Forms of Patriarchy in Amoris Laetitia and in the Papacy of Francis

14 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2017  

Mary Anne Case

University of Chicago Law School

Date Written: February 7, 2017


Almost all of the considerable attention, both negative and favorable, thus far given to Pope Francis’s lengthy Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia has centered on a single footnote discussing access to the sacraments for the divorced and remarried, and, more broadly, on Francis’s treatment of those living in what Catholic orthodoxy deems irregular unions. In this chapter, taking a critical feminist approach to Amoris Laetitia and to other key elements of Francis’s papacy to date, I will be putting the emphasis elsewhere, on what I see, not as promising new innovations, but as disturbing reaffirmations of a patriarchal vision of both the family and the Church, in each of which women are at risk of being seen as under male headship, even as the Church proclaims their conceptual equality with men. It is possible to chart a more optimistic course for feminism through the text of Amoris Laetitia and more generally through the papacy of Francis, as I shall also briefly discuss, but there is a certain ambivalence to be found in even the most affirmative of signals sent to date.

Suggested Citation

Case, Mary Anne, Forms of Patriarchy in Amoris Laetitia and in the Papacy of Francis (February 7, 2017). U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 613. Available at SSRN: or

Mary Case (Contact Author)

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-834-3867 (Phone)
773-702-0730 (Fax)

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