Keynoter encourages women to be ‘moral shapers’ of culture

Citing the teaching of the Catholic Church and statements by recent popes, this year’s Women’s Conference keynoter criticized so-called “gender theory” as contrary to what the faith teaches about sexuality and the human body.

“During Vatican II, the council fathers reminded us that ‘only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light’ (‘Gaudium et Spes,’ 22),” said Theresa Farnan, an adjunct member of the philosophy department at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, in an interview with The Visitor.

“In other words, faith not only tells us about God, it tells us who we are,” said Farnan, who also serves as a consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.

Dr. Theresa Farnan, Ph.D.
Theresa Farnan

“Pope Francis and Pope Benedict have criticized gender theory, or gender ideology as Francis calls it, for proposing that we can reject the body given to us by God and for suggesting that we can ‘create ourselves’ without reference to God our creator,” she said. “Through Christian feminism, on the other hand, women are able to integrate what faith tells us about the person and her call to holiness with our specific vocations as women.”

About 150 women from around the diocese gathered Oct. 15 at Holy Angels Performing Arts Center in St. Cloud for the conference. In addition to Farnan’s address on gender theory, she spoke about faith and Christian feminism.

After presenting the current cultural landscape and history of gender ideology, Farnan encouraged women to become “moral shapers.”

“Our faith is crucial for understanding how we are called to live in holiness as women,” she said. “Without faith, our culture’s understanding of what it means to be a man or a woman, as well as what a family is, quickly becomes very confused and hopeless.

“In contrast,” she added, “women of faith can and do become moral shapers of our culture, offering a hopeful view of the person that is grounded in our understanding of our identity as sons and daughters of Christ. Truly, as Pope Francis reminds us, the incisive presence of women of faith is sorely needed in our families, in the church and in the world today.”

Stephanie Heinze, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Bertha, attended the conference with her friend and fellow parishioner Martha Ray.

“It’s always good to gather in this type of setting because it is reaffirming. It’s good for us to have this fellowship and to learn something new,” Heinze said.

She also said she didn’t know much about gender ideology before hearing Farnan speak.

“It’s kind of daunting,” she said, “but it is good for us to know that the place to start is in our families.”

“When she presented the state of where we are [with gender ideology], it was kind of depressing,” Ray added. “But her message was, ‘Build up families.’ It wasn’t that we should go out and tell people what the church teaches or try to tell them what they are doing wrong. Her message was to be positive and continue to build up the kingdom. And it begins in our homes and families.”

Following the keynote address, Farnan was part of a panel discussion that included Father Tom Knoblach, pastor of Holy Spirit, St. Anthony and St. John Cantius parishes in St. Cloud and consultant for health care ethics for the diocese; Father Matthew Crane, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Bertha, Christ the King in Browerville and St. Joseph Church in Clarissa; and Chris Codden, diocesan director of the Office of Marriage and Family, which organized the conference.

The panel addressed a wide variety of topics including liturgical issues and the upcoming election. Codden followed the panel with a talk about, “What men wish their wives knew about men.”

Farnan tied everything together with a final address, “Women and the missionary church — evangelizing in a post-Christian culture.”

“Continuing St. John Paul II’s emphasis on the ‘new evangelization,’ Pope Francis has really encouraged the church to be a missionary church, a church of accompaniment,” Farnan told The Visitor.

“For Pope Francis, accompaniment occurs when we go out to the peripheries and minister to those who are suffering,” she said. “In this way, we are true disciples of Jesus, who sought out the poor, the sick, the despised and all of those who were suffering. We do not go empty-handed, but instead bring them the good news of God’s love. As we do this, evangelization by means of accompaniment transforms our own lives as well as the lives of those whom we accompany.”

In her address she told the women, “If you want to change current culture, you have to change it one family at a time. Authentic evangelization should begin, first of all, with yourself. Pay attention to your own formation. Grow as a Catholic. Secondly is your family. Then you can go and embark on great projects to change the world.”

Author: Kristi Anderson

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