The Church discriminates against women | Inquirer Opinion

The Church discriminates against women

/ 12:06 AM December 05, 2016

The ban on women from becoming priests of the Roman Catholic Church will likely last forever, Pope Francis said last month.

The Pope invokes the 1994 apostolic letter of the late Pope John Paul II, who has since been declared a saint. The letter says that ordaining women as priests is not possible because Jesus chose only men as apostles.


Religious beliefs and practices are normally the exclusive concerns of the members of a religion. But when religion defines the principles and shapes the moral values of a nation, when religion affects the lives of members and nonmembers alike, then religious beliefs are far too important to be left as the sole domain of clerics.

The dominant religion in any country defines the national culture. Marriage, family relations, divorce, birth control, food, clothing, business practices, and festivities are some of the facets of life that are made to conform to the beliefs of a country’s dominant religion. Simply put, religion amounts to culture.


The Philippines is one such country whose principles and moral values are defined by the teachings of its dominant religion—the Roman Catholic Church, which counts 80 percent of the population as members. The Catholic Church has zealously enforced its beliefs upon the entire Philippine population, regardless of one’s membership or nonmembership in the Catholic faith. Through the passage of laws that makes Catholic beliefs applicable to all—the prohibition against divorce is one example—the Catholic clergy imposes its religious teachings on the social and political lives of all Filipinos, regardless of whether one is Catholic, Protestant, animist, or atheist (with the exception of the Muslim minority).

The Church must not, therefore, begrudge criticism of its beliefs made by nonmembers of its faith community. If the Church has no qualms interfering in the lives of non-Catholics, it must demonstrate understanding on criticisms of its practices by nonmembers whose lives are affected by the societal impact of its teachings.

The ban on women from becoming priests is a most lamentable prohibition which ignores a long history that demonstrates the worthiness of women in contributing to the birth and growth of the Christian faith. The mother of Jesus herself, Mother Mary, and the hundreds of women saints are venerated because they gave inspiration to, fought for, or sacrificed their lives for the Church. If women can attain holy lives, why can’t they be entrusted with teaching other people how they can lead holy lives?

The reason given—that Jesus chose only men as apostles—sets aside the dual nature of the bible as a book of faith and a record of history. It contains the teachings of Jesus as he lived in a period in human history when men and women thought and acted out roles in accordance with prevailing traditions 2,000 years ago.

By banning women from the priesthood, the Catholic Church regrettably contributes to the list of societal institutions that give false credibility to the thinking that men and women are not created equal. The ban also dispossesses Church teachings of the sensibilities given by God uniquely to women.

If a horizontal compass is drawn to illustrate the varying forms of treatment of women, with the midpoint representing belief in the equality of the sexes, the far left representing the radical feminist position of women superiority, and the far right representing the extremist belief that women are property possessions as espoused by the Taliban, the ban on women from becoming priests is located somewhere on the right side of the compass.

The spiritual and statistical growth of the Catholic Church is hampered because it continues to hold on to archaic traditions instead of pushing for its faith-sustaining teachings on the equality of men and women. Society suffers from this adherence to tradition that degrades, instead of affirms, a spiritual doctrine that exalts.

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