Is the Church a Patriarchy?


Or perhaps the Veneration of Mary doesn’t really mean that the Church isn’t patriarchal. It is patriarchal, obviously, as governance is firmly in the hands of a male-only hierarchy. Catholics, will of course, accept this. Non-Catholics may or may not. As an outsider, I don’t view how the Church governs itself as any of my business.


Well, a lot.

No sin, virginal birth, assumption to name a few.

You put forward an argument saying (and I paraphrase) ‘how can a church that venerates Mary keep women down?’ Mary is an exception in that she is not a normal woman… the Church treatment of this one woman is no representative of how the church treats all women.



Well, how does the Church treat women?


?Even though the Church has a woman as the highest example of the level of holiness that a lay person can achieve in a lifetime, the Church is still patriarchal since …the woman they picked is too exceptional? The Church can’t win either way - Either they make Mary the supreme example of what humans can achieve and are told they’ve set the bar too high or they make a man the supreme example of what humans can achieve and are told they’re sexist because they put a man at the top.


And I didn’t say you said that. We’re both Catholic and all for the veneration of Mary.

I don’t know that our religion is inherently patriarchal. Men and women are both made in the image and likeness of God, after all. But cultures are patriarchal, and they rubber-stamp how religion gets interpreted and practiced.

No, I actually struggle with it. But I’m as good as tarred and feathered if I try to have a frank discussion about it here. It gets shut down pretty quickly.



My mistake, I am sorry!


They are treated as is customary in a patriarchy…a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.


Mary did not sin.

That’s a hard example for any of us to follow since the rest of us were born with original sin.


Not quite, the problem is not in putting a man at the top. It’s putting men everywhere in the system of governance. The problem is putting woman no where in the system… other than the sideline when it comes to decision making.

Mary’s exceptionalism is not the issue… at all. Just not representative of how the church treats women… it is representative of how we treat ONE woman


It’s a patriarchy for the purposes of power and governance. That the Church may hold some, or even all women in high esteem doesn’t change the fact that the levers of power are firmly in the hands of an all-male hierarchy.


Not the definition of patriarchy. See Merriam Webster. Requires system of male lineal descendants. Clergy can’t have kids so not a patriarchy. Definitions matter. In fact, that’s one of reasons priests can’t have kids is to avoid a patriarchy of passing Church assets along familial blood line.


Semantics. Potato, potahto. You know what they mean, even if the language is slightly imprecise.


Check again. You left out:

“broadly: control by men of a disproportionately large share of power”


Ok I see that, thanks for correction.


Not true… a patriarchy is defined as more than simply tracing the lineal descendants.

Here is the definition I posted earlier…a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.


What I’m trying to get it, to really understand, is if women are actually treated poorly.

Not being able to be priests is one thing. Priests, bishops, and the Pope are the hierarchical structure, I get it—but does the hierarchy treat women unfairly? Or is it perceived as being unfair because women cannot serve in this hierarchy?


Its the latter, because if its the former, no doubt there will be concrete examples. For example, that a certain act is a venial sin for men but a mortal sin for women. Or that Cathecism requires women to attend mass more than men, etc. Of course there is no such examples.


That’s a fair question… Women were most certainly treated poorly prior to the equal rights movement… for instance, a hundred years ago, a priest would typically counsel a woman to go home to an abusive husband rather than telling her to leave… one example.

Nowadays, the issue seems to be a little different. The real question seems to be - Is it poor treatment of woman to exclude them from all decision making? I think many people would say yes.


but he’d also tell a man to go home to an abusive wife rather than telling him to leave, so that’s not an example

I don’t think they’re excluded from all decision making. They express themselves to their Church leadership who then convey that to the hierarchy. Hence they’re not excluded. Now that would be true, if for example, priests and bishops only took requests from male parishoners and not female.


I think you’re being disingenuous… the vast majority of physically abuse is the male abusing the female… this is a legitimate, concrete example

On the second point, again, I think you’re being a bit disingenuous…the point is that women are largely excluded from power and governance… which is characteristic of a patrimony… which is a bad thing. Just as it would be a bad thing if men were largely excluded.

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