Is the Catholic Church Against Women?
There have been injustices in history. The Church is made of human beings and human beings can make sinful mistakes. While the Church will say that its Dogma is infallible, it will never say its people are not indefectible. Quite often we judge the historical Church according to our 21st century understanding of human rights. Let us instead compare the Church to other social structures of the same time period; other religions; and secular government. Catholic civilisation produced many of the first women scientists. Trotula of Salerno is the credited author of a book on diseases for women in the Eleventh Century, Dorotea Bucca taught at the University of Bologna for over forty years, and Maria Agnesi, who died in 1799, was appointed by Pope Benedict XIV to become the first woman to become a mathematics professor at any university.1 Catherine of Sienna, went to the Pope after the office of the Holy See had re-located the Church of Rome to France. She told him to get the heck back to Rome. AND HE DID! (1) St. Thérèse de Lisieux, and St. Thérèse of Avila have become doctors of the Church and have influenced the doctrine of the Church immensely.
Today the Catholic Church still holds greater dignity for women than contemporary society which appears to push:
- women's magazines with anorexic models
- widespread eating disorders
- Media objectifies women
- afternoon soft porn soap operas
- Internet porn objectifying women
- anti depression medication pushed on women
- "show your skin" fashion
- widespread outbreak of cosmetic surgery
- piercing and tattoos
Pop songs say "off with your cloths, bend over and touch your toes" on prime time. Teenage girls have been tricked into giving away their precious sexuality and 25% of teenage girls have HPV genital warts which is a precursor to ovarian cancer. Planned Parenthood is making billions off abortions, while fostering a culture of "safe" sex, knowing that teenagers are about as good at practicing safe sex as they are at making their beds.
Young singers are puppets for male business executives who promise them fame and fortune to sell sex. Studies have shown 10% of people are having sex at work, usually with their superior, sometimes while they have a family at home. Women are the big losers in this game. Pharmaceutical companies are making mega-bucks off contraceptives, sex before marriage, same sex relationships, legitimization of the sex trade, and the "post divorce" dating game (especially on the internet).
The genesis of the modern human rights movement is based on Christian theological principles. Any concept of human rights that ignores Christian moral principles is hollow. At Lourdes, France on Aug 15, 2004 the Pope JPII said:
Our Lady of Lourdes has a message for everyone. Be men and women of freedom! But remember: human freedom is a freedom wounded by sin. It is a freedom which itself needs to be set free. Christ is its liberator. In this we know we can count on Mary, who, since she never yielded to sin, is the only creature who is perfectly free. I entrust you to her. Walk beside Mary as you journey towards the complete fulfillment of your humanity!
A Catholic procession in honour of Mary happens every night at Lourdes. These Catholics recognize Mary as the greatest human (besides Jesus) and that doesn't mean we worship her as a goddess.
The Church calls Mary the greatest human who ever lived. And now in Heaven she is greater than any of the angels. On one hand we are evolving to new understandings about the value and contribution of women in society. On the other hand we have a generation of kids without mothers.
A woman wrote:
... is there freedom for a person to do something that perhaps wouldn't fit into the traditional Catholic mold, esp. being a woman?
We responded "absolutely!" Many women Saints did not fit the "mold" of Catholic women of their day. There is a very important role for faithful holy women. Here are a couple of examples of what young Catholic women are doing today:
The Church's current position on prolife, pro family, sexual morality, acknowledging differences in gender, etc., represent the dignity.
We will examine all of these questions and present Mary as a great example of womanhood.
Is Prolife an anti-woman position?
In the last 30 years approximately 21,500,000 women have died violent deaths in the United States. These women were defenseless, they could not speak out to defend themselves. These women died from abortion. We'll call the baby girl below Sara.
Used with permission
Sara will never learn how to tie her shoes or play hopscotch. She will not get a chance to vote, to go to university, develop a career or become a mother herself. All these things that women have worked so hard to achieve have been denied to Sara. She has been denied all these things because her mother denied motherhood, and the "doctor" denied Sara's personhood. Some choices are wrong. The male abortionist who took her life said he was all for women's rights. We do not think the Church's pro-life position is anti-women. We actually think the pro-abortion movement is anti-women. It is a male affront to women.
- Most "doctors" who commit abortion are men. These doctors are making mega-dollars violating the bodies of women. They are making money off of scared vulnerable women, often in their teens.
- It is an extremely invasive procedure and has on numerous occasions caused irreparable damage to the womb of the woman who is victim to this invasive procedure by a male who they never see before or after the procedure.
- Many of women who agree to have abortions do it to please someone besides themselves, usually a man (i.e., a boyfriend, their father, employer). Numerous studies have shown that if it was up to the mother of the aborted unborn she would almost always keep the baby.
- Mothers of the aborted unborn often suffer greater long term psychological effects than the fathers, (however men suffer too, as I (Hugh) will attest.)
The abortionists say that they are in favour of women's rights and they say they shun violence against women. Obviously, they are not in favour of the rights of women in the womb. Pope John Paul II writes:
The common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights -- for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture -- is false and illusory if the right to life is not defended with maximum determination.
If the unborn baby is part of the body of the mother, why does the doctor count all of the little broken off arms and legs of the baby to make sure none are left inside. Half of women carrying babies have a little boy inside them with a penis. Is that a part of her body? The baby may have a separate blood type and its own DNA. More about abortion here.
Roles of Men and Women
Before becoming Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:
... Recent years have seen new approaches to women's issues. A first tendency is to emphasize strongly conditions of subordination in order to give rise to antagonism: women, in order to be themselves, must make themselves the adversaries of men. Faced with the abuse of power, the answer for women is to seek power. This process leads to opposition between men and women, in which the identity and role of one are emphasized to the disadvantage of the other, leading to harmful confusion regarding the human person, which has its most immediate and lethal effects in the structure of the family.
A second tendency emerges in the wake of the first. In order to avoid the domination of one sex or the other, their differences tend to be denied, viewed as mere effects of historical and cultural conditioning. In this perspective, physical difference, termed sex, is minimized, while the purely cultural element, termed gender, is emphasized to the maximum and held to be primary. The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has enormous consequences on a variety of levels. This theory of the human person, intended to promote prospects for equality of women through liberation from biological determinism, has in reality inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality.
While the immediate roots of this second tendency are found in the context of reflection on women's roles, its deeper motivation must be sought in the human attempt to be freed from one's biological conditioning. According to this perspective, human nature in itself does not possess characteristics in an absolute manner: all persons can and ought to constitute themselves as they like, since they are free from every predetermination linked to their essential constitution. This perspective has many consequences. Above all it strengthens the idea that the liberation of women entails criticism of Sacred Scripture, which would be seen as handing on a patriarchal conception of God nourished by an essentially male-dominated culture. Second, this tendency would consider as lacking in importance and relevance the fact that the Son of God assumed human nature in its male form.
In the face of these currents of thought, the Church, enlightened by faith in Jesus Christ, speaks instead of active collaboration between the sexes precisely in the recognition of the difference between man and woman.
The letter goes on to describe what this "active collaboration" might look like.
We got an email from an Evangelical woman who didn't like the "apocrypha" part of the Bible. She said:
"Ecclesiasticus 22:3 [says] "It is a disgrace to be the father of an undisciplined, and the birth of a daughter is a loss." Does God inspire being sexist.
I suggested that this is passage is being read out of context. The first part of 22:3 about an "ill taught son" and the second is about a "foolish daughter". Reading further, the next line talks about a wise daughter being a blessing.
22:3. A son ill taught is the confusion of the father: and a foolish daughter shall be to his loss. 22:4. A wise daughter shall bring an inheritance to her husband:
The section is not against women any more than it is against men. We always have to be careful to look at Scripture in context (and Ecclesiasticus isn't part of the Apocrypha, as she claimed, anyway).
Did the Church rewrite the Bible to subvert women?
If the Church rewrote the Bible to subvert the role of women, we doubt they would have confirmed the inclusion of the book of "Judith" at the Council of Trent in 1545 when the Protestants threw it out? Judith was a heroine who saved the Jewish people by cutting off the head of Holofernes, king of the Assyrians. (Jud 13:7) If the Catholic Church rewrote the Bible to subvert the role of women we doubt they would include the book of Ruth in the Bible. Ruth wasn't even a Jew yet she plays a key role in salvation history. Why did the Church not put whiteout to the book of Esther who saved the Israelites? And why did it not rewrite the story of Mary herself? And there are all the great women of the New Testament. There is Martha, Mary Magdalene, Anna in the temple (Lk2:36) described as a prophet, Elizabeth and dozens more.
The evidence makes it clear that the Catholic Church did not rewrite the Bible to subvert the role of women. The Dead Sea Scrolls clearly demonstrate the integrity of the Church's transcription of the Old Testament. They were found by a Muslim and they predate the Church and Christ by 250 years and they blow away all the claims the Catholic Church wrote the Bible to suit itself. They are word for word what the Church transcribed from the Septuagint (Old Testament). Why would we believe that these men and women who died for the faith would put their souls in jeopardy by re-writing the Word of God. The Gnostic texts were messed up and that is not hard to understand considering all the convoluted versions of spirituality we see today.
Female Conception of God
Some women are upset at what they think is the lack of feminine energy in the Catholic concept of God.
Catholic teaching is not that God is a male. But that God is both male and female. Section 370 of the Catechism says:
In no way is God in man's image. He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the difference between the sexes. But the respective "perfections" of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother and those of a father and husband. (Cf. Isa 49:14-15; 66:13; Ps 131:2-3; Hos 11:1-4; Jer 3:4-19.)
God is like a Father, because he is the Lord of the Universe. A Father is the head of the household. In a sexual relationship, the man represents the active principle, the female the passive role. God is definitively not passive. Men can be nurturing, but this is secondary to their headship. Before God can even be known as "Love" he must be known as "Creator". St. Thomas Aquinas explains God is gendered through analogy.
We got an email that said:
I know theologians say God does not have a gender, yet they are very adamant about calling Her/Him/It "He", "Father", "King", etc. all the time. If they also called God Her, Mother, Queen, It, the Source of all Being, etc. We would believe their intent. But why do people cringe when you call God Mother and Her, if God doesn't have a gender? The problem is that although God doesn't have a gender, God is not only a personal but also personal and in order to address God as a person we have to use a gender. There's no easy way out of this. Then imagine it professed a Saviouress who was a woman, imagine all the ordained clergy were priestesses, men wouldn't be allowed to ordain. Would you buy that God has no gender?
This woman made a powerful statement. She said "There is no easy way out." We completely agree.
If Jesus was born a woman, let's say "Jessica," and if God used female terms in his Holy Word, and if God established the Church on 12 female apostles, then we hope that we would pray to "Jessica" and be obedient to the Church that God founded because we would be putting our salvation in jeopardy if we let our chauvinistic prejudice turn it around and refuse to worship "Jessica".
Why did Jesus say "Our Father in Heaven?" We don't know. Why did Jesus choose 12 male apostles? We don't know. Some have said it was because that was the cultural convention of the time as if Jesus paid any attention to cultural conventions on other matters. Why did Jesus talk to his "Father" in the Garden of Gethsemane? After Jesus returned from heaven he said "As the Father has sent me" He had already been in heaven and seen the face of the God and came back to earth talking about his "Father" We don't know. Some modernists (I.e., The Da Vinci Code) would say because the male chauvinist Church fudged with the Bible and shut women out. (more about that below.) Failing theories like those found in the Da Vinci Code, we have to throw Jesus out of God's plan for Salvation in order to get around it.
Mary is a great example of womanhood and a great person to ask for help
At Lourdes, France Aug. 15, 2004 the Pope said:
"Listen to her, young people who seek an answer capable of giving meaning to your lives. Here you can find that answer. It is a demanding one, yet it is the only answer which is genuinely satisfying. For it contains the secret of true joy and peace.
"This grotto also issues a special call to women. Appearing here, Mary entrusted her message to a young girl, as if to emphasize the special mission of women in our own time, tempted as it is by materialism and secularism: to be in today's society a witness of those essential values which are seen only with the eyes of the heart.
"To you, women, falls the task of being sentinels of the Invisible! I appeal urgently to all of you, dear brothers and sisters, to do everything in your power to ensure that life, each and every life, will be respected from conception to its natural end. Life is a sacred gift, and no one can presume to be its master."
She never refuses someone who asks her to pray. Mary was a humble Jewish woman under the law of the Old Testament. She placed herself under the law, not above it. She believed in the values of family. She didn't approve of gay sex and she took the direction from her husband Joseph. He decided they should leave for Egypt and she went along with it. He led her and protected her. Why didn't the angel warn Mary directly about the dangers of Herod? Perhaps it was because the Angel acknowledged Joseph's position as head of the household. We don't know. The angel's leading was constantly on the hand of Joseph.
"God created man out of mud. God created women out of the rib of a rational creature."
(1) Catholic Encyclopedia http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03447a.htm 1377A.D.
- Footnote 1