Speaking in front of 20,000 people in St. Peter’s Square on April 29, Pope Francis referenced the teachings of the bible to make some strong statements about gender equality.
Most notably, he commented on the unfair position of women relative to men regarding wage disparity:
As Christians, we must become more demanding in this regard: for example, [by] supporting with decision the right to equal retribution for equal work; disparity is a pure scandal.
The leader of the Catholic church proceeded to discuss the creation story in the bible, which describes Eve being born from Adam’s rib as a helper to him, which is often interpreted as a sign that women should be considered inferior to men in the eyes of god. Pope Francis sought to dispel this myth:
The image of the rib does not in any way express inferiority or subordination, but on the contrary, that man and woman are of the same substance and are complementary.
Speaking in Italy, a country that ranks 69th in the world for gender equality and and 114th for workforce participation and opportunities according to the World Economic Forum (pdf, p.9), the pope also emphasized his stance on women’s emancipation as it relates to modern marriage. “Today, society is confronted with fewer marriages. In many countries, separation of couples is increasing, while the number of children is decreasing,” he said. Blaming this on women, he added (link in Italian), is “a form of male chauvinism: The man who always wants to dominate.”
Blaming women for the declining marriage rate, Pope Francis added, is akin to Adam’s misguided judgement of Eve (link in Italian):
This way, we disgrace ourselves as Adam, who in order to justify himself from eating the apple answered to God: “She gave it to me.”
Of course, it’s worth noting that the Roman Catholic Church does not (and has no plans to) employ any woman in leadership positions. The pope has clearly stated before that “the door is closed” to any opportunity of women’s ordination.