The Dignity of Women
The Catholic Church stands
proudly proclaiming the value
of every human being in the
sight of God and the world.
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Let us value each human life
Let us Build a Better Family
Both man and woman are human beings to an equal degree
Dignity and Vocation of Women
The Dignity of Women is to be Respected
Vocation and Mission of Women in the Church
Womanhood revealed in Motherhood
Women in the Family
Husband to appreciate Wife
Priestly Ordination is Reserved for Men
q Let us value each human life
Our world is a better place because man and woman in mutual cooperation have subdued it. The love of God for His creation is such that God, over and over, says “Yes, I love you” to humanity, every time a baby is born. The value of every human life is enhanced by the love of God for His creation. Woman and man are like sugar and egg in a custard. Can you separate them? Can you say that one is more valuable than the other? Each one has a specific function and value in life, and no one is like the other. Let us treasure each human life and not underestimate its value.
q Let us Build a Better Family
Humanity in many instances has underestimated the value of a woman. To hear a young woman say: “To be a good wife I have to learn to be submissive to my husband,” translates to saying, “I will deny anything I am to be a good wife.” Is it meant to be that way? That is not God’s plan. Women are to stand and be counted with their talents and gifts adding to the strength and gift of men. United in God’s love we build a better family and a better society.
q Both man and woman are human beings to an equal degree
The Bishops of the United States of America elaborate on the teachings of the church about the dignity of women in the document, “When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women.”
A theme throughout Scripture, beginning with Genesis, is that women and men are created in God’s image. As John Paul II has said, “Both man and woman are human beings to an equal degree.” In the New Testament, Jesus consistently reached out to those on the fringes of society, those without power or authority, those with no one to speak on their behalf. He taught that all women and men are individuals worthy of respect and dignity.
Jesus unfailingly respected the human dignity of women. John Paul II reminds us that “Christ’s way of acting, the Gospel of his words and deeds, is a consistent protest against whatever offends the dignity of women.” Jesus went out of his way to help the most vulnerable women. Think of the woman with the hemorrhage (see Mk 5:25-34) or the woman caught in adultery (see Jn 8:1-11). By his actions toward women in need, Jesus set an example for us today. Like him, we are called to find ways to help those most vulnerable women in our midst. We also need to find ways to help the men who want to break out of the pattern of abuse.
As a Church, one of the most worrying aspects of the abuse practiced against women is the use of biblical texts, taken out of context, to support abusive behavior. Counselors report that both abused women and their batterers use scripture passages to justify their behavior.
Abused women say, “I can’t leave this relationship. The Bible says it would be wrong.” Abusive men say, “The Bible says my wife should be submissive to me.” They take the biblical text and distort it to support their right to batter.
As bishops, we condemn the use of the Bible to condone abusive behavior. A correct reading of the Scriptures leads people to a relationship based on mutuality and love. Again, John Paul II describes it accurately: “In the ‘unity of the two,’ man and woman are called from the beginning not only to exist ‘side by side’ or ‘together,’ but they are also called to exist mutually one for the other.”
Even where the Bible uses traditional language to support the social order common in the day, the image presented is never one that condones the use of abuse to control another person. In Ephesians 5:21-33, for instance, which discusses relationships within the family, the general principle laid down is one of mutual submission between husband and wife. The passage holds out the image to husbands that they are to love their wives as they love their own body, as Christ loves the Church. Can you imagine Jesus battering his Church?
q Dignity and Vocation of Women
In the Apostolic Letter, MULIERIS DIGNITATEM, Pope John Paul II writes about the vocation and dignity of women.
THE DIGNITY AND THE VOCATION OF WOMEN - a subject of constant human and Christian reflection - have gained exceptional prominence in recent years. This can be seen, for example, in the statements of the Church’s Magisterium present in various documents of the Second Vatican Council, which declares in its Closing Message: “The hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of women is being acknowledged in its fullness, the hour in which women acquire in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at his moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women imbued with a spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid humanity in not falling”. This Message sums up what had already been expressed in the Council’s teaching, specifically in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes and in the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity Apostolicam Actuositatem.
Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter,”MULIERIS DIGNITATEM,” 1988
q The Dignity of Women is to be Respected
In a general audience on June 22, 1994, Pope John Paul II emphasizes the equality of women and men, how they are to complement each other and the necessity to respect women’s dignity.
We would… like to consider more particularly the role of the Christian woman, both because of the importance that women have always had in the Church, and because of the hopes for the present and the future which can and must be placed in them. In our era, many voices have spoken up demanding respect for woman’s personal dignity and recognition of her real equality of rights with man, so as to offer her the full opportunity to fulfill her role in all sectors and at all levels in society.
Pope John Paul II - General Audience on June 22, 1994
q Vocation and Mission of Women in the Church
The Pope reflecting on the writings and decision of Vatican Council II, wrote the Apostolic Exhortation “CHRISTIFIDELES LAICI” with the message to the world that “all the lay faithful , both women and men” are called to serve the Lord.
The Council, in particular, with its rich doctrinal, spiritual and pastoral patrimony, has written as never before on the nature, dignity, spirituality, mission and responsibility of the lay faithful. And the Council Fathers, re-echoing the call of Christ, have summoned all the lay faithful, both women and men, to labour in the vineyard: “The Council, then, makes an earnest plea in the Lord’s name that all lay people give a glad, generous, and prompt response to the impulse of the Holy Spirit and to the voice of Christ, who is giving them an especially urgent invitation at this moment.”
Pope John Paul II - “CHRISTIFIDELES LAICI”
December 30, 1988
q Womanhood revealed in Motherhood
On a general audience on March 12, 1980, Pope Paul VI spoke about the value of a woman as it is demonstrated in motherhood, and the mystery of creation of a new human being “with the help of the Lord God.”
The Bible (and subsequently the liturgy), with its characteristic simplicity, honors and praises throughout the centuries “the womb that bore you and the breasts that you sucked” (Lk 11:27). These words constitute a eulogy of motherhood, of femininity, of the female body in its typical expression of creative love. And they are words referred in the Gospel to the Mother of Christ, Mary, the second Eve.
Pope John Paul II, General Audience - March 12, 1980
Pope John Paul II - General Audience
June 22, 1994
q Women in the Family
Pope John Paul II in the Apostolic Exhortation “Familiaris Consortio” talks about the role of the Christian Family in today’s world, in the following paragraphs addressing the role of the woman in the family:
…the family finds in love the source and the constant impetus for welcoming, respecting and promoting each one of its members in his or her lofty dignity as a person, that is, as a living image of God. As the Synod Fathers rightly stated, the moral criterion for the authenticity of conjugal and family relationships consists in fostering the dignity and vocation of the individual persons, who achieve their fullness by sincere self-giving.
In this perspective the Synod devoted special attention to women, to their rights and role within the family and society. In the same perspective are also to be considered men as husbands and fathers, and likewise children and the elderly.
Above all it is important to underline the equal dignity and responsibility of women with men. This equality is realized in a unique manner in that reciprocal self-giving by each one to the other and by both to the children which is proper to marriage and the family. What human reason intuitively perceives and acknowledges is fully revealed by the word of God: the history of salvation, in fact, is a continuous and luminous testimony of the dignity of women.
In creating the human race “male and female,” God gives man and woman an equal personal dignity, endowing them with the inalienable person. God then manifests the dignity of women in the highest form possible, by assuming human flesh from the Virgin Mary, whom the Church honors as the Mother of God, calling her the new Eve and presenting her as the model of redeemed woman. The sensitive respect of Jesus towards the women that He called to His following and His friendship, His appearing on Easter morning to a woman before the other disciples, the mission entrusted to women to carry the good news of the Resurrection to the apostles-these are all signs that confirm the special esteem of the Lord Jesus for women. The Apostle Paul will say: “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.... There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation “FAMILIARIS CONSORTIO,”#22
November 22, 1981
q Husband to appreciate Wife
Within the conjugal and family communion -community, the man is called upon to live his gift and role as husband and father.
In his wife he sees the fulfillment of God’s intention: “It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make him a helper fit for him,” and he makes his own the cry of Adam, the first husband: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”
Authentic conjugal love presupposes and requires that a man have a profound respect for the equal dignity of his wife: “You are not her master,” writes St. Ambrose, “but her husband; she was not given to you to be your slave, but your wife.... Reciprocate her attentiveness to you and be grateful to her for her love.” With his wife a man should live “a very special form of personal friendship.” As for the Christian, he is called upon to develop a new attitude of love, manifesting towards his wife a charity that is both gentle and strong like that which Christ has for the Church."
Love for his wife as mother of their children and love for the children themselves are for the man the natural way of understanding and fulfilling his own fatherhood. Above all where social and cultural conditions so easily encourage a father to be less concerned with his family or at any rate less involved in the work of education, efforts must be made to restore socially the conviction that the place and task of the father in and for the family is of unique and irreplaceable importance. As experience teaches, the absence of a father causes psychological and moral imbalance and notable difficulties in family relationships, as does, in contrary circumstances, the oppressive presence of a father, especially where there still prevails the phenomenon of “machismo,” or a wrong superiority of male prerogatives which humiliates women and inhibits the development of healthy family relationships.
Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation “FAMILIARIS CONSORTIO,”#25
November 22, 1981
q Priestly Ordination is Reserved for Men
Pope John Paul II published the Apostolic Letter “ORDINATION SACERDOTALIS,” clarifying the reasons why the Catholic reserves priestly ordination for men alone.
Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.
Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.
Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter “ORDINATION SACERDOTALIS”
May 22, 1994
In Jewish Palestine women were considered less. In the Jewish morning prayer, according to William Barclay’s New Testament Commentary, a man would thank God that he was not made “a gentile, a slave or a woman.” Paul’s view of women was revolutionary, when he states:
“Now there is no distinction between Jew and Greek,
nor between slave and freeman,
nor between man and woman.”
The ways we, as women, see ourselves is influenced by what others expect of us, and by what we think God expects of us. A woman’s life is a book written in many chapters. Every ten years a new chapter seems to be written in the life of an average woman. There are not two human beings alike, there are not two women alike. Baby, child, teenager, young adult, adult, career, volunteer, religious or wife, housewife, mother, at all of those stages of life, there are questions that need to be answered by each woman: Who am I? What does God want of me? What is expected of me? How does society view me? How do I see myself? The answer will be different for each woman, but there is on thing that is the same for all: God’s love. Let us recognize God as our master and Lord and try to do good for others in our different and various roles. As women, we can make our daily prayer, the prayer of the Virgin Mary:
"My soul magnifies the Lord,
my spirit finds joy in God my Savior...
God who is mighty has done great things for me,
holy is His name."
Written by Marta
Published by LEAP OF FAITH
© 2001 Marta - February 21, 2001
LEAP OF FAITH - www.faithleap.org
1. National Conference of Catholic Bishops, “When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women.” 1992, USA.
2. Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, MULIERIS DIGNITATEM, 1988.
3. Pope John Paul II, “The Dignity of Women is to be Respected,” General Audience on June 22, 1994, Vatican.
4. Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, CHRISTIFIDELES LAICI, 1988 – Vocation and Mission of the Laity in the Church
5. Pope John Paul II, General Audience on March 12, 1980, Vatican.
6. Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, FAMILIARIS CONSORTIO, #22, 1981, Vatican.
7. Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation FAMILIARIS CONSORTIO, #25, 1981, Vatican.
8. Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter ORDINATION SACERDOTALIS, 1994, Vatican.
9. Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution GAUDIUM ET SPES.
10. Vatican Council II, Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity APOSTOLICAM ACTUOSITATEM.
11. The Vatican in the Internet : www.vatican.va
12. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops :
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