So often, the pressures of modern living separate husbands and wives from one another, threatening their lifelong interdependence in love and fidelity. Can we also not be concerned about the impact of cultural pressures upon relations between the generations, upon parental authority and the transmission of sacred values? Our Christian conscience should be deeply concerned about the way in which sins against love and against life are often presented as examples of “progress” and emancipation. Most often, they are simply the age-old forms of selfishness dressed up in a new language and presented in a new cultural framework.
Children very soon learn about life. They watch and imitate the behavior of adults. They rapidly learn love and respect for others, but they also quickly absorb the poison of violence and hatred. Family experiences strongly condition the attitudes that children will assume as adults. Consequently, if the family is the place where children first encounter the world, the family must be for children the first school of peace.
How important are children in the eyes of Jesus? We could say that the gospel is full of truth about children. The whole of the gospel could actually be read as the “Gospel of children.” We read in Scripture: “Unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Is not Jesus pointing to children as models even for grown-ups? In children, there is something that must never be missing in people who want to enter the kingdom of heaven. People who are destined to go to heaven are simple like children, and – like children – are full of trust, rich in goodness, and pure. Only people of this sort can find in God a Father and, thanks to Jesus, can become in their own turn children of God.
Jesus and Mary often choose children to do important tasks for the life of the Church and of humanity. Jesus seems to share with them His concern for others: for parents, for other boys and girls. He eagerly awaits their prayers. What enormous power the prayer of children has. This becomes a model for grown-ups themselves: Praying with simple and complete trust means praying as children pray.
As we look toward the future, how can we fail to think of the young? What is being held up to them? A society of “things” and not of “persons”? the right to do as they will from their earliest years, without any constraint?
We may well fear that tomorrow these same young people, once they have reached adulthood, will demand an explanation from their parents and their leaders for having deprived them of reasons for living because they failed to teach them the duties incumbent upon being endowed with intelligence and free will.
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.
A radical solidarity with women requires that the underlying causes that make a child unwanted be addressed. There will never be justice – including equality, development, and peace, for women, or for men, unless there is an unfailing determination to respect, serve, love, and protect every human life, at every stage and in every situation.
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.
Continue to “On Suffering” or see the full list of excerpts.
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….)
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 am sorry I do not believe women have to have kids to be happy!!! I certainly do not ever want to have children. I consider myself a progressive women who by chance ended up being born in a Catholic home. I embrace feminist Christian theology. I went to bible camps and Christians camps growing up women were taught that they can’t even wear a two piece swimming suit. Well here is my message to you!!! Women are not responsible that there are man who rape and kill and man who accuse how we dress for them raping us is sick. 95% of crimes and rapes occur by males and 95% of individuals who are in jail are males. Males have always wanted to dominate females and the church is unfortunately dominated by males too. How can our voices be heard and how can women be pulled out of world poverty among children if our voices are not heard in the Church, in politics, and in world organizations, because they are all male dominated and run from ways which benefit males and not females. Things like sustainable development are actually very patriarchial and male oriented. Mankind has exploited and dominated nature and women have always been associated with nature. I dissagree with the pope’s teaching on theology of the body and on the family. I do not consider contraception the same as abortion, I do not believe in hierarchy, I do not accept authority that is manmade. I do have strog morals and convictions and believe in God and that there is heaven. I do not believe you have to agree with the Church 100% to be a part of it. The key to heaven is having the faith of a child, but God gave us a brain and a heart we know in our hearts and brains what’s right and what’s wrong. And to me there is nothing wrong with having married clergy, women priests, allowing married couples to use condoms, and not forcing rape victims in Catholic hospitals to take pregnancy tests. Women still make 75 cents to a dollar compared to men who have the same job as women. Clearly we are far from equality, the old-feminism fromt he sixties concentrated on sexual liberation such as rights to pornography, premarital sex, and selling women as sex objects. The 60’s were not truely liberating to women, in fact the best way women can obtain equality in the world is if they get educated themselves, lobby and protest our governments, institutions and the church for change which promotes first an end to poverty and disease. If those things are eliminated then women in third world countries can obtain a right to education and leave abusive spouses. Unfortunatley even in the US women who are financially dependent on their husbands are more likely to end up being victims of divorce, because their husbands leave and leave them for nothing. They are also more likely to be abused and taken advantage sexually by their husbands, because they do not have the education or financial capability to leave their abusive spouses and support themselves. No one deserves to live in poverty and in abuse that is what we have to fight in the world before we can even tackle gender inequality.
MT, the points you bring up bear more time than a combox on my blog will allow me right now. I do not think I am qualified to address many of the things you bring up, though I can say this – NO ONE has to have children to be happy. Children are a GIFT.
I would have once agreed with much of what you said. It was very humbling for me to realize that whatever I believe, the Church remains. I hope and pray you find the answers you seek. Truth is not reliant on what we believe. Truth is something apart from our individual beliefs.