Many people, especially outside the Catholic Church, but even some inside the church, think that the Catholic Church is misogynistic. Misogyny is defined as “hatred of women”. Sadly, mankind is 100% made up of sinners. We are all imperfect. And we all sometimes step on toes. John Paul II himself confessed that many members of the church, including some in the hierarchy, have acted in ways that fail to express the equality of men and women.
And if objective blame [for offenses against the dignity of women], especially in particular historical contexts, has belonged to not just a few members of the Church, for this I am truly sorry. May this regret be transformed, on the part of the whole Church, into a renewed commitment of fidelity to the gospel vision. When it comes to setting women free from every kind of exploitation and domination, the gospel contains an ever relevant message that goes back to the attitude of Jesus Christ himself. Transcending the established norms of his own culture, Jesus treated women with openness, respect, acceptance, and tenderness. In this way he honored the dignity that women have always possessed according to God’s plan and in his love. As we look to Christ at the end of this second millennium, it is natural to ask ourselves: How much of his message has been heard and acted upon? (Letter to Women 3).
But is it really fair or even true to claim that the institution, the Catholic Church, hates women? After all, we proclaim that the greatest human being of human history is a woman. It was a woman that gave birth to the Messiah. We place Mary on a pedestal. In fact, some Christians think we honor her “too much” (whatever that means). Some of our greatest Catholics were women. Some scolded Popes and told them what they should be doing. Others founded schools, and religious orders. In our teaching we are told to respect the whole woman, while much of society would expect us to revere her physical beauty, or possibly her primary and secondary sex organs.
It’s true that the Church does not allow women to become priests, bishops, cardinals or popes, but this is because Jesus did not have female apostles, and before him, the Hebrews only allowed a male priestly hierarchy. We believe our bishops are direct descendents of the apostles, so therefore our priesthood can only be all male. Women may fulfill other roles. They can preach and teach, just not in the confines of mass. In fact, most of our parishes could not exist without the support of women. This article explains the Church’s stand.
It’s true that individuals within the Church, from the time of her birth at that first Pentecost, have demeaned, degraded, and marginalized women, but much of this was due to societal attitudes of the time. Much of the progress that has been made in women’s rights and equality are due to efforts of the Catholic Church.
Then there are those who think that, because the Church thinks that women are better suited for running a home (cooking, cleaning, child-rearing, ironing, scrubbing floors, doing laundry, etc., etc., etc.), that we marginalize or demean women. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that the Church believes that the home is the most important entity on earth. There is nothing more important on earth than the family, and all that ‘family’ entails. The fact is that secular society has marginalized the role of the family in society. Men have, throughout history, in most cases been the go-getter. Hunter, provider, gatherer, and later, wage-earner, bread winner. Women, throughout history, have in most cases been the protector of the home and family. Farmer, child-bearer, cook, and so on. These roles do have exceptions, and there have been female warriors, and males that are better suited as nurturers. It’s just that things tend to work better when we do the things God hard-wired us for. Modern society also thinks the Church is misogynistic because of her stance on birth control and abortion, but again, the Church believes that sex is only for inside the marriage bond, that birth control is an interruption of God’s plan, and that all human life is sacred. It is not, and never has been, an attempt to control women.
When all is said and done, the Church does not hate women, in fact, does not hate anyone. The Church tries to teach us how to live a life that will prepare us for heaven.