Catholicism and women's rights
Feminism often is depicted as a threat to religion and vice versa, because feminism challenges the morals of society, including the morals of any religion. It often is forgotten that these religions were written in a different era. And that most religions would actually offer solutions to women in that era.
In the times these religions were written, societies relied strongly on agriculture. There was no anti-conception. A lot of women died whilst giving childbirth. If a woman had sex she was likely to die 9 months later, so women didn’t want to have sex with just anyone and they certainly wouldn’t want to be raped. If a woman had sex with a man and he did not want to stay with her, she couldn’t provide for herself or her kid because she does not have the physical strength to plough an entire field on her own. Only if her family takes care of her, she can survive, but if that family only has 4 daughters, she and her family probably won’t make it.
If you put Catholic religion and many other religions in the context of the agricultural societies where they were born, you see they weren’t denying women rights, but they were giving women rights. The emphasis on chastity and on monogamy did not suppress women. It would give them a better life.
Above that, some women’s rights we consider normal these days were once introduced by the religions that made our society, including Catholicism.
For example: when Mary got pregnant, Joseph did not abandon her, but he married her. Joseph can be considered a role model for Catholic men, which means that Catholic men are expected to marry their pregnant fiancée even if the child isn’t his. If an engaged woman gets raped, Catholics will consider it desirable that her fiancé takes care for her and not her rapist.
Jesus never said anything that would justify any inequality between men and women. Jesus would even stand up for women. He would forgive prostitutes in a time where it was more acceptable to visit prostitutes than to talk to them. He would prevent a woman from being stoned for having cheated. Jesus would tell men not to blame the woman that causes their wandering eye, but to blame their wandering eye.
Saints also form another important element in the Catholic religion. Most non-Catholic people think Catholics worship saints and that this does not correspond to the rule that you should only worship one God. But for Catholics, Saints are rolemodels, not deities. They believe God helped them because they were such good Christians and if you try to live your life like them, God will help you too. Most non-Catholics also don’t know who these saints are. They’ve only seen pictures of them and on these pictures the female saints look very pure and beautiful, while the male saints are helping children, the sick or animals. Based on these pictures non-Catholics assume that Catholics think women should be beautiful and virtuous and that men should do things. However, if you look at the stories of these female saints, you will see that beauty wasn’t the reason God helped them. Some female saints were rescued by God when they were about to be raped or to be married to someone that would not live a Christian life. If Catholics believe that God will interfere if a woman is being raped or if a woman is forced into marriage, it’s safe to assume that they consider a woman’s consent a requirement for marriage or sex.
A lot of saints also would not meet the traditional expectancies of men or women: most male saints became more humble after they devoted themselves to Christianity. They stopped fighting and devoted their lives to help the weak. Compared to male saints, some female saints were a lot less modest. For example: Saint Catherina was a princess that told her parents she only wanted to marry someone that would surpass her in beauty, wealth, social status and intelligence. This is said to be the reason she devoted her life to Christ, because He was the only one that would surpass her. After becoming Christian she goes straight to emperor Maximus in order to convince him to stop prosecuting Christians. She manages to convert his counsellors and his wife, but she never manages to convert Maximus. He eventually beheads her. Saint Catherina was a smart woman that wouldn’t stop defending her cause. She was/is a good rolemodel for women if you ask me.
When you want to judge a religion, you should base your judgement on the meaning and the values of that religion. You should realise that many people may loudly claim they are devoted Christians, Jews, Muslims or whatever, but that not all of these people carry their religion in their heart and that some of them simply don’t understand what their religion is about. Some of these people use religion to justify inequality. Usually because they believe they are in a better position than others because God wants them to be in a better position.
But you shouldn’t judge a religion only on the people that claim very loudly that they follow it. Especially when the behavior of these people who claim to follow it, does not at all correspond with the morals of that religion. Jesus never said you need to care for the sick and the poor by leaving them on their own. Jesus never said that bullying gay people could bring you closer to God. Jesus never said you ought to teach your daughters to respect their virginity, but that you don’t have to teach your sons to respect the boundaries of their girlfriends. Jesus never said that if you own more than others, it’s because God loves you more than them.