Reuters, August 1, 2004
Vatican's "time warp" policies
Sun 1 August, 2004 13:48
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Women have reacted with
anger and amusement to a Vatican document on
feminism, with some saying the Catholic Church
is run by men who live in a time warp and want
to keep women in their place.
The document, issued on Saturday, said modern
feminism's fight for power and gender equality
was undermining the traditional concept of
family and creating a climate where gay marriages
are seen as acceptable.
Frances Kissling, president of the U.S.-based
Catholics for a Free Choice, said she thought
she had "passed through a time warp"
when she read the document.
"I thought for sure I was the 1960s and
Archie Bunker had been appointed theologian
to the Pope," she said, referring to the
character in an old American TV series whose
bigoted views included opposition to any form
of women's rights.
In a 37-page document "On the Collaboration
of Men and Women in the Church and in the World",
the Vatican said women should be respected
and have equal rights in the workplace, but
differences between the sexes must be recognised
The document, which re-stated Catholic Church
positions, including the ban on female priests,
said that many women felt they had to be "adversaries
of men" in order to be themselves.
It criticised feminism's attempt to erase gender
differences, saying it had inspired ideologies
questioning the traditional family structure
of a mother and a father and making homosexuality
and heterosexuality virtually equivalent.
"Such observations could only be made by
men who have no significant relationships with
women and no knowledge of the enormous positive
changes the women's rights movement has meant
for both men and women," Kissling said.
Emma Bonino, a former European commissioner and
current member of the European parliament,
said the Vatican was writing about a world
that she said no longer exists.
"This letter could easily have been written
by an imam of al-Azhar," she said referring
to Sunni Islam's most respected institution
of religious learning in Cairo.
"To be fair to the Catholic Church, no religion
is a great friend of women," she told
the Corriere della Sera newspaper. "They
pay you a lot of compliments but when push
comes to shove they ask you to stay in your
place: wife, nurse, mother and grandmother."
The document said that although motherhood is
a "key element of women's identity,"
women should not be considered from the sole
perspective of procreation.
It said women who choose to be full-time mothers
should not be stigmatised and it appealed to
governments to make it easier for mothers to
hold outside jobs without "relinquishing
their family life".
Some women suggested that the Vatican was taking
a patronising attitude that it would not take
"Everyone knows that men and women are different
and the feminist movement has always held this
view," said Chiara Saraceno, a professor
of sociology at the University of Turin.
"What continues to shock me is this teaching
attitude that is always directed at women and
never at men," she told the leftist newspaper
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