Feminist Criticizes Report on "Women and Fundamentalism"

Pope Believes in the Unique Nature of Women, She Says

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ROME, MARCH 14, 2002 (ZENIT.org-Avvenire).- The "Women and Fundamentalism" report approved Wednesday by the European Parliament was severely criticized by Maria Antonietta Macciocchi, a leading feminist.



Here, Macciocchi recalls her meeting with John Paul II in 1989, which she wrote about in a book, "Women According to Wojtyla."

The daughter of anti-Fascists, Macciocchi was elected a deputy of the Italian Communist Party in Naples in 1968. She was awarded the French Legion of Honor in 1992 by President François Mitterrand, for her work as writer, professor and journalist. Macciocchi has had two meetings with John Paul II.

Q: Is the Church guilty of so many faults in its treatment of women?

Macciocchi: From this point of view, we can be at peace because John Paul II is the first Pope who has said he believes in the [unique] nature of women. That phrase of his had a profound effect in the years when he expressed it.

In the course of an interview he granted me, I remember that he literally said: "Yes, I have in fact said that I believe in women´s [unique] nature." I thought I hadn´t understood well. The Church has made an historic gesture with this phrase, which was followed by the apostolic letter "Mulieris Dignitatem."

Q: Instead, Strasbourg requests that the Church be sidelined, confined in the privacy of faith.

Macciocchi: This is a direct attack, and it is precisely the aim of the report. What the resolution supports is not true.

As regards women, all the words spoken by the Church are words of understanding, which appreciate the sacrifice, effort and social injustices to which they are subjected -- to say nothing of the fact that religion has never developed in a private sphere. Rather, it is precisely its public character that has contributed to give society a character.

I think Strasbourg should focus on other problems, such as the ones we have in Italy.

Q: What are you referring to?

Macciocchi: In its Constitution, Italy has never approved an article like the one voted in France. If Jospin wins the elections, it will be thanks to French women who have greatly appreciated Jospin´s commitment to make parity between men and women a fact. This parity is now in its Constitution and it establishes that all elected representations must have the same number of women and men.

Q: There is nothing like it in Italy.

Macciocchi: They have not wished to do it. They would have had to vote a law in Parliament to modify the present Constitution so that there would be an article on women. Parity does not exist in Italy and, instead of being concerned with societies that in some ways are "closed," like the churches, but open to spirits, Strasbourg would do well to be concerned about the Italian state, where parity for women is ignored.

Q: How do you assess this interference by Strasbourg in matters that are proper to the Church? Is this what laicism means?

Macciocchi: The document begins with women and extends to all institutions of society. There is a separation between state and church, which means that in the ambit of the state itself or of religion itself, there is a right to be able to intervene on human affairs that affect others.

Q: The report´s so-called point K, later amended, stated that when the Church intervenes publicly on this type of questions it goes against the legislation of member states.

Macciocchi: I really don´t understand this. Many topics can be freely addressed, such as the school. What is required is that the ideas that are proposed be progressive and open. It all depends on what is said, on what the churches propose.