How can I understand 1 Timothy 2:8-15? It appears on the surface to be against women.
One should not misread St. Paul in 1 Timothy 2:11-12, the verses that typically raise the most concern in the longer passage of 1 Timothy 2:8-15. As a leader in the early Church, Paul is not issuing a categorical ban on women in teaching ministry. He is specifically prohibiting them from the teaching and governing ministry exclusively reserved to the ordained clergy (1 Cor. 14:34-35). That would mean, for example, as it does to the present day, that women cannot give homilies at Mass, a teaching function reserved to bishops, priests, and deacons.
St. Paul clearly affirms elsewhere the equal dignity of men and woman in Christ (Gal. 3:28), as well as that women can pray and prophesy otherwise within Christian worship (1 Cor. 11:25). Paul adds that women provide an important service in teaching the faith in word and deed in other contexts (Titus 2:3-4).
For more information on the role of women in both the early Church and contemporary times, please see the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s declaration Inter Insigniores (On the Question of Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood).