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At Vatican conference, women question ‘feminine’ role

March 07, 2024

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CWN Editor's Note: At a Vatican conference on women in the Church, several speakers questioned the notion that women should play a special complementary role.

Christiane Murray, the deputy director of the Vatican press office, questioned why “qualities such as graciousness, delicacy, care, empathy” are “always associated with femininity.” To applause from the other conference participants, she said:

However, it’s important to note that these characteristics are not intrinsically tied to gender, but they are social constructs that can be experienced and expressed also by individuals of the masculine sex.”
Maeve Heaney of Australian Catholic University challenged the work of the theologian Hans Urs von Balthazar, who saw “Petrine” and “Marian” principles at work in the Church. That approach, Heaney said, “is incomplete as it overemphasizes the maleness of Jesus and the femaleness of the Church.” She called for a new examination of the Church’s teaching on ordination. Sister Nathalie Becquart, the secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, told the conference that the frequent calls for greater inclusion of women in Church leadership reflects a healthy growing awardness that “the Church has to be attentive to the voices of women who seek greater equality.”

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