Jack asked:

A friend commented to me that he thought the Catholic church was misogynistic. What has the Church done for women over the centuries?

My friend also mentioned how the bible talks about slavery.

[Editor's note: The second question is answered on this page.

Mark Brumley replied:

"...Does the Church hate women? No, the Church loves women. In fact, the Church herself is female. The greatest member of the Church is Mary, the mother of God. I would not say that the Church hates women ... I would recommend you read, recommend your friend read Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem, which means the dignity of women, where he outlines in very, I think, accessible form, the Church's perspective on women ...

A number of books I'd recommend, I'd start with Teresa Tomeo's book Extreme Makeover. She's a very articulate, outspoken Catholic woman. I don't think she would be in the Catholic church if the Catholic church were misogynistic. Also would recommend Helen Alvare's book Breaking the Silence Catholic Women Speak for Themselves. [He means Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves] ... So those are some books you can go to ... There's also ... Rodney Stark wrote a book called The Rise of Christianity in which he explained how Christianity became so successful in taking over the very pagan and aggressive and anti-Christian Roman Empire.

And in a word the Church was successful because of women. Christianity gave women a superior status to that of the pagan, Roman society where they were really treated as second class citizens. Whereas in Christianity they were treated as a fundamental equal with men. Well what happens is women converted to Christianity in the early centuries and then they convert their husbands and because Christian husbands respected their women more than non-Christian husbands respected their non-Christian women, what happens is the Christian families are larger. Women don't suffer as much. They have leadership roles in the Church and so on. And as a result, Christians proliferate and take over the Roman Empire..."

Monique's take:

Can you name for me any religion that honors some of its female adherants so much that it gives them the highest titles and influences on doctrine? There are several female saints who have been declared "Doctor of the Church" due to their teachings and knowledge about God. Catholics promote and share the writings of Doctors of the Church more than other writings. Their title is the most honorable title a saint can have. Some female Doctors of the Church include St. Teresa of Ávila, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and St. Hildegard of Bingen.

Several other inspiring Catholic women have greatly influenced the Catholic Church over the years, and have been well respected in positions of leadership. Some of these celebrated women include Blessed Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, Edith Stein (St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross), St. Gianna Beretta Molla, and even my own confirmation saint, St. Madeleine Sophie Barat. Many of these women were highly educated and one of them, St. Gianna Beretta Molla, was a pediatrician.

It is interesting to note that Bl. John Paul II supported and encouraged a "new feminism." In his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, he wrote:

"In transforming culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a "new feminism" which rejects the temptation of imitating models of "male domination", in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society, and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation." (EV 99)

As a woman I have been in leadership roles and would not be part of the Catholic Church if it was misogynistic or hated women. I believe Catholic Church has a refreshing view of human life where men and women respect and compliment each other. Scripture posits that both men and women are created in the image of God and have equal dignity before God (Genesis 1:26-27, Galatians 3:28).

Source material:

Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem of the Supreme Pontiff John Paull II on the dignity and vocation of women on the occasion of the Marian year.

Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture by Teresa Tomeo

Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves by Helen Alvare

The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark

Sexuality and Authority in the Catholic Church by Monica Migliorino Miller


Catholic Answers, "Open Forum" (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2013)

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of the answer provided. For the complete response download the podcast.

Click icon for archived podcast answering this question in its entirety.

Show air date: October 3, 2013

Name of show: Open Forum

Guest comments by: Mark Brumley

Question appeared in show: 2:!3

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