Archive of May 18, 2014

New Pope saints credited with fostering theology of women

Washington D.C., May 18, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Women in the Church offered praise for the works of newly-canonized Saints John XXIII and John Paul II, saying that they set a foundation for an expanding theology of women.

Both Popes taught that “we're only going to have peace in the world, we're only going to have true human progress, when the dignity of every human person is recognized,” said Sr. Mary Madeline Todd, O.P., a member of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecelia and a doctoral student the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome.

Speaking to CNA, Sr. Todd explained that in the teachings of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, “we see a clear contextualization of the question of woman in the broader context of the question of human dignity.”

Both Sr. Todd and Melissa Moschella, assistant professor of philosophy at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., said that the two pontiffs helped to explain the Church's respect for the dignity of women in a way that could be understood by a modern and changing world.
St. John XXIII served as Pope from October 1958 to his death in June 1963, and called the Second Vatican Council in 1962. St. John Paul II, who participated in the Second Vatican Council, was elected Pope in October 1978 and served until his death in April 2005. The two Popes were canonized together on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, 2014.

Moschella argued that the two saints’ positions are important to consider in a world that defines women's rights and ability to participate in society by their access to products and procedures such as contraception and abortion.

“It's an illusion to think that's an issue of women's liberation,” she said, criticizing modern culture's tendency to use technology to render women infertile in order to conform to men's roles in the workplace.

In contrast, she said, both Popes championed a more flexible workplace that respects women's role as caretakers for children or family members, as well as recognizing the important work that women do both in the home and outside of it.

Moschella also noted that while many people today think of the Church's beliefs as “anti-woman” and oppressive, women in the Early Church recognized that Catholic teaching on sexuality, dignity and womanhood was “in accordance with their dignity,” and in fact, “it was those teachings that made women flock to the Church.”

Pope John XXIII
Sr. Todd noted that Pope John XXIII wrote a letter to women religious right before the opening of the Second Vatican Council.

Pointing to the letter's commendation of both active and contemplative religious sisters, she said the document demonstrates that before the council even began, “the Church is already recognizing that women, and in a special way contemplative women, have a huge contribution to the Church.”

Entitled “Il Tempio Massimo,” the letter praised the “spiritual contribution” of women religious, as well as their academic and active gifts. It pointed out that the “spiritual presence” of contemplative religious women “is absolutely essential throughout the Church and the world,” helping to make possible “real human progress and human peace.”

Furthermore, Sr. Todd said, the 1962 letter “spoke specifically to the need for women to obtain degrees.”  

“I think it's really interesting that the Pope spoke directly to the need for women to have these educational opportunities to be both of service and recognized in the Church,” she said.

Pope John XXIII continued this work of promoting the role of women in the Church in his papal encyclical “Pacem in Terris,” which noted the positive contributions of women in society at large as part of the grand aim of promoting human dignity in the world.

The letter stressed men and women's equal rights and duties, as well as women's rights as a worker, both in the home and in the workplace. In doing so, the encyclical was “recognizing that women have multiple roles” and a number of vocational callings, and “there has to be a real understanding, a flexibility, a creative way of approaching” this reality in order to respect their dignity, Sr. Todd said.

Moschella commented that Pope John XXIII also revived the Church's emphasis on the inherent dignity and equality of women in calling the Second Vatican Council. The council's purpose, she noted, “wasn't to define new doctrine,” but to re-present the “perennial light of faith,” including the Church's teachings on human persons, in such a way “that will resonate today.”

The emphasis which the council placed on “the universal call to holiness” was significant, she said, because it was a reminder that “we're all called to holiness.”

The council highlighted that despite the critical and essential role of priests, the laity's role is “no less important – that's the front line of the Church.” Most importantly, this call to holiness was most perfectly achieved by “a woman, Mary,” she added.

Pope John Paul II

The work of St. John XXIII was continued and deepened by St. John Paul II, Moschella continued, particularly through his Theology of the Body, Letter to Women, and Mullieris Dignitatem.

In these works, the Pope particularly focused on “the equal dignity of man and woman as equally in the image and likeness of God,” Moschella explained. His teachings illuminate that “there's a richness of that equal dignity that isn't a sameness,” and that men and women have a “complementarity of gifts,” rather than the same roles.

In addition, Pope John Paul II placed an “emphasis on the Church as Marian”- as being characterized by faith and service, like Mary, she said. This “servant leadership” defines the Church, and places all Church leaders “at the service of mission.”

Misunderstanding this Marian nature of the Church leads to a misunderstanding of the priesthood, Moschella continued, such as a distorted view of the all-male priesthood “as a position of power and privilege instead of just one more way to serve, which is really what it's all about.”

Sr. Todd described Pope John Paul II's view as “very holistic,” emphasizing that “both the role of woman in the family and the role of woman in the broader society is to be valued and cherished, because woman herself needs to be valued.”

The saint saw “what the feminine genius contributes to the Church and the world,” and “saw that there was a particular way in which women, attentive to the human person, could awaken in our society, in the Church and in the world, the centrality of the human person,” Sr. Todd explained.

This emphasis on the dignity of women, she noted, did not come from the opposition of woman and man, but from his “profound vision of the unity of man and woman” and emphasis on the “collaboration” of the sexes “both in the family and in society- it's not one or the other.”

“I think Pope John Paul II will be known in all of history for his personalism, his championing of every aspect of humanity,” she said, “and he really had a call in the Church to renew our understanding of what is the dignity, what is the dignity of human life.”

This dignity, she explained, was rooted in his deep understanding “that roles are tasks, not the primary ways which we define a person,” but instead that “we have a foundational dignity and equality,” given from God, that exists outside and prior to anything that we do.

Looking toward the future, Sr. Todd said, “we need to continue to build on that foundation” laid by Popes John XXIII and John Paul II in order to further develop what Pope Francis has called a “profound Theology of Womanhood.”

Both John XXIII and John Paul II understood the need for women in roles of both decision-making and service, she said, “and there needs to be a more profound understanding of the fact that all of the laity are called to share in the priestly, prophetic and kingly mission of Jesus Christ.”

The next step, Sr. Todd suggested, is growing in an understanding of “how does that actually play out in society and in the Church and the world?”

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Family cannot be done away with, archbishop tells UN

New York City, N.Y., May 18, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The family has a “unique character” that makes it a “patrimony for all humanity,” Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, told the United Nations.

Despite a hostile culture, the archbishop said, “a clear majority of persons want a family at the center of their life, and it would be mistake to think the family can be done away with.”

“We have to be much more cautious than we have been about weakening this fundamental unity that is not only the bearing wall of social life but that can also help us avoid the inhuman consequences of a society that has become hyper-individualistic and hyper-technological.”

He called for a “renewal of family models” that foster a family that is more understanding of itself, more attentive to its internal relationships, and more able to live in harmony with other families with respect for its surroundings.

Archbishop Paglia, a native of Italy, spoke at the United Nations' headquarters in New York City on May 15, the International Day of Families. The event marks the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family, established by the U.N.'s General Assembly to raise awareness about the importance of families and to respond to the challenges they face.

The archbishop explained that the family uniquely combines two forms of relationships that have “radical differences”: the relationship between male and female and the relationship between parent and child. The family is not a venue for individualism that idealizes “autonomy and independence.” Rather, the family features “interdependence” and “reciprocity.”

The family is also a place for “strong relationships” that deeply affect its members “for good or ill.” It lacks the instability of other relationships and requires its members to interact with people different than themselves.

The archbishop said the family is “at the very heart of human development, indispensable and irreplaceable, and at the same time beautiful and welcoming.”

Countries that do not make men's responsibility for their children a “structural element” face poorer social development, especially regarding women and children, he noted.

The family plays an important role in the education of children and the creation of family economic resources, like starting a family business or providing mutual assistance to family members. It allows for “the harmonious development of society as a whole.”

He said that family relations have been “purified” by moving away from family models based on “possession” and the “models of inequality accepted without thinking in certain cultural milieus.”

Archbishop Paglia warned of two dangers: “familyism,” in which the good of family is preferred to the good of the individual or the good of society as a whole; and “radical individualism” that destroys the family.

The archbishop said that the family is in “crisis” in recent decades, evidenced by increased divorce, increased out-of-wedlock births and single-parent families, and a decline in the number of marriages. This crisis causes problems in demographics, failures in education, the abandonment of the elderly, and the spread of social disturbances.

He said that the Catholic Church “never ceases to support and assist the family.”

In the Church’s upcoming synod on the family, Pope Francis intends “to put the family at the center of the Church and of all human reflection.”

The synod will not feature “ideological debates” but rather will consider the role of the family and its mission in contemporary society. Its decisions aim to “empower Catholic families to become active participants in a society-wide ferment that will move all peoples to a culture of solidarity.”

Archbishop Paglia addressed the U.N. after visiting Philadelphia, which will host the Catholic Church’s World Meeting of Families in 2015. The meeting aims to support and strengthen families around the world. The meeting’s organizers are encouraging Pope Francis to attend the event.

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Pope: Church problems solved through discussion, prayer

Vatican City, May 18, 2014 (CNA) - In his Sunday Regina Coeli message, Pope Francis reflected on the apostles’ method of solving problems as an example for the whole Church.

When the early Christians struggled to care for the growing community, “the apostles took the situation in hand - they called a large meeting also with the disciples, discussing the question together,” he said on May 18.

“Seeking advice, discussing, and praying--this is how problems in the Church are resolved, with the certainty that gossip, envy, (and) jealousy can never lead us to concord, harmony or peace,” Pope Francis explained to the crowds filling St. Peter’s Square and spilling out to the street.

Sunday’s scripture passage from the Acts of the Apostles recounts how even in the early church “the first tensions and disagreements emerged.”

There are always problems in life, acknowledged the Pope. “The problem is how one confronts (them).”

“Problems are never, in fact, solved by pretending that they do not exist!” he stressed.

The apostles faced a situation in which the presence of ethnic differences between Hebrews and Greeks in the Christian community led to “complaints, rumors of favoritism and unequal treatment.”

“This happens also in our parishes!” said Pope Francis, comparing the situation to modern life in the Church.

He reflected that the “frank discussion” between the apostles and the other disciples helped them to arrive at a “division of labor.”

“The apostles make a proposal that is accepted by all: they will devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word, while seven men, deacons, will provide service at the tables for the poor.”

The men who were chosen as deacons were not necessarily “experts,” but were “honest men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom; and constituted in their service through the laying on of hands by the apostles.”

The Holy Spirit was also there “to crown this agreement,” added the Pope. “this tells us that when we allow the Holy Spirit to guide, he leads us to harmony, to unity and respect for different gifts and talents. Do you understand? No small talk, no envy, no jealousy! Get it?” he emphasized.

The pontiff then led those present in the traditional Marian prayer of the Easter season, the Regina Coeli.

He took a moment to pray in a special way for those affected by severe flooding in the Balkans and Serbia, where more than 20 have died and thousands are being evacuated as the worst floods in more than 100 years continue to threaten cities throughout the regions.

“As I entrust to the Lord the victims of this disaster, I express my personal closeness to those and tribulation. Let us pray together the Our Lady for these brothers and sisters, who are many difficulties,” he said as he immediately led the crowds in a Hail Mary.

Pope Francis made note of the May 17 beatification of Romanian bishop Anton Durcovici, who was martyred for the faith under the Communist regime in 1951. “Together with the faithful of (the city of) Iasi and the whole of Romania, we thank God for this example!” he exclaimed.

The Holy Father closed his address by greeting the various pilgrim groups present and wishing everyone a good Sunday and a good lunch.

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