Shining Light on The Status of Women


This week, we are looking at the Catholic contribution to civilisation, with the help of Lumen, the pocket sized guide published by CTS. We meant to start by looking at time and history but because today is Valentine’s Day, we are going to look at the importance of women in Catholic faith, thought and history.

All discussions about the role of Women and their position throughout Christian history, must begin with Mary, given her importance in Scripture and in the life of the Church from its outset.

One look at her life, as represented in the Gospels, should prove anyone who thinks she did not have troubles enough to compare with the modern woman wrong.

It is generally held, that the Church has oppressed women and relegated them to second-class citizens.

As the book states:

“Catholic civilisation has scarcely always been enlightened towards women and misogynistic statements can be found even by great teachers of the faith. Nevertheless, Catholicism is arguably unique among monotheistic religions in combining strong feminine as well as strong masculine aspects.

“The root of this emphasis may be the recognition of Mary as the ‘second Eve’ in the early Church.”

As Italian actor and literary critic Roberto Benigni put it, in his commentary on Dante’s Inferno:

“Before Our Lady, women were either dangerous, or seen as a reward for the warrior. She changed everything, art, poetry, women’s rights, everything.”

Some key areas and figures

The little booklet contains a list of names of women, along with what they are noted for and when they lived and worked.

“St Fabiola (d. 399) built a hospice for the sick, arguably the first hospital in Rome.

“The Manual for My Son, written by a noblewoman called Dhuoda (c. 843) is arguably the oldest known treatise on education.

“In caring for the sick, the work of Bl Mother Teresa (d. 1997) follows a tradition going back to the early Church. Florence Nightingale (d. 1910), for example, learnt about the care of wounded soldiers during a year spent with the Sisters of St Vincent de Paul in Egypt.

“Although her memory has been darkened by history, the first Queen of England, Mary (d. 1558), was devoutly Catholic.

Achievements in science and religion

“In spiritual life, the Church recognises three women saints as Doctors of the Church: Catherine of Siena (d. 1380), Teresa of Ávila (d. 1582) and Thérèse of Lisieux (d. 1897).

“Perhaps most surprising, Catholic civilisation produced many of the first women scientists. The Passionibus Mulierum Curandorum (The Diseases of Women), attributed to Trotula of Salerno (11C) became one of the key medical works of the Middle Ages. Other notable pioneers include Maria Agnesi (d. 1799), the first woman to become Professor of Mathematics at any university, and who was appointed to that position by a Pope, Benedict XIV, in 1750.”

Extracts taken from LUMEN -The Catholic Gift to Civilisation by Fr Andrew Pinsent, Fr Marcus Holden

You may also find helpful

War and peaceWomenApologetics

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

11 comments on “Shining Light on The Status of Women

  1. I am a convert to catholocism and i have to say that i have never felt the impression that women are perceived as second class citizens. What strikes me is the love of Mary, as the mother of Christ and Her importance within the faith, as well as the many Saints who were women and have had their love of God and their service recognised – that was something which i found slightly lacking in the angilcan church. I have never felt that women have a place to be ordained, simply because I have always felt that it seems to be that God’s purpose for women appears to be in a nuturing and supportive role, which is just as, if not more important than any other role. As they say behind every great man there has to be a great woman!

    I am really enjoying this blog and having the oppurtunity to read other peoples views and place my own comments. Its a great platform for the Faith.

  2. I really welcome such an attempt to identify the very special place women have in the church, and in God’s eyes. As Catholics we accept the church’s teaching that women cannot be in Holy Orders, but that does not mean they are somehow inferior. However a very big effort is needed to find all the many ways women could minister in the church with the very great gifts God has particularly bestowed upon them. And also tackle the reason why many loyal women of the church do not feel valued in their local churches. Well done CTS and the authors.

  3. First to those converts who posted above, welcome and your bravery in spite of the comments and backlash that converts often receive is a huge inspiration to me as a cradle Catholic who has never had to make the difficult decision.

    The Church’s teaching on the equal dignity of the sexes, but at the same time the recognition of our differences is a real treasure, and one which those who argue that equality means sameness miss as they try to neuter our society and take away a great part of its richness.

    Finally great to the CTS blogging, you do wonderful work and produce so many publications which are of great use to me and those who I’m involved in Catechesis with.

  4. Although born and bred a Catholic, I became lapsed. On my return to the Church I did struggle somewhat with the nagging question to why women could not be ordained. On asking my priest I received the explanation of the Apostolic Succession. I then understood that it was not our place as women to demand to be priests. I have since found my own way to follow the Gospel in the church and have been volunteering in my parish. God has truly opened my eyes to the fact that if so many female members of my parish did not give up so much of their time, my church would be an emptier place. I am not boasting or wanting recognition of my efforts, none of us do, we just do it for the love of Christ and that of our fellows. Women have always played a vital role in the Catholic Church and will always continue to do so.

  5. The most ‘liberated’ women I know are Catholic young women, married and single, who are happy to follow the Church’s teachings. They know they are loved by God, so do not have need of false, fleeting sources of pleasure. I look forward to reading this book, which sounds like it gives the historical background to what I have already seen in my life: the Church’s deep understanding of and care for women.

  6. This looks like a great read which will tell the truth about the status of women in the church, and possibly expose feminist myth about women’s status for what it is- biased, selective and powerhungry.

  7. I’m looking forward to reading this book – it is important to understand that women have and had an important contribution in the life of the Church and of the world. Calls for women to be ordained seems to forget that the voice and contribution of lay women and men can be celebrated as well as that of ordained priests.

    Delighted to see that CTS are blogging – looking forward to following.

  8. This is great, so many have a negative image of how the church treats women and I have had several quite offensive comments made to me about it and other things, I recently converted as did my 12 yr old son by his own choice and I got my daughter baptized Catholic, my in- laws went crazy with anti catholic comments, this may help to change their minds!

  9. I’m going to get this for my mum; she was vehemently opposed to my converting because she thinks the Church ‘treats women badly – like second-class citizen.’ Hopefully seeing this celebration of Catholic women will help to change her mind.

  10. I’m very glad to see another book by the excellent Fr Holden and Fr Pinsent. We have been using Evangelium here and it has been so well received – Apologia and Credo are great pocket books and I hope Lumen proves to be as good.

  11. It’s great that this booklet draws attention to the special role of women in the history of the Church. Catholocism really brings to light all the best aspects of feminity and raises them up in a way that modern culture and secularism fall far short of and Lumen really emphasies this invaluable heritage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *