Sunday, August 19, 2012

How the Catholic Church Views Its Women

Recently, this question was asked:

I was wondering about your thoughts. I've asked many strong independent Catholic women why they feel so strongly about an organization that is exclusive to the point where women are more or less considered "2nd tier citizens."  

Men run the Church. Men decide what is good for or best for women, without any hope of a woman ever ascending to a position of authority in terms of interpreting doctrine and guiding women henceforth. 

Just curious as to your thoughts on this, as I have had many varied answers to date (and none of them seem adequate) from defiant hopes that the Church will change from within (yeah right, 2000 years and counting...) to a meek response of, "It's how I was raised and all I know."

Can you please share with me your thoughts?  Thank you!

Here's my response:

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me and wanting to hear my view! 

The good news is that this impression is very mistaken about how the Catholic Church regards its women! 


1. Women are NOT considered second class citizens.  They are equals (although different) to men.
2. Both men and women can have leadership positions in the church.
3. The interpretation of doctrine and ethics is NOT limited to men only.
4. Women ARE allowed to teach and guide others, including other women, men, and children.

In my experience, there is no other Church on earth that honors women like the Catholic Church does!  The Catholic Church is widely known for honoring Mary, the Mother of God.  We believe she was the best servant of Jesus and therefore is to be emulated!  As a result of the church's high regard for Mary, all women in the church are likewise honored.  I have not seen this sort of honoring in other churches.

Here are a few ways that the average Catholic woman is honored in the Catholic church.  Unlike how women are treated in many other churches, the Catholic Church first honors women on a physical level.  On a fundamental level, her fertility is to be respected and cherished with an understanding that it is cyclical, meaning that--by God's design--she is not always able to get pregnant.  This is why the Catholic Church tells men that they may not love their wives impulsively by using birth control to arrest her fertility but rather that they must respect all of her (including her fertility), love her, and ABSTAIN temporarily from intercourse if the couple wants to give up and postpone a pregnancy.  The man's actions must be in loving response to the woman's fertility.  His commitment to her must be faithful, fruitful, total, and true.  In fact, as the Bible says, he is called to love her as Christ loves the Church which means that he is to lay down his very own life for her!

On a spiritual level, the Catholic Church honors the feminine persona of women and connects this to the feminine aspects of God.  I could expand upon these nurturing virtues if you'd like me to.  There is much that could be said on this beautiful topic!!

Women in the Catholic Church are seen as DIFFERENT but EQUAL to men.  One gender is definitely not valued over the other.  Each gender offers us different gifts.  For example, for whatever reason, God chose only WOMEN to bring new life into the world through the birth of a child.  Likewise, for whatever reason, God/Jesus chose only men for the priesthood.  We do not know God's reasoning for allowing only women to give life and for only men to be priests.  But we know that everything He designs is made from a pure love for us!

Although some local churches are fine with young women being altar servers (assisting the priest during mass), and although there is nothing inherently wrong with it, I personally am not a fan of this.  It is not because I don't think a young woman can be a wonderful altar server.  Indeed, she can.  Rather, it is because I feel the position should be reserved for a young man who--being in such a position of being an assistant to a priest--might begin to entertain thoughts of the vocation of the priesthood for himself and therefore might be inspired toward it.  In other words, being an altar server can BENEFIT a young man by leading him toward a vocation to the priesthood.

So, to conclude, women and men are each valued equally but each appreciated differently in the Church and the basis for this difference is nothing more than what God Himself has revealed to us through basic biology and Jesus' teachings.

Please let me know what further questions you have!