Josemaría Escrivá Obras
  Conversations > Freedom and Pluralism in the People of God > Number 14

Not infrequently, in speaking of the laity, people tend to ignore women and thus they give a confused picture of the role of women in the Church. Similarly people tend to understand the social emancipation of women simply as the participation of women in public life. What do you think is the mission of women in the Church and in the world?

To begin with, I see no reason why one should make any distinction or discrimination with respect to women, when speaking of the laity and its apostolic task, its rights and duties. All the baptised, men and women alike, share equally in the dignity, freedom and responsibility of the children of God. There exists in the Church that fundamental unity which St Paul taught to the first Christians: Quicumque enim in Christo baptizati estis, Christum induistis. Non est Iudaeus, neque Graecus: non est servus, neque liber: non est masculus, neque femina: 'Now there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, nor between slave and freeman, nor between man and woman' (Gal 3:26-28).

For many reasons, including some derived from positive law, I consider that the distinction between men and women with respect to the juridical capacity for receiving Holy Orders should be retained. But in all other spheres I think the Church should recognise fully in her legislation, internal life and apostolic action exactly the same rights and duties for women as for men. For example, the right to do apostolate, to found and direct associations, to give their opinion responsibly on matters which affect the common good of the Church. I fully realise that all this, which is not difficult to admit in theory when we consider the theological arguments in favour, will in fact meet with resistance from some quarters. I still remember the surprise and even the criticism with which some people reacted to the idea of Opus Dei's encouraging women who belong to our Association to seek degrees in theological studies. Now instead they are tending to imitate us in this, as in other things.

Nevertheless I think resistance and misgivings will disappear little by little. Basically it is only a question of understanding the Church, of realising that the Church is not composed only of clerics and religious, but that the laity also, men and women, are People of God, and have, by divine law, a mission and responsibility of their own. But I would like to add that, as I see it, the essential equality between men and women demands an understanding of the complementary roles which they play in the Church's growth and in the progress of society. Not in vain did God make them man and woman. This diversity should be considered not in a 'patriarchal' sense, but in its full, rich depth of tones and consequences. In this way men are freed from the temptation of 'masculinising' the Church and society, and women from seeing their mission in the People of God and in the world as no more than showing that they can do equally well the tasks which were formerly reserved to men. I think that both men and women should rightly consider themselves as the protagonists in the history of salvation, but each complementing the work of the other.

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