Pope John Paul II on The Genius of Women
U.S.Catholic Conference Publishing Services
84 pp.; $5.95, paper

Pope John Paul II welcomed 1995, the year of the Fourth United Nations Conference on Women, as an occasion for Catholics to focus with special care upon the concerns, needs, rights, and mission of women throughout the world. Beginning with his World Day Message of Peace, delivered on January 1, the pope developed his thoughts about women in a series of Angelus reflections, culminating in his Letter to Women addressed to the women of the world on June 29. Pope John Paul II on The Genius of Women brings together excerpts from these writings to present a comprehensive picture of contemporary Catholic understanding of women's unique "genius."

Primarily, the pope intends to encourage women to reflect upon their condition and vocation, but he also intends to challenge not merely radical feminists, who seek to abolish all differences between women and men, but those religious conservatives who seek to perpetuate women's subordination to and dependence upon men. Doubtless the then-impending Beijing Conference led him to shape many of his thoughts as a response to feminism, but no attentive reader will miss his determination to overcome all vestiges of traditional misogyny, including Christian.

John Paul II's writings on women reflect a new tendency in Catholic thought, but they do not constitute a radical departure. Since Vatican II, and with growing insistence throughout the 1980s and 1990s, he and his immediate predecessors have been elaborating an understanding of women that directly engages the social, economic, and sexual upheavals of recent decades. John Paul II in particular, with his extraordinary respect and love for the ...

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