Can the Church and feminism really coexist?
In my own struggle with the obvious tension between feminism and my faith, it was Pope St. John Paul II who helped me make sense of it all.
A few years ago, I did a school project on his encyclical Evangelium Vitae. In this letter, he insisted that Catholicism and feminism had to be reconciled. He addressed the issues that might stop a Catholic from being feminist, or a feminist from being Catholic.
Probably the biggest obstacle John Paul II talked about is the abortion issue. A lot of feminists say that to really be feminist, you have to be pro-choice.
But John Paul II called for a “new feminism” in an encyclical that focuses on pro-life issues. This is because he believes women can transform the culture so that it supports life. He said that in the fight against “the culture of death,” women have to take the lead.
John Paul II talked about some of the traditionally feminist issues as well. He called Catholics to fight for equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements, the list goes on.
Some feminists may not understand how this can go along with belonging to a Church that doesn’t ordain women, but John Paul’s feminism isn’t about freedom without limits. It’s about real equality.
It isn’t about women becoming more like men. It’s about their growth as women. The fact that men and women are equal doesn’t mean that they’re identical.
We don’t believe that the priesthood is a feminine calling, but we also know that you don’t have to be a priest to be holy.
Women are called to serve and lead the Church in roles ranging from parish community leaders to theologians and officials working at the Vatican. Throughout the history of the Church we’ve had so many great and inspiring women saints who have followed Christ in countless ways. There isn’t just one path for women.
John Paul II taught that all women, whether they’re working, single, mothers, wives or in consecrated life, have a uniquely feminine vocation. He called the particular gift of women the feminine “genius.”
The first example of this has to be our great Mother, Mary, Queen of Heaven. Both physically and spiritually, she receives love in order to give love to the world. And we are called to do the same.
I find the words of John Paul so inspiring. As a young woman, he tells me that I have a special purpose, a mission.
(Fernandes, 17, is a Grade 12 home-schooled student from Dundalk, Ont.)