Former president 'grossly misunderstands' Catholic teaching

Jimmy Carter speaks in Coronado, Calif., Feb. 22, 2013. Credit: U.S. Navy/Timothy A. Hazel.

Prominent Catholic laywomen have responded to recent statements by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, saying he lacks understanding of the Church and of the nature of service.

While talking to various media outlets, Carter has criticized the Church saying its teachings about the priesthood are responsible for the mistreatment of women around the world.

Carter’s “comments about the role of women in the Church show a gross misunderstanding of Catholicism,” commented Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association, in a March 27 interview with CNA.

"As Pope Francis continues to remind us, it is service to others that is the primary aim of Catholics, not authority or power."

She added that Carter's statements "are insulting to nuns, whose work is just as important as that of priests," and that the conflation of "an all-male priesthood with domestic abuse is disrespectful to the Church and to actual victims of domestic violence."

Carter appeared on The Colbert Report March 26 saying he would join the Church if "a female Catholic priest asks me to join her church”; he has made similar statements in other interviews promoting his latest book.

Earlier this month, Carter said the Church's teaching on the priesthood influences men to "treat (women) as inferiors."

"The fact that the Catholic Church, for instance, prohibits women from serving as priests or even deacons gives a kind of a permission to male people all over the world, that well, if God thinks that women are inferior, I'll treat them as inferiors," he said in a March 22 interview with NPR.

"If she is my wife, I can abuse her with impunity, or if I'm an employer, I can pay female employees less salary.”

Carter has made similar comments discussing women, the priesthood, and Pope Francis on Huffington Post, CNN and other media outlets.

Jennifer Manning, a member of Catholic Voices USA, told CNA that “to say that ‘God thinks that women are inferior’ because women cannot be priests in the Catholic Church is a gross misunderstanding not only of Catholicism, but of God.”

Manning explained that Catholic teaching "does not treat women as 'inferiors.' God created men and women with equal dignity, each in the image and likeness of God."

She said contemporary thinking may not agree with the Church's understanding of the complementary nature or "harmony" of men and women, yet “this symbolism reaches deeply into Catholicism.”

“The Church is the bride of Christ: Christ marries his Church, gives his life for his Church.”

Kathryn Lopez, director of Catholic Voices USA, told CNA the Church has the highest "love, regard, respect, and gratitude for women.”

This love and respect for women is "unmistakable watching Pope Francis, who works with and listens to" women and has also "said on more than one occasion that 'the Virgin Mary is more important than any bishop and any apostle.'"

"This is no small thing," Lopez stressed, "and I pray President Carter might consider talking with some Catholic women who love our faith before attacking it."


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Habitat: Living out the Gospel call

Anne Hansen

The discussion over faith and good works has been going on for centuries:  Is faith alone enough for salvation, or is it necessary to engage in good works as well? The Catholic understanding is that faith and good works go hand in hand — an understanding based in Scripture.

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