BY SIMCHA FISHER Thursday, August 22, 2013
Wondering why we need a theology of women in the Church? Look no further than the comments after Pia de Solenni’s article, ‘Theology of Women in the Church’ Only Beginning to Be Revealed.
De Solenni is a moral theologian who was awarded the Pontifical Academies Award by John Paul II. Her article simply notes that John Paul II’s writing about women challenges us to understand womanhood in terms of who women are, rather than what they do, and that Pope Francis’ recent comment, that “we don’t have a deep theology of women in the Church,” indicates that, in the coming years, the Church will continue the work that John Paul II began. De Solenni says,
[T]he Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, issued a letter to the bishops, The Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World, which emphasized that women “have a role in every aspect of society.”
If we follow the example of Mary, that means working from within, wherever we happen to be, whether as chancellor of a major archdiocese, a mother home with small children, in business, politics or countless other places. It means recognizing that women bring something to the table by virtue of who they are rather than simply by what they do.
In other words, it’s not helpful or useful to anyone for women to be assigned half-baked imitations of men’s roles. That’s insulting to women, and it perpetuates the secular fallacy that the male priesthood is about “power.” Men don’t join the seminary so they can become powerful! They follow the call to the priesthood so that they can serve God. This is what women are looking for: the best way to serve God as women.
Now, comment boxes are not called “the bottom of the internet” for nothing. But the comments after Solenni’s piece were especially low. After she quoted Francis and John Paul II, and noted that women will never become priests and that Aquinas was not a misogynist, readers responded,
This appears to be a thinly disguised radical feminism.
[T]his author kicks the apostles like a soccer ball and infers doubt around PJPII on the closing the matter of priestly ordination and mention of Aquinas as a mysoginist [sic].
Another complained that she is demanding,
Look at me, study me, validate me, me, me, me.
Others howled over the “female supremacism” de Solenni is calling for.
I understand the fear of radical feminism. I understand the disgust and frustration Catholics experience when men are diminished and scorned, when the bulletin is full of self actualization workshops and touchy feely seminars. But that’s not what de Solenni is talking about.
One commenter got to the heart of the matter:
The author is saying that women are inherently different from men, and the “feminine genius” (as Pope John Paul II called it) doesn’t fit neatly into the positions of Church structure. Imitating men, whether as altar boys, deacons or priests, misses out on the unique gifts which women can bring to the Church.
Look, Catholic women are in a very peculiar position in the 21st century. Many of us have, like de Solenni, rejected the radical feminism that the secular world offers. We are horrified that the feminist movement devolved into a parody of itself, and almost instantly turned from its sorely needed goal of promoting respect and justice for women, and became ugly and strident, rejecting fertility, scorning self-sacrifice, devaluing men and damaging women and children.
But most of the Catholic women I know are just as disgusted with the sissifcation of the Church. We have no desire to replace the sacraments with weaving classes and yoga. This is stupid stuff. This doesn’t tell you what woman can offer, any more than a stroll down the porn and firearms aisle of your local porn and firearms store tells you what men have to offer.
I do not want to be a man, and I do not want to be like a man. I also do not want to turn the Church into a hand-holding, feelings-sharing warm bath of emotion. That’s a parody of womanhood, and it’s just as offensive to women of faith as it is to men of faith.
This is precisely why we need a theology of women: because we’re tired of the parodies, the clownish extremes that purport to represent womanhood.
The Church is the bride of Christ. We are all feminine in relation to God. If we are going to understand what that means, then we need to use a little subtlety of thought, and react without the knee jerk fear and revulsion demonstrated by the commenters on Solenni’s piece.