Feminism blurs sex differences, says church document

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THE Vatican has denounced feminism in a document written by one of Pope John Paul II’s closest aides.

The document, released yesterday, accused the social movement of trying to blur differences between men and women and threatening the institution of the family based on a mother and a father.

The drive for equality, the Vatican said, makes "homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality".

The pamphlet, by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican’s orthodoxy watchdog, was published during a Vatican campaign to protect what it terms the Christian family.

Addressed to bishops worldwide, it contended that new approaches to women’s issues were marked by a tendency "to emphasise strongly conditions of subordination to give rise to antagonism: women, in order to be themselves, must make themselves adversaries of men".

Such an attitude, the document said, "has its most immediate and lethal effects in the structure of the family".

The document also said that, in feminism, "in order to avoid the dominance of one sex or the other, their differences tend to be denied ... The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has huge consequences."

These consequences, it said, included calling "into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father", giving homosexual and heterosexual couples an equivalent status.

It also challenged a "certain type of feminist rhetoric that makes demands ‘for ourselves’".

Paul Lakeland, an expert on the Catholic Church, who is a professor at Fairfield University in Connecticut, expressed concern that some language in the document could be used by church conservatives to condemn any form of advocacy for women.

"The irony is that this document is, in some respect, a feminist document," said Prof Lakeland, pointing to references to fair treatment of women who work.

Throughout his 25 years as Pope, John Paul has repeatedly expressed his admiration for women and their talents, and the document reflected that.

It said women should not be stigmatised or penalised financially for wanting to be homemakers. It also said women "should be present in the world of work and … have access to positions of responsibility allowing them to inspire the politics of nations and promote innovative solutions to economic and social problems".

Those who choose to work should be granted an appropriate work schedule and "not have to choose between relinquishing their family life or enduring continual stress", the message to bishops said.