This is a confusing time for all women, especially Catholics, because we are bombarded from all sides with conflicting messages:
“Wanting a relationship means you’re not capable of being independent” and “You’ve been single for too long.”
“It’s your body. Do whatever you want with it” and “Modest is hottest.”
“The Church is sexist. It’s controlled by old white men” and “You must be called to the religious life if you’re unhappy in your relationship.”
Catholic women have their work cut out for them as they try to come to terms with their Catholicism, independence and careers.
In a National Review interview about her book, “Promise and Challenge: Catholic Women Reflect on Feminism, Complementarity and the Church,” Mary Hasson, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center said, “The Church … celebrates femininity and motherhood, and insists that women have dignity and value, regardless of their looks, power, status or wealth.” This is a far different message from modern feminists who demonize men, downplay our polarity and frequently dismiss the importance of marriage and childrearing.
The problem facing Catholic women who are trying to find their place in the Church is that Catholic femininity has been co-opted by people who think the road to true equality involves eliminating the differences between the sexes, like ordaining women. These ideas, however, represent a bygone era of the Catholic Church and their message has steadily been losing popularity among Catholics.
It’s clear now that our Catholic femininity is more than complaining about our supposedly unequal place in the Church. Women want more.
They want a fulfilling role in the Church, a role which the Church freely gives them. This summer in Philadelphia, Pope Francis said, “Every Christian man and woman, by virtue of Baptism, has received a mission. Each one of us has to respond as best we can to the Lord’s call to build up His body, His church.”
Furthermore, the Church has never said we’re unequal. She has been clear on our distinct roles, but She has never said men are superior. This is especially difficult for us to understand as Americans. Our country was founded on the premise of equality, and today we interpret that to mean that men and women can do the same things.
For most careers and skills, this is true. But in the Church, unlike in America, there are things that women simply cannot do; mainly, be ordained as priests.
But as Hasson and others have said, it is these differences, this complementarity, which makes us unique. It is what gives us, as St. John Paul II said, our feminine genius. Rather than trying to eliminate the things that make us different from men — for example, our capacity to bear children — Catholic women today are called to embrace the unique position that we have in the Church.
To quote Hasson again: “So many of the damaging lies — about sex, children, the meaning of life — that permeate our culture are aimed at women. But Catholic women, who see people with the ‘eyes of the heart,’ are uniquely poised to counter the lies, to bring truth and healing to our culture. In the same vein, women’s sensitivity to the person — particularly the most vulnerable — goes to the core of the New Evangelization.”
Catholic women have the daunting task of revitalizing a culture seeped in death and darkness. But God does not present us with trials we’re not capable of overcoming. Our role is invaluable and we can rejoice in the part we play to restore a culture of life.