjust to my new mommy schedules. When this new mom said that she should have had her tubes tied so she wouldn't have to go through this again, I thought the church had it right all along. I think God is giving my new mom exactly what she needs to grow. I have faith that she'll come around. I bet, once she adjusts, she'll be a really great mom.

At 10:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is something that has always bothered me about the OT. Why would a loving God teach some of the things taught in the OT about women? The church doesn't currently support these same teachings- in fact, Jesus even condemned some of them. Did the writers of the OT just get God's word wrong, or were these actually God's teachings?-

i.e.- (just for a brief few)
-women being grouped w/property in the 10 comm.'s
-women being the God-given spoils of seige- again with the livestock & property
-men could get a divorce if they found their wives just objectionable and could charge her with adultry ( a capital offense) merely upon suspicion
-women were even seen as unclean 2x as long after birthing a female rather than male child

There are even instances in the OT that address the rape of women where the men are still seen as good, even holy, men and the rape is never condemned. It does hard for me to grasp the whole concept of men as the head of house and wifely submission to them. Maybe they've got it wrong again?

At 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am just trying to figure out how to be able to swollow this when every reason I get doesn't make sense to me. If we are all one in Christ Jesus and gender doesn't matter, then why is being male so important for priesthood?

At 12:24 PM, Anonymous short hair said...

Because Jesus was male.

At 12:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Short Hair;

I am trying to understand how that has any impact on anything if we are all created in the image and likeness of God and St. Paul says "there is neither man nor woman all are one in Christ". There seems to be a disparity between the two ideas.

At 12:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 12:42 PM, Anonymous whoa said...


At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Kat said...

Please, everyone take a deep breath please... I was trying to avoid this discussion (you can ask Fr. Greg he has the e-mails to prove it) but To the Anon seeking some sort of answer to grasp on to so you can live with church teaching and your own questioning mind:

The reasons behind why the church teaches the way it does regarding women in the priesthood is not simple. But it has nothing to do with the church believing women are less then or inferior to men. Pope John Paul II in his Letter to Women undeniably reiterated for the modern age the church’s teaching on the dignity of women in which he said:

I know of course that simply saying thank you is not enough. Unfortunately, we are heirs to a history which has conditioned us to a remarkable extent. In every time and place, this conditioning has been an obstacle to the progress of women. Women's dignity has often been unacknowledged and their prerogatives misrepresented; they have often been relegated to the margins of society and even reduced to servitude. This has prevented women from truly being themselves and it has resulted in a spiritual impoverishment of humanity. Certainly it is no easy task to assign the blame for this, considering the many kinds of cultural conditioning which down the centuries have shaped ways of thinking and acting. And if objective blame, especially in particular historical contexts, has belonged to not just a few members of the Church, for this I am truly sorry. May this regret be transformed, on the part of the whole Church, into a renewed commitment of fidelity to the Gospel vision. When it comes to setting women free from every kind of exploitation and domination, the Gospel contains an ever relevant message which goes back to the attitude of Jesus Christ himself. Transcending the established norms of his own culture, Jesus treated women with openness, respect, acceptance and tenderness. In this way he honoured the dignity which women have always possessed according to God's plan and in his love. As we look to Christ at the end of this Second Millennium, it is natural to ask ourselves: how much of his message has been heard and acted upon?

Yes, it is time to examine the past with courage, to assign responsibility where it is due in a review of the long history of humanity. Women have contributed to that history as much as men and, more often than not, they did so in much more difficult conditions. I think particularly of those women who loved culture and art, and devoted their lives to them in spite of the fact that they were frequently at a disadvantage from the start, excluded from equal educational opportunities, underestimated, ignored and not given credit for their intellectual contributions. Sadly, very little of women's achievements in history can be registered by the science of history. But even though time may have buried the documentary evidence of those achievements, their beneficent influence can be felt as a force which has shaped the lives of successive generations, right up to our own. To this great, immense feminine "tradition" humanity owes a debt which can never be repaid. Yet how many women have been and continue to be valued more for their physical appearance than for their skill, their professionalism, their intellectual abilities, their deep sensitivity; in a word, the very dignity of their being!

How is this the same man who was accused by groups such as CTA as being anti-woman and misogynistic?

We have 2000 years of church history and tradition of an all male priesthood, the one thing that has not changed while other things have such as mass in the vernacular and even the requirement of celibacy (which was not always mandated) both of those things have changed and many other things have changed and been fluid within the church. Yes the church’s stance on women in the priesthood is hard to accept, and hard to swallow because we live in a society that devalues the uniqueness of women and promotes that ‘everything a man can do a woman can to’ in the job field. However, priesthood is not a job, it is a calling from God to serve completely in a certain way it is not a choice in the sense one chooses to be a firefighter or police officer or teacher. Yes God is God and can call whom he chooses but the Church recognizes that while we are limited in our understanding of God and his workings we must err on the side of caution in discerning God’s will. The Church is not subject to the whims of modern society and stands firm on teachings that may lead the faithful away from a greater understanding of Christ and the will of God in our lives. The problem with groups such as CTA etc, that promote women in the priesthood is that they have lost sight of the fact that priesthood is a call to serve and not a call to power, control or authority. Too many of those kinds of groups see the priesthood as a way to gain control over the church, these are the same groups who promote artificial birth control, abortion and euthanasia. We were told that we “shall know them by their fruits” Matthew 7:16.

The fruit of the tree of the church is good fruit, and while we may not all like every part of the fruit of the tree that is the Church, it is good fruit and must accept it as such. We are not called to agree with the Church but we are all called to accept Church teaching. Church teaching is not based on the opinions of John Paul II or Benedict but is based upon 2000 years of history and tradition, prayer and discernment and the leadings of the Holy Spirit no one Pope is going to step in and change that (church teaching in general) overnight. And lest we forget, the church has changed in how it relates to women. Women attended and gave input to the second Vatican council and women are involved in the church from the parish level to the Vatican .

The priesthood is not about power, and anyone who thinks of it as such be they are lay or religious, male or female they have the message extremely wrong and need to examine their motivations. The idea that priesthood is power is clericalism at its worst and not a following of the call to be a servant to the servants of God.

At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Do you think women should be priests?

At 12:55 PM, Anonymous Kat said...


My opinion on the issue is irrelevant. The church teaching is the church teaching on the subject and I accept the church teaching.

At 1:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But do you agree with it?

At 2:32 PM, Blogger Fr Greg said...

I deleted the comment that said to either accept the Church's teaching or leave - that is inappropriate on this site.

Anon, when St. Paul writes that we are neither male nor female but all one in Christ, he is speaking spiritually. He is referring to the mystical Body of Christ, of which we are all members.

This passage from 1 Corinthians does not remove the fact that men and women have obvious physical, psychological, and social differences. The physical differences are the most obvious, but there is also overwhelming evidence that shows us that the male mind is created and operates differently than the female mind.

There are many people in our world who want us to believe that men and women are the same in all ways. Scientific evidence and just plain, old, common sense tells us otherwise. We are different, and, as one blogger said, 'thank God for that!' Like parts of the body (1 Cor 12), we are created differently (but share the same dignity), and come together in Christ to complement one another.

At 3:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks, That makes sense.

At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Kelly said...

This passage from 1 Corinthians does not remove the fact that men and women have obvious physical, psychological, and social differences. The physical differences are the most obvious, but there is also overwhelming evidence that shows us that the male mind is created and operates differently than the female mind.

Why would any one not want to enjoy God's very unique creation of men and women? Our unique female and male natures do not negate equality. I would like to add a little personal experience here:

I was raised with three brothers (no sisters). My best friend was raised in house of all girls & she is now raising all sons. I am raising a son and 2 daughters. There is absolutely NO denying that God created male and female persons VERY differently. This is not stereotyping either. I am blessed with many friends raising boys & girls. We have hilarious conversations about the differences in them.

At 4:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We can see many examples of the important roles women played in Jeses' life- as the first anon mentioned of the women staying with him as he died on the cross. He elevated the status of women by treating them with dignity and mercy. However, he did not choose any women as Apostles. It is the most obvious sign of an equality of worth but the need for different roles in order to define and complete the Christian family.


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