The Catholic female experience grows strangely accustomed to public ridicule. Countless conversations echo;”what a shame it is that an intelligent, bright woman like yourself is Catholic.” Oftentimes women pose the question,”so you want to be barefoot and pregnant your whole life then…and what about contraception?!” with preconceived answer in mind. or one of my personal favorites”you know the Catholic church hates women!” These exchanges plague my conversational memory. Ironically enough, these common presumptions about the Catholic Church could not be further from the truth. What many fail to understand is that it was the Catholic Church and Jesus Christ it’s founder that gave birth to the widespread belief of equality…the very premise of the feminist movement. And that it is in fact Jesus Christ and His church that championed the feminine voice in politics, religion, war, and society for the first time in human history.
Let us start at the dawn of the Catholic Church with the ministry of Jesus Christ paying particular attention to Luke’s Gospel. The gospel begins with an account of the Annunciation, which describes a moment where God entrusted the course of human salvation to a young, teenaged girl, Mary. A teenage girl conquers satan, evil, and death by accepting God’s divine plan and by bringing forth His Son, Jesus Christ. How incredible… that God chose to bring about human salvation about through the choice and body of a woman! In Luke’s Gospel we also discover that Jesus had female disciples that accompanied him during his ministry. Luke Chapter 23 mentions that at the crucifixion “the women who had followed him from Galilee” (Luke 23:49) were present. In Luke’s account of the Resurrection,moreover, we discover that “Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the Mother of James” (Luke 24:10), three women, were first people to learn of Christ’s resurrection. More incredible still, the first person to witness the Risen Lord was Mary Magdalene who wept at his empty tomb (John 20). What the gospel accounts illustrate is that through His birth, ministry, passion, and resurrection, Jesus Christ not only came to save all men, Jews, gentiles, men, women, children, but he valued the roles of men and women in salvation history and in the founding of His church on earth, the Catholic Church, equally. In the wake of Christ’s ministry, we find values of human equality…of feminine equality. In this sense, the Feminist movement owes its very idealism to the Christian value of equality of human persons instituted by Christ Himself. And by fostering hatred of the Catholic Church, modern feminists slander the lifesource of their principle identity, ironically enough.
While many individuals would not challenge the fact that Jesus Christ was a strong proponent of feminine equality, many would contest the fact that the Catholic Church historically and in present day was and continues to be an advocate of women’s equality. However, if more individuals researched the history of The Church and its prominent female figures and saints they would readily affirm that the Catholic church promoted feminine equality, advancement, and the feminine contribution. Consider first, St. Hildegard of Bingen who lived in the 1000s on the Rhine River in Germany. A Benedictine nun, author, Doctor of the Church, and physician, she was regarded as a seer in the early church and received visions from God; revelations which she published in her work entitled the Scivias. An outspoken, highly revered female figure in medieval Europe, she bravely confronted Emperor Frederick Barbarossa for his support of anti-papal movements, challenged early reformation groups in Germany, and publicly criticized and confronted corrupt clergymen for selling offices, surrounding themselves with luxury, and their sexual libations. Hildegard demanded respect from the papacy and aristocracy of Europe and her preaching, natural medicinal writings, and spiritual writing had a lasting impact on medieval Europe and the Church today.
St. Joan of Arc, a 12 year old peasant girl living in 15th century France, answered God’s call in a multitude of visions, and took up France’s coat of arms in the 100 Years War. This fearless, inspirational teenage girl lead French troops to victory renewing the cities of Orleans and Troyes to French control and won the thrown back for Charles VII as king of Reims. She now serves as The Church’s patron saint of all soldiers and of France. If the Catholic Church were honestly against feminine equality, I highly doubt they would choose a teenage girl living in the medieval ages to be the patron saint of soldiers and military endeavors; a traditionally masculine occupation.
Aside from St. Hildegard and St. Joan, there are countless Catholic female saints and holy women who testament how the Catholic Church cherishes and promotes feminine advancement in the church and in the world; consider St. Catherine of Siena, St. Rita, Mother Angelica, St. Angela, St. Bridget, and St. Teresa of Calcutta, and thousands more. Sadly, despite these womens’ testimonies, much of the world today falsely holds that The Catholic Church is anti-woman and anti-equality largely because of its teachings on contraception and abortion. What many fail to realize is that the church’s teaching against contraception stems from its respect for feminine fertility and the female body, not out of disdain or a desire to chain them. The church’s pro-life stance is not based on its desire to hinder women from pursuing their dreams, but rather to protect the innocent life of an unborn child. Modern feminism has convinced society that the key to feminine advancement is in gaining reproductive rights, in shedding feminine mannerisms, and in man-shaming. In this manner true feminism has been turned on its head!
Modern feminism has bastardized the very definition of what it means to be a true feminist…it preaches feminine superiority, thrives on hatred of men, and a disdain for God’s unique gifts to women as beauty bearers and custodians of human fertility. It encourages women to reject their feminine uniqueness and instead seek to achieve success through masculine qualities. True feminism, however, seeks feminine equality and opportunity in a purely feminine manner that honors women’s God given nature and gifts. As women we must seek to be appreciated, respected, and achieve as a woman with feminine qualities, not as a woman in pursuit of the masculine. That is the way Satan wins; a world devoid of holy, powerful women and instead full of women who reject their own feminine power and uniqueness in pursuit of the masculine.