In his daily homily Friday, Pope Francis issued a scathing critique of the ways in which women are often exploited and mistreated - whether it be through a revealing television ad, or when getting a job is contingent on sexual favors.
He said there is a tendency in many environments to view women as “second class” or as an object of “waste,” and called the ways in which women are at times abused and enslaved “sins against God.”
The pope offered his June 15 daily Mass at the Vatican's Santa Marta residence as a prayer “for the women who are discarded, for the women who are used, for the girls who have to sell their own dignity to have a job.”
He took his cue from the day's Gospel reading from Matthew, in which Jesus said: “everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” and “whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery.”
Women, he said, are “what is missing in every man in order to be the image and likeness of God.”
The “doctrine on women” introduced by Jesus in the Gospel, he said, “changed history,” because up to that moment, the woman was “second class...she couldn't even enjoy full freedom.”
“The woman before Jesus is one thing, the woman after Jesus is
another. Jesus dignified woman and put her on the same level as man,” Francis said, stressing that “both are 'the image and likeness of God,' both; not men first and then women a bit lower, no, both.”
“And man without woman beside him – as a mother, sister, wife, colleague, friend – that man is not the image of God.”
In the Gospel a certain “desire” for women was alluded to, the pope said, explaining that this desire is not a bygone sentiment, but is something seen in everywhere in daily activities.
“In television programs, in magazines, in newspapers, they show the woman as an object of desire, of use,” he said, comparing the publications to a “supermarket.” In order to sell a certain type of tomato, he said, using food as an example, women become an object, and are “humiliated, without clothes.”
And the problem is not distant, but it happens “where we live.” It's enough to go to an office or a business and one will see that a woman is “the object of that disposable philosophy,” as if she were “waste material” and not a real person.
“This is a sin against God the creator,” the pope said, because “without her we men cannot be the image and likeness of God.”
Francis said there is currently “a fury against women, a terrible fury, even without saying it.”
“How many girls, in order to have a job, have to sell themselves as a disposable object? How many?” he asked, noting that this is not just a problem in faraway countries, but it happens “here in Rome.”
If one were to do a “night walk” in certain areas of Rome, he said, they would see that “many women, many migrants, and many non-migrants” are exploited as if they were in a marketplace. Men approach these women, he said, “not to say 'good evening,' but 'how much do you cost?'”
Pope Francis said it would do everyone good to look at these women and think about the fact that they are “slaves of this mindset of waste.”
“Everything happens here, in Rome, it happens in every city; anonymous women, women, we can say, without an expression because the shame covers her gaze, women who do not know how to laugh” and who often do not know the joy of being mothers, he said.
But even without going to these areas, in normal daily situations “there is this awful mentality” of viewing women as “a second class object.”
“We have to reflect better,” Francis said, because entertaining this mindset toward women means “we despise the image of God, who made man and woman together in his image and likeness.”
The pope closed his homily voicing hope that the day's Gospel passage would help Catholics to think more about “the market of women; yes, trafficking, exploitation, which we see,” but even in “the unseen market, what is done and not seen. The woman is trampled because she is a woman.”
He reminded Mass-goers that Jesus himself had a mother, and had “many women friends who followed him to help him in his ministry.” Jesus also found many women who were “despised, marginalized and discarded,” however, he raised them up with “tenderness,” and restored their dignity.