ST. FRANCIS — Vicki Thorn, founder and executive director of Project Rachel, the national post-abortion reconciliation and healing ministry, was recently a presenter at the women’s study seminar, “God Entrusts the Human Being to Woman,” held Oct. 10-12, in Rome.
Thorn presented “A Christian Vision of Sexuality” to more than 100 who attended from 24 countries and 30 organizations on Friday, Oct. 11, the second day of the seminar organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity on the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter, “Mulieris dignitatem.”
“I spoke about really a Christian vision of sexuality in some of the work that I do with the biology of the theology of the body, and the need for us to appreciate who we are as women and who we are as embodied women – that we are made in an incredibly awesome fashion by God,” Thorn told your Catholic Herald in a telephone interview, noting that she participated in the 20th anniversary of the letter and was at that congress, too.
She also talked about the impact of contraceptives on women.
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“That they lead us to the wrong biological partner, that they change the way our brain works, that they’re systemic steroidal hormones; those are really serious issues that we need to be made aware of and so it was part of the big picture, which is who are we as women?” Thorn said.
“I spoke about also the fact that Project Rachel over the years has really been the field hospital sort of experience that Pope Francis talked about – that the church should be a field hospital – and so that it is our lack of knowledge and our understanding about our sexuality that often leads people to be faced with an abortion decision and then the role of the church also in response to that,” she said.
While the seminar provided panels and talks for participants, Thorn said they concluded there needs to be a call for the theology of men as well if there’s a call for the theology of women.
“Plus, we have these documents – “Mulieris dignitatem” (On the Dignity of Women) is an incredibly beautiful document – and then we also have John Paul II’s letter to women, and I think we haven’t given enough study to those documents,” she said, adding the gifts of men and women should be recognized, not as competition but as complementary, and that throughout the church, the history of women serving the church is very rich but not talked about very much.
“Historically, there’s an enormous treasury of women who some married, some divorced, some abandoned, some religious in terms of religious life, some leading simply a single life but serving the church in so many ways and that’s something to be celebrated and talked about,” she said.
Thorn also met Pope Francis for the first time when he held a private audience with the group.
In addition to describing him as “joyful” with a presence that “lights up the room,” Thorn shared a story about his interactions with a family with six children that showed his “warmth” and “approachability.”
She said one of the little girls who didn’t want to go up by the pope, was being shepherded by her siblings, and cried out for her mother.
“She gets up to him and she goes, ‘Mommy!’ And he looked at the woman and said ‘See.’ … ” Thorn said, noting the pope’s smile. “I mean, it was just like (the pope was saying) ‘Look, there’s somebody looking for her mother – that’s what I was just saying to you women.’” Tracy Rusch