How to Treat a Woman
Church Reflections Before U.N. Meeting
FEB. 12, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The United Nations will
hold a meeting Feb. 28-March 11 to consider the status
Recently the weekly English-language edition of L’Osservatore Romano has published articles explaining the Church’s position on women’s issues. In the Jan. 5 edition Mary Ann Glendon, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and Harvard law professor, addressed the issue of discrimination and women.
"…Glendon acknowledged the contribution made by
the United Nations in proclaiming the dignity and equality of
women, starting with the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
"…Glendon observed that Eleanor Roosevelt,who chaired the commission that produced the 1948 declaration, defended
equal opportunities for women, “But she maintained just as firmly
that there were certain areas, such as child-rearing and military
service, where the differences between the sexes ought to be
taken into account.” As well, Roosevelt stated, in a parallel
with Catholic teaching, that the family home is where “men
and women live as men and women and complement each
But Glendon said that when it came to the draftingof CEDAW, another vision of women dominated. The document was
influenced by a strain of feminism that was marked by
negative attitudes toward men, marriage and motherhood. Because of this,CEDAW “contains a number of problematic features,” noted Glendon."
Among the negative elements in the 1979 convention are parts
that have been interpreted to discourage special protection for mothers. Moreover, it favors the promotion of equality in such a
way as to create severe tensions with other basic rights,
such as freedom of expression and belief.
The committee set up to oversee compliance with CEDAW has continued in this vein. It criticizes, for example, countries that do not provide open access to abortion and condemns making Mother’s Day a holiday.
In the meantime, the majority of women have abandoned this “old-line feminism,” argued Glendon. While women still actively campaign for equality, they are alienated by the anti-men, anti-family attitudes of the earlier generation of feminism.
The professor from University of Oslo’s political science department …maintained that the difference between the sexes goes far beyond the biological; the divergence extends to the psychological and ontological levels. In this way Catholic anthropology avoids the error of biological reductionism, which reduces women to the role of child-bearers.It also sidesteps the mistake of adopting a vision based on social factors, which reduces the differences between the sexesto a “social construct.”
"…A Catholic feminism, Matlary continued must have as its core principle the conviction that the family is first in order of personal and societal importance.
Combining this with the vision of work as self-giving and
service will enable a woman’s role in family life to be given the importance it deserves. She added that accepting and living out these principles, and understanding that "this is the kind of power Our Lord spoke of and taught,“is the challenge facing Catholics.”