The Church hates women according to Frank Bruni

Let’s play a game called find the errors. This should be fun. For fodder we’ll use Frank Bruni’s opinion piece in the New York Times, May 6, 2015, “Catholicism Undervalues Women.”

I do recommend reading the article, but I probably only left out a handful of sentences.

Now let’s begin. I found 19, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll comment on 15.

  1. “[Pope Francis] left out the part about women in the Roman Catholic Church not even getting a shot at equal work”
    1. Conflating vocation with job status. The Catholic Church also doesn’t allow men to be mothers.
  2. “When the symbolism, rituals and vocabulary of an institution exalt men over women”
    1. Google titles for the Virgin Mary, She’s a woman, and I’m pretty sure she’s exalted over all human beings.
  3. “When challenges to that imbalance are met with the insistence that what was must always be”
    1. Challenges to the imbalance like educating women or giving them positions of power when it was not allowed publicly? That would be during the monastic era in the so-called Dark Ages. See Hildegard of Bingen, Doctor of the Church.
  4. “—that habit trumps enlightenment and good sense.”
    1. Conflating the role of tradition with habit. Tradition is one of the three ways God reveals himself to us: Scripture, Tradition, Magesterium.
  5. “For women to get a fair shake in the work force, they need at least some measure of reproductive freedom”
    1. Sexist! Sexist! Sexist! I don’t need to stop being a women and not have babies in order to be equal to men. If women can’t be equal in the workplace because they have babies maybe the problem is the workplace.
  6. “Some Catholic leaders don’t merely cling to that hoary stricture; they promote it, despite its disproportionate effect on women’s autonomy.”
    1. God willed us for own own sake. Christianity is the thing that taught us about this whole human dignity thing.
    2. In Africa, women are grateful for the influence of the Church because they have more rights, since the Church is against polygamy. I hate when these culture-bound Western-centric writers think US issues are the only issues that matter. Get a map, the US is not the world.
  7. “Their vilification of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious”
    1. Hehe, he didn’t read anything written by the Church on this.
  8. “In 2012 the group was denounced by the Vatican”
    1. In 2012 the Church opened an investigation. Denunciation would be the conclusion of an investigation. He is confusing Pope Francis’ “truce” (his word) with the closure the investigation in 2015, which according to him was a denunciation.
  9. “Church’s refusal to follow some other Christian denominations and ordain women undermines any progress toward equality”
    1. Same complaint, different words. Why would the Church, which is older and more structured follow other Christian denominations?
  10. “Male clergy are typically called “father,” which connotes authority. Women in religious orders are usually called ‘sister,’ which doesn’t.”
    1. Heads of religious orders are called “Mother.”
    2. He didn’t mention this so he must think father has more authority than mother, so maybe Bruni is actually sexist, and not the church.
    3. Men who aren’t priests but are in religious orders are called Brother. He didn’t mention that either.
  11. “Things could be different. Traditions change.”
    1. Yes, traditions can change, but church teaching cannot.
    2. Priestly celibacy is a tradition.
    3. Male priesthood is a teaching and cannot be changed.
    4. Get it straight. Try to be less creative with your words, you should have stuck to “tenets.”
  12. “History and mythology yield to fresh interpretation.”
    1. That’s a loaded statement that isn’t quite clear. How we interpret history and mythology has evolved, see The Theology of the Body.
    2. Bruni pretends to ask for evolution, but is really asking for radical transformation – revolution.
  13. “Yes, the Bible says that all 12 of Jesus Christ’s apostles were men. But I’ll see you that dozen and raise you one Mary Magdalene, to whom Jesus supposedly appeared first after the resurrection. Isn’t her role as foundational to the church’s birth?”
    1. Well, Mary the Mother of God is more important than Mary Magdalene but she isn’t as salacious. He’s being very choosy in his examples. Women who actually embody obedience to God should be pushed aside, it seems.
  14. “Can the church afford to alienate a generation of young women mystified by its intransigence?”
    1. Again, where are women most on fire? Traditional circles. Religious orders which seek out ways to use the gifts of its members, who teach the truth, who are not afraid of sacrifice and the vow of poverty.
    2. He is making a claim based on his viewpoint, not actual evidence of where success is found.
  15. “But the metaphor remains, and it casts women as offshoots, even afterthoughts.”
    1. Regarding women being taken from the rib. His is one “fresh interpretation.” Another is that Adam was lonely, incomplete, without a partner. Jewish perspective sees the rib as indicating an equal. She could have come from his foot. But she didn’t.


Overall I think it is Bruni who is pushing his worldview, his perspective on what makes a liberated woman, which is a woman who works, who uses birth control. That attitude harms women because it creates a professional pressure for women not to be tied to their bodies or their babies. The women who “have it all” are under tremendous emotional and professional pressure to make it all work. Many of them experience feelings of guilt because balance inevitably means neither is 100% the way they would like it to be. Don’t add to it by saying a woman can only be equal if she has birth control and can work as much as a man.

His western-centric worldview judges the Catholic Church based on American values. This does injustice to those around the world suffering persecutions through societal structure, government persecution, or the suppression of culture. These Catholics find freedom and liberation in the Church. But they aren’t worth mentioning because they aren’t white Americans.

For some more intelligent responses than mine, read here.

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