The Church’s Misogyny

catholic nunby Diana Cihak

Angela Davis spoke last night in Buffalo.

As a matriarch of so many social justice movements it is hard to define her.  But one thing she weaves through all of her statements is that women are at the forefront of the movement – whatever that movement may be.  The women are the organizers.  Women are the ones who get the work done. They may not always be the leaders, or the face of a movement, but women are the doers – the have the vision and the persistence to see the task through.

So very true.

But it was another statement she made that perked my ears.  Just one small sentence in a sea of wisdom she gave us based on her 75 years on earth and 60 years of activism.

She said that the misogyny in the Catholic Church has led to hundreds of years of oppression and male dominance in this world.

I have to admit that, as a Catholic (albeit a lapsed Catholic) I strongly believe that statement.  But I never thought of the misogyny as influencing much outside of the walls of the church.  The tip of the iceberg that we are just now discovering about years and years of abuse by priests of so many vulnerable children and women in service to the Church makes it clear that the power dynamic of men within the church hierarchy is a cancer to the entire institution.

But to the rest of society?  I never thought of it that way.

But take a region such as Western New York where the church has long held such a strong influence over the every day lives of so many citizens.  And thereby the undue influence the church has on everything from politics to education.

Now, of course, the Catholic Church like many religious institutions has done some very good things as well.  Catholic Charities helps the most vulnerable in our society in so many ways.

But maybe we should ask ourselves – by the simple act of denying women in the Church the right to lead in any true capacity what does that say to society who looks to the church for leadership?  How does that deny women a voice, not only in religion but also in society?  The nuns of the Catholic Church are very obviously the doers – they toil daily at the work of helping the poor, educating, taking care of the sick.  But they are never allowed to be the voice of the Church.  That is left strictly to the men.

And we see where that has led us now, don’t we?

By shining a light on the example that the Catholic Church has  offered for centuries in every corner of the globe maybe we can start to peel back the history of the entrenched misogyny that permeates our society.   And in uncovering the truth, maybe we can start to change and heal.

And maybe, just maybe, the doers will be allowed to become the leaders.

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