I just came across and read a superb article by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese:
Catholic and Feminist: Can One Be Both?
Here's an excerpt I particularly liked:
The great twentieth-century theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar, also insisted upon the exemplary quality of the feminine for all human beings. Insisting that the word for "answer" or "response" is feminine, he drew the lesson that "woman is essentially an answer [Ant-wort] in the most fundamental sense. . . ."12 For "if man is the word that calls out, woman is the answer that comes to him at last" (254). Thus Balthasar wrestled with the same problem that angers feminists today, namely, how can the idea of equality between women and men be reconciled with the idea of man's primacy? Unlike feminists, however, Balthasar refused to agree that the difference between men and women diminished women's dignity and importance. To the contrary, he insisted that "the word that calls out only attains fulfillment when it is understood, accepted and given back as a word." In his view, man's dependence upon woman thus confirms that "man can be primary and woman secondary" because "the primary remains unfulfilled without the secondary. The primary needs a partner of equal rank and dignity for its own fulfillment" (254).
Throughout the most compelling modern Catholic teachings on the nature and dignity of woman runs this emphasis upon a complementarity of women and men that in no way diminishes women's importance or standing. Indeed, if we follow Balthasar, man himself is "responsive" or feminine in relation to God. In this respect, it is tempting to argue that, as the answer that fulfills the word, women embody the exemplary human posture — that of receptivity or confirmation.