Are women less than men?

I’ve been reading some writings from the early church fathers and I have realized that so many of them thought that women were less than men. I know this isn’t the official church view, but is it possible that the early church fathers were right?

Paul didn’t, Paul had women in very prominent positions.

If the culture of the time placed women as less then men, they went against Jesus who, we see, treated women as very special, precious and distinct people. And that was a very radical idea


I think as contemporary readers we need to be very careful about this, and understand the historical and cultural context, and the specific point of the author. That doesn’t make everything every Church Father said perfect, but our own baggage can definitely prevent understanding.


There’s a difference between thinking that men and women have different roles to play and thinking that one is less or inherently inferior to the other.

For example, none of the 12 apostles that were ordained were women and yet Mary, who arguably does more for the Church, obeyed by, and honored by Christ himself, is not one of the apostles either.

Our modern understanding of “equality” makes this hard to understand I think.

Ask yourself, equality of what? because we do recognize men and women have equal human value, but not equal functions. Which is absolutely fine, differences should be celebrated.

I think the problem lies is when we try to “prioritize” differences as if they were seen purely for efficiency and think they’re like jobs in a company and some needs to be “cut from the payroll” so to speak.

If that makes sense


I’ve seen those quotes from the early fathers before…some of it sound quite hostile.

If you want an answer that directly answers your questions though, you should give us exact quotes so they can refute it

Not less than. Different. For the time, Christian women had many more rights than secular or pagan women. The belief that God created all of us and loved all of us equally (and thus women deserved love, respect, and appreciation) did more for the status or women than almost any other philosophy since.

Don’t forget that when you are reading the church fathers you are reading things written in a completely diffent context.


Basically, this. Jesus was not afraid to love, honor and respect women and never his this from His disciples, the general public or the leaders of the time.

I would say, however, that the equality of women is a fairly modern concept. There will be issues for which people in the future condemn us that are widely accepted today. This, to me, means the take away to this issue is: depend more on Christ and HIS teachings than the teachings of any one (or two or three) persons of high regard in the Church. You don’t have to be omniscient or error-free to become a saint.

1 Like

Strictly in terms of the amount of physical space women take up, yes, women are less than men on average.



Less mass, more water… But in seriousness, without women the world would have much less love in it and woman compliment men as is identical by swapping the perspective of is man less than woman.

1 Like

There’d be a lot less gossip too

Without men there would be a lot less to gossip about :wink:


Do you know, I’ve worked with men for years and I reckon they gossip a lot… maybe they often don’t recognise what they’re doing because it’s stereotypically considered a woman’s vice.


Another thing to note, many early pagans went against the early Church because they were “the religion of the poor and of women”

So obviously under that kind of context, it couldn’t be that early Christianity placed women as inferior to men especially if they regarded women with a lot more intrinsic value than the rest of the culture.


While that is true, it’s also worth noting that while they saw woman as more valuable than their non Christian counterparts, it doesn’t mean that they didn’t view women as inferior at all

1 Like

The episode in the Gospels where Jesus meets with a Samaritan woman well known for her promiscuity is evidence enough that women have always been held in esteem. Also, Our Lady’s very prominent position and impact of St Hildegard von Bingen and St Teresa in their time are a few more examples as to the equality yet distinction of the female race.


It is very easy to take the Church Fathers out of context. Here is a bunch of quotes from the Church Fathers that highlights their quotes about female equality:

Among my favorite gems:

~380 A.D. - St. Gregory Nazianzen says, “I see that the majority of men are ill-disposed, and that their laws are unequal and irregular. For what was the reason why they restrained the woman, but indulged the man[?]” “[A] woman who practises evil against her husband’s bed is an adulteress, and the penalties of the law for this are very severe; but if the husband commits fornication against his wife, he has no account to give… I do not accept this legislation; I do not approve this custom. They who made the Law were men, and therefore their legislation is hard on women… [T]hey have placed children also under the authority of their fathers, while leaving the weaker sex uncared for. God does not so; but says Honour your father and your mother…and, He that curses father or mother, let him die the death. … See the equality of the legislation. There is one Maker of man and woman; one debt is owed by children to both their parents. … Christ saves both by His Passion. Was He made flesh for the Man? So He was also for the woman. Did He die for the Man? The Woman also is saved by His death. He is called of the seed of David; and so perhaps you think the Man is honoured; but He is born of a Virgin, and this is on the Woman’s side. They two, He says, shall be one Flesh; so let the one flesh have equal honour.” (Oration 37 Paragraphs 6-7)

397 A.D. - St. Jerome writes a letter to some nuns explaining the interpretation of a psalm, and defends the education and dignity of women: “I know that I am often much criticized because I sometimes write to women and seem to prefer the more fragile sex to the stronger.” “[But] Aquila and Priscilla educate[d] Apollo, an apostolic man learned in the law, in the way of the lord. If to be taught by a woman was not shameful to an apostle, why should it be [shameful] to me afterwards to teach men and women?” “This and its like I have touched on briefly, to ensure that you [women] should not be penalized because of your sex.” (Jerome, Letter to Principia, 397 A.D., quoted in Abelard, Letter 9, 1137 A.D.)

Also: 399 A.D. - St. Jerome says, “[A] commandment which is given to men logically applies to women also. … The laws of Caesar are different, it is true, from the laws of Christ…[but] with us Christians what is unlawful for women is equally unlawful for men, and as both serve the same God both are bound by the same obligations.” (Letter 77:3)

170 A.D. - In this year the apologist Tatian writes “Vindication of Christian Women,” a chapter in his book Address to the Greeks defending the intellectual capabilities and scholarly pursuits of Christian women and criticizing pagans for “behav[ing] yourselves unbecomingly in what relates to woman” and for “treat[ing] the women with scorn who among us pursue philosophy.” (Address to the Greeks 33)


[Cont’d from last post]

203 A.D. - In Stromateis, Book 4, Chapter 8, Clement of Alexandria taught that women were equal to men spiritually, but unequal physically, and thus explained their different social status. The chapter is called “On [the] Equality and Inequality of the Sexes.”

565 A.D. - Emperor Justinian dies in this year. His reforms of the laws of the Byzantine empire revolutionized the status of women in Christendom, explicitly acknowledging their equality and giving them equal property rights with men. (Justian, Novel 21) “It shall no longer be true [among the Armenians], as is the custom of barbarians, that men only can inherit the property of their parents, brothers and sisters and other relatives, but women also shall be able to do so. … [O]ther nations, too, have contempt for nature, and a low regard for women, as if the latter were not made by God, and had no part in the procreation of children, but were creatures to be despised and not worthy of any honor. … We accordingly ordain by this imperial law that…no difference shall be made between male and female. … For as [the Armenians] belong to our empire and owe obedience to us, and along with other nations enjoy all that we have, women shall not be deprived by them of the equality which they enjoy among us, but our laws shall apply equally to all.”

~522 A.D. - St. Caesarius of Arles preaches: “How is it that some men are so insolent that they say cruel vice is lawful for men but not lawful for women?” “As though God gave two commandments, one for men and another for women!” “They do not reflect that men and women have been redeemed equally by Christ’s Blood, have been cleansed by the very same baptism, approach the Lord’s altar to receive His Body and Blood together, and that with God there is no distinction of male or female. ‘God is not a respecter of persons.’ Therefore what is unlawful for women similarly never was and never can be lawful for men.” (Sermon 42, as it appears in Mueller, M. The Fathers of the Church. Volume 31. 2010. Washington, D.C.: CUA Press.)


Men & women are each better at certain things, so I’d say neither is “less than” in terms moral worth they’re just different in terms certain abilities

1 Like

4 quarters and a dollar bill are equal. But that doesn’t mean they are “same”. Both have the same value, yet different forms and different functions. Is metal less than paper or vice versa? No, both are needed for different purposes. What good is a dollar bill going to do me when I’m standing in front of a coke machine that only takes change? Same when women want to be priests, your form is not suited to that function. It doesn’t mean the church or early fathers are saying you are worth less. 4 quarters = 1 dollar bill.

Equality does not mean sameness. Perhaps early church fathers do not write with the same political correctness we have today, but this is my understanding of their view.

Are all our own children the same?
Do they all have the same capability?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit