The Contribution of the Feminine Genius to the Church: A Critical Analysis of John Paul II's Mulieris Dignitatem

Paper Type:  Dissertation chapter
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1767 Words
Date:  2022-05-09


The dignity and vocation of women in religion is a subject that has gained widespread prominence among Catholic theologian scholars over the years. The unfolding phenomenon can be seen, for instance, in the recent documentation of church's Magisterium, especially after the second Vatican Council. In their closing remarks regarding dignity and the vocation of women, the Council declares that the time has come in which the feminine identity should be acknowledged in its fullness. The Council is of the belief that given the transformation taking place in the human race, women, who are imbued with the spirit of God, can influence humanity in a great way. The message is a continuation of other Council's teachings regarding the significance of women in the church. It is an extension of such teachings as the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes and the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity Apostolicam actuositatem.

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The woman's heart is blessed and endowed with unique intuition and sensitivity. The unique heart that defines woman motherhood helps this species of humanity to not only ascertain people's needs in the society, but also to empathise with humanity in a motherly way. Pope John Paul II refers to this unique position as feminine genius. In his pastoral letter to women, John Paul II refers to females as the heart of every family and society. The late Pope continues to assert that God acknowledges the necessity and power of the feminine genius. According to John Paul II, the power of feminine genius cultivates not only civilisation but also the culture of love. In Pope's writings, this is referred to as the capacity to humanise the society. In addition, John Paul II observes that the aspect of feminine genius puts women in a unique position that highlights their ability to offer themselves as a sincere gift to other people. To the Pope, this is a phenomenon that is attributed to their maternal nature and vocation. As such, the ability to exercise feminine genius gives women a unique capability to heal humanity and the human society at large. John Paul II refers to women's role in the church as Mulieris Dignitatem.

The late Pope observes that "The Church desires that Christian women should become fully aware of the greatness of their mission." The statement begs the question as to the role that is played by women in the church in such a way as to reflect "the greatness of their mission." In Mulieris Dignitatem, John Paul II makes an earnest attempt to answer this question. It is against this backdrop that the current paper is written. In this paper, the author will critically analyse the contribution of the feminine genius to the church. To achieve the threshold for the current paper, the writer will critically explore the aspect of the feminine genius. In so doing, the author will make detailed reference to John Paul II's Pastoral Letter to Women. The attention is drawn to this letter given that it is uniquely dedicated to women across the Catholic and other religious faiths. John Paul II enters into a personal dialogue with women from all walks of life. The paper also draws from John Paul II's Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem and other homilies, such as the Letter to Women (1995). Evangelium vitae (1995) and Familiaris Consortio (1998), which form the basis for understanding not only the position of the woman in the church but also her role in religion, will be referred to.

To achieve the objectives of this paper, this research document will be divided into various sections. Section 1 is the introduction, which lays the groundwork for the research paper. In this section, the importance of the Mulieris Dignitatem to the church and the significance it gives to the role of women is highlighted. Section 2 is a summary of the Papal document. The various topics addressed in this document will be highlighted in this section. Finally, Section 3 will be a critical analysis of the Mulieris dignitatem. Section 3 will be the major focus of the paper, and it will entail a review of the document from the perspective of other scholars in the field. To this end, the extent to which other theologians continued to develop the argument found in Mulieris Dignitatem will be reviewed. The aim is to analyse whether or not these theologians agree with the document, their biases, prejudices, and tone with respect to both the author and the content of the letter.

John Paul II's Mulieris Dignitatem: A Summary of the Document

An Overview of the Mulieris Dignitatem

On August 15, 1988, John Paul II issued a letter. In the letter, Pope John Paul II expounds on the role and value of women with regards to the church, the family and the society. In a nutshell, the letter promotes a vision that centres on three core aspects. The three are complementarity, equality, and communion between man and woman. In this critical writing, the Pope emphasises on the fundamental role of woman's ability to love and her sensitive nature that reflects her femininity to others. The Mulieris Dignitatem explores the unique nature of women by explaining the physical and spiritual dimensions of marriage, virginity, and motherhood. As a leader of the church, the Pope's reverence to women is notable. The pastoral leader cites several women who have made significant contributions to the church and the society at large. Virgin Mary becomes the centre of focus in John Paul II's writing. The Pope refers to Mary as the archetype of woman and the "New Eve."

Scholars across the board agree that this was one step ahead in revolution of the Second Vatican Council to Mulieris Dignitatem. The council started to observe and acknowledge the recurring question on the role of women in the society. The same is also true on how the role of women in the society has evolved with time. For example, John Paul II rightly points out that "The Church desires to give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity for the 'mystery of woman' and for every woman - for that which constitutes the eternal measure of her feminine dignity, for the 'great works of God,' which throughout human history have been accomplished in and through her." The Pontiff's writing was in acknowledgment of the Council's commitment to the laity, the dignity, and the vocation of women.

The Encyclical Redemptoris Mater presents another opportunity upon which the role of women in the society is reflected upon. Through the Redemptoris Mater, the important role of Mary, the Mother of God, is recognised. For instance, Mary the Mother of God becomes the mystery upon which the church is founded. In so doing, the woman's unique position has deeply united all humanity. For example, Christ Jesus revealed Himself to man, through which a woman plays a fundamental role. The Papal writing, as well as the Old and the New Testaments, present humanity with a clear understanding of the role and dignity of woman. The unique condition of woman unites man with God, which presents the possibility of dignity and vocation. Mary, the Biblical woman, makes this possible by incarnating the full sense of God's union with man. According to John Paul II , the fullness in which God presents Himself to human, for instance, is created in the image and likeness of the Creator. It is achieved through a special relationship with God.

As such, all sexes of humanity are in special relationship with God. According to observations by various scholars, this is an expression unity and communion across humanity that similitude God's union. God created man and woman and willed them for their own sake. God created man and woman with the initial desire to reach the entire humanity. However, this fulfilment can only be realised through the gift of self. A case in point is the quote from the Virgin Mary. The Virgin observes that "The Almighty has done great things for me." The quote is a revelation to Mary's wealth of her feminine identity. The identity is according to God's plan for a woman to become a symbol of limitless creativity. As such, God sustained this identity as a gift. The gift, which some of the theological scholars refers to as the gift of God from heaven to earthly paradise, was tainted in the Garden of Eden by evil. The gift has, however, been restored through the figure of Mary who has made Eve the first woman to rediscover the true nature of a dignified female. Some theologians refer to this as feminine humanity. Pope John II says that this discovery "must continually reach the heart of every woman and shape her vocation and her life." Theological writings refer to feminine humanity as an important in the life of woman and Christ's redemptive mission. Theologians use the word "redemption" to redefine the new status of a woman. For example, Allen writes that Christ penetrated Mary's first gaze as a sign of respect and love for a woman. The respect and love of womanhood reaches the summit when Christ encounters the Samaritan woman. Christ says, "If you knew the gift of God and the one who is telling you 'Give me to drink,' you would ask Him for a drink and He would give you living water." To this end, it is made clear that the gift of God the redeemer has been entrusted to all women. Thus, the spirit of Christ gives the woman an opportunity to give the gift of herself to others so that they can comprehend the true nature of womanhood. More importantly, she helps them to understanding their own feminine identity.

To this end, the woman in all her character has been redefined through redemption. The church has come forth to express her gratitude. John Paul II expresses similar gratitude in the remarkable writing, Mulieris Dignitatem. In the document, John Paul II gives thanks to the woman by asserting that:

"for mothers, for sisters, for wives; for women consecrated to God in virginity; for women dedicated to the many human beings who await the gratuitous love of another person; for women who watch over the human persons in the family, which is the fundamental sign of the human community; for women who work professionally, and who at times are burdened by a great social responsibility; for 'perfect' women and for 'weak' women - for all women as they have come forth from the heart of God in all the beauty and richness of their femininity; as they have been embraced by his eternal love; as, together with men, they are pilgrims on this earth, which is the...

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The Contribution of the Feminine Genius to the Church: A Critical Analysis of John Paul II's Mulieris Dignitatem. (2022, May 09). Retrieved from

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