Pope Benedict XVI cannot change the Church’s position on abortion, birth control or women’s ordination because they flow from the core teachings of the Catholic faith, but Catholics can expect him to engage in the extensive conversations that may be necessary for understanding these teachings, says theologian Pia de Solenni.
In the Washington Post, de Solenni addressed the labels placed on Pope Benedict as someone who is “conservative” and against women’s equality in the Church.
“This is the man who was considered liberal as a professor and conservative as a Church leader,” said de Solenni in his defense. “His thinking has not changed substantially, but the perceptions of him have. We can rest on the perceptions that others have created, or we can encounter him for who he really is.”
In her column, titled “Our Role in the Church”, she commented on Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s document "On the Collaboration of Women and Men in the Church and in the World", which was released last year.
The theologian says the document was written to address the ongoing questions of men's and women's roles in a way that the differences between the sexes could be seen in a positive light. The document also stated that sex differences are an essential component of human identity.
“Catholic teaching holds that the differences between men and women are constructive; they contribute to what we do and who we are,” explained the theologian and director of the Family Research Council. “In other words, we should see a person affirmatively as a man or a woman, not a genderless automaton, in everything that person does.”
“I am hopeful that Benedict XVI will continue the conversation to more fully explore the unique feminine gift that only women can provide to the Catholic Church,” de Solenni
The author of the soon-to-be-released book "Different and Equal " wrote of her own personal journey on the place of women in the Church. The American admitted that before her theological studies in Rome, she believed that the Church’s teaching on women was “flawed.”
Yet, her attitudes changed and her understanding of Church teaching grew during her studies and work at the Vatican.
As well, given the Church teaching that men and women are created equally in the image of God and the continued discussion on the contributions of women, de Solenni said, it is becoming increasingly clear that “women's fundamental equality is not compromised because we can't be ordained.”