A Word in Season
A Theology of Women? What does Pope Francis Mean?
Based on his replies we can surmise that the possibility of women becoming members of an ordained hierarchy will not be debated by the Vatican. Yet, in Francis's conversation with journalists, we perceive a call for more. What might that be?
In my recent book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood, I introduced some of the church's message to and about women. Reflecting on what Blessed John Paul II described as the "feminine genius," I introduce readers to what the Church says to women in terms of their blessed dignity, beautiful gifts, and bodacious mission. From where I stand, the Catholic Church has a theology of womanhood that can be gleaned from a variety of sources.
As Francis points out, church teaching already embraces the ultimate icon of femininity. We have centuries of theological exposition on The Woman, that is, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Every discussion of womanhood must be filtered through the lens, or hermeneutic, of Mary's unique and exquisite fiat and of her being the Theotokos, the God-bearer, of the Christ. We see this already in Francis's words and in his example of beginning his pontificate by expressing his relationship and dependence on the Mother of God, the woman John Paul II called "the mirror and measure of femininity." Mary, the epitome of the feminine genius, must be the cornerstone of any theology of womanhood.
For a deeper theology of womanhood, theological precision must also be based upon sound anthropology. Again, the work of John Paul II on the theology of the body, the common phrase for his corpus of written and preached ideas about the nature of man and woman, their relationship to God and each other, is certainly is a place to deepen our awareness of the feminine genius.
John Paul II's pontificate also brought apostolic letters on women such as Mulieris Dignitatum, ("On the Dignity and Vocation of Women," 1989) and The Letter to Women, written in advance of the United Nations' 1995 Conference on Women in Beijing. Women were also challenged within his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, ("The Gospel of Life," 1995)
Pat Gohn is a Catholic writer, speaker, and the host of the Among Women Podcast and blog. Her book Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood is published by Ave Maria Press. Subscribe to “A Word in Season” via email or RSS.