The myth of misogyny in the Catholic Church


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.

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16 thoughts on “The myth of misogyny in the Catholic Church

  1. If you want to burst the myth of mysogyny read the last two verses of the pseudo-Gospel of Thomas. The disciples ask the Lord about Mary and what will happen to her at the end of the world. Jesus replies, “At the end of time, all the women will be turned into men.” If the Church was mysogynist would would we not have put that into the Canon of Scripture.

  2. Thanks, Father for your input. Question though…Since the comment is in the pseudo-gospel of Thomas, it’s not in the canon of scripture, is it? I truly know that woman is revered by the church, just because of the status and responsibility of given to mothers. Women today don’t see motherhood as anything of great status, but the truth is that there is no more important job than that of being a mother.

  3. “and all men into women.” would fit well. After all, the last shall be first
    and the first shall be last. Sounds scriptually fair to me.

  4. In the addendum for the pseudo-gospel of Thomas, right after where Jesus
    replies, “At the end of time, all the women will be turned into men.”
    By the way, my husband also thought it fair.

  5. But if you believe that it’s a pseudo-gospel, then it’s not canonical, scriptural or worthy of belief. I don’t believe that all women will be turned to men at the end of time. That’s not Catholic teaching, at all.

  6. I used ‘pseudo-gospel’ purely to deliniate where to put my comment. It was to add to your original statement of what you stated was in the psuedo-gospel of Thomas. I never said I believed in it either way.

  7. Says the vast majority of Catholic women. If you’re sitting outside, looking in and criticizing, you’re entitled to your opinion. But unless you can show specifics, and prove misogyny, I’ll believe Catholic women. So tell me, in your opinion, what does the Catholic Church do or teac that’s misogynistic?

  8. Not going to argue with you about the dimensions of your “vast majority”, nor specific instances. I am not an outsider. In fact, when my sister left the convent this misogyny was one of the reasons.

  9. So, answer the question I asked: in your opinion, what does the Catholic Church do or teach that’s misogynistic? In other words, prove your assertion.

  10. Misogynistic is the wrong term since it’s doubtful the Catholic Church hates women, but when a woman is allowed to be a priest, cardinal or Pope, then this male dominated institution will at least show some evidence that it consideres women as equal and therefore trustworthy of leadership in their chruch. Afterall you wouldn’t be happy with a corporation that never allowed women to ascend higher than secretary or office manager would you? It’s way past time for the Vatican to step into the 21st century, or at least the second half of the 20th century.

  11. Can you, Eric, be anything you want to be? Are you allowed to be pregnant? Are you allowed to be a lion? Of course, the answer is no.

    Likewise, if you weigh 100 lbs or 500 lbs, you’re not a candidate to be a fireman. And even if you get to a weight where you can perform a fire-fighter’s duties, it doesn’t mean you’ll be accepted as one.

    By the same token, the Church does not take someone as a priest simply because he desires to be one. Or, replace he with she. A man can profess his desire, go through all the stages of seminary, right down to laying face forward on the floor of the cathedral in front of the bishop and be denied ordination. So, all humans are equally equipped to not be a priest.

    Corporations are not the same as the Catholic Church. We take Christ as our example, and while He had male and female disciples, he did not ordain any but the Apostles, and all were male. The argument that Christ was succumbing to the attitude of the times is false, too because there were lots of priestesses in pagan sects all around the Eastern Mediterranean.

    Personally, I do not think exempting or allowing someone to do a job based on their gender makes any sense at all, in the secular world. But if you wanted to talk about all the things a woman can be in the Church, then you’d see that women are very important in the Church. In fact, our highest humanly honor goes to a woman, the Mother of God. We have women who were doctors of the Church, who served as advisors to popes, cardinals and bishops, women who teach and catechise our children, and women who serve the most important role-that of mother.

  12. So your argument is basically that a woman doesn’t have the physical attributes to be Pope? That’s what your first two paragraphs seems to be suggesting. Comparing men’s biological inability to get pregnant to a women being incapable of becoming a priest or cardinal is absurd. I didn’t argue that every woman has the capability to be these roles, just like every Catholic male doesn’t. This is self evident. My argument is that women should have at least the chance to become these roles.
    If it doesn’t make sense to exempt or not allow someone to do any job based only on their gender in the secular world, why would it make sense in the Catholic world? This is a copout. The Catholic church has many times been dragged into modernity by the secular world and it should be done in this case as well, as I’m sure it will be someday.
    By the way, if you’re going to use the phrase “in fact” refering the highest humanly honor going to a woman, being the mother of god, you have to prove that there even is a god. Otherwise, it’s not a fact, just a faith based statement.
    Also, your last paragraph could have and probably was used in the first half of the 20th century to justify keeping woman home and not in the workplace, unless they were teachers or other “important roles” as deemed by men with your type of thinking.
    Good luck with your middle ages logic.

  13. No, you’ve missed the point. The point is that, just because you think you can be something, doesn’t mean you have the ability or qualifications. One of Jesus’ obvious qualifications for his apostles, the first of His priests, was that they be male.

    I would argue that it does make sense to exclude one gender for some jobs. I think it makes great sense for women not to be firefighters, police or infantry.

    But before we even begin arguing about woman priesthood, we have to work on the other. There are many proofs of the existence of God. I’d recommmend visiting http://www.magisreasonfaith.org/ for that.

    By the way, good logic, and good science, is ageless and timeless, because it is of God.

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