Is the Church a Patriarchy?


#1

Today, identifying something as “patriarchal” is usually a bad thing: That some institution is inherently unfair, backwards, etc.

Because the Church’s highest earthly authorities are male, some people call the Church a Patriarchy, regardless of the importance of women in other areas (“Mary is the highest Saint,” etc.)

So is the Church a Patriarchy? Does it matter? What are some ways to nuance what it means for the church to be a patriarchy?


#2

Yes, the Church definitely is a patriarchy. If one is a male, they can pursue whatever position they are called for and their gender won’t ever be an issue. But if one is female, even a very simple thing such as serving at the altar may be impossible because bishops and even individual priests are allowed to ban women from doing that.

Women are also under represented in decision making since there are much more men in leadership positions than women. Women were not allowed to vote in the Synod of Bishops last year (and I guess it’s always been like that).

Pope Francis has done many great things but not enough. It’s sad how far from equality we still are. All beautiful words like “women have an important role in the Church” etc. are only empty and meaningless words if women are not treated equally.


#3

Why is patriarchy automatically a bad thing?


#4

So in your opinion, what would it take for the Church no longer to be a Patriarchy?


#5

I think most people agree it’s a bad thing when it comes to the level of mere human institution, because any organization that excludes women for a functional role suggests discrimination.

Hence people say the Church is Patriarchal in the bad sense.

However, the Church is not a “mere human institution.” And so long as people hold to that definition of the Catholic Church, they will probably always think of its Patriarchy in negative terms.

In other words, until you accept the Catholic Church as divine institution, and so, for example, the priesthood or Pope is not merely functional but more fundamentally sacramental, then you simply don’t have a correct lens to interpret the Church.

At least, that’s one way I’d put it.


#6

Definitions matter

Definition of patriarchy

1 : social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line

Since clergy can’t have children, it can’t be a patriarchy since patriarchy requires descendants/inheritance along male line


#7

What? That’s not the only definition:

But if you don’t prefer the term Patriarchy, just substitute the meaning that critics mean. The fuss is over the larger point that organizations shouldn’t only be male-led and excluding women (from leadership, etc.)


#8

The other definition is redundant with the first.

: 2. a society or institution organized according to the principles or practices of patriarchy


#9

And the first one I quoted literally states the definition of Patriarchy I’m using in this thread.

SO no, Patriarchy does not “require descendants/inheritance along male line,” as you say.


#10

What on earth does this even mean? “Inequality” is a fact of life. It doesn’t matter how much I want to be a basketball player, I’m a tiny squirt. It doesn’t matter how much I want to paint like Monet, I’m not an artist.

Women cannot be fathers. They can’t be priests. Men cannot be mothers. They cannot be nuns, or sisters, or consecrated virgins. Why is expecting women to do something that is literally impossible for them (fatherhood) championed as equal rights and giving them respect? Why is expecting women to be able to do literally anything championed as equal rights? We can’t do everything. Men can’t do everything. And that’s a fact.


#11

Merriam-Webster says it does, and that’s the dictionary most people use, sorry.

NOt sure what dictionary that is but the reason its a bad definition is what does “hold the power” mean? what does “largely excluded” mean? A good definition doesn’t require more definitions, like the Merriam Webster one


#12

Women cannot be fathers. They can’t be priests. Men cannot be mothers. They cannot be nuns, or sisters, or consecrated virgins. Why is expecting women to do something that is literally impossible for them (fatherhood) championed as equal rights and giving them respect? Why is expecting women to be able to do literally anything championed as equal rights? We can’t do everything. Men can’t do everything. And that’s a fact.

I think most people calling the Church a Patriarchy would say that these are different. They say that the Church excludes women’s decision making for arbitrary reasons, for example. Not biological.

I mean, Catholics usually promote women’s equality in these areas (other organizations). We accept women can and ought to be leaders in various ways. Even president. Etc.


#13

I’m not really into labels. The Church isn’t a bunch of bishops in a palace somewhere. The Church is you and me.

I’m not feeling patriarchal today.


#14

The Church is you and me.

I agree, but the critics point to the hierarchical nature of the Church. The hierarchy is synonymous with the patriarchy, in their view, since women are not bishops, cardinals, etc.


#15

Critics will say whatever they think supports their position, especially if the goal is to paint the Church in a negative light.
Why should I care what critics say?
The Church is not some new Broadway show that is going to close within the week if the critics pan it.


#16

Because they falsely equate different with unequal. A goalkeeper and a striker on a soccer team are doing different things, but they’re not unequal since the team equally relies on both of them. Same with man and woman in a family where they perform different roles (motherhood, fatherhood) yet equal roles (children need both roles equally).


#17

Having an equal number of women and men in non-ordained leadership positions and getting rid of all discriminatory policies.
Working hard to eliminate all misogynistic attitudes that still exist, for example the idea that it’s more important to educate boys than girls.
Supporting equality in family life.
And finally, condemning rape and sexual harrasment just as clearly as She condemns abortion and contraception and demand Catholic law makers to support anti-rape and anti-harrasment legislation.


#18

Thank goodness men are in those rolls. Otherwise women would be doing everything.
What’s wrong with men in a position of service? What’s wrong with men roll models who love Jesus and proclaim the gospel before the people of God? I want young boys and girls to have this modeled for them.

People who see something as patriarchal see it as a power thing. It’s a service thing. Someone who picked up his cross to follow Christ in service. Is that the nuance you were looking for when this comes up in conversation?


#19

Aren’t rape and sexual harassment illegal in your country?

I think the difference here is that abortion and contraception are legal and accepted pretty much everywhere in the West, hence the Church fights loudly against them. Rape and harassment are pretty much illegal everywhere, except maybe India?

I hope that if these things are commonplace any where in the world, Catholics stand against them.


#20

I’m not expecting women to do anything impossible, I’m only expecting us to be treated equally because we were created equal. Women are just as valuable creatures as men and we must be treated as such.

The fact that women can’t be ordained doesn’t give men right to treat women as inferior beings.


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