Feminism Invades Church and World, and I’m Frustrated

I am confused.

  • Are women so inferior that the “best” woman in the whole world is really a disfigured man?
  • Or are women so superior that only a woman can fairly interpret the teachings of Christ?

By AnonMoos, toa267 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By AnonMoos, toa267 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Both viewpoints have made it onto the Internet this week; and frankly, I find both viewpoints equally distasteful.

  • If a man is inherently superior to his wife, an attitude against which mainstream feminism rails, then women’s exclusive role as life-bearer and nurturer is unimportant, and women’s role as equal to men in the workplace is socially impossible.
  • But on the other hand, if women are superior to their male counterparts, that likewise denies the God-given spark which illuminates each person as a divine creation, made in His image.

Myself, I think we’re all–men and women alike–damned amazing. It is not a default inferiority of either gender that holds us (either men or women) back from achieving our personal best; rather, it’s  our own lack of creativity or lack of persistence or lack of effort. Feminist whiners who demand the right to be exactly what men are, rather than insisting that their unique gifts and charisms be valued, are abrasive and just plain wrong.

*     *     *     *     *

But on November 3, Glamour magazine is expected to announce its selection for “WOMAN OF THE YEAR” who just happens to be–get this!–a MAN.

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And if you, dear ladies, don’t find it insulting to think that a women’s fashion magazine which depends on women’s subscription dollars can’t find a single female on the planet who is a better “woman” than a cross-dressing, physically mutilated and psychologically stunted man, then I can’t imagine what could possibly get under your skin.

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In a hilarious and brilliant op-ed in The Federalist, Nicole Russell voices what we all really knew all along: Caitlyn Jenner can’t be “Woman of the Year.” Russell reminds me of the little boy who realizes that the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, and hence brings the parade-goers to their senses. Jenner cannot be woman of the year,” Russell writes, 

“…because—kids, close your eyes—he has a penis. Jenner might feel like he is a woman, he might want to be a woman, he might be living as a woman, but thoughts do not generate biology or reality. (I’d like to think I’m a millionaire and living in Turks and Caicos year-round, but that doesn’t make it so.)”

Russell hits the nail on the head, identifying the reason that ordinary women are enraged by the selection:

“By choosing Jenner as woman of the year, Glamour endorses the idea that men are better at being women than we are…. Apparently real women can’t cut it, so we’ve got to import men into our ranks to win awards.”

Glamour has gotten a lot of criticism from the pundits and talking heads–people in media, whose job it is to analyze stuff like this. I hope their combox and mailbox are filling up with complaints from readers, as well.

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I hope, in fact, the whole idea falls so flat with American readers and advertisers that Glamour is forced to abandon its featherbrained plan and make a wiser choice. I don’t really expect that to happen, but that’s what I’d like to see.

 *     *     *     *     *

Meanwhile, over on the “Catholic Authenticity” blog, fellow Patheos blogger Melinda Selmys takes the opposite view. I sort of hope I’m misunderstanding what she means, when she says that

“I would go so far as to say that the failure to meaningfully include female voices is a significant contributing factor to most of the major issues the Church is struggling with today. From the rejection of the teaching on contraception, to the lack of community and fellowship in our parishes, to the crisis of the family, I honestly don’t think that real progress is going to be made without harnessing the incredible and largely untapped resources of what John Paul II called the “feminine genius.”

First, Melinda, tell me that you don’t mean that this paucity of female perspective is the cause of such terrible things as the Catholic Church’s opposition to contraception. I pray that your familiarity with the Theology of the Body persuades you that the joy of the sexual embrace is a God-given gift, a means by which a married couple show their love and welcome to one another, totally and without reservation. The husband is dedicated to his wife, promising to love all of her–including her fertility. The wife gives all of herself to her husband–including the new life which their love may engender. Neither denies any part of the other; and God sometimes, if it be His will, blesses their union with a new life–the most beautiful of all gifts.

.

Remember how TOB discusses the “unitive and procreative” purposes of human sexuality? Remember Peter, Paul and Mary, celebrating the unitive and the procreative in Noel Paul Stookey’s ’70s folk ballad “The Wedding Song”?

“As it was in the beginning, is now until the end, woman draws a life from man and gives it back again. And there is love. There is love.”

No, it is not the Church’s “subordination of women” which has led to more Catholic couples practicing birth control. That tragedy, that sin, is the result of poor or rejected catechesis, the pursuit of earthly goods and the lifestyle which mandates that women work full-time rather than fulfilling their most meaningful role as welcomers of new humans to the planet. It’s the result of feminism which denigrates the life-giving role of a woman, even though it is only our children, not earthly goods or wealth or fame, that we can take with us to eternity.

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Melinda writes about the “historic exclusion of women” in the Church as sinful. She thinks that women are rebelling against the clerical mindset that relegates women to back-seat roles:

“As a group, women have said ‘No.’ No, we will not organize the parish dinner, and run the parish lottery, and host the parish ladies’ night, and staff the children’s liturgy, and pop out the next generation of good Catholics, and pray, pray, pray for vocations and for the needs of the Church unless, until, we actually get a say.”

Balderdash, Mindy. You are correct that there may, in fact, be a dearth of volunteers to sustain parish activities; and in a sense, this is related to the changing women’s roles in society. It’s hard to be a volunteer if you’re also raising a family and working a full-time job. As everyone, both male and female, is increasingly burdened by societal pressures to work longer hours, there are fewer people to fill volunteer posts. Parishes ultimately may have to meet the need by streamlining their operations, increasing their paid staff, or abandoning some projects altogether.

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But you can’t convince me that what we’re seeing is some kind of “women’s strike” against the Catholic Church. You yourself write of the many contributions which women have made and continue to make in the Church: women’s religious orders that provide for the education of children, the care of the sick, and the support of the poor, and more.

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And I hope you’re not saying that women would be clearsighted with regard to Church policies, whereas male clergy are hopelessly ineffective. Because see, if that’s your point, how does that differ from the rejected perspective that men are better thinkers or workers? I am a firm supporter of gender neutrality, so I truly believe that both men and women who are devoted to God and committed to His Church are valuable servants, and that we need not spend any more time demanding a 50/50 split. Sexism, whether directed toward women or toward men, is repulsive.

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And in reality, women are already serving in important roles in the Church. Renee M. Lareau, in a 2011 article in U.S. Catholic, reported that

“Though most U.S. Catholics would not be surprised to learn that women comprise 83 percent of those engaged in parish work, many are not acquainted with the increasing number of women who hold high-level administrative church positions in dioceses, social service agencies, and faith-based organizations. These pioneering women carry with them an enormous amount of decision-making power by virtue of the positions they hold.” 

I can’t see how the “women’s strike” of which you write holds any validity, in light of these statistics. Lareau’s article includes interviews with a woman who was associate general secretary of the USCCB, a female canon lawyer, a female chancellor in the Archdiocese of Dallas, a female pastoral administrator in Portland, Oregon, and a pastoral associate in Dayton, Ohio.  

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The International Business Times, hardly an insightful analyst of Catholic Church organization, published an article for International Women’s Day 2015 which made the claim that women still hold only 20 percent of Vatican positions. This seems appropriate, considering that many positions are occupied by bishops and priests; but even at that, the IBT noted that the number of women employed by Vatican City has nearly doubled over the past decade from 195 in 2004 to 371 in 2014.  

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Lastly, if you think for a minute that “more women in authority” would resolve the Church’s problems, let me hold out our nation’s leading example of feminine leadership: Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States. The Rev. Charles Alley, an Episcopal priest from Richmond, Virginia, has said that under her leadership, his church has been 

“so interested in being relevant (that) in many ways we’ve rendered ourselves irrelevant as a church.”

In just ten years, according to the Deseret News, following a decade of dissension, departures and even litigation the Episcopal Church has seen a decline of 18% in active members, and a 24% decline in average Sunday attendance (ASA).

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But employing the standard of gender blindness that I have called for above, let’s say that the decline of the Episcopalians is not, as one might infer, attributable to Jefferts Schori’s gender, but is the result of inadequate theology.

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  • http://www.skjam.com SKJAM!

    “And I hope you’re not saying that women would be clearsighted with regard to Church policies, whereas male clergy are hopelessly ineffective.”

    From my reading of Ms. Selmys’ essay, she’s not saying that. What she seems to be saying is that allowing women to have a voice in Church policies *as well as* men will lead to clearer vision, as opposed to having *only* men (and almost entirely celibate men who we hope are in no danger of causing pregnacy let alone experiencing it) to have a direct voice.

    • Asmondius

      I suppose only a doctor who has personally experienced cancer can advise a cancer patient.

      • http://www.skjam.com SKJAM!

        One would hope that the doctor has learned to listen to those who have personally experienced cancer about what actually helped, rather than have those voices excluded in favor of only those who have never experienced cancer and have no chance of contracting it.

        • Asmondius

          Your side-step did not work. It was rather awkward, really.
          .
          I am not aware that cancer patients can conduct tests upon themselves to determine what is ‘helping’. Using that rationale, a cancer patient being treated with chemotherapy might swear that the doctors are trying to kill her.
          .
          Knowledge is not limited to capacity or experience. And that is fortunate, because otherwise people might never have learned how to fly.

          • http://www.skjam.com SKJAM!

            That makes it sound like you believe cancer patients should have no voice in their own treatment–they’re not allowed to tell the doctor about side effects, or seek a different doctor if the cancer is getting worse instead of better. I hope that’s not what you meant. But following a metaphor too far down the rabbit hole can lead very strange places.

            Or to put it another way, do you think any particular category of people should trust a system that makes the rules for that category of people without allowing them to have a voice in the process that makes the rules, and indeed specifically excludes anyone who might be in that category from having a direct voice?

          • Asmondius

            Another side-step – ‘sounds like’.
            .
            Let’s circle back to your original comment. Exactly what Church ‘policies’ do you wish women to be involved in formulating?
            .
            Why do you feel that a celibate man is somehow lacking – does the sexual act grant wisdom? And why would the experience of pregnancy make a woman more suitable than a man?

          • http://www.skjam.com SKJAM!

            If you’re going to use a metaphor, you must expect side-stepping within the metaphor.

            Policies on marriage, sex, raising a family, pregnancy and so forth are ones where having people who have actual experience of the subject have a voice in how policy is set would seem to be helpful. Academic knowledge is not the only kind of knowledge that can be applied when you’re making decisions; practical knowledge is also good.

            Thus allowing women to have a voice in policy about them; allowing people who are or have been married to have a voice about policy regarding them, and so forth.

          • Asmondius

            The Church is not a democratic institution, and I suspect much of what you refer to as ‘policies’ are actually items of Catholic faith.
            .
            But to clarify, please tell me for example specifically what Church ‘policy/ies’ on pregnancy you feel women should have a voice in.

          • Sue Korlan

            Well, in the study of cancer the scientific method is used to determine which treatments are effective and which have only placebo effects, regardless of what cancer victims might say about how to determine what works. So in the case of cancer, the victims don’t have any say in setting up the rules.

          • http://www.skjam.com SKJAM!

            Does the AMA prevent anyone who has had cancer, has cancer or might be in danger of cancer from becoming an oncologist? Also, good doctors take feedback from their patients about what the treatment is doing to them. Patients are allowed to seek second or third opinions, or even reject a course of treatment altogether. A patient has the right to question how removing their leg will cure arm cancer, just because the doctor’s ancient text says that’s the right treatment.

          • Sue Korlan

            Doctors don’t rely on ancient texts; they rely on the results of scientific research using the scientific method. Certainly individuals may reject treatment; the result is generally an earlier death than would otherwise have occurred. There are certainly oncologists who have had or will have cancer ,but that has nothing to do with what does and doesn’t work in extending patient lives. The scientists using double blind studies determine that.

          • http://www.skjam.com SKJAM!

            Yes, which is where the analogy with the Magisterium breaks down.

  • Birdy

    Grouping Melinda’s article with these other issues seems rather unfair. Her article was pointing out that the lack of female inclusion in decision making in the church has been unhealthy for the church as a whole. Her critique was respectful towards the church while still recognizing that completely excluding women from the church decision making, while continually saying they need to be more included, is something that most Catholic women find very frustrating. Hardly an invasion of feminism (plus there a lot of very positive things that have come of feminism, it’s hardly a negative invading force).

    • Proteios

      feminism also was the banner held when ‘great’ feminist scholars and speakers said gems such as;
      “all sex is rape”
      “marriage is a prison”, “marriage is only there to control women”
      “the bible was written to control women”
      “prostitution is empowerment because women control sex”

      Lets not ignore the deceptions and lies perpetrated under the banner of feminism and only point to the good things. I would agree that many good things have occurred to give women legal rights. But to be intellectual about it, we need to take it in its totality and that overall suggests “feminsm” is in need of redefining itself to actually be about women becoming women and not a bad example of a man.

      • Birdy

        You are right that many negative things have also been promoted in the name of feminism. It’s a really broad term and has been used for both good and bad. But I do find it bothersome when feminism is painted as some over-all corrupting influence when the basic idea (men and women are equal and should be treated as humans) has been very positive.

        • Spiritual Ronin

          There is a phenomenon knows as enantiodromia which basically means that everything turns in time into its opposite. That’s what has already happened to feminism. Instead of being about equality, feminism has become an ideology of women’s supremacy over men.

  • captcrisis

    “Chancellor” sounds important, but in the Catholic Church she’s just a secretary. The Chancellor is in charge of keeping and organizing Diocesan documents.

    You do deserve a lot of credit, Kathy, for keeping your ears open. A lot of bloggers here just ban dissenting commenters.

    • Rob B.

      That is because Ms. Schiffer is a lady of grace and quality.

  • Sheila C.

    Do you really think that losing members is proof that a church is irrelevant? Because you must know the Catholic Church is experiencing a net loss of members as well. And for the first time, Millennial women are leaving even faster than the men are. Does that mean the Catholic Church is irrelevant to women? I should hope not!

  • marymiriam

    Women own their own bodies. Your body is your own, woman. No one owns it. It’s a revolutionary concept. The church does not own it, the government does not own it, your husband does not own it, another man does not own it. No one owns it but you. No one has a right to it but you. No one has a right to it without your permission. All the lovey dove songs in the hit parade don’t change that.

    • kathyschiffer

      And you, Mary Miriam, do not own the body of the totally whole person who lives inside of you, and who was created by God.

      • Mary B Moritz

        Kathy, may I say “totally whole person who you are, and who was created by God.” – our body is an integral part of us as person.

        • Patti Dansereau

          I’m sure she was referring to a baby that lives inside her.

          • Mary B Moritz

            You are correct. I was wrong. The language barrier hit me once more.

    • Asmondius

      The Oregon college shooter ‘owned’ his body as well…..
      ,
      Did that give him wisdom?

  • Proteios

    we are trying to make the world save for the emotionally fragile moslem population. So, like the iranian women’s soccer team – its all men. So by publishing material that realizes women are of little or no value and putting men in all the roles, we are making it very islam-friendly. I think the progress women have made is ready to be threatened by outside values. Noone will see it coming.

    • Rob B.

      ” I think the progress women have made is ready to be threatened by outside values. Noone will see it coming.”
      No one except the Catholic Church, which has been ringing the alarm for decades…

      • Proteios

        touché.

  • Kay

    Well, as far as Glamour goes….. it IS a piece of junk, so there really is no surprise here, Kathy. I stand with your concerns completely and it is a valid discussion. But let’s be honest: its an attempt to sell more useless magazines. Carry on.

  • Therese

    Thank-you for voicing what I believe a majority of women think. I speak as sister of 6 women, mother of five daughters, nurse of 32 years and teacher in an all- girl high school for the past 15 years. Feminism is just SOOO Whiny and victimizing!!!!

  • Spiritual Ronin

    I just love to watch political correctness self-destruct… The conflict between feminists and transvestites is only the beginning.

  • Luis Gutierrez

    Regardless of ancient patriarchy and modern feminism, the family is evolving from male headship to joint male-female (father-mother) headship. I hope the Church will evolve in the same direction, in response to the signs of the times.

  • John Martino

    She is not saying that the teaching on contraception is the result of not including women; she is saying that the dramatic failure to inculcate that teaching in the faithful is a result of not including women.

  • Dave Snyder

    I just had to see how you ladies were going to react to this one. But there is just too much estrogen on this string for this ol man to comment. Well done Kathy.

  • John Stevens

    The false premise that is the foundation for all this misery is just this: that men and women are so similar as to be comparable, and in that comparison, deemed to be “equal.”

    This silliness is false to fact even at the most basic, biological level: bone and blood, eye and brain, women and men are different.

    To compare men and women in this way is to engage in a fundamental logical error. It is like comparing a screw to a nut; any equality you find will be real, but fundamentally irrelevant to the question at hand.

    To truly understand this correctly, we must meditate on the concept of “complementarity”, that relationship whereby two different things can, in being joined together, create a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts.

    To speak of a screw as being “superior” to the nut is to miss the entire point of having both screws and nuts. Let’s stop trying to make the entire world into just a collection of screws and be more appreciative of the value of what can be created by joining together that which God has intended to be parts of a much greater whole.

  • Korou

    Kathy, weren’t you saying just the other day that people are too negative and insulting to others online?
    And then you write this:
    “Feminist whiners who demand the right to be exactly what men are, rather
    than insisting that their unique gifts and charisms be valued, are
    abrasive and just plain wrong.”
    Don’t you think you should try put your views in a more civil tone?

  • Sue Korlan

    I am always amazed at how little Church history the average Catholic knows. Before the Reformation the Church had a number of double monasteries, one for men and one for women, in which each had a separate superior, but the Abbess had the final say in disagreements. St. Hildegard of Bingen, canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI had power equivalent to that of a bishop because she was an abbess. So all this about how patriarchal the Catholic Church is simply shows how little we know our own history.