Church Raised Status of Women, Says Prelate

Bishop Wenski Speaks Against Chauvinism

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ORLANDO, Florida, JUNE 15, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Christianity, far from being anti-woman, raised the dignity of women wherever it took root, said Bishop Thomas Wenski.



Bishop Wenksi of Orlando wrote in June in his monthly Bishop's Column that Christianity has been a positive force for the promotion of female dignity rather than harboring an anti-woman bias, as "proponents of a 'feminist narrative,' both within and outside of the Church, allege."

"For example," Bishop Wenski explained, "some fringe groups within the Church have proposed the idea of women’s ordination, alleging that the fact that only men are ordained priests is the result of such a bias."

"That the Church only ordains men to the priesthood is not a comment on the status or state of women but a statement on the nature of the priesthood as instituted by Jesus Christ," he said.

"The ordained priest acts 'in persona Christ'; that is, he acts in the place of Christ who is the bridegroom of the Church, his bride," said the 56-year-old prelate. "To say that a woman cannot be a bridegroom in no way detracts from her essential dignity as a human being or her equality with men."

Additionally, "pagan societies were hardly 'pro-women,'" Bishop Wenski continued, "and this was true of civilizations of high culture like that of the Greeks and Romans as well as the less 'cultured' barbarians."

"Where the Gospel took root, however, the status of women improved," the bishop added. "That the Middle Ages were considered the 'Age of Chivalry' shows how deeply the Gospel penetrated societies that had once treated women as chattel."

Equal but different

Bishop Wenski continued: "A Catholic anthropology can affirm the equality and dignity of both men and women without denying the God-made differences between the sexes.

"Of course, this is not to say that women were always treated with dignity or received their due within the Church. While the Church is not of the world, too much of the world is found in the Church. Believers have, in this as well as other areas, have often failed to live in a way congruent to our beliefs."

"During his recent visit to Brazil, Benedict XVI had occasioned to condemn the 'chauvinistic' mentality that ignores the 'newness' of Christianity in which the equal dignity and responsibility of women relative to men is acknowledged and affirmed," added the bishop.

"We are always called to conversion," said Bishop Wenski, and Benedict XVI's "criticism of a 'chauvinistic mentality' must be seen within that call to conversion from which no Christian can exempt himself -- or herself."

Bishop Wenski added, "Both women as well as men are called through baptism to witness to the Lord. And lest we forget, salvation came to the human race through the free yes of a woman, Mary."