In his weekly Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis came out publicly in favor of equal pay for women. The Pope described pay disparities between male and female workers as a “pure scandal”, and he added that Christians “must become more demanding” in supporting gender equality. Pope Francis also took aim at cultural conservatives who blame working women for undermining the traditional family, arguing that those ideas are misguided forms of “machismo” expressed by men who “want to dominate women”.
The Pope made his position clear by stating unequivocally:
We should support with decisiveness the right to equal pay for equal work. Why is it a given that women must earn less than men? No! They have the same rights. The disparity is pure scandal.
While his comments were addressed to a global audience, they came at a time when the issue of equal pay for equal work is on the political radar in the United States. In 2014, Republicans in the House and Senate repeatedly rejected measures designed to ensure pay equality.
For example, Republican Senators killed the Paycheck Fairness Act, each time it was voted on in 2014. Ironically, a number of Catholic Republicans were instrumental in defeating the measure. Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte (NH), Susan Collins (ME), John Hoeven (ND), Lisa Murkowski (AK), James Risch (ID), Pat Toomey (PA), David Vitter (LA), and Marco Rubio (FL) all voted to defeat the Paycheck Fairness Act, even though each of them, like the Pope, identify as Catholics.
While nobody should expect Catholic lawmakers to agree with the Pope on every issue, it is nevertheless interesting that GOP Catholics cite church doctrine when voting their conscience on issues like abortion, but then ignore the Pope when he speaks of providing aid for the poor or when he calls for pay equality for women.
The Vatican is not historically known for being a hotbed of feminist thought, and even this Pope has made some astonishingly chauvinistic comments at times. Nevertheless, by forcefully standing up for the principle of pay equality, Pope Francis is marching the Catholic Church forward. Republican Catholic lawmakers in the United States should pay attention to the Pontiff, because on this issue he is making a whole lot of sense.