The Catholic Church Does Not Oppress Women; It Empowers Them

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I’ve written about feminism before (both here and as a guest poster), but I’d like to dig a little deeper into a topic I touched on: secular society’s idea that the Catholic Church Oppresses women. On the contrary, I believe the Catholic Church upholds the dignity of women the best in our broken world.

The Church provides us with amazing female role models.

The Church provides us with amazing female role models. Click To Tweet

The most important person to ever walk the earth after Jesus is His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. God gave Mary a huge responsibility: caring for and raising Jesus Christ. She is the recipient of so much honor and respect (not worship). She also totally kicks Satan’s butt (meme from Not So Formulaic). 

From Not So Formulaic

As incredible as Mary is, she isn’t only example of Catholic femininity.We see it expressed in a variety of ways.

St. Joan of Arc sacrificed her own desires, and ultimately her life, to do what God was calling her to do; she was known for her virtuous nature, especially her humility. St. Zelie ran her own business while raising her children in a very Catholic household. St. Therese (the Little Flower) lived simply and didn’t intend on making grand gestures; she became a doctor of the Church and is an incredibly popular saint. Saint Mother Teresa is one of our default examples when describing holiness Javier Perez of Cuellar, a former UN Secretary, called her “the most powerful woman in the world.” 

And this just brushes the surface. There is no singular step-by-step plan to be a holy woman in the eyes of the Church.

The Church displays the Goldilocks Zone of sexual expression.

While we are making progress, American society still oversexualizes a woman’s body. Everywhere we look, we see this extreme sexualization and objectification. On the other end of the spectrum, we see some really extreme ideas of modesty where we as women are told our bodies are bad, and we get blamed for men falling into lust.

The Catholic Church is in the Goldilocks Zone because it tells us we are a treasure. God gave us a beautiful body, and like anything that is valuable, it is worth protecting. This isn’t because it is bad, but because it is something so precious. 

The Catholic Church recognizes that our bodies are good and beautiful without objectifying us.

The Catholic Church recognizes that our bodies are good and beautiful without objectifying us. Click To Tweet

Though this is an in-depth topic, rather than going into a detailed explanation of Theology of the Body (10 quotes here), here are some posts that talk about some aspects of it.

Angie at Yellow Pelican wrote a great post addressing the lies Satan wants you to believe about chastity.

Sara at To Jesus, Sincerely wrote the best post on modesty I’ve ever read.

Rosanna Novia at Catholic Link wrote about the benefits of practicing chastity.

The Church supports us in our careers.

Contrary to “popular” opinion, I have actually received a lot of support in Catholic communities I have been part of in regards to my career as an engineer. As Ben and I were going through marriage prep, Ben being a stay-at-home dad was presented as just a valid option as me being a stay-at-home mother.

I have received encouragement and support in my experiences as a female in a male-dominated field. While I absolutely have faced discouragement from people regarding my career choice, it has not come from the Church.

The Church supports our desire to be mothers.

There is so much negativity surrounding motherhood. I hear things about how children ruin your career or even your life. While I’m not denying that children will change a person’s life, talking about another person like that (as something that ruins someone else’s life), even in hypotheticals, is horrifying. There is also the underlying message that choosing to have a family over a career is somehow the lesser of two choices. 

I absolutely respect gender equality, and I would love to see us move past the idea that mothers are the default choice for staying home,  but I also think we should celebrate the parent (mother or father) who does stay home with their children. This isn’t to criticize those who cannot financially afford to do so (it’s actually an injustice that it isn’t possible for all families), but instead, acknowledge that while stepping away from a job is a sacrifice, it is also a beautiful gift. There are many ways to support a family, and sometimes that is working and sometimes that is homemaking; we should recognize the validity of both choices.

Sara, a Catholic mother, wrote about her time as a successful mathematician and a “darn good mom” in this excellent post.

The Church provides resources to use NFP/ FAM (Natural Family Planning/ Fertility Awareness Methods).

The other side of that is how society tells me to avoid motherhood. Women are told by society that they need to consume a harmful drug to stop a healthy process in their body. The Catholic Church provides us with resources that work with what our bodies naturally does to control when we have children while ultimately leaving it up to God.

There are so many testimonies out there about how it helps achieve and avoid pregnancy, enhances marital intimacy, strengthens relationships, and helps catch other health issues. While it is by no means a requirement for a couple to use NFP, it is an overlooked, underrated tool.

I created a Pinterest board with information about FAMs, but for a quick look, here are 11 things to love about NFP. Though another blogger wrote it, I felt like it could’ve been my own list.

The Church encourages us to think critically.

Again, contrary to the opinion of the masses, the Catholic Church encourages us to seek the truth. As I highlighted by mentioning some of the female role models, the Church presents a variety of options on how to be a woman.

The Church encourages us to think critically. Click To Tweet

What I have found in the modern feminist movement is explicit instructions on precisely how women should act. In fact, feminists will say we should accept women’s decisions and then criticize us for being Catholic and/or accuse us of blindly following the Church. Rather than recognizing that many women very carefully considered the decision to be Catholic, we are insulted or even accused of being brainwashed. Furthermore, the Church tells us to seek the truth while society tells me there is no truth (unless “my truth” contradicts a certain agenda).

The Church celebrates what makes us uniquely feminine.

I sometimes feel like the modern feminist movement tells me that to be equal to men, I need to be the same. The Church celebrates the unique differences between the sexes while also making it abundantly clear that both men and women are equal in value and dignity.

The Church celebrates what makes us uniquely feminine. Click To Tweet

In fact, the term “feminine genius” is shared to describe the characteristics that women possess that make them important and necessary for the Church.

The Church recognizes we are both body and soul.

The Catholic Church teaches us to live in such a way that both my body and soul thrive. Instead, society focuses on bodily pleasures. As long as we’re not harming anyone else (except in abortion where it is “empowering” to end the life of another person), we’re doing the right thing. However, this neglects our soul.

The Church recognizes we are both body and soul. Click To Tweet

More specifically, our immortal soul that is destined for eternity is forgotten. Forgetting about this not only will leave us dissatisfied during our time on earth, but it puts our eternal life at risk. When we do things that are good for both our body and soul, we will have more joy-filled lives because we are living as God intended.

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I know some of these are overgeneralizations. Society has been working on stopping the objectification of women, and there are growing voices in the feminist movement that are positive (FemCatholic is a great example of this). I also recognize the Church has failed in some of the areas I mentioned.

Ultimately, when it comes down to receiving support for my womanhood, I need to look at the place that supports my best interests. What is in my best interest is living my life as God calls me to. Where I can find support for that is abundantly clear: the Catholic Church.

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How does the Church empower your femininity or masculinity?

 

Comments 12

  • Such a great article which highlights how empowering the Church truly is toward women! I was actually just reading through St. John Paul II’s Letter to Women this morning, so this article was very timely.

    Thank you for this great post!

  • Many great points in this blog post. I especially like the part: “The church encourages us to think critically.”

  • Thanks for this perspective, which is very needed in society. People need to hear women speak out about how the Church empowers and uplifts us!

  • Wow, this is really great! Thanks for including my thoughts, and for your kind words. I love all your tweetable quotes, it’s one of my favorite things, I want to click them all!!!

  • This is so worth sharing to other women so that they can see how beautiful the church sees women. I’m always saying that a women doesn’t need to on the alter (via alter server or push for women priesthood) to be important part of beauty of the church. God chose a woman to bring Christ to the world. We are call to bring Christ to the world through our family life and femininity.

  • (clap, clap, clap) There are so many ways the Church celebrates women and all the goodness that flows from them.
    I think the biggest hurdle for people is that women can’t be priests. All our society sees is that it doesn’t allow women to do something. This is a huge misunderstanding and people don’t understand WHY women can’t be priests. If you don’t believe in the Eucharist and if you don’t understand that a priest is standing in for Christ (fully MAN, and fully God), it is hard to understand that a woman can’t do those things, because she isn’t a man. It’s not because women are inferior or less, it’s because a man has to stand in for a man. It’s also hard for people to understand in this gender confused society how that all works.

    • Great point! Thank you for commenting and sharing that perspective. It is definitely an important part of thid conversation.

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