Is The Roman Church a Patriarchy?
The answer might not be that straight forward
|Many have referred to the Church of Rome as a "patriarchy."
This seems reasonable. The top position is Pope, which means father. All
of the apparent positions of power are held by men. The primary deity is
male. All this suggests patriarchy. But scratch the surface. Will you still
see the true nature of the church clearly patriarchal? Or might it have
other elements? Below we will examine some evidence.
Gender Difference - Feminists evidence
Various feminist writers, writing on the subject of gender differences have observed that men seek the quickest path to the goal, but women create social rules that will work for everybody. Paraphrased in short, men are goal oriented, women are rule oriented.
Now look at the attitudes and values promoted by the Church of Rome. The Church demonstrates a very strong emphasis on rules over goals. When church leaders demonstrate goal oriented behavior they are usually trying to get everybody to submit to the rules. In short, they are using male methods to achieve female ends.
Anthropological - Sociological evidence
Anthropologists observe that a culture's rituals and myths always reinforce the values of the culture. So, where do gender issues occur in the Roman Church?
First, children are instructed that they must obey their "holy mother, the church." It would not make sense for a patriarchy, that's reinforcing the authority of father to refer to the ultimate authority as "mother." A patriarchy would refer to their ultimate authority as "father."
The Roman Church has many ritualized prayers to saints, Jesus, God the
father, and of course the Holy Mother. Which prayers tend to be the most
emphasized? - Prayers to the Holy Mother. How have many children
been instructed that prayers to the Holy Mother are most important? They
have been told that Mary will go to the father and intercede on your behalf.
And no good father would deny the mother her wishes. In short, the
real decisions are made by mother, even though father appears to have
the power. In the mysteries of Mary, the Holy Father has the power to
carry out the decisions, but the Holy Mother has the power to make the
So the popular mythology, and language of the church implies that it supports a culture that is primarily matriarchal.
Many times discussions from males raised Catholic have tended towards, "Say anything you want, but don't say anything against my mother." Mother is the voice that must be obeyed, shall not be insulted or crossed. Father's position is not as certain. Again, this suggests the culture has more of a matriarchal element than patriarchal.
Similarly, go into a Roman Catholic church and watch the crowd. You will
probably find what many other observers have found: those who visibly
connected to the experience are mostly female. Most of the males have
more of an expression of accepting the authority. So how would a patriarchy
have rituals that females easily identify with, but not males. The group
that the rituals are structured to favor will be the group that responds
with the greatest emotion.
Elsewhere we discuss 4 poles of human attitudes separated in 2 dimensions. The is both male and female, but there is also both hierarchical and egalitarian. Considering the two dimensions we see hierarchical female - matriarchal thinking, hierarchical male - patriarchal thinking, egalitarian female - sororital thinking, egalitarian male, fraternal thinking. In some ways matriarchy will have more in common with patriarchy than with sorority. In most cultures mother and father are paired together. In the mysteries of the church the Holy Father obeys the wishes of the Holy Mother.
The culture of the Roman Church is not as distinctly patriarchal, meaning
male, as many claim. It is distinctly hierarchical, but the hierarchical
nature demonstrates many female elements. The fathers exist in the context
of the Holy Mother.