Dear Pope Francis, I Don’t Want To Be the Most Beautiful

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This post has caused a bit of controversy and it’s been edited in response to some valid criticisms. I am genuinely thankful for so much constructive feedback. (I’m not so thankful for the personal attacks or essay-length lectures on humility so if you feel that way inclined, just don’t okay?)

Dear Pope Francis,

The other day you gave an interview. It was your first interview with a female journalist since you were elected pope. Unfortunately, in a few short sentences, you managed to touch on everything I find problematic about the Church’s attitude to women.

I certainly don’t think this is the full extent of the Church’s teaching on women, and I know if you could easily add more, but I hear a lot of this kind of thing, and honestly, I’m confused. And frustrated. And confused. (Did I mention that one, already?)

This, as translated by Fr Z, is what you had to say:

M: If you will permit a criticism…

Francis: Of course…

M: You speak, perhaps, little about women, and when you speak about them you take on on issue only from the point of view of motherhood, woman as spouse, woman as mother, etc. But women by now are heads of state, multinationals, armies. What posts can women hold in the Church, according to you?

Francis: Women are the most beautiful things that God created. The Church is woman. Church is a feminine word [in Italian].  One cannot do theology without this femininity. You are right that we don’t talk about this enough. I agree that there must be more work on the theology of women. I have said that we are working in this sense.

It seems so innocuous, right?

There were other things too but the simple response above, it got me confused precisely because it seems to be a reflection of what passes for a Catholic theology towards women today.

So I hope you’ll welcome a response from one frustrated young Catholic woman.

Feminine Beauty

Maybe I’m alone in this but I don’t find any comfort when the Church goes on and on about how wonderful women are.

I’m very secure in who I am as a woman but no, I neither am nor want to be “the most beautiful thing.” Last time I checked, Christ never said “Blessed are the beautiful…” What the Bible does say is that beauty is vain but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” (Pr 31:30)

If I am beautiful, let it be because I am loving, capable, intelligent, faithful, compassionate and strong… not because I have ovaries. 

Answering a question about women’s roles in the Church with “women are the most beautiful things that God created” isn’t just irrelevant, it actually reinforce all those negative stereotypes about how women should be seen and not heard. It characterises women as things to be seen and looked at by men. 

What about the other half of humanity who don’t want to spend their time admiring themselves? I wasn’t created to be the most beautiful. I was created to see, praise and create all that is good, true and beautiful. I was created to be and to do.

For the record, I also don’t think women are the most beautiful things God created. I mean, have you seen men? They sure are something yummy… ;)

You were asked about the role of women in the Church and you respond with, forgive me, a male-centred platitude about how pretty women are. 

That’s not okay.

Feminine Church

You go on to point out that the Church is feminine. Indeed, we speak of the Church as feminine: she is the Bride of Christ and our Mother. I love this sort of imagery and I think banishing gendered imagery from our language is unbiblical and counter-productive.

The problem is when people think that such imagery has any bearing on what it means to be an actual woman. What does it mean that the Church is feminine? What does that mean for me as a woman?

It turns out that it means very little because the femininity of the Church, “and thus the ‘feminine’ element, becomes a symbol of all that is “human”. (Mulieris Dignitatem, §25) In terms of women’s roles, the femininity of the Church is irrelevant. Are women meant to be thrilled that the Church is feminine when…

This feminine Church is run by men.

This feminine Church has no iconic representation in ecclesial life.

This feminine Church doesn’t even need women to exist if it can evangelise well enough. I’m not saying that the Church as we experience Her doesn’t need women. God well knows how much work women actually do to hold the Church together. But as long as only men can be priests, the Church needs men in a way She doesn’t need women…

Apparently only men can represent the male Christ by the priesthood but anyone, male or female, can represent the feminine Church. And we call this complementarity?

The fact is that feminine character of the Church has no bearing on the question of women’s roles.

Feminine Theology

Finally, you affirm again that we must develop a deeper theology of women.

I agree and I thank you for saying it. Pope St John Paul II had some real insights and a real care for women for which I, and so many others, are immensely grateful.

But maybe we could start by developing a theology of men qua male?

Until we have a robust theology of what it means to be men and women as human beings, no amount of theology of women is going to do us much good. Women will remain the theological Other and men the norm.

Women will continue to be told to model their femininity on Mary… and men will be told nothing much at all.

This hurts both men and women. Men because it leaves them adrift and vulnerable to all sorts of distortions about masculinity. Women because it can get dangerously close to our full humanity. A theology of women is today invariably conceived of as drawing its meaning primarily from Mary. Mulieris Dignitatem is based around this whole premise. But Holy Father, as a woman, my first and primary model isn’t Mary — it’s Christ.

That’s because my femininity isn’t an abstraction laid on top of my humanity: being female is how I be human. The Word made flesh is my model for being a woman. The Son of Man assumed my feminine nature and it my female body and soul He heals. 

In trying to “discover” a theology of women without a theology of men, we can end up obscurely the truth that really matters, that God became human to save human beings.

The extent to which we obscure that truth, we obscure the gospel of our salvation.

Women Are Human Too

That’s really what it comes down too.

I’ve read the Church’s teachings on women and I’ve tried to be sympathetic but all the time, it just seems to miss the mark. I don’t think this is your fault. I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault as such.

The Church seems to be very good at valuing what it regards as the feminine element or the essence of femininity: the feminine as beautiful, the feminine as ecclesia, the feminine as theological concern. 

I wish the Church would focus instead on flesh-and-blood women.

I wish the Church would emphasise more how women are unique, God-imaging, Christ-redeemed, Spirit-filled human beings — and not as incarnations of an imaginary ideal.

I wish the Church would speak less about “the feminine” and speak more to women as human persons.

Because Pope Francis, I don’t want to be the most beautiful. It means very little to me that the Church is gendered feminine when such femininity symbolically refers to humanity in general. Neither do I want a special theology just for me and my sisters. None of it means much at all.

I don’t want to be a beautiful ideal of femininity; I want to be free human person in Christ.

I hope you can understand that,

Love Laura

+JMJ+

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  1. Emily says

    I guess I’m not sure what you want the Church to say about women, when everything the Church has written about women has been spot on. To say that there is no role in the Church that can only be fulfilled by women and plenty that can only be fulfilled by men – I don’t understand. The only thing men can do in the Church that women cannot do is become a priest. Just like in normal life, women cannot be fathers and men and cannot be mothers. Women cannot be spiritual fathers and men cannot be spiritual mothers (nuns). The church definitely could not function without women – there would be hardly any teachers, lectors, cantors, altar severs (unfortunately), choir members, sacristans, Eucharistic Ministers, or for most importantly – parishioners. The Church without women would totally fall apart. Of course women’s role model is Christ – but Christ is a man. You can’t make Him female. The Mary is a woman and therefore, the perfect model for all women. As a woman, I don’t want to be treated like a man, the same as a man. I wanted to be treated differently, because I am different. I DO want a special theology, because as a woman, I am special.

    • says

      Thanks for commenting Emily! I’d like to see the Church address women’s concerns more readily rather than appealing to an abstract femininity – which is precisely what Pope Francis did in this short interview. I also don’t think you’ve really addressed what I wrote here.

      I never said there are plenty of roles that can only be filled by men. I wrote that every role a woman can fill, a man can as well but the inverse is not true.

      While consecrated religious women are considered brides of Christ, they are not the “complement” of the ordained priesthood but of consecrated religious men. As well as the division between lay and clerical in the Church, we also have the division between religious (i.e. those who take vows: nuns, monks, sisters, friars etc) and those who don’t (i.e. secular or diocesan priests and the laity). Because Holy Orders belongs to both secular and religious priests, and the tradition of the Latin Rite demands celibacy of all its priests (although there are exceptions), these two divisions are often confused but they are not the same thing. Further, Holy Orders is hardly an “only thing” when we remember how wonderfully essential the priesthood is to the Church. It’s funny that when men are discerning the priesthood, it’s this incredible gift but if a woman so much as wonders why it is reserved for men, suddenly it’s just one, measly thing that doesn’t matter. I’m not saying you said this, just reflecting more broadly on a trend I’ve noticed.

      I don’t deny that the Church as we find her today wouldn’t fall apart without women but that it need not have been this way. Ontologically, the Church doesn’t require women in order to be the Church. To be a healthy Church, yes! But to be a Church? No. Because men can represent both the male Christ and the feminine Church, the bodily existence of women in the Church is essentially unnecessary in a philosophical and theological sense, even while – as we both know – the Church desperately needs women to function!

      Of course Christ is a man but Christian orthodoxy has always stressed that far more important is the fact that the Word became human and thus is the first, perfect and ultimate model for all human beings. Deny that and you deny the gospel. Seriously, it’s that simple. I have no problem with women having a special affinity to Mary as a woman. I do have a problem when that relation is stressed over our identity in and with Christ our Redeemer.

      Lastly, yes women are different from men but men are no less different from women. But aren’t they special too? Don’t they need and indeed deserve a theology of masculinity? Can’t they too say “I do want a special theology, because as a man, I am special.” If one is reasonable, so is the other. That was my point; something we seem to miss in the calls for a deeper theology of women.

      Thanks again for your comment. I think we can both agree that the Church needs both women and men in order to flourish, and that this is an incredible gift from our God. :)

      • says

        I just realised that I did say there are plenty of roles that can be filled by men. I think I meant that while women are excluded only from Holy Orders, this carries over into all sorts of roles within the Church. Sorry for misleading you on that in my comment above!

        • Raymond Abdo OCD says

          I thank you Laura for your exposition. I hope you will get a very good answer from the Pope. I feel you are Catholic and you love Christ Jesus, that’s the good point. You did remember me what saint Teresa of Jesus told in the Way of Perfection (chapter 3/7) about women and how Jesus consider them, and the difference between The way of Jesus and a church carried only by men. Actually the church is very open to the change, but it’s so difficult to do so fast. I remember a text that Edith Stein did write before the Second World War (1931) about priesthood of women. She says that it’s possible with. (The vocation of man and woman …)
          God bless you. I think the most important think you did say is that woman like man, is image and message of Christ and all our vocation and mission is originated in Christ.
          Thanks

          • says

            Thank you, Father. I’ll have to go re-read those chapters in the Way of Perfection. And yes, St Edith Stein did write that in her mind at least, the ordination of women could not be forbidden by dogma but was a matter or pros and cons. It’s an interesting comment given her immense influence on Pope St John Paul II and others.

            Anyway, I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit will continue to work in the Catholic Church just as the Spirit does done for thousands of years. His primarily concern, praise God, isn’t a certain set structures (although these are important) but drawing all people to Christ. He is our everything! :)

  2. GodsGadfly says

    I have never understood the notion that men are to “be” Christ. The feminine spirituality of Teresa, Therese and Catherine has always appealed to me. I don’t “get” that we’re supposed to think like Christ. I am assuming you’ve read the actual “Theology of the Body”? This would seem to be another case of Pope Francis unsuccessfully trying to truncate the teachings of St. j P II. He puts a big emphasis on the fact that the differences between men and women are not superficial but directed at childbearing, literally down to the bones, thus even women who are not called to motherhood are still in some sense to be motherly. That said, this may stem from the fact that the only role most priests should know is, as you describe, wife and housekeeper. My wife often says that women in the Church should have the role of Esther, Our Lady at Cana, and Catherine of Siena: telling the male leaders when they’re being idiots.

    • says

      It’s true, Sister, and I didn’t give that angle enough thought. Even so, I still find the comment troubling. If it is inner beauty that the Holy Father was speaking of, this inner beauty must come from an inner holiness and conformity to Christ. Was he saying that women are holier than men? That their souls are more beautiful? It was probably the “most” bit that irked me more than the “beautiful” bit!

      I know I probably seem really critical and I don’t want to be. It’s a snippet of the interview so I know there’s a lot more going on. I just worry that in our attempt to reassure women of their God-given worth, we end up flattering women simply for being female.

  3. says

    If I, a fellow Catholic woman, were to similarly choose to be troubled by Pope Francis’ remark, then it would be the word “thing” to which I objected, and not to the distinction between being and doing that he has made. It is the word “thing” that suggests the notion of object, and not the word “are.”

    I think there is a valuable lesson in the Pope’s recalibration of our attention to BEING instead of doing. Our young, zealous (even ants-in-our-pantsish!) generation of Catholic women wants to get out there and DO things and change the world for the better and all of that is laudable… but when considered from an eternal perspective, and even considered philosophically, this is secondary. It is after all the existentialist, and not the Catholic, who maintains that being is subservient to doing.

    You seem to be objecting to the Pope’s answering “what is my role?” with “what you are is…” – perhaps the distinction to be made here is not between “being” and “doing” at all, but rather between “who” and “what.” I tend to agree that the Holy Father’s seemingly spur-of-the-moment response didn’t really adequately deal with the question in any depth, and it seemed clear from his think-out-loud style of musing that I believe characterised his response that this issue hasn’t received as much of his attention as others within his almost infinite portfolio of responsibility. But I DO believe he was trying to point us in the direction of knowing WHO we each are, rather than what we are.

    I rather think people have forgotten how to be. Its part of what makes prayer so darn hard at times, when nothing seems to be happening! We need to learn how to be before we have a platform from which to start doing things that are compatible with our being. Wanting the Pope to prescriptively set out a program for feminine empowerment within Church governance is a cop-out and has very little to do with realising our dignity as daughters of the Eternal King.

    In the document “Fraternal Life in Community” there is a point made about identity, authentic Christian maturity and vocation and how the realisation of one goes hand-in-hand with the others. Well worth a read. I studied it as a Dominican novice some years ago so I don’t remember the paragraph number, I’m sorry.

    It is the relationship between God and the individual, made possible by Christ’s salvific mission, that is crucial to her ultimate attainment of her end, i.e. union with God. Who are you, when you peel away all the learned behaviours, the coping mechanisms, the self-styling and so on? Who are you before God? How does He see you? How is He inviting you to relate with Him in this present moment?

    The “what should I do” will actually quite naturally flow from who I am.
    So if I’m asking the Pope what can I do? I don’t yet know who I am.

    Maybe his answer was spot on.

    • says

      Thanks for a great response, bekside! You’re right in that being takes priority over doing and that’s probably something that I’m not as aware of as I should be!

      It wasn’t so much the emphasis on being that confused me though but that the Holy Father chose to describe women as “the most beautiful things that God created”. Why do we have this idea that women are the most beautiful? If it is outer beauty, then it is frankly demeaning because who really cares? If it is inner beauty that comes from being like Christ, why are women “the most”? What does that say about men?

      All that said, I loved your comment and I’m in the process of discovering that more and more: Who am I before God? Not what everyone wants me to be, not what I fear I am or wish I could be, but who I am before the God who made me to love and become like Him? I think that is a question for a lifetime! :)

  4. says

    I am rather confused by your recent letter to Pope Francis. It didn’t sound like the nerdy Catholic girl’s writing I have come to love reading. If anything, you sounded confused.
    I say you confused because you start off wanting a special theology for women, and not one based on our role as wife and mother, but for our role in society. And, yet, you end by saying that we aren’t just wives and mothers, we’re whole people. It’s true; we are whole people. But the part of us that is not wife and mother, the part that plays the role in society as worker, etc. follows the same theology as that of men in that same role. I don’t know if you are right in saying we need a theology of men. Hasn’t most, if not all of their roles, as father, husband and in society been addressed over the last 2,000 years? If there are holes, then by all means, we need to have them filled. But somehow I don’t think that’s exactly what you meant.
    To get back to women and their theology. As a generic person, the role of each and every one of us is to know, love and serve God. I’m sure this has been fully addressed over the last 2,000 years. If we, as women, do that in the public sector, ie. working in a job, then society respects that role, and we and they know what is expected. That is not so true for those who choose to know, love and serve God as wives and mothers. Their role is not so respected, nor do we or they (those in society) know what is expected, nor why it is worthwhile. And that is why there is theology especially for women – because we have a unique role that is undervalued by society, but not by the Church.
    Yes, Pope Francis could have answered the question better. (Maybe he is trying to learn to not say anything while answering off the cuff because everything he says that way gets taken out of context.) You say women have no role in the Church. You do acknowledge that we are required to give birth to make children, but you dismiss any role we have thereafter. Do you so little respect for the role of motherhood? Do you think priests are not made as much by their mothers as by anyone? A Church without women would cease to be a Church just as much as without men, for there would be no men to fill it, either by birth or by upbringing. If you do not yet know the reasons for the male-only priesthood, I suggest you remedy that. Women are also required as role models, ie. the saints.
    Finally, I find it so curious that it seems to have never occurred to any women craving a position (such as that of priest) that maybe men wish that they didn’t have to be the only ones doing that job? Maybe they wish they could consult with a fellow woman priest about a woman’s issue. Maybe men wish they could experience the exhilaration that comes after birthing a child, or the special bond that is created through breast feeding. Maybe in some ways, certainly some days, they wish they could stay home and be the nurturer. But it goes against their male nature – they are the providers and protectors and doing that is what fulfills them. Just as being wife and mother can be fulfilling if a woman listens to her heart and not to the secular culture. (And I’m not saying that’s all a woman should ever be. But there are times and seasons in life, and we can’t do it all, at the same time, and do it well.) It is just human nature to want what is denied, but it is fallen human nature that is this way. And we can and should rise above it.
    So, revel in your lack of responsibility for the future of the hierarchical Church as a lay woman. Do your part to raise good and holy children, some of whom may become priests (if that’s your calling). Find hope and contentment in the Church’s theology for women that celebrates our uniqueness. Find joy in knowing that as a woman your salvation has been won, just as it has been for every man, through Jesus and we have been shown how to live our lives so that hopefully at its end, God will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

    • says

      Hmmm… not sure I agree that there is no need for a theology of men. I think there is a need both for a more deeply developed theology of women, AND for a more deeply developed theology of men. Identity is one of the biggest problems faced by a word swimming in gender confusion, attacks on the family, etc. A deeper theology of each gender at an academic level can hopefully filter down into accessible teaching for the average person in the pew… and we can hope to see healthier individuals with healthier relationships with God and each other as a result.

      I am aware of some research being done at a Sydney-based university into codifying an emergent theology of men – I attended the presentation at which the case for the research was first presented, and I believe the case that was presented was highly compelling.

      St Catherine of Siena was one Doctor of the Church that was a huge proponent for the value of growth in self-knowledge and its benefits in one’s relationship with God. A better understanding of the theological, spiritual and natural aspects of both genders has the power to help so many more individuals improve their relationships with Him!

  5. Nick S says

    Perhaps a good place to find some answers could be found in the lives of some great female saints (I remember that Pope Benedict wrote in his book “Jesus of Nazareth” how the lives of the saints are the greatest interpretations of the scriptures).

    I am not quite sure what you are suggesting that the Church needs to find a deeper theology of women. The Church already possesses the entirety of the Truth, perhaps you are right in that maybe this Truth specifically on the place and role of women in the Church has not been delivered well enough but to say that the Church doesn’t currently have it and needs to go into new territory so to speak would be to drift into dangerous territory.

    I think that one of main problems in our culture today is that the concept of what it is to be a man or a woman has been obscured and confused. We have convinced ourselves that our sex is merely a “social construct” and that there really is no difference of substance between the nature of men and women and the consequent roles that either can perform as a result of this nature. Yes there is more overlap than difference, but we still have to acknowledge that there are some things that either cannot do. Just as a man lacks a womb in which to form new life so does a woman lack the divinely instituted requirements to enter the priesthood.

    This should not be something that we should resist but accept with humility and filial loyalty. God has given us each our own individual square of His vineyard to till and cultivate, we should not look across to see what He has given to our neighbour and respond with resentment but rather submit to His Divine Will and acknowledge that He has our best interests deep within His Most Sacred Heart.

  6. Danielle says

    Laura, thank you for this thoughtful post! I find the Church’s portayal of women is something I often struggle with and I appreciated your perspective. I agree – much more needs to be done to ensure that women are consistently portrayed as whole-hearted, “free human people in Christ.” Certainly men and women do have some distinct roles – but a theology only for women without a theology for men seems not quite right to me as well.

  7. says

    The best comment I ever heard about women in the Church was about a priest who was talking about this exact topic at a youth retreat at my high school. He said that the Church needed a theology of women (as others have said), but women are in many ways able to get spiritually “deeper” than men. It’s because we need to relate to God through entire, self-giving love, similar to that of marriage. This is why many of the mystics are women. That being said, I agree with you. The biggest question that needs to be answered for anybody is “what does it mean to be human?” Only by coming to a full understanding of that can we fully understand what it means to be Men and Women.

    Utterly off topic, but did you sign up for an ad service? I noticed an ad at the top of the home page and was just wondering :)

    • says

      Thanks for commenting Annie! It is important, particularly at times like this, that we understand what it means to be men and women, distinct, complementary and yet both individually made in the image of God.

      I have to disagree with though that women are able to get “spiritually ‘deeper’ than men”. That idea isn’t Catholic and is in fact alien to both the Bible and Tradition. Our capacity for intimacy with God is based on our relation to Him as His image-bearers who are filled with the Holy Spirit.

      There have been many women mystics but equally, there have been many male mystics. Arguably for every St Teresa of Avila, there is a St John of the Cross – and vice versa! Perhaps we notice female mystics because male mystics tend to also be theologians (like St Gregory Nazianzan) or clergy (like St Padre Pio).

      And re the ads, yes I thought I’d trial it for a bit and see how it goes. If it concerns you at all, please let me know. I don’t want to alienate or annoy anyone. (Or at least, I try not to!) :)

      • says

        Just curious. Where do you think the idea that women are more spiritual than men came from, since I’ve seen it popping up in a few other comments as well?

  8. DivineLily says

    I totally agree with you. And it would be nice if women did hold more higher up roles in the Church, like at the Vatican for example. Women’s voices do need to be desperately heard.

    But yet again, look at St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Siena, and many of the other female medieval Saints. They lived in way more of a “man’s world” than today, yet they didn’t care. They did what they needed to do.

    I agree with Annie in the sense that we have a more innate spirituality than men. It is true we are able to get closer to God than men because our relationship to God is basically spousal, and this is much easier for women than men. Most mystics are women for this reason. Men, for the most part, have a hard time making themselves vulnerable, depend on God, and love God with full hearts. Women have a much easier time loving unconditionally, in self-giving. And maybe that is our primary role in the Church….to help men in their relationship with God, which even priests (since they are men) have a hard time with. Most victim souls are women as well for the reasons I just outlined. To partake in the work of Redemption with Jesus Christ is quite an honor. But again, more women than men are attracted. Why? Because women by nature are more generous. And it takes a huge leap of generosity to offer oneself to God as a soul victim.

    I agree that women should not only be viewed as mothers and wives. We should be honored for what we contribute as well, which is sorely lacking from the Church. But I believe our primary role is to help men in their relationship to God, because their nature is so opposed to it.

    • Sally M says

      “we have a more innate spirituality than men. It is true we are able to get closer to God than men because our relationship to God is basically spousal”

      You simple have to love the double standards of feminists. Why am I not surprised that its ok to make comments like this, and Pope Francis is not allowed a simple of the cuff joke?

      On a side note, what you have said is not theologically correct, but I’m sure its not bc you are dissenting from Church teaching, but simply bc you are unaware of the following – the Council of Trent teaches that *everyone* *who is Catholic* (be they male, female etc) can have complete union with God, that no one without a special grace can be totally free from imperfection in this life (the Mother of God is an exception) and Vatican II teaches that nothing be it gender or disability is an impediment to reaching the highest levels of union or perfection with God. St. Alphonsus teaches this as well – that anyone who submits fully to God’s will in fact is in the same position as the martyr since they both give as much as they have. Being a woman does not get you closer to God anymore than being a man gets you closer to God. What gets you closer to God as Trent teaches is the amount of sanctifying grace you foster in your soul.

      • says

        Thank you for stating this so clearly, Sally! I call myself a feminist but the idea that women have a natural capacity for holiness or union with God than men lack isn’t feminist in the least. (I recognise that the label ‘feminist’ is controversial but I use it primarily because I don’t want the good that has come out of feminism to be simplistically equated with its evils. It might be idealistic but I want to reclaim the word, just like the Feminists for Life have encouraged women to do. At the same time, I don’t think worse of anyone who refuses the term – there are very good reasons to do so!)

        What you have identified as a “double standard of feminists” is, in fact, what troubles me about what passes for a theology of women among some Catholics. It doesn’t promote the dignity of women to teach that women can get closer to God because it’s just plain wrong. It’s kind of similar to why I find the “women are the most beautiful things that God created” comment so troubling because it seemed to echo this odd idea that somehow, we honour women when we exalt them above men. I know it was just an off-the-cuff comment from Pope Francis but it reminds me of the sort of idealising of women that is hurting the Church. Women are sinners. Women can become saints. Neither of those is true because we are women but because we are human beings and the same applies equally to men. That, at least as I understand, is the heart of feminism.

    • says

      Thanks for commenting, DivineLily (Love the name btw!) I agree that women’s voices been be heard more readily in the Church – and not simply as “women’s voices” but as human voices because insofar as there is a “female perspective”, it covers all aspects of life and faith, not just the obvious “women’s issues.” You’re right that women are more than wives and mothers… I mean, as a single woman I’m neither! :)

      I have to strongly disagree with you, though, that women “have a more innate spirituality than men” or that we are able to “get closer to God.” If this is the experience of some, it has nothing to do with our nature as men and women and everything to do with the way our culture treats spirituality, prayer and indeed faith as a typically “feminine” and “private” thing.

      The idea that women are somehow more spiritual or religious is not Catholic, biblical or pro-woman. It’s just false. It hurts men and it’s unjust.

      As sinners, we are all opposed to self-sacrificial love. By the grace and mercy of God, we are all filled with the love of God which enables us to love others as He first loved us. Men and women have an equal capacity for loving unconditionally because this love is a grace of God poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. It’s not an issue of sex but of the Holy Spirit at work in us.

  9. Sally M says

    I’m not even sure if the fallacies in this article are worth responding to (no offense intended). For example, surely Laura knows that without women there would be no Church, since there would necessarily be no men, since there would be no one to give birth? More importantly, I’m scandalized that a Catholic would so recklessly rebuke Peter without showing the due charity, not to mention making an effort to at least discern if this was inappropriate to do publicly.

    • says

      Hi Sally, I’m truly sorry that I scandalised you. Please believe me that I wasn’t trying to create scandal, dissension or ill-will. I love the Holy Father but perhaps I addressed him too easily as someone like my own father — or indeed, my Heavenly Father. I was – I still am – frustrated and confused by the Church’s teaching on women and more particularly by the language we use. It certainly wasn’t meant to be a rebuke on my part, although I can see re-reading the beginning in particular, I sound a bit snarky. I am sorry for that.

      Also, I’m not sure if you’re defending me or not… but what I wrote wasn’t a fallacy but a fact. Because only men can be bishops and priests, representing the male Christ, a Church without men is necessarily impossible. In contrast, because women can not but the feminine character of the Church can be represented by men, a Church without women could continue to exist. Obviously, if there were either no men or no women ever, the Church couldn’t exist because then there’d be no human beings… I did think that was a given. The reason I brought this up was to attempt to illustrate that the femininity of the Church is irrelevant to question of what roles women specifically can/ought to play in the Church precisely because the feminine Church can just as well represented by men as by women.

      • Sally M says

        Laura I do believe you. I’m sure that it was not your intention to cause scandal, but nevertheless I can assure you that this blog post has and will cause scandal. For one I know two other people who have read this post who were scandalized by it.

        Look, there’s no hard feelings on my part, but God bless you for the apology in any event. What is more problematic I think is the scandal this can cause to others and moreover the unhealthy way you are dealing with your difficulties (as opposed to doubt) in the faith which may in the long run have bad impacts your soul. I’m probably a lot older than you and I’ve taught theology since the time of the dinosaurs and I’ve seen people struggle with issues in unhealthy ways and eventually apostatize into everything from radical atheism to feminism to occultism and especially radical traditionalism which is growing like wild fire in Canada and I hear its also bad over there in the US.

        I wanted to keep my comments brief in my previous post, but I’ll elaborate here. There are any number of ways to prove your comments are fallacious. Your argument is as follows:

        (1) For the Church to exist it must have a deaconate, presbyterate and espiscopate.
        (2) Only men can be a deacon, priest or bishop.
        (3) If there were no men, the Church would cease to exist.
        (C) Therefore the “Church doesn’t even need women to function”.

        Now, I have no doubt you can see that whilst premise 1 to 3 are formally valid, they do not prove your conclusion, since one can point out as I did without women there would be no men adding a subsidiary to premise 1. From your counter-comments I gather that while your expression in terms of written articulation was fallacious, you were trying to express something else entirely. That’s understandable – after all, blogs are not articles part of the world theological forum – they are informal notes. But if that’s the case, I’m just confused as to where you stand on Church teaching. Perhaps you can clarify the following statements for us:

        “imagine a Church without men and it would immediately cease to be a Church. There would be no Eucharist. . .Until the femininity of the Church means something more for actual women, forgive me if I remain unimpressed.. . .”

        What do you mean by ‘means something more’? What exactly more do you want?

        • says

          Sally, I’ve updated and re-worded the post to make my meaning clearer. My comment about the femininity of the Church meaning something more for actual women was that, in relation to a question about the role of women in the Church, the bare fact that the Church is feminine means little – precisely because such femininity represents — and is represented by — humanity in general, not women in particular. In and of itself, that’s not the issue. Insofar as anyone thinks “the Church is feminine” is a meaningful response to the role of women in the Church, yes, I find it frustrating.

          In relation to your other comment (which I’ve kept in moderation because I can easily answer it here), I’m not going to remove the post. I seek to be a faithful and orthodox Catholic but I’m also open about my struggles. I’m learning how to do that better. I’ve spoken to older and wiser Catholics I trust and they don’t see it as a problem so I will be guided by them in this.

          I’ve really appreciated your comments and your concern. God bless you!

  10. Deanna says

    Hi Laura,
    I echo some of the other readers in that I don’t really know what response from the pope would have satisfied you. I also agree that there seems to be some tension between “being” and “doing”. “If I am beautiful, let it be because I am loving, capable, intelligent, faithful, compassionate and strong… not because I have ovaries.” To me that just sounds like: “I want the credit for things I have done, not for who I am or how God made me.” And there also seems to be just a general uncomfortableness with beauty. I can totally relate as I have struggled with the same thing. Beauty and pretty are not the same thing though. Beauty is one of the ways women reflect the image of God. Our beauty is meant to be a way for people to see God’s beauty. (And it’s not just physical though it is that too.) Hiding beauty or denigrating it is just as bad as hiding intelligence or any other good. (I say that as someone who hid it for a long time, because there is also vulnerability in beauty.)
    Finally, I think it’s fine to talk about women or femininity as a special category or something more specific than just humanity. It’s like if someone asks you about apples and you start talking about apples and then they say but what about other fruit like oranges, and why can’t you just talk about how apples are fruit? Why do you have to bring up their apple-ness when clearly their fruit-ness is the more defining quality and what’s really important? That’s all fine but it’s kind of off-topic and not really fair.
    I admire your courage in writing about these kinds of topics because I think they are soooo hard to write about and so easily misunderstood and so close to home. I enjoy reading your blog.