Why Catholic Feminism?

The following text is a modified excerpt from one of the video lessons — written by our program instructor Dr. Abigail Favale — featured in the Cultivating Catholic Feminism program.

Do We Really Need a Catholic Feminism?

To be a feminist is—at heart—to be a champion of women’s dignity. But considering that Catholicism affirms everyone’s human dignity, is Catholic feminism really necessary? Isn’t it, in fact, redundant? 

In a way, that’s true. To be Catholic is to be concerned with woman’s well-being. And yet, we would argue that it is also necessary to have a movement within Catholicism that is focused on the flourishing of women specifically. 

The Popes

Our most recent popes seem to agree. Saint John Paul II called for the promotion of a 'new feminism' in his Encyclical Evangelium Vitae. He has said too that "the importance of true Christian feminism is so great that every effort must be made to present the principles on which this cause is based, and according to which it can be effectively defended and promoted for the good of all humanity." 

Much more recently, Pope Francis has written about recognizing the "workings of the Spirit" in the women's movement. He even condemns the not-unpopular-argument "that many of today's problems have arisen because of feminine emancipation," calling this idea false and a "'form of male chauvinism.'" (Source)

A Patron Saint

Edith Stein is perhaps the best candidate for a patron saint of Catholic feminism. Her writings highlight the truth of Genesis 3:16, which describes how sin corrupts the dynamic of communion between the sexes into a dynamic of domination. This awful truth echoes throughout human history and into our own time. There are still forces in society that are actively eroding the dignity of women. As long as we live in a world twisted by sin, we will have to resist the dynamic of domination

A Thoroughly Catholic Feminism

And so, we need women (and men!) who are committed to unmasking and naming those dynamics, in a bold and prophetic spirit, and who will work to undo them through the power of grace. This authentically Catholic kind of feminism cannot look like a feminist donkey with a little Catholic tail pinned on. Catholic feminism must be the organic outgrowth of a vibrant spiritual life, one nourished by the sacraments and guided by truth. 

To be a Catholic feminist is to become a channel of Christ’s love, and direct that love toward women, children, and those who are most vulnerable. St. John Paul II once called women “sentinels of the invisible.” Women are guardians of the truth of the human person—that each person bears God’s image, and each human body is a sacramental bridge that makes visible the immortal human soul.

Explore the Program

How then would a “new” feminism — an authentically Catholic feminism — both dialogue with and meaningfully differ from secular feminism? That is the focus of this video program, which seeks to establish a framework for Catholic feminism and, from that framework, to engage with secular feminism on a range of important topics. Sign up for our free program below.