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Everything listed under: women

  • Pope Francis: Church urgently needs to offer space to women

    Evidently, Pope Francis does not share Cardinal Raymond Burke’s concern about an overly “feminized” church.

    Addressing a Vatican conference on women today, the pope said there was an urgent need to offer space to women in the life of the church, taking into consideration the “changed cultural and social sensibilities.”

    “It is desirable, therefore, for a feminine presence that is more capillary and incisive in the community, so that we can see many women involved in pastoral responsibilities, in accompaniment of individuals, families and groups, as well as in theological reflection,” he said.

    Not surprisingly, the pope made no mention of women priests. He has previously said the door is closed to that possibility.

    Cardinal Burke made headlines a month ago when he said that Catholic parish and liturgical activities had become so influenced by women and so feminine that “men do not want to get involved.”

    Pope Francis said it was important for women to be full participants in church and social life, and not just feel like guests.

    He offered a special thanks to the many women who work with families, in religious education and other pastoral programs, and in social and economic services.

    “You women know how to embody the tender face of God, his mercy, which is translated more by a willingness to give one’s time than to occupy spaces, to welcome rather than to exclude,” he said.

    The pope said society, at least in the West, had wisely moved away from seeing women as subordinate to men. At the same time, he said, it was a mistake to try to impose a model of “absolute equivalence” between men and women. He said the proper relationship is an equality that recognizes and appreciates the differences between the sexes.

    The pope also condemned violence against women, saying the female body was often attacked and disfigured, even by those who ought to be “guardians and life companions.” Domestic violence was a topic of discussion at the meeting, which was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture.

    “The many forms of slavery, commercialization and mutilation of the woman’s body challenge us to work to defeat this form of degradation that reduces it to a pure object to be sold off on various markets,” the pope said.

    He offered a special thought for the many women living in poverty and on the margins of society, in conditions of risk and exploitation.


  • Vatican conference to examine new approaches to women's issues

                      Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi

    Even before it began, this week’s Vatican-sponsored meeting on “Women’s Cultures: Equality and Difference” sparked debate on a variety of issues: women’s specific characteristics, the meaning of “generativity” vs. “maternity,” and even whether plastic surgery represents a form of aggression against women.

    At a press conference Monday, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, whose Pontifical Council for Culture is organizing the conference, waded into these and other controversies. He was navigating difficult waters. It is problematic, I think, for any Vatican official to talk about women’s equality when Vatican decision-making remains an all-male, all-clerical domain.

    Nevertheless, Ravasi has opened some new and interesting areas of discussion. The meeting’s working document, for example, suggests that the church’s traditional image of women “does not correspond to reality” today, and that some women may be leaving the church as a result.

    “Why with their great presence have women had so little impact on the Church’s structures? In pastoral praxis, why are we giving women only those tasks of a somewhat rigid scheme, the fruit of ideological and ancestral left-overs?” the document asked.

    It concluded: “A realistic objective could be that of opening the doors of the Church to women so that they can offer their contribution in terms of skills and also sensitivity, intuition, passion, dedication, in full collaboration and integration with the male component.”

    For the Vatican, however, collaboration and integration clearly do not include women’s ordination. The document underlined that in the meeting’s program, “there is no discussion here of women priests, which according to statistics is not something that women want.” Nor do most women want the bishop's "purple biretta," it said.

    The real question in Rome is whether Pope Francis’ planned reform of the Roman Curia will bring women to executive roles in the Vatican, something that until now has been rejected because – as Pope Benedict once explained – decision-making in the church has been linked to holy orders.

    The panel at the Vatican press conference included four women who helped prepare the document, all of them Italian and all of them successful in their careers. They offered some qualifications on the document’s assertion that non-therapeutic plastic surgery can indicate a “refusal of the body” and a denial of the natural aging process; the women said much depends on a woman’s motives and attitude toward such surgery. (For the record, the working document did not exactly assert that "plastic surgery is like a burqa made of flesh," although it cited the line as an opinion worth discussing.)

    The pontifical council deliberately avoided the term “maternity” in its working document, preferring to talk about what it calls a quality of “generativity,” which refers to the life-giving, nurturing and educating role of women – not only in bringing babies into the world, but also extending to other social relationships and even business activities.

    The document insists that equality must not mean trying to erase real differences between men and women – differences, for example in problem-solving, emotional reaction and ways of cooperation. But it seemed to suggest that a favorite Vatican term used to describe the men-women relationship, “complementarity,” may be open to revision, asking: “Can the categories of ‘reciprocity’ and ‘complementarity’ be an interpretative key and possible way of life, or must we find other categories?”

    The conference will also examine violence against women, including domestic violence, as well as selective abortion of females.

    Pope Francis will meet with the conference participants on Saturday, and is expected to give a speech that will draw close attention


  • Pope says he won't be naming women cardinals

    The idea that Pope Francis might appoint women cardinals was always a long shot, and now it’s officially dead in the water. In an interview with the Italian daily La Stampa, the pope was asked about the possibility and responded:

    “I don’t know where this idea sprang from. Women in the Church must be valued not 'clericalized'. Whoever thinks of women as cardinals suffers a bit from clericalism.”

    That would appear to rule out lay cardinals altogether.

    Evidently the pope is eager to take aim at clericalism in the church at some levels, but is not willing to upend tradition when it comes to the College of Cardinals. I still think he may make other significant changes when he names new cardinals in coming weeks, like expanding the College and choosing more non-Curial members.

    This interview is not as interesting as previous journalistic give-and-takes with Pope Francis. In some of his responses, the pope almost seems defensive, trying to explain some of his previous statements and deflating some expectations.

    On the issue of economic justice, he explains his critique of the current global economy in his recent document on evangelization:

    There is nothing in the Exhortation that cannot be found in the social Doctrine of the Church. I wasn’t speaking from a technical point of view, what I was trying to do was to give a picture of what is going on. The only specific quote I used was the one regarding the “trickle-down theories” which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and social inclusiveness in the world. The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefitting the poor. But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger nothing ever comes out for the poor. This was the only reference to a specific theory. I was not, I repeat, speaking from a technical point of view but according to the Church’s social doctrine. This does not mean being a Marxist.