Last week, I posted an excerpt from the chapter in John Paul II’s book Go In Peace called “On the Family.” Early in the week, Anonymous posted a comment that has had my wheels spinning in the background all week. I wanted to share the conversation here, instead of keeping it buried with the post, because I want to hear more comments about this.

Here are the excerpts from the excerpt that I think have relevance (though you should probably read the whole post – though long, it’s the usual good JP2 stuff):

Gender equality, as most women themselves point out, 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.

Where communities or countries lack basic social infrastructures, women and children are the first to experience marginalization. And yet where poverty abounds, or in the face of the devastation of conflict and war, or the tragedy of migration, forced or otherwise, it is very often women who maintain the vestiges of human dignity, defend the family, and preserve cultural and religious values. History is written almost exclusively as the narrative of men’s achievements, when in fact its better part is most often molded by women’s determined and persevering action for good.

The trivialization of sexuality, especially in the media, and the acceptance in some societies of a sexuality without moral restraint and without accountability, are deleterious to women, increasing the challenges that they face in sustaining their personal dignity and their service to life. In a society that follows this path, the temptation to use abortion as a so-called solution to the unwanted results of sexual promiscuity and irresponsibility is very strong. And here again, it is the woman who bears the heaviest burden: Often left alone, or pressured into terminating the life of her child before it is born, she must then bear the burden of her conscience, which forever reminds her that she has taken the life of her child.


Women also have the task of assuring the moral dimension of culture, the dimension – namely, of a culture worthy of the person – of an individual yet social life. “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” God entrusted the human being to woman. Certainly, every human being is entrusted to each and every other human being, but in a special way the human being is entrusted to woman precisely because the woman, in virtue of her special experience of motherhood, is seen to have a specific sensitivity toward the human person and all that constitutes the individual’s true welfare, beginning with the fundamental value of life.

Anonymous wrote this thought-provoking question:

What about women who aren’t mothers- and aren’t particularly attracted to being mothers, either ? Also, I’ve met too many nasty aggressive women to buy the ‘women all have special empathy’ line. (Not to mention the fact that I struggle with a tendency towards emotional detachment myself….)

My response took all week to percolate. I post it here for your consideration:

Anonymous, I have been thinking of your comment all week. I too have met many women. But I don’t think this message was about “women all have special empathy.” I think it was about something inside women, something that makes women tick. It isn’t discussed in the excerpt I posted, but I think men also have this something, but it is different. What I took from this was a pointing to the difference between men and women, and the reality that “equality” does not equal “sameness with men.” JP2, I believe, when he says “the human being is entrusted to the woman,” does not necessarily mean ONLY in motherhood. I was never attracted to motherhood, before I met my husband and, ahem, daughter came along. If I had never had her, though, I think I would still have a role as JP2 describes, and I can think of quite a few women in my life who are not mothers, but who perform this function. I recall a dear aunt and friend who has taught me and tucked me under her wing in a way, and who has mentored me in quite a few ways. I can’t help but smile when I think of another friend who is ready at a moment’s notice for a cup o’ joe when the stress level has maxed me out. I think of the hugs I often exchange with women in my life, and of the way in which women “run the show” throughout our parish.

When JP2 says this about women, it speaks to my small experience, and it speaks to my heart of a larger truth. Motherhood is but one facet of womanhood. For some, it is the primary facet. For others, it is but a possibility, or but something they do not ever want to attempt. Even so, I do not think this changes the truth in what JP2 is saying.

As women, we do not have to be women to fulfill our roles. In the same way, men do not have to be fathers to fulfill their roles. We are different, as men and women, and that is glorious!

As for emotional detachment, I do not think that has to do with this, though since you spoke to the women and empathy hypocrisy, I can see why you brought it up. We are all called to charity, love of neighbor. (As my husband has pointed out to me, this doesn’t mean we have to be best friends with the people!) I too struggle with this, especially with people who have angered me (and especially recently). I find that putting myself in front of a crucifix and spending time praying for the people is therapeutic.

I will pray for you, Anonymous. I sense pain in what you wrote (and I’m not trying to have “special empathy” either!) Being a woman is hard work, however you look at it, and whatever your natural inclinations. Maybe you’re not even a woman. Maybe you’re a thinker (and welcome!). In any event, today I will say a prayer for you, whoever you are. 🙂

I welcome, as always, your comments. And, Anonymous, if you’re out there (and if you’re like me and you sometimes forget to go back to check if your reply has elicited a reply on the blog you posted it to), I welcome your reply too! 🙂