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Women as mothers. Online Congress January - September 2008, concerning 'the Dignity and Vocation of Women', 'Mulieris Dignitatem'

Women as mothers

Online Congress January - September 2008
concerning “the Dignity and Vocation of Women”,
“Mulieris Dignitatem”
Encyclical Letter by Pope John Paul II (30 September 1988)

“The woman's motherhood in the period between the baby's conception and birth is a biophysiological and psychological process which is better understood in our days than in the past and is the subject of many detailed studies. Scientific analysis fully confirms that the very physical constitution of women is naturally disposed to motherhood - conception, pregnancy and giving birth - which is a consequence of the marriage union with the man. At the same time, this also corresponds to the psychophysical structure of women. What the different branches of science have to say on this subject is important and useful, provided that it is not limited to an exclusively biophysiological interpretation of women and motherhood.” (Mulieris Dignitatem § 18)

We just print some excerpts here. It is worth reading the whole text.

Paragraphs in Mulieris Dignitatem

“Our reflection turns to the Biblical exemplar of the "woman" in the Proto- Evangelium. The "woman," as mother and first teacher of the human being (education being the spiritual dimension of parenthood), has a specific precedence over the man. Although motherhood, especially in the biophysical sense, depends upon the man, it places an essential "mark" on the whole personal growth process of new children. Motherhood in the biophysical sense appears to be passive: The formation process of a new life "takes place" in her, in her body, which is nevertheless profoundly involved in that process. At the same time, motherhood in its personal-ethical sense expresses a very important creativity on the part of the woman, upon whom the very humanity of the new human being mainly depends. In this sense too the woman's motherhood presents a special call and a special challenge to the man and to his fatherhood.” (Mulieris Dignitatem § 19)


  • Should, next to pointing out women’s role as mothers, not equal stress be placed on women’s role as partners living in a loving relationship?
  • Is there not an implicit assumption that marriage aims almost exclusively at the production of children, leading to Rome’s absolute refusal to countenance the use of contraceptives (Humanae Vitae, etc.)?
  • By extolling virginity as the only praiseworthy alternative to motherhood, does the Pope not undervalue the importance of sex, and the legitimate enjoyment of sex, in marriage? Read, e.g. The Christian Enjoyment of Sex.

Equality of Women

Christ and Women

Women as Mothers

Bride and Groom

Women and Eucharist

Women and Love

Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

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