crossbench peer and supporter of the British Humanist Association, delivered a speech yesterday in which she accused the Catholic Church of being “positively bad for women”. Speaking in the House of Lords on the subject of international development, she said: “What has religion done for women? It has done nothing for them."Oh, really? Peter Williams, in the Catholic Herald, continues,
It was Christian ethics that led to the end of the Roman principle of patria potestas, though which a Roman husband has power of life and death over his family (including his wife), and gave women greater equality in marriage, over property, and in her rights as a mother over her children. It was Christian monasticism that gave women profound authority and power as Abbesses, and a space for female creativity to flourish as we see in the life of St Hildegard of Bingen. It is Christianity today that promotes a sexual ethic that liberates women from the sexual exploitation and objectification to which the permissive society subjects them.
Furthermore, it is the Church today that gives education and healthcare to the poorest of women in the Third World, often through the active ministry of Catholic women, such as the Sisters of Mercy. It is Popes who have actively advocated the dignity and rights of women in documents such as Pope John Paul II’s Mulieris dignitatem in the 1980s.
By contrast, all that Baroness Flather has to offer is baseless population control advocacy, and the lazy prescription of handing out condoms. This is based on a falsehood: the idea that world population has grown because of increased fertility. Quite the opposite is in fact the truth. The number of children borne by each woman has fallen over the last fifty years. The reason why there are more people in the world today than ever before is because fewer people are dying, due to improved healthcare and economic development. Moreover, falling fertility rates mean that the world is actually likely to decline in population in the next century. People are not the problem, and therefore contraception is not the solution to either poverty or climate change.