Misogynistic Attitudes in the Catholic Church

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, “the church is misogynistic.” It treats women differently. It sees women as nothing more than baby incubators.

As a woman, who hopes to work in ministry, I see more men than women leaders. A look at the top Catholic apologetics proves my point; they are all men for the most part.

Yet it has not always been that way.

I remember being challenged and intrigued by St Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle. Thus, I believe the church as always given a voice to women in ministry. It’s not always single women either. In fact, my confirmation saint, Elizabeth Seton, was a mother and widow before founding the sisters of charity. She founded the first Catholic free school in America. Oh, and I can’t forget that she was a convert like me.

So there has been and always will be a bunch of amazing Catholic women in the church. So where is this supposed misogynistic attitude coming from?

Confronting Misogynistic Attitudes

So I am facebook friends with this guy, who created a facebook group for Catholic converts. We agree on almost everything except women in ministry. He argues that women cannot teach men. Respectfully I believe this is a misinterpretation of St Paul.

Is St Paul Misogynistic?

A lot of liberal progressive Christian’s dismiss the writings of St. Paul. They claim that his opinion regarding women reflects a misogynistic culture. Yet everyone is cool with St. Paul when he writes,

”There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

Basically, you can’t agree with St Paul only when he says things you agree with and only claim cultural misogyny when you disagree. Instead, let’s look at some conflicting passages.

St Paul’s writings

” Women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. But if they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home. For it is improper for a woman to speak in the church. Did the word of God go forth from you? Or has it come to you alone?” 1st Corinthians 14:34

Ok, this looks bad in modern society.

How can a person say that men and women are one under Christ and demand silence? Furthermore, St Paul contradicts himself in the same letter.

1st Corinthians 11:5, “But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled brings shame upon her head, for it is one and the same thing as if she had had her head shaved”

If women are to be kept silent, then why are they praying and prophesying out loud to God. Has St. Paul gone crazy?

No, of course not.

1st Corinthians 14:34 refers to certain duties such as giving homilies. Women were not to speak within sacred structured worship. Rather a male clergy was commissioned to preach and teach. This is true of Jewish synagogues and is also true of the early church.

Modern Day Catholic Church: Still Misogynistic?

Catechism on Women

When I began writing this, I wanted to know what the Catechism said about women’s role in the church.

Surprisingly I didn’t find much.

Man and woman have been created, which is to say, willed by God: on the one hand, in perfect equality as human persons; on the other, in their respective beings as man and woman. “Being a man” or “being a woman” is a reality which is good and willed by God: man and woman possess an inalienable dignity which comes to them immediately from God their Creator.240 Man and woman are both with one and the same dignity “in the image of God”. In their “being-man” and “being-woman”, they reflect the Creator’s wisdom and goodness. (CCC 369)

So there is just one paragraph on men and women’s roles. The Catechism emphasizes the shared dignity of both men and women. Yet, it also stresses the being a man or being a woman is willed by God. This seems to imply an inherent difference.

Code of Canon Law: Women

According to the 1917 Code of Canon law and the 1912 encyclopedia article, women were not capable of receiving sacred orders. Thus, women were forbidden from ministering at the altar.

In religious and moral matters, the common obligations and responsibilities of men and women are the same. There is not one law for a man and another for a woman, and in this, of course, the canons follow the teachings of Christ. Women, however, are not capable of certain functions pertaining to religion.

I will address why women are not capable of sacred orders in my next blog post. For now, let’s accept that as a valid claim. Yet women do serve the altar in most modern masses. How is that possible?

Enter Code of canon law of 1983.

Canon law 230 section 2 is the problem. It states that both male and females can serve as liturgical functions on a temporary basis.

Since section 2 does not specify gender; it is okay for females to be altar servers on a volunteer basis.

In traditional Catholicism, altar servers were considered to be a minor religious order required in order to be a priest. Now they are on a volunteer basis.

Future of the Catholic Church

I live in a world where women pretend to be like men to survive. Thus, it can seem wrong to claim that men and women are made differently. It can seem wrong that men may be better at something. So when the church yet again stops women from serving, the world will cry out that the church is misogynistic. Yet we faithful Catholics know the truth. We know that we have a special role to play beyond the altar.

To learn more about amazing women doctors of the church,
check out this article here

wear, clothes

What Not to Wear: Mass Edition

Growing up I loved the show What Not to Wear on TLC. I loved seeing people get an updated more modern and sophisticated look.

In my own life, I like to dress up. I am not a girly girl by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t go out of the house in sweat pants. I always dress up for Mass.

Although I must confess that I’ve worn jeans to mass before.

I didn’t think what I wore to Mass was such a contentious topic until I saw this tweet.

Dear Catholic men: Why are you wearing cargo shorts and flip-flops for Sunday Mass? You wouldn’t wear anything close to beachwear for a) a job interview, b) a wedding, or c) dinner with the Queen of England, and you know it.

Patrick Coffin’s point is that we should show respect because the king of the universe is present. Does God actually care what we wear? What does the Bible say about our clothing?

Old Testament Clothes

So the first mention of clothes occurs in Genesis chapter 3.

then the eyes of both were open and they knew they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons. Genesis 3:7

So in the garden, they were naked.

This represents innocence.

Yet when sin entered they wanted to cover up. They felt shame and guilt. This translated into being embarrassed about our bodies.

Yet our bodies are not shameful. Your body was created by God. In fact, God gives us clothes.

and the Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of skin and clothed them. Genesis 3:21

God clothes Adam and Eve with garments of skin. The plants were not sufficient because their sin required a blood sacrifice. Thus, clothes function to hide our shame and guilt. God already knows what I have done. He knows our bodies. Thus clothes are for us. It is to protect us from being vulnerable.

So how does this affect the New Testament community?

The writings of St. Paul

After the gospels and book of Acts, there are the letters of St. Paul. Letters can be tricky. When I read the letter, I am reading the answer without knowing the context or question. Nevertheless, we know that the letter authors were writing to churches. They were correcting problems.

St. Paul had problems with the church of Corinth. Things were getting out of hand. Here’s what St Paul said about women’s attire in the church.

For if a woman does not have her head veiled, she may as well have her hair cut off. But if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should wear a veil.

Don’t grab your hair veil just yet!

Paul is recognizing the fact that women are subordinate to men.

Now feminist, hear me out.

Paul absolutely believes that man and women are equal under God.

Yet he recognizes that women have a unique role and purpose. Our job is to be a helpmate to men. In Paul’s time, both men and women wore veils. Yet in the house of God, women should veil to show their unique relationship. Likewise in Paul’s time, having short hair associated you with a less honorable class of women such as prostitutes and lesbians.

Hence women should dress in accordance with their God-given role.

Paul elaborates on this in his letter to Timothy.

Similarly, too, women should adorn themselves with proper conduct, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hairstyles and gold ornaments, or pearls, or expensive clothes, but rather, as befits women who profess reverence for God, with good deeds. 1 Timothy 2:9

Paul does advise against braided hairstyles, gold ornaments, and expensive clothes. Yet his main goal is to emphasize modesty. Our reverence to God is shown not by being flashy, but by good works.

Take away

So the point is not so we can have an excuse to dress however we want. Our clothes do reflect our hearts. If we are respectful and reverent, we will put more effort into our appearance.

Yet this issue can’t fit in a 280 character tweet.

A person’s holiness is not measured by what they wear, but rather by what they do.

I think I’ll keep wearing my nice dark jeans and a nice modest top.

Behold Your Mother

Everyone has a mother. Maybe you don’t know your mother. Maybe she wasn’t a very good mother. Maybe, like me, you had the best mother in the world. Regardless, you had a mother.

Motherhood deserves recognition because you would not exist otherwise. They for whatever reason decided to have you.

In honor of this special day, I would like to take a moment to showcase mothers in the Bible.

Biblical Mothers

There are a lot of good mother figures in the Bible. Samson’s mother and Hannah stand out to me.

In Judges 13, we learn that Samson’s mother was barren. God told her that she would bear a son, who would deliver the Israelites from Philistines. God instructs her to not drink wine or strong drink and to not eat anything unclean.

Hannah’s story is similar. She was also barren. Hannah prayed in the temple. She vowed that if God looked on her affections and gave her a son, she would dedicate him to God. (1st Samuel 1:11)

I think the actions of these Old Testament women foreshadowed Mary, the Mother of God.

Mary, the mother of Jesus

John 19:27 Then he said to the disciple, “behold your mother” and from that hour the disciple took her into his own home

In Luke chapter 1:28, the angel greets Mary as being full of grace. In Luke 1:42, Elizabeth exclaims that Mary is blessed among women. Last Jesus in John tells us to honor her as a mother.

Death Just Got Weird: Reviving Pigs Brains

cemetery with grave stones reminding people of death

“Bioethics is a fascinating field of philosophy because we don’t have to make this shit up”

Professor Arras said that countless times in my many lectures on bioethical issues. I have never felt that more clear than when I read the headline:

Scientists- We kept pig brains alive 10 hours after death. Bioethicists- “Holy shit.”

Explanation of the Experiment

Basically, the scientist decided to test the hypothesis that brain death is irreversible. They took 32 pig’s brains from slaughtered pigs. They waited for four hours. Then the pig’s brains where plugged into BrainEx for six hours. (if you want a detailed description on how the system works please see here). The study concludes that certain brain cells were alive. The cells were not communicative with each other. Yet, they were performing basic functions. Thus, the scientist created all sorts of problems for ethicists.

Death

I spent most of my undergrad philosophy career studying death and dying issues. When we die is a fascinating question. One that has implications for us spiritually.

Life After Death

Catholics define death as a separation of the soul from the body. So do we have a soul? Certain people are blessed to have an experience of what life is beyond the grave. For the rest of us, we have this inner longing for something more than biological. It is this inner longing that points to the Catholic understanding of the soul. There are 7 reasons to
“believe in a soul.
One is the philosophical idea that the existence of one thing necessitates the existence of another. For example, the existence of a male dog necessitates the existence of a female dog. The desire for something more than our biological self necessitates an actual immortal existence.

What is the Soul

Ok, so we have proven that an immortal soul exists in humans. My question has always been where and what is it? I always assumed consciousness was the location of the soul.

I was wrong

The soul according to Catholic thought is the life force of the body. It does not just reside in one part but animates the whole. For this reason, the soul is unquantifiable. Thus, science has had to resort to other philosophical meaning about death.

Scientific Death

There are 3 different views on when we die. The views are whole-brain death, the essence of the human person, and circulatory-respiratory standard. All three fail to pinpoint when you die.

Whole Brain

Death occurs when either circulatory and respiratory functions stop working. Death also comes when the whole brain including brain stem has stopped working. Two problems with this definition. First, the brain is not responsible for the integration of bodily functions. A brain dead patient can still perform the functions of life. This includes healing wounds and digesting food. Second certain individuals with lock-in syndrome are considered brain dead. Yet these individuals actually are aware. Thus it appears one can be alive even when brain dead.

Essence of a Human Person

For these people, it matters not that an organism performs biological functions. What matters is what makes us human. If we lose what makes us human, we are dead. Proponents argue that what makes us human is the capacity for consciousness.

The problem with this view is that it ignores humanity’s biological nature. We are more than mere minds. Common sense tells us that we still exist even if we lose our mental capacity.

Circulatory-respiratory Standard

Death occurs when circulatory-respiratory functions stop working. It explains the difficult cases such as locked-in syndrome and prenatal humans. Yet it fails to account for the importance of mental life. Humans are more than body’s that can pump blood and breathe. Second, it creates problems for organ donation. The dead-donor rule only allows organs to be donated from dead persons. If respiratory function still exists then under the Circulatory-respiratory standard the person is still alive. It is better to get organs from a patient on a ventilator. Yet this would be illegal under the dead donor rule.

What About the Pigs

The revival of the pigs begs two philosophical questions. First, was the experiment to revive an animal ethical? Second, What does this imply for those undergoing brain death? If cells in the brain can be revived, can we really say a person with no brain functioning is dead? If such a person is not dead, can we ethically procure organs from them? It calls for a new standard of death. One that recognizes that death is a gradual progression. We are not minds trapped in an organic body. Nor are we mere organic bodies, but we are both.