The Public Interest

Catholics and their colleges (II)

Christopher Jencks & David Riesman

Summer 1967

The Catholic Church, like most other organizations, is controlled entirely by men. While it does not take the view that men have a monopoly on divine guidance (note, for example, the high proportion of female saints), it does grant men a monopoly on power within the Church. Women cannot become parish priests or rise into the hierarchy, nor have they any role in choosing those who do. In this, of course, Catholicism is not significantly different from other major Christian denominations. What rather sets it apart is the fact that, having excluded women from its management, it has nonetheless recruited enormous numbers of them into the religious life. Traditionally engaged in elementary schooling, nursing, and charitable activities – as well as contemplation – American nuns have in the past sixty years entered higher education on a large scale, often competing directly with male teaching orders.

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