Women as the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Church

 

Check out the Pope’s full address here.

As the pope blazes a new trail for the modern Roman Catholic Church, Francis continues to emphasize the importance of women and their role in the church despite taking the office only weeks ago as the Bishop of Rome becoming the first Latin American pope and the first non-European pope in 1300 years after Benedict XVI resign the first in 600 years. On Wednesday, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of women in the church as they were the first witnesses of Christ and play a special role in the spreading of faith. As many witnessed on Holy Thursday last week, the pontiff included women in the traditional foot washing ritual drawing criticism from traditionalist who believe the right has always been reserved for men. Many see the custom as a re-enactment of Jesus washing the fee of his apostles who are all men. Women as Francis explains have always played a special role as the “first witnesses” of Christ’s resurrection passing the belief onto their children and grandchildren. Francis told the thousands of faithful in St. Peter’s Square, “In the Church, and in the journey of faith, women have had and still have a special role in opening doors to the Lord.” He even went further to explain that in the bible women were not recorded witnesses as Jewish law prohibited it at the time as they are not reliable witnesses. However, Francis did comments that, “In the Gospels, however, women have a primary, fundamental role … The evangelists simply narrate what happened: the women were the first witnesses. This tells us that God does not choose according to human criteria.” This is the second time the pontiff has talked about the role of women as witnesses to the resurrection of Christ which is the cornerstone of the Catholic faith.

As for the role of women, Pope Francis addressed women in his Easter Vigil on Saturday and urge the faithful to  not fear change. Marinella Perroni, a theologian and leading member of the Association of Italian Women Theologians, according to Reuters had this to say:

“This is very encouraging. Pope Francis is taking up, with a stronger emphasis, the teaching of previous popes about the role of women in the foundation of faith and the resurrection of Jesus. The fact that the Pope acknowledges that the progressive removal of female figures from the tradition of the resurrection…is due to human judgments, distant from those of God…introduces a decidedly new element compared to the previous papacy.”

Several liberal reform supporters of the church call for the institution to ordain women as priests giving them a greater voice and more recognition within the church which the Vatican has said publicly that Jesus Christ chose only men for his apostles even though many female priesthood supports have said Jesus was conforming to the customs at the time. The 76 year old pontiff has set a new standard for the papacy as he continues to live as his name sake did St. Francis with humility and simplicity by shunning the ornate items of traditional dress, using informal language in his addresses, and choosing not to live in the regal papal apartments choosing instead to live in a simple residence. Many are hopeful that this new age of the Catholic Church can reform the Curia and many believe Pope Francis may even close the Vatican bank following the scandals at the heart of the Holy See which has damaged the church’s reputation.

Abortion Controversy: A Direct Challenge to Roe v. Wade

North Dakota’s Governor Jack Dalrymple signed legislation on Tuesday banning abortion procedure if a fetal heartbeat can be detected sometimes as early as six weeks into a pregnancy which makes the state the most restrictive on abortion rights in the nation according to the Associated Press. The Republican governor also signed a measure that would make the state the first to ban abortion on genetic defects such as Down Syndrome ans a measure that requires doctors who perform abortions to be a physician with hospital admitting privileges. The measures would take effect Aug.1 fueling an attempt to close the state’s one abortion clinic in Fargo and in a statement from the Governor the fetal heartbeat bill will be a direct challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion up to 22 to 24 weeks. As the Governor explains, “Although the likelihood of this measure surviving a court challenge remains in question, this bill is nevertheless a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade. Because the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed state restrictions on the performing of abortions and because the Supreme Court has never considered this precise restriction … the constitutionality of this measure is an open question.” Of course this will not end here as the abortion rights supporters promise to pursue a long and costly legal battle that they feel the state won’t win. Planning for legal repercussions, Dalrymple’s statement said according to the Associated Press that the legislature should appropriate dollars for a litigation fund before the session ends in May.

Like North Dakota, Arkansas has also passed a 12 week ban earlier this month that also prohibits abortions when fetal heartbeat can be detected through an abdominal ultrasound and will take effect 90 days after the Arkansas Legislature adjourns. A fetal heartbeat can be detected using a vaginal ultrasound much earlier, but lawmakers did not want to require women to do this invasive imaging procedure when considering an abortion which already takes its toll on the woman. North Dakota did not specify how the heartbeat would be detected, but if a doctor performs an abortion when a heartbeat is detected then they could face a felony charge with up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine where the woman would not face charges. North Dakota’s law to ban abortion based on genetic defects would also ban abortion based on gender selection which Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Oklahoma have similar laws outlawing gender based abortion according to the Guttmacher Institute which tracks these laws. North Dakota lawmakers moved last week to outlaw abortions in the state by defining life at conception which will come before voters in November 2014 as well as another anti-abortion bill awaiting Dalrymple’s signature that would ban abortions after 20 weeks baked on the fetus feeling pain. Dalrymple says that the measure requiring doctors to have hospital admitting privileges will likely be challenged in court, but commented that, “Nevertheless, it is a legitimate and new question for the courts regarding a precise restriction on doctors who perform abortions.”

Indian Parliament Addresses Sexual Violence with Strict Legislation

The Indian Parliament Thursday passed a law to protect women against sexual violence in response to the fatal December gang rape and beating of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi reports the Associated Press. The recent rape and robbery of a Swiss couple in Madhya Pradesh less than a week after the law’s passage has also sparked controversy over the safety of Indian women and for that matter any women who travels outside India’s tourist hot spots. The law once signed by the president and becomes official will make stalking, voyeurism and sexual harassment a crime as well as provide for the death penalty for repeat offenders or for rape attacks that cause fatal injuries to the victim. It will also be a crime for police officers who refuse to open cases for sexual attack complaints. Activist see the law as a milestone in women’s rights even though many are concerned about how effectively the law will be enforced considering the country’s poor record of law enforcement. As Vrinda Grover, a senior lawyer and women’s rights activist explains, “It’s a significant moment. We have taken many steps forward. Much, much more needs to be done.” The bill passed the upper house Thursday two day after the lower house approved it. The reason the law passed so quickly is in response to the Dec. 16 gang rape fatality which sparked nationwide protest calling for the government to take action to protect women. The government set up a panel to recommend changes to Indian laws governing crimes against women and the Cabinet then passed an ordinance adding int he suggestion from the panel, bu it was up to Parliament to pass a law by the next moth before the ordinance expire leading many lawmakers complaining about the law being rushed through without discussion or debate. Many see the bill as the most stringent effort to curb violence against women in India ever, while others see it as only a stepping stone as many problems still remain such as the government’s refusal to see marital rape as a crime. Ranjana Kumari, a women’s activist and director of the Center for Social Research, explained, “If bodily integrity is the issue, and consent is the issue, than certainly rape in marriage should be included.” She also takes issue with the 10 year maximum sentence for acid attacks too light and the government’s decision to make 18 the age of consent is out of touch with the sexual mores. As the Associated Press reports, Kumari does see it as a step in the right diretion but fears an insensitive police force and overburdened judiciar could make it diffuclt to enforce stating, “The implementation remains the larger challenge.”

 

The Blame Game: To Rape or Be Raped?

Swiss Gang Rape Victim, Husband Partially To Blame For Attack, Indian Officials Suggest.

Indian officials are now claiming that the Swiss tourist and her husband could be partially to blame for the attack and gang rape that occurred in a remote wooded area in Madhya Pradesh last week because the couple did not ask about the safety of the region according to the Huff Post. On Friday, the couple pitched a tend in the forest in Madhya Pradesh while on a cycling trip, according to the Associated Press, when around 9:30 p.m. a group of men beat up the husband, tied him to a tree, gang raped the wife and robbed the pair, police confirmed. On Sunday, police spokesman Avnesh Kumar Budholiya during a press conference said the tourists are partially to blame for the assault due to the fact they didn’t consult the local police about the area before traveling through the area reports the Independent. Budholiya explained,”No one stops there. Why did they choose that place? They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They would have passed a police station on the way to the area they camped. They should have stopped and asked about places to sleep.” Another official, Umashankar Gupta the Home Minister of Madhya Pradesh explains, “The rape of the Swiss national is unfortunate but foreign travelers should inform the police about their movement so they can be provided with adequate protection. They often don’t follow the state’s rules.”

The Times also reported that Madhya Pradesh has one of the highest rates of crimes against women in the country which the Swiss tourists were unaware of. A senior official from the region also has this to say: “They apparently lost track and took a wrong turn and decided to halt for the night by the side of a village brook little realizing that the district with 85:100 men to women ratio is not the safest place for women.” CNN reported that six men have been arrested in connection with the gang rape, while the victim was hospitalized after the attack claiming four of them raped her and the other two robbed the couple. All six will appear in court Monday. The gang raped comes only three months after the gang rape of a 23 year old woman on a public bus by five men in New Delhi who unfortunately died due to her injuries. The defense attorney for three of the accused men partially blames the now deceased woman saying a “respected lady” does not get raped. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, it is common in India to blame the victim of such crimes because of a woman’s role in society. Ranjana Kumari, director for New Delhi based Centre for Social research told the news papers that,”This is the mentality which most Indian men are suffering from unfortunately. That is the mindset that has been perpetrating this crime because they justify it indirectly, you asked for it so it is your responsibility.”