Todd and Melissa Moschella, assistant professor of philosophy at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., said that the two pontiffs helped to explain the Church's respect for the dignity of women in a way that could be understood by a modern and changing world.
argued that the two saints' positions are important to consider in a world that defines women's rights and ability to participate in society by their access to products and procedures such as contraception and abortion.
"It's an illusion to think that's an issue of women's liberation," she
said, criticizing modern culture's tendency to use technology to render women infertile in order to conform to men's roles in the workplace.
In contrast, she
said, both Popes championed a more flexible workplace that respects women's role as caretakers for children or family members, as well as recognizing the important work that women do both in the home and outside of it.
also noted that while many people today think of the Church's beliefs as "anti-woman" and oppressive, women in the Early Church
recognized that Catholic teaching on sexuality, dignity and womanhood was "in accordance with their dignity," and in fact, "it was those teachings that made women flock to the Church."
commented that Pope John XXIII also revived the Church's emphasis on the inherent dignity and equality of women in calling the Second Vatican Council
The council's purpose, she
noted, "wasn't to define new doctrine," but to re-present the "perennial light of faith," including the Church's teachings on human persons, in such a way "that will resonate today."
The emphasis which the council placed on "the universal call to holiness" was significant, she
said, because it was a reminder that "we're all called to holiness."
The work of St. John XXIII was continued and deepened by St. John Paul II, Moschella
continued, particularly through his Theology of the Body, Letter to Women, and Mullieris Dignitatem.
In these works, the Pope particularly focused on "the equal dignity of man and woman as equally in the image and likeness of God," Moschella
teachings illuminate that "there's a richness of that equal dignity that isn't a sameness," and that men and women have a "complementarity of gifts," rather than the same roles.
Misunderstanding this Marian nature of the Church leads to a misunderstanding of the priesthood, Moschella
continued, such as a distorted view of the all-male priesthood "as a position of power and privilege instead of just one more way to serve, which is really what it's all about."