Coming away from the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women there is one thought which has been most at the forefront of my mind. The thought generally presents itself as a question along the lines of “Is this whole thing about equality or restitution? And, what do you mean by ‘equality’?”. I am not convinced that the intentions of most participants at the CSW are for equality, but let us suppose they are. Does the equality of men and women necessitate that every aspect of life be duplicated and identical? I would argue, no.
That is not to say that only one gender is needed or most important. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Church has never taught that either gender is superior to the other.
Earlier this year, Pope Francis delivered messages in which he emphasized the need for both women as well as men in the Church as well as in society. On February 7th, the Holy Father spoke to the Pontifical Council for Culture’s annual plenary assembly in Rome. “A more widespread and incisive female presence in the community is desirable, so that we can see many women involved in pastoral responsibilities, in the accompaniment of persons, families and groups, as well as in theological reflection,” he said.
Women know, the Pope said, “how to show the tender face of God, his mercy, which translates in the availability to give time more than to occupy spaces, to welcome rather than to exclude.” These feminine attributes that the Holy Father drew attention to for their importance to Church and society, are also important to families. “The qualities of gentleness, of particular sensitivity and tenderness, which is abundant in the female soul, represent not only a genuine force for the life of families…but also a reality without which the human vocation would be unfeasible.”
A little more than a week prior, Pope Francis had spoken of the importance of fathers in his general audience catechesis. “When children feel neglected by fathers who focus only on their problems, on their work or their own personal realization, this creates a situation of orphans in the children and youth of today, who live disoriented, without the good example or prudent guidance of a father,” the Holy Father explained. In our day, fatherless-ness or “society without fathers”, is often mentioned, though perhaps not thoroughly talked through. Pope Francis observed that it is the responsibility of Christian community as well as civil society to find a remedy to this crisis of fathers being absent. “Fathers are necessary as examples and guides for our children in wisdom and virtue,” the Pope said. “Without guides to rely on, youth can be filled with idols that end up stealing their heart, enthusiasm and genuine wealth,” he said.
Both men and women are critically important to the Church, society, and our families. Each gender has its strengths that it can bring to the man-woman relationship. “The man-woman relationship, therefore, should recognize that both are necessary in that they possess, yes, an identical nature, but with their own modality, One is necessary to the other, and vice versa, so as to truly fulfill the fullness of the person,” Pope Francis urged. We see this first in Scripture when Eve is created as the perfect helpmeet for Adam; completing the man-woman relationship. It is about so much more than companionship and not being alone, it is about fulfilling the human vocation.
Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.