Dear Pope Francis,
We are Catholic women writing to you from around the world. We thank you for your wise leadership of the Church and for your pastoral concern for the realities of life in all its many challenges and struggles. We welcome the spirit of compassion, joy and mercy that you are encouraging in our faith, and we commit ourselves to working with you and all church leaders for a more just and sustainable world.
We also appreciate your desire to involve women more fully in the life of the Church. In that context we are encouraged to read the new Statute of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life issued on 8 May, 2018. We note that the tone is pastoral, compassionate and non-judgemental with regard to some of the struggles faced by women, including the call to responsible procreation and the acknowledgement of difficult challenges relating to pregnancy and abortion. We are in agreement with all that is said there.
However, we are concerned about Article 9, which reads as follows:
The Dicastery works to deepen the reflection on the relationship between men and women in their respective specificity, reciprocity, complementarity and equal dignity. Valuing the feminine “genius”, it offers a contribution to ecclesial reflection on the identity and mission of women in the Church and in society, promoting their participation.
This makes a number of assumptions about the nature of women, and it suggests that women might be an object of study rather than partners in dialogue. Many of us have serious concerns about the term “feminine genius”, for we believe that the qualities it refers to should be common to all Christians, and are not unique to women. We also think that concepts such as “specificity, reciprocity, complementarity and equal dignity” have yet to be developed and interpreted in a way that takes full account of women’s lived experiences, gifts and abilities.
You often insist that realities must come before ideas, yet as far as women are concerned we still too often find ourselves referred to more in the language of ideas than in language that expresses the rich diversity of our lives in different cultures and contexts. For this to change, we believe that there needs to be a wider and more representative range of women engaging in dialogue with the hierarchy. Your deep and inspiring reflection on dialogue in Amoris Laetitia paragraphs 136 to 141 would be an excellent guide as to how such dialogue should be conducted.
Many of us would be willing participants in such a process of dialogue for the good of individuals, families and communities around the world, and we offer our services to you as partners and co-workers in Christ.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
[This letter was written by Catholic Women Speak and Voices of Faith on 10th May, 2018]