For Immediate Release: 8 April 2016
Pat Brown: UK: (+44) (0)7950 048628 firstname.lastname@example.org
Miriam Duignan: UK (+44) (0)7970 926910 email@example.com
Kate McElwee: USA (+1) 607 725 1364 firstname.lastname@example.org
Therese Koturbash: Canada (+1) 204 648 5720 email@example.com
Pope Francis’ exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, released today at the Vatican offers seeds of hope for a Church moving away from general and strict doctrinal rules to one of grace and growth. This challenging, and at-times poetic document exhibits highs and lows, both championing pastoral discernment, the primacy of conscience, and even “the women’s movement,” but is riddled with an incomplete and painful understanding of feminism, reproductive health, gender, and sexual identity.
Women’s Ordination Worldwide (WOW) is encouraged by the document’s strong condemnation of violence and discrimination against women and the role of social movements to work for equality: “we must … see in the women’s movement the working of the Spirit for a clearer recognition of the dignity and rights of women.” Yet while Pope Francis also writes that he “values feminism,” he fails to include the modern sexism upheld by the Church’s hierarchy as part of the “patriarchal cultures that considered women inferior,” which has “burdened history.”
WOW also upholds the pope’s emphasis on the consciences of the faithful, “[who are] capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations.” Primacy of one’s conscience allows individuals and families to “respond as best they can to the Gospel,” which WOW believes must include discernment of all vocations to family and loving relationships, reproductive health, and ordained ministry.
Nevertheless, disappointment is interspersed throughout Amoris Laetitia, as too often women’s “dignity” is substituted for women’s “equality,” denying the full and equal participation of women in Church decision-making and ordained ministries. Pope Francis also reinforces the Church’s stance on motherhood, LGBT families and adoption, transgender people, and reproductive health care choices. This is a missed opportunity to recognize the full equality and faithful paths of all people. We pray that the exhortation unfolds and challenges the Church to more deeply live the Gospel message of equality.