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Why I, a priest, am doing a Masters in ‘Women and Church’

· ​The other half ·

I wonder: why would a man want a university diploma specializing in “Women and Church”? The answer is simple: because I believe that as the Church we must make a critical discernment on the role of women in carrying out the mission which Jesus Christ has entrusted to us. Without an effective recognition of their ecclesial citizenship it will be hard to reflect Jesus’ initial project: being a living body in which all the members have value.

I am a priest and Vicar General of the small Diocese of Puntarenas on the pacific coast of Costa Rica. The son of a dressmaker and a labourer, thanks to a supportive state – as are few in Latin America – I received an excellent education from school to university.

As a priest I obtained a Doctorate in Psychology and a Masters in the Social Doctrine of the Church at the University of Salamanca. I served as director of Pastoral Social Caritas in my diocese and as contact person of the work group “Equidad entre Hombres y Mujeres” at the Caritas Latin America and Caribbean Secretariat (SELACC). I am also a member of the Caritas Internationalis Women’s Forum.

My commitment to women and their struggles, based on the Gospel, was born from the situation of our communities. The exclusion and inequality in which they live have always been a cause of worry to the Latin American Episcopate.

Already at the second Medellín Conference in 1968 it was recognized that the efforts made until then had been insufficient and did not guarantee respect and the implementation of justice in all the sectors of the different national communities.

Today, in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, citing the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Pope Francis tells us that “The feminine genius is needed in all expressions in the life of society, therefore the presence of women in the workplace must also be guaranteed” (n. 295). We cannot disregard this exhortation.

Faced with situations generated by the inequality and wickedness in relations between men and women – domestic violence, poverty and wretchedness in families which, abandoned by fathers, find women heading them, the lack of access to public policies concerning health care, education, social security, the creation of work posts and income, social assistance – Caritas and Latin American social and pastoral care have got busy with various projects addressed to women on the assumption that the latter constitute an important base in the work of evangelization in Latin America and in the Caribbean.

This is why, as a human being, as a 52-year-old man with 27 years of priesthood behind me, through love for my local Church, through solidarity and so that “women may show the Church her female dimension and help her to think in terms of female categories”, I consider essential the space for reflection and discussion offered to those who are working for a diploma in “Women and Church”, a course sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Studies on women at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, which begins in September.

In Latin America and in the Caribbean today we hear loud and clear the voices of women who, from their unjust condition of poverty and marginalization, of wretchedness and misfortune, exhort prophetically, “Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstruction from my people’s way” (Is 57:14).

We must open paths in order to build that equity and justice which our Latin American and Caribbean people are calling for. Without the presence of women this transformation will be impossible. We are in need of their obstinate wish to resist and to build with hope creatively. We are in need of their daring and strength in order to carry ahead projects capable of facing any obstacles that may turn up. We need to listen attentively to their voices and to trust in their criteria of evaluation at the time of taking decisions together. We need the organizational capacity ability of women to plan projects, to administer resources and to resolve conflicts. We need their knowledge and initiative in order to find effective solutions. 

Luis Carlos Aguilar Badilla




St. Peter’s Square

Feb. 29, 2020