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Reuters, August 1, 2004

Women slam 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 and exalted.

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.

YESTERDAY'S WORLD?

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 towards men.

"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 L'Unita.

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