Experts discuss importance of role of women in the Church


Four women leaders in the Archdiocese of Denver took part in a panel discussion Nov. 9 titled  "Women in the Church: The new feminism."

The discussion revolved around the “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of men and women in the Church and in the world,” recently released by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.

“Not necessarily unwarranted, many women have noted the abuse of power taken by men, but unfortunately find their answer in seeking power for themselves,” said panelist Mercy Wagner, commenting on the nature of political feminism in the last century. 

The tragedy in this pursuit of power, says Wagner, is when women deny all that is feminine about themselves in order to compete and succeed.

“They see an injustice, and in their diagnosis of the problem they solely attribute any discrimination to the fact that they are biologically women,” said Wagner, youth and young adult advisor for the archdiocese. “In an attempt to remedy the situation, they abandon their femininity.” 

Wagner argued that pro-choice groups reject femininity through the promotion of contraception and abortion on demand and “deepen the confusion women have regarding their identity.” 

These groups “condition women and society at large to think that their fertility is a disease and that they need to be liberated from their bodies in order to make a difference in the world,” she said. 

“This train of thought is a fallacy and in complete opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church,” she stated.

Panelist Jeannette Clark spoke on God’s original intention for men and women as demonstrated in Genesis. His intention was, and still is, for men and women to relate and collaborate, said the former director of the archdiocesan Office of Christian Initiation. The creation accounts in Genesis are “the basis of all Christian anthropology,” she said.

“The collaboration between men and women is based on the self gift of the person, men giving from their unique gift as initiator and women, actively receiving through her unique gift as one who exists ‘for the other’,” she said.

“The power of the resurrection frees the hearts of men and women and makes them capable of knowing the joy of mutual giving,” she concluded.

Terry Polacovic spoke on what Pope John Paul II has called woman’s “capacity for the other.” 

“Intuitively women know that life is a gift, and they want to contribute to the growth and protection of this gift,” she explained. “This intuition is linked to their capacity as women to give life. 

“From the moment most women learn that they are pregnant, they are aware that the new life inside of them is a miracle from God.  This is one of the reasons so many women experience terrible psychological suffering after having an abortion,” said the founder of the organization Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women. 

Polacovic cited the Pope’s 1995 Letter to Women, in which he states that historically women have not received the recognition that they deserved. He adds, however, that “their beneficent influence can be felt as a force which has shaped the lives of successive generations, right up unto our own. To this great, immense feminine ‘tradition’ humanity owes a debt which can never be repaid.”

She also cited Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s statements that while motherhood is a key element of women’s identity, this does not mean that women should be considered from the sole perspective of physical procreation.  Like men, women are not meant to be used.      

Polacovic also spoke of “spiritual motherhood” that can find forms other than physical procreation, “in all aspects of family and social life involving human relationships and caring for others.” 

“The proper condition of the male-female relationship cannot be a kind of mistrustful and defensive opposition.  For humanity’s sake, their relationship needs to be lived in peace with cooperation and in the happiness of shared love,” she said.

Rossana Goni wrapped up the panel discussion on the subject of Mary “who has realized in her being a woman, the plenitude of the calling that every faithful Christian, that every woman, is called to be in the Church.” 

Goni, an editor of El Pueblo Católico, said there is a misunderstanding about the role of Mary in human history and in the Church. She also noted that Evangelicals put her in a secondary place and radical feminists consider her submissive.

Mary displays the “feminine genius” in the Gospel account of the wedding at Cana, said Goni, a consecrated of the Marian Community of Reconciliation

“There are countless examples of women who have lived the fullness of being woman, women of God. Mothers, religious, missionaries, laywomen, doctors of the Church,” said Goni. “Whatever the vocation, [women] are called to display that ‘feminine genius’ … so that the Church may reflect, as Mary does, the face of Christ that men and women today need.”

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