Position of women in society

what is the proper catholic teaching of women in civil society.

I know the husband is supposed to be the head of the family, and priests are in charge of leading the church, but what about other day to day affairs.

I’m not going on a feminist rampage where I think men and women are the same, I know they’re not, but, historically, it seems many things were restricted for women based on the view that women, in general, must be subject to men. this would include things like military, politics, education which required large amounts of timen such as law or medicin and other sciences. of course, there exceptions to the rule. and there are other factors as well such as much shorter life span and wars

I also just read an article on st. Thomas Aquinas’ philosophy on women where he thought that women are in general weaker than men in body and soul because man was meant to be the more perfect form and women were only made for men. of course, this was during a time period where the un derstand of biology was drastically different and it was thought that women were not capable to reason as much as men.

I’m trying to look for a more complete view on the subject as the opposed to the age old “the catholic church didn’t let women do anything” that you seem to encounter everywhere.

and do you think that women these days are doing things they shouldn’t such as certain types of careers and social roles? the feminists claim that men and women can both do anything they want the exact same way. and some other groups (certain cahtolics included) think that yes, women can do the same things as men but probably shouldn’t because they don’t have the same right to it as established by God and should always be subject.


also, if anyone knows of any good resources, or if my information is not accurate, please give me suggestions of books or articles or anything else that might be helpful

I’m not sure what you are looking for. The Church doesn’t have such a teaching. What type of role a woman pursues is prudential judgment on the part of the woman.


Yes, one can encounter such an argument, but of course it is not arguing from any facts. Was it “the Church” or was it a whole host of factors? “The Church” did much help the state of women. I can recommend the book Women in the Days of the Cathedrals by Regine Pernoud. In fact, I probably have recommended this book to you as this seems to be a recurring theme of your threads. Have you perhaps made any move to get this book through inter-library loan?

There isn’t any such thing as “should” and “shouldn’t” from the Church’s standpoint. Again, prudential judgment on the part of the woman, and if she is married the woman and her husband.

The Church has no such teaching.

already linked and listed above.

i suggest a catholic bookstore. the nun’s will help you find whatever it is you are looking for.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, under the index heading “Equality”:

369 Man and woman have been created, which is to say, willed by God: on the one hand, in perfect equality as human persons; on the other, in their respective beings as man and woman. “Being man” or “being woman” is a reality which is good and willed by God: man and woman possess an inalienable dignity which comes to them immediately from God their Creator.240 Man and woman are both with one and the same dignity “in the image of God”. In their “being-man” and “being-woman”, they reflect the Creator’s wisdom and goodness.

1935 The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it:

Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.

Church teaching seems pretty clear - equality between men and women.

Equal does not mean the same or identical - it means equal. The roles assumed by men or restricted to men are not of greater importance than those assumed or restricted to women. Each are equally important (e.g. both being a priest and being a mother are important and valuable vocations).

this is exactly what I mean, are there things that are supposed to be restricted? priesthood and mother hood are pretty self-explanatory

but if a man is a politician, then should a woman not aspire to be one? or a scientist? or a lawyer? Etc, etc. this is what I mean

yes, thank you, I am ordering that one. took a while to find

but there have definitely been restrictions on the type of work women could do, if not from the church, then where did that come from?

I think the link to Pope John Paul II’s words provided by 1ke in post #2 is a very good overview. Women and men were made to be complimentary to each other. Each has a role to play in relation to each other and to their neighbor. This is the way God made it. Sadly, the radical feminists turned it into an ‘us vs them’ way of thinking that has clouded the issues, not helped.

The following and will take time to grasp. It took me a few slow readings to understand it.


Pope John Paul II has given us a clear message that there is a balance, a harmony between men and women. A real freedom that had been denied in some areas in the past but which he has clarified and has asked us to understand. The word “love” has been distorted greatly over the last 40 years and the term “human dignity” has been trampled and turned into nothing by the media and individuals who do not show respect for others or themselves since they have been told that they, as individuals, make the rules. There is no higher authority than other human beings, even if they believe they are individuals, since they decided to take a bit of this and a bit of that and call it “the way I live.” Not realizing they are often conforming to something bad.

The internet has created a global market for primarily female degradation. The woman is no longer presented as a complete person or tender or truly loving. She is her face, her body and an attitude that denies her true femininity. Women can do whatever they are reasonably capable of doing but who will be the mothers of today and tomorrow? The meaning of dating, real trust, real friendship between men and women has been skipped over or discarded by a media that tells women they are objects first. That men are bad or only a means to an end. What is the real relationship between men and women? We once knew but the media and people in powerful places have been trying so hard for decades to take away the true understanding of what it means to be a real woman. Children need their mothers and their fathers. They need real love and real gentleness and tenderness from both mom and dad. They need role models that prior marriage, really knew and trusted each other and took the time they needed to help make their marriage successful, before and after the ceremony.

I recommend the following, which I think will hep clarify things also:


God bless,

Sure. There are women who are scientists, lawyers and politicians, etc. But planning is the key and understanding (for men and women) what you’re really getting into is very important. For example, do you want children? Will you be thinking, in your mid-40s, that you are in a position of value to society but missed your chance to be a mom (or dad)? I mean, even people who are not in high-profile or high-paying jobs are already paying a price. Day care will not raise your child, or TV or the movies or the internet. Home life won’t happen if both of you are mainly there to sleep before going to work.

The big picture today is that more women are choosing not to have kids in some countries, and that’s fine if that’s what you really want. But aspire to be what is truly you - not what some outsider said. And by outsider, I mean someone who claims to speak for all women in an angry way. Pray. Be lifted up. Ask God to guide you. Real love matters. Relationships mean good and bad times and they take work on the part of both people.



1 JANUARY 2007

  1. Similarly, inadequate consideration for the condition of women helps to create instability in the fabric of society. I think of the exploitation of women who are treated as objects, and of the many ways that a lack of respect is shown for their dignity;** I also think —in a different context—of the mindset persisting in some cultures, where women are still firmly subordinated to the arbitrary decisions of men, with grave consequences for their personal dignity and for the exercise of their fundamental freedoms. There can be no illusion of a secure peace until these forms of discrimination are also overcome, since they injure the personal dignity impressed by the Creator upon every human being**.



New York
Thursday, 8 March 2007

Empowerment of women refers to increasing their social, political, economic and spiritual strength, both individually and collectively, as well as to removing the obstacles that penalize women and prevent them from being fully integrated into the various sectors of society. Concretely, it means addressing discriminatory practices that exclude women from decision-making processes, oftentimes caused or aggravated by discrimination based on a woman’s race, ethnicity, religion or social status. That women in society must be involved in decision-making is not only right for reasons of equality, but also for the specific insights that women bring to the process. This “feminine genius” will prove most valuable, as women increasingly play major roles in the solution of the serious challenges the world is facing. Empowerment of women also means equal pay for equal work, fairness in career advancement, and equality of spouses in family rights. Likewise, it means that women who choose to be wives and mothers are protected and not penalized.


Paul VI Audience Hall
Tuesday, 29 August 1995

Dear Mrs Glendon and Members of the Delegation of the Holy See
to the Fourth World Conference on Women,

As you prepare to leave for Beijing, I am happy to meet you, the Head of the Delegation of the Holy See to the Fourth World Conference on Women, and the other Members of the Delegation. Through you, I extend my best wishes and prayers to the Secretary General of the Conference, to the participant nations and organizations, as well as to the authorities of the host country, the People’s Republic of China.

My wishes are for the success of this Conference in its aim to guarantee all the women of the world “equality, development and peace”, through full respect for their equal dignity and for their inalienable human rights, so that they can make their full contribution to the good of society.

Over the past months, on various occasions, I have drawn attention to the positions of the Holy See and to the teaching of the Catholic Church on the dignity, rights and responsibilities of women in today’s society: in the family, in the workplace, in public life. I have drawn inspiration from the life and witness of great women within the Church throughout the centuries who have been pioneers within society, as mothers, as workers, as leaders in the social and political fields, in the caring professions and as thinkers and spiritual leaders.

The Secretary General of the United Nations has asked the participating nations at the Beijing Conference to announce concrete commitments for the improvement of the condition of women. Having looked at the various needs of women in today’s world, the Holy See wishes to make a specific option regarding such a commitment: an option in favour of girls and young women.

Therefore, I call all Catholic caring and educational institutions to adopt a concerted and priority strategy directed to girls and young women, especially to the poorest, over the coming years.

It is disheartening to note that in today’s world, the simple fact of being a female, rather than a male, can reduce the likelihood of being born or of surviving childhood; it can mean receiving less adequate nutrition and health care, and it can increase the chance of remaining illiterate and having only limited access, or none at all, even to primary education.

Investment in the care and education of girls, as an equal right, is a fundamental key to the advancement of women. It is for this reason that today:

– I appeal to all the educational services linked to the Catholic Church to guarantee equal access for girls, to educate boys to a sense of women’s dignity and worth, to provide additional possibilities for girls who have suffered disadvantage, and to identify and remedy the reasons which cause girls to drop out of education at an early stage;
– I appeal to those institutions which are involved in health care, especially primary health care, to make improved basic health care and education for girls a hallmark of their service;
– I appeal to the Church’s charitable and development organizations to give priority in the allocation of resources and personnel to the special needs of girls;
– I appeal to Congregations of Religious Sisters, in fidelity to the special charism and mission given to them by their Founders, to identify and reach out to those girls and young women who are most on the fringes of society, who have suffered most, physically and morally, who have the least opportunity. Their work of healing, caring and educating, and of reaching to the poorest is needed in every part of the world today;
– I appeal to Catholic Universities and centres of higher education to ensure that, in the preparation of future leaders in society, they acquire a special sensitivity to the concerns of young women;
– I appeal to women and women’s organizations within the Church and active in society to establish patterns of solidarity so that their leadership and guidance can be put at the service of girls and young women.

As followers of Jesus Christ, who identifies himself with the least among children, we cannot be insensitive to the needs of disadvantaged girls, especially those who are victims of violence and a lack of respect for their dignity.

In the spirit of those great Christian women who have enlightened the life of the Church throughout the centuries and who have often called the Church back to her essential mission and service, I make an appeal to the women of the Church today to assume new forms of leadership in service and I appeal to all the institutions of the Church to welcome this contribution of women.

I appeal to all men in the Church to undergo, where necessary, a change of heart and to implement, as a demand of their faith, a positive vision of women. I ask them to become more and more aware of the disadvantages to which women, and especially girls, have been exposed and to see where the attitude of men, their lack of sensitivity or lack of responsibility may be at the root.

Once again, through you, I wish to express my good wishes to all those who have responsibility for the Beijing Conference and to assure them of my support, as well as that of the Holy See and the institutions of the Catholic Church, for a renewed commitment of all to the good of the world’s women.

Historically, it was through the Church that many women in the past gained high positions of authority. The early Church helped women pursue education and philosophy, go on missionary journeys, and teach in the schools. Other groundbreaking things early Catholic women did included protecting the Church from heresy (like St. Pulcheria the empress of the Byzantine empire) and even leading archaeological expeditions to recover lost relics (like St. Helen the mother of Emperor Constantine).

If you’re interested in some examples of this, I encourage you to read this post:

Catholic History & Women’s Equality: A Timeline

Can you be more specific? What time period are we talking about? What restrictions? What jobs?

Actually, in the Middle Ages most women did the same kind of work that their husbands (or fathers) did. If their men were stonecarvers in a shop, they were stonecarvers as well as helping in the shop. If their men were bakers, they were bakers. If they were farmers, then farmers.

Their duties might be different, according to strength or other factors (pregnancy), but generally they were exactly the same.

Sometimes this was not so good for women.

Women did tend to be in charge of the family’s living quarters and meals, of course.

were they ever soldiers, as they are now?

Yes, on occasion women took up the sword to defend their fief, some were even knighted. (Or maybe the correct word is “damed.”) St. Matilda of Tuscany and St. Joan of Arc are two famous female warriors in Catholic tradition, but two others are Ethelfleda, daughter of St. Albert the Great, and Eleanor of Aquitane, who lead a company during the Crusades. The Order of the Hatchet was a women’s military order approved by the pope. So yeah, sometimes women were involved in military activity.

While I agree there were some women who fought for various reasons, you can hardly classify Eleanor’s role in the crusade as military. Her husband Louis and her Aquitainian vassals led the military aspects of the crusade (poorly, I might add). She was on a lark.

And, in general, women were not in combat because combat required great physical strength and physical attributes which women on the whole lack. Technology, mechanization and the shift away from infantry fighting and hand-to-hand combat (all late 20th century developments) were the main shifts that allow women to be in combat.

and there’s the book of deborah.

Unless basic training for all soldiers has changed then women would be required to learn hand to hand and close combat skills. Prisoner of War training would also be required. During World War II, Russian women served as soldiers, snipers and fighter pilots. American women ferried aircraft from production plants to designated locations. They had factory jobs, just like women in other countries. There were also women who served with the Office of Strategic Services.


I’m not very familiar with Eleanor’s role, could you provide me with a reference for more information?

Her husband Louis and her Aquitainian vassals led the military aspects of the crusade (poorly, I might add). She was on a lark.

When you say she was on a lark, the image I get in my mind is of someone going on the journey for the romance of it – faraway places, new nobles to show off to, new fashions to see and try. Is that what you mean by a lark? Because I doubt that she would have done such a thing. After hearing St. Bernard preach on the Crusade, I think she would have taken the cross in a true spirit of pilgrimage. Do you have any evidence to support your statement?

And, in general, women were not in combat because combat required great physical strength and physical attributes which women on the whole lack. Technology, mechanization and the shift away from infantry fighting and hand-to-hand combat (all late 20th century developments) were the main shifts that allow women to be in combat.

Also, back then people understood that part of chivalry was defending women. I think men would have rightly seen it as a grave sin to put women in harm’s way when there were men available who could take their place. That is one reason why I think women in those days seem to have rarely gone into combat, with exceptions. Most of the times I mentioned in my earlier post involve situations where men were either not available or not willing to take up the sword.

Marion Meade’s biography is excellent

Yes, exactly what I mean.

Honestly, you really don’t have a good read on Eleanor’s character at all. She came home from the Crusades in disgrace after the rumored affairs with both her Uncle Raymond AND Saladin.

She of course later divorced Louis VII and subsequently married Henry, already about 5 months pregnant when her annulment came through and their marriage contracted.

She greatly enriched her position through the great trade agreements she established on her trip as well.

While I have no doubt she also supported the Crusades out of some level of piety, it must be understood in the context of why and how Eleanor did just about everything Eleanor did-- power, dynasty, and Aquitaine.

Again, Meade’s biography is excellent.

While it is true the troubadour tradition and the concepts of “courtly love” originated in Eleanor’s beloved Aquitaine with her grandfather Duke William IX, chivalry was never one thing-- it was an evolution of ideas-- which reached its height (i.e. “code of chivalry”) several hundred years after Eleanor’s time.

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