Maryvale Higher Institute of Religious Sciences holds conference focusing on authentic Catholic womanhood

On January 17 Maryvale Higher Institute of Religious Sciences held a day-long conference entitled “The Beauty of Complementarity”, focusing on authentic Catholic womanhood, writes Józef Łopuszyński.

The speakers were Ana Cristina Villa Betancourt of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Deborah Savage of the Siena Symposium for Women, Family and Culture, Elizabeth Holmes from Maryvale Institute, Michele Schumacher, editor of Women in Christ: Toward a New Feminism, and Professor Gilfredo Marengo of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies in Marriage and Family in Rome.

As the conference ended, I asked Ana Cristina Villa Betancourt, who lives in Rome and is responsible for the women’s section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, to explain her role in the conference.

She said: “I was here to participate in this day on the beauty of the complementary, and I spoke about the relationship of man and woman and how it appears in the recent teachings of the popes, especially John Paul II [who] developed it with a lot of richness, and also Pope Benedict.”

She continued: “I have tried to present a synthesis of the main ideas they have given us but also of the challenges they present to us from what they said. There are things that need to be further thought and further developed and that we need to get involved in working on, in order to help the confusion that we all suffer on our own human identity.

“What it means to be a man, what it means to be a woman: it is not as clear as it once was. It is becoming a source of a lot of confusion and so we see in the teachings of the pope, like a solid standing point where we can stand too to help the world to help our contemporaries, the men and women, of our times that are maybe a little bit confused.”

She added: “It was really inspiring to hear what everybody else was doing and saying and it has been very enriching.”

Dr Deborah Savage, professor of philosophy at the St Paul Seminary School of Divinity in Minnesota, said: “I came because I’m the director of something called the Sienna Symposium for Women, Family and Culture. It is a think-tank organised to respond to John Paul II’s call for a new feminism and so I have been thinking about these questions for quite a few years. I have written about it and I have spoken about it in a number of places.

“Right now what I am interested in is: what would Thomas Aquinas say about this new question? And so my research that I presented today was really trying to understand Genesis one and two through the lens of Aquinas’s theory of the soul.”

Michelle Schumacher from Freiburg in Switzerland was the last speaker at the event.

She said: “We covered so many aspects. My job is to try to bring it all together and so was presenting anthropological foundations of this theme of an authentic womanhood.”

The conference closed with Holy Mass in the chapel.