Mary and the 'New Feminism'

Mariology Conference Participant Sheds Light on Christian Feminism, Respect for Human Dignity

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By Ann Schneible

ROME, SEPT. 7, 2012 ( «True Christian feminism would clearly lay out the equality of the woman’s dignity based as an image of God,» says Dr. Gloria Falcão Dodd, lecturer and researcher at the Marian Library and the International Marian Research Institute, University of Dayton, Ohio.Dr. Dodd was one of the participants in a conference titled «Mariology since Vatican II,» currently under way in Rome. It is the 23rd International Mariological congress, and is being hosted by the Pontifical Antonianum University. She spoke to ZENIT about Mary as being a model for women today. 

ZENIT: What is feminism for the Catholic woman?

Dodd: The truths of feminism are quite precisely an identification of the sin of sexism or machismo, which is rooted in original sin, and we actually see it in Genesis. True Christian feminism would clearly lay out the equality of the woman’s dignity based as an image of God, and particularly a Trinitarian image in relation with man: not only God as an Individual, but an image as a compliment – the complimentarity of the two sexes as an image of the Trinitarian God of love.

ZENIT: The idea of feminism, practically speaking is often associated with women having careers. While some women are called to be professionals, others are called to be housewives and stay-at-home mothers. What does this «new feminism» mean for those women who are called to remain in the home?

Dodd: It’s a spiritual virginity and motherhood, as John Paul II had certainly brought out in his different teachings. For one thing, a woman who stays at home – whether she is a wife, or a wife and a mother, can see her equality of dignity, her importance of communicating her thoughts and ideas, first of all to her husband, and then secondly as a teacher for her children – whether she’s formally home schooling them or not, because parents are always primary teachers of their children. There is a sense of her equal dignity, and her right, and her privilege to speak her mind and totally give herself to her husband, to her children, and to require and teach them to respect her if they don’t.

ZENIT: Following Vatican II there is an upsurge of ideologies where the dignity of the human person is called into question – abortion, euthanasia, contraception, and – most recently – same-sex «marriage.» What role can Mary have in bringing about a renewed understanding of the dignity of the human person?

Dodd: The pro life exemplarity of Mary can be seen, first, in her Immaculate Conception in and of itself, that she was a person who was fully graced at the moment of conception. Her personhood is from that point – not later at birth, or age two, or any point on that continuum. I think that the Immaculate Conception alone is a teaching. Secondly, when she conceived Christ at the Annunciation. That sense of going and visiting Elizabeth, through her mediation – again, baby Jesus just days old in her womb – worked through her to sanctify Saint John the Baptist in the womb of Saint Elizabeth. We see Mary herself exemplifying the personhood of the infant, and bringing the Child to others. Also, the flight into Egypt: she had to go with Joseph at a moment’s notice, presumably in the middle of the night, and we have again that sense of protecting the life of a child. On the other spectrum of euthanasia as well. She took care of Joseph, and there certainly would have been a holy death as opposed to a euthanized death – to be with Jesus and Mary until the Lord calls us home. So I think there is a respect for life on that end of the spectrum as well.

ZENIT: What sort of guidance can young women receive from Mary, those who are preparing to leave high school or college, and especially those who have not yet discovered their vocation?

Dodd: I look very much to the Annunciation, because she asked. When she received a message, she asked a question. To ask, What does this mean? What am I called to? How can this be? To ask that question: How can I be a wife? How can I be a single woman? How can I be a sister? I think that’s a very good question to ask. To ask, to listen for an answer, and then to respond: Behold the handmade of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to thy Word.

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