Catholic women unimpressed with ‘males only’ encyclical title

Catholic women across the globe are speaking out against the title of the new papal encyclical title.

Called “Fratelli tutti,” the encyclical’s title translates as “all brothers”. It indicates women are not included in the encyclical’s message, many women are saying.

The Vatican says it is not reconsidering or adapting the title. Instead they have placed the duty on women to see themselves as included in the encyclical’s message.

The title “Fratelli tutti” comes from the words St. Francis of Assisi used to address early members of the Franciscan order. He used the Latin for brothers (fratelli) when he addressed them.

Although in modern Italian the translation “fratelli tutti” could be taken to mean “brothers and sisters all,” the literal translation is “all brothers.”

Andrea Tornielli, who is the Vatican’s editorial director, has defended the title saying Pope Francis did not want to alter St Francis’s words.

It would be absurd to think that the title has any intention of excluding more than half of humanity, he says.

The former co-president of Pax Christi International (one of the highest offices available to a woman in the Catholic Church) has the opposite view, however.

She’s concerned the title could distract from the encyclical’s importance.

“I understand that Pope Francis intends to be inclusive, but the tragedy of insisting on a title that excludes half the human family is immense,” she says.

Francis’s urgently needed a message of “solidarity and communion rooted in right, nonviolent relationships will not be heard by those who can no longer accept our marginalization in the church or society,” she says.

The president of the Italian group Donne per la Chiesa (Women for the Church), Professor Paola Lazzarini, is also unimpressed with the Vatican’s explanation for the title.

“This mansplaining has become intolerable. It is up to us women to say whether we feel represented in that ‘Fratelli tutti’ or not.

“As far as I have been able to gather in these days from many, many believing friends in Italy and abroad, the answer is no.”

In New York, a religious studies professor says she is “very angry” about the encyclical’s title. “If we draw attention to the exclusionary language, we seem petty, or that we are focusing on one small detail.

“On the other hand … women’s concerns are always minimized. It’s never the right time to bring things up, our concerns are never as important as other issues.”

How men would feel if the encyclical’s title were called “sisters all?”, the religious studies professor asked.

“If every encyclical were written about womankind, would men feel like they belonged fully?”

“Would they feel ridiculous for bringing it up? Or would that concern, of systematically and symbolically excluding a significant number of the people of God, be paramount in the minds of popes, bishops, theologians?”


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