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Pope: reject 'extreme' feminism.

Women religious are cited as among those going too far

VATICAN CITY - The church must support the rights of women and seriously reflect on their role in the church, but without compromising with an "extreme" and ideological form of feminism, Pope John Paul II told a group of U.S. bishops.

In dealing with the question, church leaders should be careful not to raise false hopes, particularly on the church's refusal to ordain women as priests, the pope said July 2. The pope was speaking to some 30 bishops from several Eastern and Southern states, in Rome for their consultative ad limina visits.

His talk examined the many kinds of assistance laypeople are able to provide pastors in the United States, a situation he called a "blessing."

The role of women in the church needs to be addressed with "a keen sense of its importance" and with an eye toward the profound transformations that have affected women's place in society, he said.

"Respect for women's rights is without doubt an essential step toward a more just and mature society, and the church cannot fail to make her own this worthy objective," he said. He cited his own efforts and those of bishops to appreciate women's contributions to the church.

The pope said he was concerned, however, that in some circles there is dissatisfaction with the church's position on women - especially, he said, among those who fail to distinguish between women's human and civil rights in society and their ministries and functions in the church. This can easily lead to "presenting false demands and raising false hopes," he said.

"What is certain is that the question cannot be resolved through a compromise with a feminism which polarizes along bitter, ideological lines," he said. "It is not simply that some people claim a right for women to be admitted to the ordained priesthood. In its extreme form, it is the Christian faith itself which is in danger of being undermined," he said.

The pope said these types of feminism are sometimes marked by forms of "nature worship" and celebration of myths and symbols that have taken the place of true Christian worship.

"Unfortunately this kind of feminism is being encouraged by some in the church, including some women religious, whose beliefs, attitudes and behavior no longer correspond to what the gospel and the church teach," he said.

As pastors, he said, bishops should challenge these individuals and groups and call them to "honest and sincere" dialogue on the issue of women's expectations.

The pope said the church's longstanding practice not to ordain women as priests is a distinction of roles that "in no way favors the superiority of some over others." He called on the bishops to help the faithful understand and accept the church's position and said it would "amount to a betrayal of them if we fail to do so."

He said that while the role of the parish has always been one of the strengths of the U.S. church, this community sense has been weakened somewhat by the fragmentation of modern life, especially where issues of doctrine or liturgy have polarized people.

"A great effort is needed by priests and laity to renew parish life" as a communion that values the complementary gifts of its members, he said. He praised the lay contributions to church life in areas of religious education, pastoral counseling, social services and administration. At the same time, he said, church members should realize that there is a difference between the lay and priestly roles.

He said some bishops had mentioned that the emphasis on baptismal equality can lead to "minimizing the real distinction between the royal priesthood of all believers and the ministerial priesthood" of the clergy. Bishops should make clear that this difference "has nothing to do with |power' understood in terms of privilege or dominion," he said.

In priestless parishes temporarily administered by laypeople, bishops should make sure the faithful do not consider this a normal situation and do not confuse their responsibilities with the sacramental role of the priest, he said. Nor should anyone "interpret the decreased number of active priests - a situation which we pray will soon pass - as a providential sign that laypersons are to replace priests," he said.
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Title Annotation:John Paul II
Author:Thavis, John
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Jul 16, 1993
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