from the beginning, the Bible speaks of woman as a companion and helper
Keys to understanding the symbolic representation of the sexes
The feminine model
In the Church, as in society at large, women play second fiddle to men. There is a gender for service. This concept is deeply internalised by both men and women, allowing for the preservation of masculine domination.
This inferiorisation of women has its roots in the Marian model. Women are expected to be humble and submissive, discreet and modest, following the example of Mary the servant, Mary the Virgin Mother. Assigning women to the roles of service and maternity prevents them from developing other capabilities. Attention focuses on their bodies, made either to seduce or carry children. Because of this, women are not considered equal subjects to men.
Denying women’s intelligence translates into ongoing inequalities in education; choice of careers and jobs; assistance with parental and domestic chores; career paths; salary gap. Insisting on women’s sexual difference is a key to understanding inequalities between the sexes.
natural order and facts teach us that man is a politician par excellence
Cardinal Bergoglio (Pope Francis)
The masculine model
The masculine model is linked to the exercise of power. Governing, deciding, talking, teaching, presence in the public space, are all considered virile attributes. The Pope, exercising absolute power, is the archetype of a chief in the Western world. Men have internalised this model of superiority as incarnated by the Church’s hierarchy.
Leadership is still widely perceived as a masculine prerogative in our society. Man is considered the head, while women are reduced to representing the body.
Catholic religion glorifies virginity through the figure of the Virgin Mary and demands it from its priests
A general denial of sexuality
Mary is supposed to have given birth, while remaining a virgin. This is an impossible model for women to follow: a virgin is not yet a mother; a mother is no longer a virgin. In glorifying both virginity and maternity, the Church views women from the angle of their sexuality while, at the same time, denying it.
This is the basis also for the desexualisation of priests, who are required to be chaste. Sacrificing their sexuality and imposing an ideal of total gift of themselves, implies great suffering. This mechanism whereby sexuality is denied also underlies the refusal of contraception for couples and is the origin of a number of taboos and of recently revealed scandals within the Church.
The patriarchal model
The “male in power/females in service” dialectic is the foundation for the Catholic idea of marriage. Christ’s relationship to the Church is presented as that of husband and wife, according to Saint Paul. The wife/Church appears as a young virgin, whilst husband/Christ is presented as the head of his Church/body. This vision is based on a relationship of authority and submission between the sexes, it is the illustration of a patriarchal marriage. This implicit representation of marriage constitutes a blind spot, which hinders equality. The Church refuses to consider gender as a social construction.