Q & A
* Life issues
* Women's roles
Where does Women for Faith & Family stand on:
***1. The Pope and Church authority?
We express fidelity to the Holy Father and to the bishops in union with
him. We adhere to the Catholic Christian faith as expressed in the Holy
Scriptures, in the Creeds and the Councils of the Church, and by the
teaching authority of the Pope and bishops (the Church's magisterium). We
gratefully receive the Catechism of the Catholic Church , the authoritative
compendium of Catholic teaching, as a great gift to all believers, and an
antidote to confusion.
***2. "Life issues"-- abortion, contraception and euthanasia?
We stand with all the Church's teachings on human life and its intrinsic
worth. Abortion and euthanasia take human lives; contraception offends
the dignity of marriage and contradicts the unity of the couple and the
life-giving purpose of the conjugal act, as expressed in Humanae Vitae and
Evangelium Vitae, in the writings of Pope John Paul II, in the Catechism of
the Catholic Church (#2331--2391) and other Church documents.
What do we mean by 'feminism'? If 'feminism' merely meant upholding
and defending the equal worth and dignity of women -- and the fundamental
human rights of all people -- nearly every Christian would be a feminist.
We stand with the Catholic Church in affirming the intrinsic value of every
human being (CCC #1928--1938).
Contemporary feminism, however, is a political ideology which claims
that all female human beings have been oppressed throughout history by all
male human beings; that women have been systematically excluded from
influencing society and culture controlled by the "patriarchy".
In the prevailing feminist view, males alone have created the
patriarchal social system, religion and even the language we speak.
Feminists claim that, as victims of the patriarchy, women are an
oppressed class, and that the so-called patriarchal system must be
overthrown so that women can be liberated from the oppression and
violence of men and can have "power" equal to men.
Virtually all feminist theories advocate abortion "rights" as necessary
to achieve justice and freedom for women. Most "religious" feminists
advocate a New Age spirituality, and call for the systematic destruction
of "patriarchal, hierarchical" religion -- especially the Catholic Church,
whose hierarchical structure and male priesthood are viewed as an Evil
Empire -- the enemy of women.
Women for Faith and Family upholds the Catholic teaching that all
persons are of infinite value, that injustice to any person is sinful. The
only true liberation is through personal repentance from sin and
redemption by Jesus Christ.
We affirm that men and women are equal, both created by God in His
image, each having distinct but complementary gifts and attributes. We
affirm the teachings of Pope John Paul II that the social and ecclesial
roles of women and men must conform to the natural law and the Divine
Plan for mankind.
Accordingly, we reject "ideological feminism, which denies the
fundamental psychic and spiritual distinctiveness of the sexes and which
devalues motherhood and the nurturing role of women in the family and in
society, -- often misrepresented as expressing the collective belief of
women. As women, we are particularly concerned about the pervasive
influence and the destructive effects on the Church, on families and on
society of this feminism." *
***4. Women's Role in the Church's Mission?
The Second Vatican Council said, "The hour is coming, in fact has come,
when the vocation of women is being acknowledged in its fullness, the
hour in which women acquire in the world an influence, an effect and a
power never hitherto achieved."
Women's feminine nature, linked to their capacity for motherhood,
gives them distinct spiritual and physical capabilities with which to
participate in the Divine Plan for creation, such as the capacities for
nurture, instruction, compassion and selflessness.
We affirm the genuinely ecclesial role of women within the family, the
"Domestic Church", which includes the responsibility for transmitting the
truth of the faith as teachers and catechists.
We affirm the vocations of women who have consecrated their lives to
the service of God, His Church and humanity in religious and consecrated
life, as this service extends their distinctive feminine gifts to the
evangelical mission of the Church beyond the individual human family.
We support and encourage women who devote their talents and labor as
teachers, scholars, writers, musicians, catechists, speakers, leaders,
artists, members of movements or associations, whether voluntary or
professional, which promote and defend human life and the moral and
ethical precepts of the Catholic faith, and which increase knowledge of
and authentic devotion to Christ and His Church.
We believe it is necessary for all Catholic women to discern
prayerfully their particular vocation in the Church's mission, and to accept
and exercise it with diligence and devotion, with wisdom and
***5. The ordination of women?
We welcome the clarification on the matter of the ordained priesthood
contained in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.
Our experience confirms Pope John Paul II's observation that one
deviation from Vatican II's liturgical reforms is the "confusion between
the ministerial priesthood, linked with ordination, and the common
priesthood of the faithful, which has its foundation in baptism." --
Apostolic Letter on the 25th Anniversary of Vatican II's Constitution on
"We reaffirm the constant teaching of the Catholic Church that
ordained priesthood is not a 'right' accorded to any member of the Church,
but a state of life and a service to which, by Christ's will, only men, not
women, may be called." --Statement on Feminism, Language and Liturgy*
Pope John Paul II says that one deviation from Vatican II's liturgical
reforms is the "confusion between the ministerial priesthood, linked with
ordination, and the common priesthood of the faithful, which has its
foundation in baptism." -- Apostolic Letter on the 25th Anniversary of
Vatican II's Constitution on the Liturgy
***6. Women in liturgy -- altar servers pastoral ministers, homilists, etc.?
In the 1989 Statement on Feminism, Language and Liturgy,* three
organizations of Catholic women (including WFF) said, "We...oppose
changing the constant practice of the Church in such liturgical matters
as...'altar servers' and homilists, and repudiate the increasingly frequent
practice of women saying parts of the Eucharistic Prayer with the priest
or in his place or performing other liturgical functions reserved to
ordained men." At that time all parts of this statement supported both the
discipline and dogma of the Catholic Church.
In 1994, the Holy See permitted bishops the option of allowing women
and girls to serve as "acolytes" [altar servers], but stated that this
practice "is allowed but not required", therefore should not be regarded as
mandatory. The ruling also emphasized that "the Holy See wishes to recall
that it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of
having boys serve at the altar. As is well known, this has also led to a
reassuring development of priestly vocations."
Many Catholics found the new ruling confusing and disturbing; but the
Vatican stressed that the ruling is a matter of discipline only, and does
not affect Church dogma. A disciplinary ruling such as this can be changed
at any time.
We share the concern of many Catholic parents that the admission of
"altar girls" often has a negative effect on recruiting boys as altar
servers. Also, in the perception of many believers the practice increases,
rather than diminishes, confusion about the distinction of the priestly role
from that of the laity.
The symbolism of women wearing clerical vestments and performing
liturgical roles traditionally reserved to ordained priests is very strong,
and we urge that this effect on the faithful be carefully considered when
instituting any liturgical changes.
At present, there is much variation among the dioceses and parishes of
the United States regarding female altar servers and other liturgical roles
for women. Despite the clear teaching of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis regarding
the ordained priesthood, and consistent prohibitions of women homilists,
dissent and liturgical abuses persist, and much confusion remains.
***7. Feminist language?
We object to "correcting" the language of Scripture and worship to
comply with ideological demands in the mistaken belief that such changes
reflect justice or sensitivity to women. Changing the language used the
Church's liturgy in order to conform to a special-interest-group's demands
not only disrupts unity, but politicizes worship. It also has the effect of
making sacred texts appear to be controlled and created by the people of a
particular time and culture, rather than the "speech of God as it is put
down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit" (CCC #81).
Therefore, "...We oppose the systematic elimination from Scripture
translations, liturgical texts, hymns, homilies and general usage of 'man'
as a generic. The claim that the language is 'sexist' and that such changes
are required as a sensitive pastoral response to women collectively is
false. We believe that the symbolic effect of mandating such changes in
the language and practice of the Catholic Church is negative and confusing,
effectively undermining the authority of the Church and her hierarchy."
Statement on Feminism, Language and Liturgy
***8. Women's role in society?
Pope John Paul II has repeatedly emphasized that "the human being is
entrusted to women" in a special way.
We support women who devote full time to caring for their families. We
recognize the irreplaceable role of mothers, whose selfless work is a
unique and invaluable gift both to the Church and to the world.
We recognize that women have the right to work outside their homes,
whether from financial necessity or for other reasons. We support these
women in their decision. Women can and have made vital contributions to
society through such work. This work -- and many kinds of volunteer work
-- can also provide opportunities for women to give witness of faith in
Christ in their work places and communities.
In Mulieris Dignitatem, the Pope said, "In the name of liberation from
male 'domination,' women must not appropriate to themselves male
characteristics contrary to to their own feminine 'originality.' There is a
well-founded fear that if they take this path, women will not 'reach
fulfillment,' but instead will deform and lose what constitutes their
essential richness. It is indeed an enormous richness.
"The personal resources of femininity are certainly no less than the
resources of masculinity; they are merely different. Hence a woman, as
well as a man, must understand her 'fulfillment' as a person, her dignity
and vocation, on the basis of these resources, according to the richness of
the femininity which she received on the day of creation and which she
inherits as an expression of the 'image and likeness of God' that is
Pope Paul VI, in an exhortation to women, said, "You women have
always had as your lot the protection of the home. ... You are present in the
mystery of a life beginning. You offer consolation in the departure of
death. Our technology runs the risk of becoming inhuman. Reconcile men
with life, and above all, we beseech you, watch carefully over the future
of the race. Hold back the hand of man, who in a moment of folly might
attempt to destroy civilization. Women of the entire universe, whether
Christian or non-believing -- you to whom life is entrusted at this grave
moment in history, it is for you to save the peace of the world."
 Statement on Feminism, Language and Liturgy, Women for Faith and
Family, the Consortium Perfectae Caritatis and the Forum of Major
Superiors of Women -- Institute on Religious Life, April 18, 1989.
[Full text available as LNGLIT.TXT in the Liturgy and Sacred Music Library.]