Even in the nascent days of the women’s movement, Pope John had his eye on the development. Good thing too:
41. Secondly, the part that women are now playing in political life is everywhere evident. This is a development that is perhaps of swifter growth among Christian nations, but it is also happening extensively, if more slowly, among nations that are heirs to different traditions and imbued with a different culture. Women are gaining an increasing awareness of their natural dignity. Far from being content with a purely passive role or allowing themselves to be regarded as a kind of instrument, they are demanding both in domestic and in public life the rights and duties which belong to them as human persons.
More was and is needed in the Church that being watchful of this development. More also needed than tacking the label “radical feminism” onto everything that seems to threaten the status quo. Discernment needs to be applied, and the question tackled seriously. Just as the forces that pushed back against the labor movement have succeeded to some degree, women have been nudged aside, too.
Just as the labor movement has been tarnished by corruption, the women’s movement hasn’t completely escaped obstacles of its own making. The often-addictive attachment to abortion rights comes to mind. But it still doesn’t detract from the overall need to address the very real issues women bring to the society at large, and to the institutional Church in particular.