Saturday, April 02, 2005

The pope and women

On MSNBC last night, Carl Bernstein read a remarkable passage from Karol Wojtyla's early writings as a church philosopher on matters of sexuality. In this particular treatise, the philosopher seemed to say that, in a sexual encounter with her spouse, it is important that the woman be brought to orgasm. How strange, especially given John Paul II's intractability on the limited role of women in the church.

While covering the pope's 1987 U.S. tour, your blogstress sought official word on the Holy Father's understanding of the female condition. This she got from the cardinal archbishop of Boston, who retired in infamy for having covered up the scandal of several predatory priests in his archdiocese.

During the Pope's tour, I caught up with Archbishop Bernard Cardinal Law, the prelate often described as "the Pope's man" by the press, the day after the Pontiff had told the bishops that God does not want women priests. Cardinal Law was in the front row of the first-class section of Shepherd II, one of two L-1011s that served as papal press planes. I introduced myself as a reporter for Ms. and asked him for comment on the Pop's remarks. He was most obliging and gracious, and as I eased into the seat next to his, he leaned toward me as if he was taking me into his confidence.

"There are two principles that need to be borne in mind," Cardinal Law told me, looking me square in the eye. "First, the fundamental equality of all persons. Secondly, the specific equality...of feminine humanity. He didn't say [this] but I think this is what the Holy Father meant: that the price of that equality must not come at the expense of what it means to be feminine."

"And what would you say that was?" I asked. "How would you define that?"

"I don't know," he replied. "That's something that needs to be understood and experienced more deeply."

Having got the standard separate-but-equal Vatican response, I thanked him for his time. But as I stood up, he asked me what I had felt while following the Pope. I was rather surprised by the question.

Well, I admitted, I was often quite moved by the pageantry and, yes, my heartbeat did quicken at the sight of the Pope. "but often I was angry," I said, "especially about the ordination issue."

"Oh, I know, I understand," he said, showing all outward signs of compassion. "It must be very hard for you." That is why it is so important for us to define the feminine, he contended.


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