PORTUGAL, February 29, 2012 ( – A newly-minted Portuguese cardinal has sparked controversy at home and abroad by repeating the Catholic Church’s longstanding teaching encouraging women to be at home with their children.

Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro, who was given the red hat last Saturday, told Portugal’s Correio de Manha newspaper that Portugal’s greatest problem is “the lack of support given by the government to families.”


“A woman should be able to remain at home, or, if she works outside, to do so on a reduced schedule, so that she can apply herself to that for which her function is essential, which is the education of the children,” said Monteiro.

Following media-generated controversy over his comments, Monteiro said that “I never said that women must stay at home, what I meant to say was that the presence of the woman in the family has a very, very important value for the whole nation.”

In a separate interview with the Jornal de Noticias before the controversy, Monteiro had said that “We should give much more value to family and to the value of women at home.”

“Women working full time, I think is not useful for the country,” he said. “Working at home, yes, but having to work from morning to night, I think is a negative for the country. The best educator is the mother, and if the mother doesn’t have time to breathe how is she going to have time to educate?”

“A country depends much, much, on mothers, because it is they who educate the children. There is no better educator than the mother,” said Monteiro, who opined that as a result of women working outside the home, they have “much value in one sense” but have “lost much of the value that they had” as mothers.

Monteiro’s words should not be unexpected from a cardinal of the Catholic Church, which has long promoted the woman’s domestic role in the family. His statements are similar to those of Pope John Paul II, who wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio in 1981 that “the true advancement of women requires that clear recognition be given to the value of their maternal and family role, by comparison with all other public roles and all other professions.”

“The mentality which honors women more for their work outside the home than for their work within the family must be overcome. This requires that men should truly esteem and love women with total respect for their personal dignity, and that society should create and develop conditions favoring work in the home,” the pontiff wrote.

The Roman Catechism, which John Paul II reaffirmed as an authoritative summary of the Catholic faith, states that “To train their children in the practice of virtue and to pay particular attention to their domestic concerns should also be especial objects of [wives’] attention. The wife should love to remain at home, unless compelled by necessity to go out; and she should never presume to leave home without her husband’s consent.”