c) Women and The Church

women and the churchTop Quotes At-A-Glance: Women and the Church
(See Further Down the Page for the Full Quotes and their Source.)

  1. “As truly as God is our Father, so truly God is our Mother.” (St Julian)
  2. “The greatest Doctors of the Church are women, not men.” (Fr Eamon Devlin)
  3. “The image of the “rib” in no way expresses inferiority or subordination, but, on the contrary, that man and woman are of the same substance and are complimentary.” (Pope Francis)
  4. “She is in no way man’s creation, but God’s.” (Pope Francis)
  5. “The removal of difference is the problem, not the solution. To solve their problems in relating to each other, men and women must instead speak more, listen more, know each other better, value each other more. They must treat each other with respect and cooperate in friendship.” (Pope Francis)
  6. “Undoubtedly we must do far more in favour of women… Indeed, it is necessary for a woman not only to be listened to, but also for her voice to carry real weight, recognised authority, in society and in the Church.” (Pope Francis)
  7. “The way in which Jesus Himself regarded women, in a context that was far less favourable than our own, casts a powerful light illuminating a road that takes us far, on which we have travelled only a short distance. It is a road we must travel with more creativity and boldness.” (Pope Francis)
  8. “Dearest mothers, thank you, thank you for what you are in your family and for what you give to the Church and the world.” (Pope Francis)
  9. “Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centred individualism. “Individual” means “what cannot be divided”. Mothers, instead, “divide” themselves, from the moment they bear a child to give him to the world and help him grow.” (Pope Francis)
  10. “Mothers often pass on the deepest sense of religious practice: in a human being’s life, the value of faith is inscribed in the first prayers, the first acts of devotion that a child learns. It is a message that believing mothers are able to pass on without much explanation: these come later, but the seed of faith is those early precious moments.” (Pope Francis)
  11. “We need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church.” (Pope Francis)
  12. “Woman has a particular sensitivity to the “things of God”, above all in helping us understand the mercy, tenderness and love that God has for us.” (Pope Francis)
  13. “When I see women carrying out acts of servitude, it is because the role a woman should play is not properly understood. ” (Pope Francis)
  14. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ.” (St Paul)
  15. “The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general. It must be remembered that when we speak of sacramental power ‘we are in the realm of function, not that of dignity or holiness.’ … The configuration of the priest to Christ the head – namely, as the principal source of grace – does not imply an exaltation which would set him above others.” (Pope Francis)
  16. “As most women themselves point out, equality of dignity does not mean ‘sameness with men.’ This would only impoverish women and all of society, by deforming or losing the unique richness and the inherent value of femininity.” (Pope John-Paul II)
  17. “History is written almost exclusively as the narrative of men’s achievements, when in fact its better part is most often moulded by women’s determined and persevering action for good.” (Pope John-Paul II)
  18. “The challenge facing most societies is that of upholding, indeed strengthening, woman’s role in the family while at the same time making it possible for her to use all her talents and exercise all her rights in building up society. However, women’s greater presence in the work force, in public life, and generally in the decision making processes guiding society, on an equal basis with men, will continue to be problematic as long as the costs continue to burden the private sector. In this area the State has a duty of subsidiarity, to be exercised through suitable legislative and social security initiatives. In the perspective of uncontrolled free-market policies there is little hope that women will be able to overcome the obstacles on their path.” (Pope John-Paul II)
  19. “The role of women in the Church is not simply that of maternity, being mothers, but much greater: it is precisely to be the icon of the Virgin, of Our Lady; what helps make the Church grow! .… the role of women in the Church must not be limited to being mothers, workers, a limited role… No! It is something else!… Paraguay: After the war, there were eight women for every man, and these women made a rather difficult decision: the decision to bear children in order to save their country, their culture, their faith, and their language. In the Church, this is how we should think of women: taking risky decisions, yet as women. This needs to be better explained…. We need to develop a profound theology of womanhood. That is what I think.” (Pope Francis)
  20. It is necessary to broaden the opportunities for a stronger presence of women in the church. (Pope Francis)
  21. The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. (Pope Francis)

 

Women and the Church
(Full Quotes and Their Source)

“As truly as God is our Father, so truly God is our Mother.”

— the insight from the 14th century English female saint, Julian of Norwich

“The greatest Doctors of the Church are women, not men. Tradition is full of great women. Scriptures are full of women. The decisions of the Church are made on scripture AND tradition.

  • Catherine of Sienna—renowned for her terrific understanding of the person of Christ (she never learned to read or write)
  • Therese of Lisieux—renowned for her terrific understanding of the mission of the Church
  • Teresa of Avilia—renowned for her terrific understanding of the mystery of Christ.
  • Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) was/is a giant in the Church.

In every generation several women stand out—giants of faith and charity.”

— Fr Eamon Devlin, CM

“Woman is not a replica of man; she comes directly from the creative act of God. The image of the “rib” in no way expresses inferiority or subordination, but, on the contrary, that man and woman are of the same substance and are complimentary and that they also have this reciprocity. And the fact that — also in that parable — God moulds woman while man sleeps means precisely that she is in no way man’s creation, but God’s.”

— Pope Francis reflecting on the role of women and men by reflecting on the parable of Adam and Eve, at a General Audience 22 April 2015, as reported on the Vatican website

“Experience teaches us that for the human being to know him- or herself well and to grow harmoniously, there is a need for reciprocity between man and woman”, said the Pope to the thirty thousand faithful present in St. Peter’s Square. “When this does not happen, we see the consequences. We are made to listen to each other and to help each other. We can say that, without mutual enrichment in this relationship – in terms of thought and action, in personal relationships and in work, and also in faith – the two cannot even fully understand what it means to be a man and a woman.

Modern and contemporary culture has opened up new spaces, new freedoms and new depths for the enrichment and understanding of this difference. But it has also introduced many doubts and much scepticism. I wonder, for example, if so-called gender theory is not an expression of frustration and resignation, that aims to cancel out sexual difference as it is no longer able to face it. Yes, we run the risk of taking step backwards. Indeed, the removal of difference is the problem, not the solution. To solve their problems in relating to each other, men and women must instead speak more, listen more, know each other better, value each other more. They must treat each other with respect and cooperate in friendship. With these human bases, supported by God’s grace, it is possible to plan a lifelong matrimonial and family union. The marriage and family bond is a serious matter for all, not only for believers. I would like to encourage intellectuals not to ignore this theme, as if it were secondary to our efforts to promote a freer and more just society .

…. Undoubtedly we must do far more in favour of women, if we want to strengthen to the reciprocity between men and women. Indeed, it is necessary for a woman not only to be listened to, but also for her voice to carry real weight, recognised authority, in society and in the Church. The way in which Jesus Himself regarded women, in a context that was far less favourable than our own, casts a powerful light illuminating a road that takes us far, on which we have travelled only a short distance. It is a road we must travel with more creativity and boldness.”

— Pope Francis at a General Audience in St Peter’s Square 15th April 2015, as translated at the MeaningofMarriage.ie website (but in case that’s taken down anytime, here too is the Vatican website translation, which includes the lines “We have not yet understood in depth what the feminine genius can give us, what woman can give to society and also to us. Maybe women see things in a way that complements the thoughts of men. It is a path to follow with greater creativity and courage.”)

“Dearest mothers, thank you, thank you for what you are in your family and for what you give to the Church and the world. And to you, beloved Church, thank you, thank you for being mother. And to you, Mary, Mother of God, thank you for letting us see Jesus….

Every human person owes his or her life to a mother, and almost always owes much of what follows in life, both human and spiritual formation, to her. Yet, despite being highly lauded from a symbolic point of view — many poems, many beautiful things said poetically of her — the mother is rarely listened to or helped in daily life, rarely considered central to society in her role. Rather, often the readiness of mothers to make sacrifices for their children is taken advantage of so as to “save” on social spending.

It also happens that in Christian communities the mother is not always held in the right regard, she is barely heard. Yet the centre of the life of the Church is the Mother of Jesus. Perhaps mothers, ready to sacrifice so much for their children and often for others as well, ought to be listened to more.

…. Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centred individualism. “Individual” means “what cannot be divided”. Mothers, instead, “divide” themselves, from the moment they bear a child to give him to the world and help him grow. It is they, mothers, who most hate war, which kills their children. Many times I have thought of those mothers who receive the letter: “I inform you that your son has fallen in defense of his homeland…”. The poor women! How a mother suffers! It is they who testify to the beauty of life.

…. A society without mothers would be a dehumanized society, for mothers are always, even in the worst moments, witnesses of tenderness, dedication and moral strength. Mothers often pass on the deepest sense of religious practice: in a human being’s life, the value of faith is inscribed in the first prayers, the first acts of devotion that a child learns. It is a message that believing mothers are able to pass on without much explanation: these come later, but the seed of faith is those early precious moments. Without mothers, not only would there be no new faithful, but the faith would lose a good part of its simple and profound warmth.”

— Pope Francis in a talk on ‘The Mother’ to a ‘General Audience’ on the 7th of January 2015

“Many women share pastoral responsibilities with priests, helping to guide people, families and groups and offering new contributions to theological reflection.

But we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church.

Because “the feminine genius is needed in all expressions in the life of society, the presence of women must also be guaranteed in the workplace” and in the various other settings where important decisions are made, both in the Church and in social structures.

— Pope Francis in his Encyclical ‘The Joy of the Gospel’, 2013, section 103

“Woman has a particular sensitivity to the “things of God”, above all in helping us understand the mercy, tenderness and love that God has for us. I also like to think of the Church not as an “it” but as a “she”. The Church is woman, she is mother, and this is beautiful….

In the Church as well, it is important to ask oneself: what sort of presence does woman have? I suffer — to tell you the truth — when I see in the Church or in Church organizations that the role of service, which we all have and should have… when a woman’s role of service slides into servidumbre [servitude]. I don’t know if that is how you say it in Italian. Do you understand me? Service. When I see women carrying out acts of servitude, it is because the role a woman should play is not properly understood. What presence do women have in the Church? Can it be developed further? This question is close to my heart and that is why I wanted to meet with you — outside the norm, because a meeting of this kind was not scheduled — to bless you and your undertaking. Thank you, let us carry it forward together! May Mary Most Holy, the great woman, Mother of Jesus and of all God’s children, accompany us. Thank you.”

— Pope Francis, 12th October 2013, addressing participants in a seminar organised by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, as translated on the Vatican website and as vieweable here

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ.”

— St Paul (in his letter to the Galatians 3:28)

“Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded. The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general. It must be remembered that when we speak of sacramental power “we are in the realm of function, not that of dignity or holiness”. The ministerial priesthood is one means employed by Jesus for the service of his people, yet our great dignity derives from baptism, which is accessible to all. The configuration of the priest to Christ the head – namely, as the principal source of grace – does not imply an exaltation which would set him above others. In the Church, functions “do not favour the superiority of some vis-à-vis the others”. Indeed, a woman, Mary, is more important than the bishops. Even when the function of ministerial priesthood is considered “hierarchical”, it must be remembered that “it is totally ordered to the holiness of Christ’s members”. Its key and axis is not power understood as domination, but the power to administer the sacrament of the Eucharist; this is the origin of its authority, which is always a service to God’s people. This presents a great challenge for pastors and theologians, who are in a position to recognize more fully what this entails with regard to the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life.”

— Pope Francis in his Encyclical ‘The Joy of the Gospel’, 2013, see section 104

“Mary Magdalene had followed Jesus (to Jerusalem) from her native Galilee. Mary often gets a bad press due to being confused with a number of other women in the Gospels. She is not the woman taken adultery. Neither is she the sinful woman who anointed the feet of Jesus, nor is she the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Mary followed Jesus because he had cured her of some mysterious disease (‘cast out seven devils,’ as one text says).”

— In God’s Word This Month, in the Redemptorists’ Reality magazine, April 2011 (re Jn 20:1-9)

“Indeed, the Church is a family. Yes, there is a radical equality of human dignity in a family; no single member of a family is more a part of the family than any another. But equality of dignity does not mean identity of roles; a mother’s role is not the same as a father’s, nor a son’s the same as a grandmother’s. This is true for the Church as well. A married couple’s role in the Church is not the same as a consecrated religious sister. A priest’s role is not the
same as an unmarried woman’s.

There is equality of dignity, but diversity of roles. And the Holy Father’s point here is that there is a beautiful complementarity among these different roles — married people can help priests in their vocation to be holy and priests can help families in theirs. Our tasks are different, but our aim is the same — to live holy lives and prepare ourselves for ‘the life of the world to come.’ As Mother Teresa used to say: “You can do something I cannot do. I can do something you cannot do. Together let us do something beautiful for God.”

— Archbishop Charles J Brown, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, as part of his homily during his pilgrimage to the shrine at Knock, 23rd June 2012, as reported by the St Joseph’s Young Priest Society in their Autumn 2012 newsletter The Sheaf

“Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
I wish to share a few words with you, even if briefly, on the important theme that you have been discussing these days: woman’s vocation and mission in our time.

…. Many things can change and have changed in cultural and social evolution, but the fact remains that it is woman who conceives, carries and delivers the children of men. And this is not merely a biological fact; it entails a wealth of implications both for woman herself, her way of being, and for her relationships, her relation to human life and to life in general. In calling woman to motherhood, God entrusted the human being to her in an entirely special way.

…. woman has a particular sensitivity to the “things of God”, above all in helping us understand the mercy, tenderness and love that God has for us. I also like to think of the Church not as an “it” but as a “she”. The Church is woman, she is mother, and this is beautiful.

…. In the Church as well, it is important to ask oneself: what sort of presence does woman have? I suffer — to tell you the truth — when I see in the Church or in Church organizations that the role of service, which we all have and should have… when a woman’s role of service slides into servidumbre [servitude]. I don’t know if that is how you say it in Italian. Do you understand me? Service. When I see women carrying out acts of servitude, it is because the role a woman should play is not properly understood. What presence do women have in the Church? Can it be developed further? This question is close to my heart and that is why I wanted to meet with you — outside the norm, because a meeting of this kind was not scheduled — to bless you and your undertaking.”

— Pope Francis in an unscheduled address to participants in a seminar organised by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Saturday 12th October 2013

“As most women themselves point out, equality of dignity does not mean ‘sameness with men.’ This would only impoverish women and all of society, by deforming or losing the unique richness and the inherent value of femininity. In the Church’s outlook, women and men have been called by the Creator to live in profound communion with one another, with reciprocal knowledge and giving of self, acting together for the common good with the complementary characteristics of that which is feminine and masculine….

The Church recognizes that women’s contribution to the welfare and progress of society is incalculable, and the Church looks to women to do even more to save society from the deadly virus of degradation and violence which is today witnessing a dramatic increase….

History is written almost exclusively as the narrative of men’s achievements, when in fact its better part is most often moulded by women’s determined and persevering action for good. Elsewhere I have written about man’s debt to woman in the realm of life and the defence of life (Cf. John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem, 18). How much still needs to be said and written about man’s enormous debt to woman in every other realm of social and cultural progress! The Church and human society have been, and continue to be, measurelessly enriched by the unique presence and gifts of women, especially those who have consecrated themselves to the Lord and in him have given themselves in service to others….

The challenge facing most societies is that of upholding, indeed strengthening, woman’s role in the family while at the same time making it possible for her to use all her talents and exercise all her rights in building up society. However, women’s greater presence in the work force, in public life, and generally in the decision making processes guiding society, on an equal basis with men, will continue to be problematic as long as the costs continue to burden the private sector. In this area the State has a duty of subsidiarity, to be exercised through suitable legislative and social security initiatives. In the perspective of uncontrolled free-market policies there is little hope that women will be able to overcome the obstacles on their path.”

— Pope John-Paul II, in a 26th May 1995 letter to the ‘Secretary General of the Fourth World Conference on Women in the United Nations’

“In the ever more diverse make up of the Commission, I want to see a higher presence of women… We’re still not there yet. They’re the strawberries on the cake, but we need more of them.

…. Female theologians can shed light, for the good of everyone, on certain unexplored and profound aspects of the mystery of Christ. I invite all of you to take advantage of these specific contributions women can make in matters of faith.”

— Pope Francis in a talk to the 30 members of the International Theological Commission, only 5 of whom are female, the 5th December 2014
(note: this translation is by Rome Reports, and judging by the video of part of the talk, it was translated by a native English speaker as opposed to the poorer English translation appearing on the Vatican website.)

“The role of women in the Church is not simply that of maternity, being mothers, but much greater: it is precisely to be the icon of the Virgin, of Our Lady; what helps make the Church grow! But think about it, Our Lady is more important than the Apostles! She is more important! The Church is feminine. She is Church, she is bride, she is mother. But women, in the Church, must not only… I don’t know how to say this in Italian… the role of women in the Church must not be limited to being mothers, workers, a limited role… No! It is something else! But the Popes.. Paul VI wrote beautifully of women, but I believe that we have much more to do in making explicit this role and charism of women. We can’t imagine a Church without women, but women active in the Church, with the distinctive role that they play.

I think of an example which has nothing to do with the Church, but is an historical example: in Latin America, Paraguay. For me, the women of Paraguay are the most glorious women in Latin America. Are you paraguayo? After the war, there were eight women for every man, and these women made a rather difficult decision: the decision to bear children in order to save their country, their culture, their faith, and their language. In the Church, this is how we should think of women: taking risky decisions, yet as women. This needs to be better explained. I believe that we have not yet come up with a profound theology of womanhood, in the Church. All we say is: they can do this, they can do that, now they are altar servers, now they do the readings, they are in charge of Caritas (Catholic charities). But there is more! We need to develop a profound theology of womanhood. That is what I think.”

— Pope Francis at a press conference on board a flight, 28th July 2013, during the return flight from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (the “war” he referred to is the War of the Triple Alliance in the 19th century)

“God’s faith in man and in woman, those to whom he entrusted the earth, is generous, direct and full. He trusts them. But then the devil introduces suspicion into their minds, disbelief, distrust, and finally, disobedience to the commandment that protected them. They fall into that delirium of omnipotence that pollutes everything and destroys harmony. We too feel it inside of us, all of us, frequently.

Sin generates distrust and division between man and woman. Their relationship will be undermined by a thousand forms of abuse and subjugation, misleading seduction and humiliating ignorance, even the most dramatic and violent kind. And history bears the scar. Let us think, for example, of those negative excesses of patriarchal cultures. Think of the many forms of male dominance whereby the woman was considered second class. Think of the exploitation and the commercialization of the female body in the current media culture. And let us also think of the recent epidemic of distrust, skepticism, and even hostility that is spreading in our culture — in particular an understandable distrust from women — on the part of a covenant between man and woman that is capable, at the same time, of refining the intimacy of communion and of guarding the dignity of difference.

If we do not find a surge of respect for this covenant, capable of protecting new generations from distrust and indifference, from children coming into the world ever more uprooted from the mother’s womb. The social devaluation for the stable and generative alliance between man and woman is certainly a loss for everyone. We must return marriage and the family to the place of honour!”

— Pope Francis reflecting on the division between men and women in the course of history, including “the many forms of male dominance whereby the woman was considered second class”. Part of his General Audience in St Peter’s Square, 22nd April 2015.

“It is necessary to broaden the opportunities for a stronger presence of women in the church.

I am wary of a solution that can be reduced to a kind of ‘female machismo,’ because a woman has a different make-up than a man. But what I hear about the role of women is often inspired by an ideology of machismo.

Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed. The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity. We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the church.

The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. The challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places where the authority of the church is exercised for various areas of the church.”

— Pope Francis in his August 2013 Interview with Atonio Spadaro, S.J., as reported in many Jesuit magazines worldwide including America: The National Catholic Review

Extra:

  1. While it is not a quote, and while Wikipedia is not ‘gospel’ :), you might well find something interesting on its page called “Catholic Church and Women“.
  2. Did you know there is an active “World Union of Catholic Women“? Founded in 1910 and based in France and representing more than 100 women’s organisations, their aim is “to promote the presence, participation and co-responsibility of Catholic women in society and the Church, in order to enable them to fulfil their mission of evangelisation and to work for human development.”
  3. To discuss and explore the issues facing women in 2015, in May 2015 the Vatican held its second International Conference on Women, as introduced by this good two-minute Rome Reports video.
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