Do God and His Church Hate Women?

Do God and His Church Hate Women? May 6, 2013

“The reason why any free, independent woman would call herself a Christian is beyond me.”

This thought came from a blog that I read yesterday. It’s a small personal blog, but the sentiment it expresses is passed around among unbelievers like a toke at an dorm party from the 1960s. That makes it worth talking about.

Does God tell Christian women, as this author proclaims, to “shut the h— up?”

Are Christian women downtrodden, silenced people who are not allowed to speak up about the things that matter to us?

While I can’t speak for every Christian woman in every denomination in all the world, I am a rather public member of the largest Christian denomination on this Earth. You may have noticed that nobody’s silenced me. 

In fact, I can honestly say that nobody wearing a collar has ever tried to silence me. That is not to say that the collar-wearers in my life don’t get perturbed by me and disagree with me from time to time. But silence me? Nope. Nobody has tried. Not once. Never.

If they did, it wouldn’t do them a lot of good. You can convince me that I’m wrong. It’s not easy, but it has been done. But you can’t just yell at me and tell me to shut up and get me to change my opinion. It won’t/doesn’t/hasn’t ever worked.

I would like to remind the readers of this last paragraph that I have been a woman for decades now. Before that, I was a little girl, and before that, I was a baby girl. My female credentials are undisputed. 

I have definitely had people try to silence me in the course of all these years of living, but not once has anyone wearing a collar been the attempted silencer. In fact, a good number of the people trying to get me to shut up have been other women who were mad as a nest of proverbial hornets at me for defending the unborn.

From what I’ve read, sexism in atheist circles is rife. It is also of a particularly vicious type.

Those who try to attack Christianity for its supposed mistreatment of women always trot out a series of Bible verses written by St Paul that truly are used against women in some churches. Unbelievers attempt to use this as “proof” that God wants women to be silenced. They ignore Deborah, who judged the tribes of Israel and was basically their commander in chief during a successful military engagement. They don’t mention Our Lady who asked the Lord Himself to help out at the wedding at Cana and then ignored Him when he demurred and … He obeyed her.

I assume that those who bandy Scripture about to “prove” that God “hates women” are operating more from ignorance than anything else. They are unaware of Church teaching on the full dignity of women, unlearned about the many women saints, some of whom, such as St Catharine of Siena, were downright salty in their criticisms of the male hierarchy.

St Catharine was exercising the great moral courage of women when she did this, and by doing it, she was following the Lord. It’s no accident that the Church regards this outspoken woman as a Doctor of the Church. It’s a direct function of her refusal to be silent when speaking out was the moral and Christian thing to do.

Catholic women are not battered, silenced and ignored. We may not be priests, but we are movers and shakers in the world at large, as well as our homes, and yes, in the Church as well. I have never encountered resistance from any of the bishops I’ve dealt with when I asked them for support in the fight to end violence against and degradation of women. In fact, the strongest supporters of legislation to provide protections for women have been officials in the Catholic Church.

I am not claiming that everything is golden for women throughout all the Christian world. Sin is everywhere in this fallen world, including, sadly, the church. I have personally witnessed a congregation that allowed itself to be drug into a vote on whether or not a rape victim should be allowed to remain part of that congregation. This was not a Catholic parish. It was an independent and quite small Protestant congregation.

Sin against women does exist in churches and among Christians. But it is not of God, and it is not the policy or the universal practice of Christians. Sins against women are condemned, and rightfully so, by the Catholic Church. The teachings of Blessed John Paul II are a case in point.

No woman has to be afraid that converting to the Catholic Church will deprive her of the freedom to exercise her individual voice on behalf of women’s rights. I have found that rather than silencing me, the Church has supported me in my feminist work. I do not feel diminished as a human being because I am both a woman and a Christian. I feel empowered by it. 

I have prayed, studied and thought about this a lot. I believe with my whole heart that when I stand up to fight against the degradation or limitation of women, I am speaking from the heart of the Gospels and with the full support of Catholic teaching. I do not doubt that my angels stand beside me and the Holy Spirit is working through me when I do these things.

Far from coercing me to sit down and shut up, the Church has taught me the meaning of fearless advocacy for justice of all people, including and most especially women. 

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11 responses to “Do God and His Church Hate Women?”

  1. Yes, I find it highly annoying, that people like to tell me what my life is like, simply because I am a religious Catholic woman. It’s like they have done all the research on my life.

    The picture they paint, does not reflect my life.

  2. The women I taught with in the Catholic school were far from silent, obedient women. They expressed themselves when they found it necessary. Being raised in a non-Catholic church, I didn’t find that the Methodists devalued women either—women are ministers in that denomination as well as others. IMO there are some Christian denominations that do think a women’s place is only in the home. Period.

  3. Sociology distinguishes various types of sexism — “benevolent sexism” and “hostile sexism” (with those terms usually reserved for the more common case when it is directed at women; there’s also measures for the attitude toward men). That Catholicism is relatively low on hostile sexism isn’t exactly news — see for example (doi:10.1023/A:1021696209949). That, however, doesn’t address its possible degree of benevolent sexism.

    There appears (doi:10.1177/0146167206294745) to be an association between the measures for “hostile sexism” and “social dominance orientation”, while measures of “benevolent sexism” and the so-called “right wing authoritarianism” associate more. Atheists tend to be relatively low on RWA, but while there’s no correlation on SDO to religiosity overall, a correlation for atheists who join groups tending high-SDO could be a proximate explanation of the prevalence of overt hostile sexism there.

    Similarly, my subjective impression is that those in non-Mainline Protestant sects may tend to run higher SDO than Catholics do; I’d particularly expect it among sects emphasizing predestination and unconditional election in their theology. However, I’m not able to turn up any empirical data that would indicate relative levels of SDO between strains of Christianity and whether or not the conjecture is correct.

  4. The death of Savita Halappanavar suggests that Catholics would rather let a women AND her fetus die than abort the doomed fetus to save the woman.
    A very low value was placed on that woman’s life.

  5. Rebecca, while I think that this is an excellent post, I notice that the blogger (who is basically talking to herself, so one seems to read or respond to what she has to say) was specifically talking about scriptural passages. While I think that your arguments from experience are valuable, they may not mean anything to the people who maintain that those passages are inherently sexist. Maybe you could do a follow up discussing those passages in particular?

  6. Sure. But not anytime soon. I’m too busy with my job to dig into it right now.

  7. Life-saving abortions are permitted in Ireland. This was a case of malpractise, where the doctors did not even read her lab report in time.

    Catholic teaching also permits indirect abortions in her case.

  8. Here’s an attempt at a brief explanation. In the early days, Christians did not meet in a church building. It was in houses, where the atmosphere was informal and there was a tendency to turn things into a house party.

    Paul would not have made these statements if these women were not talking to begin with. It has to do with order in the church.

  9. “Also, calls for a meals priesthood focus on power.”

    Exactly. A ministry based on service and sacrifice, is now being turned into one of power and prestige, by the same people who claim to rally against cericalism.

  10. Ah yes, the “indirect abortion”, perhaps the most brazenly misogynistic position in all of Christendom. The one where the Catholic Church says that an unnecessary invasive surgical procedure to damage a woman’s fertility is more “moral” than the life-saving non-invasive non-surgical procedure that doesn’t harm her fertility whatsoever.
    You have some nerve typing the phrase “indirect abortion” under a column about whether the Church hates women. You’ve answered the question magnificently.