Vol. 168 No. 09 - March 04 - March 10, 2017
Pope Francis challenges women to a deeper theology of women, reminding them of their true worth and their real and valuable place within the Church. The worth of women in the Church and society should not be reduced to depending on the ability of receiving the sacrament of ordination. The Church is clear presently that women are not ordained priests within the Catholic Church due to the sacramental dimension of the ministerial priesthood; yet, this does not render the female a worthless waste of space in the pews.
The female contributions to the Church are valuable, and cannot be equated to being conferred with the ability of men to be priests. This negative view of women in the Church should be reversed from their inability to be priests to their ability to be women of Christ. Pope refers to Mary as the focal point of the feminine role within the Church: “Mary, was more important than the Apostles, than bishops, deacons, and priests.” Yet, she was not a priest.
Women, and their valuable contributions to the Church, lie far beyond the obsession with women’s ‘equality to priests and men’. Both men and women are called to a deeper theology; for some men, this is manifested in the priesthood. For women, it can be manifested in multiple ways, none of which include the priesthood.
Edith Stein offers some insightful wisdom concerning the topic of female priests: “If we consider the attitude of the Lord himself, we understand that he accepted the free loving services of women for Himself and his Apostles, and that women were among his disciples and most intimate confidant. Yet, he did not call them to the priesthood, not even to his mother, Queen of Apostles, who was exalted above all humanity in human perfection and fullness of grace.” (2)
The role of women within the Church is different than man’s, creating a positive and balancing effect within the Church. Pope Francis defends the feminine role by saying that ‘a Church without women is like the Apostolic College without Mary’. The role of women in the Church is not only maternity, the mother of the family, but it is stronger: it is, in fact, the icon of the Virgin, Our Lady, and the one who helps the Church grow.
This deeper theology that Pope Francis references should be an exciting new challenge for women in the professional world, society, and the Church. Gathering inspiration from the Mother of God, the women of today have an adventurous and fulfilling road ahead of them. Women who wish to fulfil their feminine vocations will most surely succeed in their goals if they not only keep the idea of Mary before their eyes and strive to form themselves according to her image, but if they also entrust themselves to her guidance and place themselves completely under her care.
Pope John Paul II laid a solid foundation regarding women, especially in his Letter to Women, where he affirms women in their roles as mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, workers, and the consecrated. Here, he acknowledges that “women’s dignity has often been unacknowledged and their prerogatives misrepresented; they have often been relegated to the margins of society and even reduced to servitude. This has prevented women from truly being themselves and it has resulted in a spiritual impoverishment of humanity.” (5)
Pope Francis calls on women of today to enter more deeply into their vocation: “A woman’s role in the Church must not end only as mother, as worker, limited. Women are challenged to contribute to their communities and the Church through formation, prayer, active service, and what Pope Francis calls a ‘profound theology’, gathering strength from their essential role to the body of the Church for the greater glory of God.
An Adapted and abridged article of Maggie Lawson (Courtesey : CNA)
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter - Christ’s victory over death. This season urgently calls us to conversion. Christians are asked to return to God “with all their hearts” (Joel 2:12), to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord. Jesus is the faithful friend who never abandons us. Even when we sin, He patiently awaits our return; by that patient expectation, He shows us His readiness to forgive (cf. Homily, 8 January 2016).
Lent is a favourable season for deepening our spiritual life through the means of sanctification offered us by the Church: fasting, prayer and almsgiving. At the basis of everything is the Word of God, which during this season we are invited to hear and ponder more deeply. I would now like to consider the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (cf. Lk 16:19-31). Let us find inspiration in this meaningful story, for it provides a key to understanding what we need to do in order to attain true happiness and eternal life. It exhorts us to sincere conversion.
1. The other person is a gift
The parable begins by presenting its two main characters. The poor man is described in greater detail: he is wretched and lacks the strength even to stand. Lying before the door of the rich man, he fed on the crumbs falling from his table. His body is full of sores, and dogs come to lick his wounds (cf. vv. 20-21). The picture is one of great misery; it portrays a man disgraced and pitiful.
The scene is even more dramatic if we consider that the poor man is called Lazarus: a name full of promise, which literally means ‘God helps’. This character is not anonymous. His features are clearly delineated, and he appears as an individual with his own story. While practically invisible to the rich man, we see and know him as someone familiar. He becomes a face, and as such, a gift, a priceless treasure, a human being whom God loves and cares for, despite his concrete condition as an outcast (cf. Homily, January 8, 2016).
Let’s start at the very beginning. In Genesis 2:18, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” … and that is how WOMAN was created. So does that mean women are meant to be helpers to men - second class citizens? Certainly not! The word used for woman is ‘Helper’ - the very word used to describe God Himself (cf. Ps 54:4, Heb 13:6). This word does not denote a weak individual, but rather a powerful partner who brings strength, vitality and life. When used in the context of woman, it means she brings all these gifts to the micro level (home) and macro level (workplace).
What a lofty concept of woman! Unfortunately, this beautiful vision of the Creator has not yet become a reality. My experience of working in the corporate world has revealed the manifold challenges women face in the workplace. Here are some insights regarding how to respond to these challenges. They are presented under three categories – acceptance, adaptability and achievement.
In the first place, a woman needs to Accept she is a woman, and hence differs from men in her responses, thinking pattern and way of acting. She has a different style of working and should see this as her unique contribution to the company. In India, a working woman carries a humungous baggage of guilt. She feels guilty about leaving her children with parents, in-laws or domestics. She feels guilty if she has left a colleague to complete a difficult project, or work late, even when that is occasional or unavoidable. This accumulated guilt often causes her to leave the workforce soon after marriage or childbirth. It is important to look at long term goals and think ahead. A woman should realise that children grow up and leave home to pursue their independent lives and careers. This could lead to her feeling depressed and frustrated. She has to accept that her own needs are important, and must invest time in nurturing her own career.
Would the world be more peaceful if women were in charge? A challenging book by Harvard University psychologist Steven Pinker says “Yes”. In The Better Angels of Our Nature, Pinker presents data showing that women are a pacifying force. “Traditional war is a man’s game; tribal women never band together to raid neighbouring villages. As mothers, women have evolutionary incentives to maintain peaceful conditions in which to nurture their offspring.”
Sceptics argue that women have not made war simply because they weren’t in power. Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir and Indira Gandhi were powerful women, and all of them led their countries to war. But, says Pinker, these women played according to the political rules of ‘a man’s world’. In a world in which women held a proportionate share (one-half) of leadership positions, they might have behaved differently in power.
Women are also essential to building and sustaining peace. Former US Secretary of State Dr Condoleezza Rice says when women are at the table, they help bridge the gap between different groups and ensure that a broader range of issues, from food security to sexual violence, are addressed. As a result, peace is more likely to take root.
Management is changing in the direction of ’shared leadership’, with leaders in the centre of a circle, rather than atop a pyramid. Women’s non-hierarchical style and relational skills fit the need of the new world of knowledge-based organisations and groups that men, on average, are less well prepared to meet.
When Arundhati Bhattacharya took over the reins at State Bank of India in 2013, profits were sliding, bad loans were climbing, and the private sector was poaching its clients. She focused on team building to create an environment of collective decision making which helped her get feedback on what was ailing the bank.
Many people around the world expected that with the victory of Hillary Clinton as the first woman President of the United States of America, the whole world would witness women’s leadership. For whatever reasons, that was not to be, but it would be good to reflect if women could bring any difference to leadership roles. Indeed, it would have been very interesting to see what difference Hillary would have brought to the American President’s role.
In general, when women come to occupy leadership positions, until then occupied by men, they are in a peculiar situation. Not only had men occupied those positions for centuries, but in doing so, they had created a masculine culture in discharging that particular role. Women who come to occupy such positions have to deal with this. And if they are insecure persons who perceive their womanhood as a liability, then chances are that they either succumb to the surrounding masculine culture, allowing themselves to be used as doormats, or if they are ambitious, they will do the same things that men before them have done, with even greater vengeance.
In fact, we have seen, both in India and around the world, many successful women leaders who have been worse than men in their authoritarian ruthlessness and levels of corruption. How can we forget powerful women like Margaret Thatcher (known as the Iron Lady) or our own Indira Gandhi, who was famously known as “the only man in her Cabinet”? And there is also the familiar stereotype that, in the corporate world, women bosses in general are the worst, being bossy, harsh and over-exacting. So is there a positive difference that women’s leadership can make to the world?
On this day, very proudly, we remember all the women who have climbed the ladder of success, but we tend to forget our sisters who are victims of violence; we forget our duty towards them, we turn our eyes from the miseries that they go through, and we close our ears to them when they cry for help. Today, I would like to focus on our sisters who are victims of human trafficking which throws them into the evil reality of a brothel.
At the beginning of the world, God created things to be used by Human beings. Human beings were created to be loved, and we are the essence of His Love. Time has changed. Human beings have become selfish. Now we love materialistic things and we use people, and this is the reason we live in chaos.
I personally feel human trafficking is a terrible thing where people are not loved, but are used. Many emotions run in my heart when I think of it. As a woman, it is scary to witness how women are tricked, kidnapped, tortured, raped, and sometimes, even killed or brutally murdered. Wikipedia defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons for the purpose of exploitation.” Unfortunately, in most cases, the type of exploitation that occurs is usually sexual, and women and children are most often the ones being taken and sold. We often read in the newspaper or watch on television how women and children are being abused, trafficked and used as property. It’s disheartening to realise how evil human beings can be. Most of us are tempted to think: “Oh, well, it’s not happening here, or to me or to any one I know. So it’s terrible, but it’s not something I’m going to dwell on.” I think the people who have this kind of attitude cannot call themselves human beings. In the book of Genesis, the LORD said to Cain:"Where is your brother Abel?" The Lord will ask that question to every civilised person: “Where is your sister? “What have you done to help your sister who is a victim of human trafficking?” What would be our answer to God? If we answer like Cain: “I am not the keeper of my sister” then we are committing the sin of omission. Most of us waste a lot of energy and time blaming our sisters for being prostitutes, instead of finding solutions to help them. Have we ever taken trouble to find out the reason how and why our sister, the prostitute, comes to a brothel? Do we make an attempt to talk to her and to know her fragile and horrified reality that leads her into prostitution? No! We don’t do that. Instead, we gloriously blame her. Now comes the time to shift the blame from “women who suffer sexualised violence” to men “who inflict it”; from “women who are raped” to men “who rape”; from “battered women” to “battering men”; from “sexually abused children” to “adults who sexually abuse”. And later, another question will come: “How can we help perpetrators so they heal and stop hurting?”
Sunil Rastogi, a tailor from Uttar Pradesh who regularly raped 500 minor girls since 2004, whenever he came to his workplace in Ashok Nagar, Delhi, finally confessed this on January 15 this year, and was taken into custody. This paedophile had been hopping in and out of jail, due to the lackadaisical approach of the police to justice and law.
In 2015, of the 1212 girls who went missing, 586 girls are still untraced to date, and 927 girls were sexually assaulted and raped. The latest statistics reveal a shocking increase in the incidents of rape in Delhi in the year 2016. However, the conviction of criminals in rape cases has decreased over the years from 49.25% in 2012 to 29.37% in 2016. A reliable source tells us that there were nearly 2200 rapes in the last year, in Delhi alone.
Pune and Mumbai have again shown an increase in the number of custodial and other rapes by 40 and 17 per cent respectively. The NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) data recorded 266 cases in 2015, as compared to 189 in 2014 in Pune, while 712 cases were recorded in Mumbai.
On January 5, 2017, a fast-track court in Madhya Pradesh acquitted the criminals, Dinesh and Jagdish, who were convicted of raping a 48-year-old Catholic nun of SMMI congregation in June 2015 at her charitable dispensary in Raipur. Cardinal Oswald Gracias, who heads the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC), condemned this move. According to him, news sources said, it is a grave injustice and truly a setback for all those working for the rights of women and for women in general, who are prone to victimisation by violence of men.