Dialogue w a Woman on Abortion, Female Priests, Menstruation, Etc.

Dialogue w a Woman on Abortion, Female Priests, Menstruation, Etc. February 1, 2021

Former Catholic feminist Nica (not sure if she still believes in God or not), commented underneath my post, Only Spiritual Revival Will Stop Abortion (1-25-21), and dialogue commenced (albeit after a very shaky start!). Her words will be in blue. I have edited the exchange, to maintain topical continuity and for relative brevity’s sake. The complete back-and-forth can be read in the combox.

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Honey, only if and when you have a womb, you have the right to pontificate on pregnancy.

Honey, only if and when you exercise your brain, will you be able to engage in a discussion on abortion here.

Oh, dear. I guess a BA in philosophy & English & 2 MAs & ABD in religion count for nothing. Oh, & knowing Koine Greek. And actually having a uterus. But I’m just a female. Alas!

They count for a lot. All the more reason to not make such an idiotic statement. To think that one with a degree in philosophy could make such a ridiculous pseudo-“argument”! But as we know from the Bible, mere education or head knowledge is not at all the same as wisdom and truth-telling.

Dave, I’m truly sorry if I come across as merely antagonistic. The fact is, I enjoy honest debate, a socratic-sort of conversation, yet have little opportunity/ venues for that these days. So, in this moment, since you’ve kindly answered me, you’re my conversational partner.

If “idiotic” describes basing one’s ideology upon simply having a uterus or a penis, then we agree. But religious codification of morality imposed ont0 secular laws has no justification. And such religiosity is most often performative rather than personally spiritual.

Seriously, Dave. I wonder why we mortals weirdly focus on reproduction as THE primary moral issue/”directive”. Perhaps that’s it: Our fear of non-being, on nothingness beyond death. But contraception, abortion, & euthanasia won’t abstract us from that Reality we can’t know & fear facing.

But as we know from the Bible, mere education or head knowledge is not at all the same as wisdom and truth-telling.

The Jewish/Christian bible clearly doesn’t dictate to all Americans. I assume you know this.

The bible isn’t the key to “truth”. Nothing is.

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Dave, take heed that “pseudo-arguments” belong more to apologetics than to rational discussion. Unlike apologists, I’m not starting with conclusions & then defending them. I’m beginning with premises & then seeing where they lead me. Or, at least, that’s my intent.

Don’t infantilize or disparage me again. I’m a nearly a 66-yr-old female, once married at a late age & then too early widowed, with no children but having had a late abortion at age 43, living always with rescued dogs & cats, raised as a RC, educated in RC schools for 12 years & way beyond, a college adjunct prof for 20 years at numerous universities with many other years of work history besides, suburban for most of my life but now rural, … & overall tired of pedantry & the games we all play.

My rather severe sciatica & scoliosis tend to rule my life these days. So I sometimes snap when insulted.

I’m sorry to hear that you are physically suffering. I hope you find some solution to that pain soon. I’m also very sorry that you had to endure the agony of an early widowhood. I haven’t experienced that, but I am the last of my original family. Both parents, my only brother, only sister, and a sister-in-law have all died (two of them younger than 50). My 68-year-old sister passed on last year. I couldn’t even visit her in the hospital because of the pandemic.

My comment about “wombs” wasn’t intended as personal; it wasn’t about you yourself, but about womb-less males in general.:

Yeah, I know. Nor were my comments. Yet you say I have “infantilize[d] or disparage[d]” you as a person. I did no such thing. Even my sarcastic reference to “adults” was rhetoric: not to be taken literally. I assumed you would see that. But with hindsight I suppose it was too harsh, whether sarcastic or not. So my apology for that and I will remove it. But my replies were referring to your one-line dismissal of anything whatsoever I might say about abortion, simply because I am a male.

You can’t possibly hold to that as a thinker (in my opinion) if you ponder it very long at all. It would require all of us to never render or be able to hold an opinion about anything that we haven’t personally experienced or are at least capable of experiencing (many women have had no desire or need for an abortion even though they all have wombs).

And that’s simply an absurd position.

Unless you can become pregnant, unless you can incubate another being inside your own body, unless your body can birth this other being, then your opinions about this are rather facile.

Education merely tells us that woman can become pregnant. Wisdom tells women how to avoid or void unwanted pregnancy.

The fact remains that abortion involves another human being, with DNA just as all of us have, and possessing everything he or she needs to become as you or I, if simply given time and a chance to live in this world. And that is something I must speak up about. The fact that I am a man is absolutely irrelevant to the question of whether a preborn child is a human being and a person, and whether they have an inherent right to life.

You started out saying that I can’t “pontificate on pregnancy” because I don’t have a uterus, and now you say I am your “conversational partner”? Which is it? Those two contradict. I’d love to have an “honest debate” just as you say you do (now), but since I am a guy we can’t discuss abortion, according to you . . .

If you’d like to discuss something else besides abortion (something that men are allowed to consider and comment upon [thank you] ), please let me know. I have no problem on my end getting along with and dialoguing with anyone. But it takes two.

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… It would require all of us to never render or be able to hold an opinion about anything that we haven’t personally experienced or are at least capable of experiencing (many women have had no desire or need for an abortion even though they all have wombs).

And that’s simply an absurd position….

Dave, I’m tempted to agree.

Great!

But …

After all, I’m not a gun-owner, nor have I kids in schools, yet I consider it okay to opine in general about the issue of school shootings. Still, I’m careful to limit what I say to what I think I know. Nor am I an epidemiologist, but feel fairly confident in trusting what experts say about the pandemic. I’m not a vegan, yet I’ve always been careful about food I served at (pre-pandemic) house parties.

So you concede that people can speak about things they haven’t experienced and can’t personally experience, up to a point . . . Then of course it is to be determined what that point is . . . And that’s not so easy, either. Better to simply say, “shut up about things you know little or nothing about [irregardless of gender and experience] but feel free to render an opinion on stuff you do know a little but about.” In other words, make the determination of when and how to speak, knowledge rather than simply gender and personal experience.

Just how much men can know about women and their problems: as well as how much we can be very strongly affected by them in their own lives (and even how we can provide practical help), is what I hope to express in my reply to your next section.

I bled monthly, if irregularly, for about 35 years. Cramps. Pads or tampons. That was my reality. Do you even try to understand this? Some of my friends had such bad menstrual experiences that they needed to take off from work & just crumple up in bed for a day or two. Menstruation is harsh. So is pregnancy. So is birthing.

Meanwhile, impregnating a woman is rather easy: A 10-minute wham, bamm, thank you ma’m.

Since you asked me personally, yes, I do try my best to understand the immense frustrations and sufferings fertile women go through every month. I understand that many (most?) men don’t do very well, and I abhor that with you.

I helped my wife (now 62 as I am) to not ever have hot flashes, and to experience a very mild menopause indeed, through a few well-known herbal supplements. That’s not a small thing. I sympathized, acted upon it, and solved it. I have an article about it, that has been up on my website for almost 14 years.

Some of those same supplements are very helpful during pregnancy as well.

My wife has had six miscarriages and very difficult pregnancies (we have four children). Do you think that doesn’t affect the husband, too? Those were also my children. In a happy marriage (as we have) each partner intensely feels the pain of the other, and longs to do something about it.

My wife also had an extremely serious post-partum depression after our second child in 1993 (at points almost suicidal). Have you ever lived with a person who is in serious depression, for years on end? I have with many family members. It’s no bed of roses. Yes, of course, they are suffering the most, but it doesn’t follow that loved ones around them do not suffer a great deal, too. And with depression I have experienced it firsthand. I went through a hellish, existential deep clinical depression for six months in 1977: the worst year of my life (age 18-19). So I know both ends of it.

And in my wife’s case (an even-tempered, easy-going person not — like myself — prone at all to depression otherwise) I solved her problem, after seven miserable years of taking Zoloft, with very undesirable side effects. My wife became like a different person. That drug — though it does help many, too — too often “emotionally flattens” people and makes them almost “zombie-like.” She looks back at pictures and videos during that time and it frightens and saddens her.

I solved the problem by a simple regimen of amino acids (which she has now successfully taken for over 20 years). We consulted our doctor and he agreed that we could and should give it a try. And it worked great, and almost immediately. So I did what the doctors couldn’t figure out for seven years (and our doctor was a great guy). Here is what she takes, which I have made available, so it may help many others as well. More recently, I provided much scientific support for the efficacy of tyrosine regarding depression: one of the supplements she takes.

I also helped my mother (then in her 80s) to stop having hallucinations and shaking that was actually diagnosed as Parkinson’s. By study on the Internet I figured out that she was having adverse drug interactions (which amounted to gross incompetence on the part of her doctors). My sister and I helped her to “wean off” of about eight drugs she was taking (many of which clashed: and anyone could quickly determine that on medical sites).

The symptoms vanished and the doctor reversed her diagnosis. I could have easily sued them for malpractice, but I don’t do that. So once again, the doctors had my mother in a miserable, misdiagnosed state, and little old me, by doing Internet research, completely eliminated her problem. I love doctors and conventional medicine, but they are by no means infallible. Believe me, I know.

You can say “men have no idea how difficult menstruation is.” That’s true, yet we can certainly learn much about it through observation and desire to help females in our lives get through it, as best we can. It’s not like we’re totally in the dark about these things. All of us have suffering to go through in one way or another.

I think everyone should make an effort to understand and try to help everyone’s problems, as much as possible, regardless of gender and other categories that often unnecessarily separate people from each other. We all have our crosses to bear. Love demands this, and as Christians we are commanded to love all people and share in the sufferings of at least those closest to us, or whoever we happen to be with at the moment.

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Hey, & thanks again, sincerely, for a “collegial” reply.

You’re welcome and my pleasure. Thanks for your amiable reply. I’m enjoying this on a Saturday afternoon, all by myself here at the moment.

It’s unfair that I’m inflicting my present catharsis on you, personally,

It happens a lot and I understand. It’s a small negative compared to achieving that rarest of things anymore: a dialogue.

but I do blame apologists for much of Christianity’s present troubles.

All we’re doing is defending things that we didn’t establish. We do catch a lot of flak for taking stands on issues that we either defend or critique, which means that we will always (by this field’s very nature) be saying that someone or something is wrong. People clearly don’t like that. And so apologists are too often treated with contempt or at least negativity in a way that, say, baseball umpires are, because neither they nor we can please everyone.

I hold strong that organizations, like individuals, need to adopt a self-critical stance if they are to be honest.

Absolutely. Jesus expressed this in His teaching about seeing a speck in someone else’s eye while ignoring the log in our own. I f I hadn’t done that I could have never changed from evangelical Protestant to Catholic, or pagan practical atheist to evangelical, or political liberal to conservative, or social liberal to moral traditionalist (and many other changes).

You know, I sometimes (since I don’t dwell on it, not too often) just tire of being female in a male world,

I think I can understand that, too (despite being hampered by being a lowly male). Men have (very often) treated women abominably.

with a nominally male God supposedly overseeing the injustices “he” created.

God also has very typically feminine characteristics, as I have written about.

Males throughout history wrote the rules we’re all — women & men — demanded to follow.

I agree in general. But I don’t agree with your indictment of Catholicism itself on this score.

And please, before you write this off as “feminist” nonsense or tirade, consider the pope’s recent proclamation that — wow! — females can now be lectors, … though never priests or even deacons, of course.

Well, you presuppose here that differences in roles inherently imply some kind of essential inequality. This is untrue. See:

Is Catholic Male-Only Priesthood Inherently Sexist?

Dialogue with Atheists: Sexist, Misogynist Bible?

Misogynistic Catholic Church?: Reply to an Atheist

Dialogue: Are Jesus, the Bible, & the Church “Sexist”?

I have written about how in Catholicism the very highest, most exalted creature (by far) is Mary the mother of Jesus. She’s venerated so highly that some of our Protestant brethren falsely accuse us of elevating her to the very Trinity. Now how could that be if we supposedly think women are unequal to men? There are also four female Doctors of the Church: which is a status at the very top of the Catholic Church: far higher than a mere priest. Why would that be, if you think we are so “patriarchal” etc.? It makes no sense to me.

St. Catherine of Siena is up there with St. Thomas Aquinas; St. Teresa of Avila with St. Augustine. I think it’s fantastic. I have a great love and admiration for the female Doctors, and also (above all) for Mary, who is the mother of all of us. I compiled a book of the thoughts of the great female (along with male) mystics:

Books by Dave Armstrong: “Quotable Catholic Mystics and Contemplatives”

I had never been so edified and blessed in writing or editing a book.

Maybe the hierarchy collectively & blindly think that women throughout the world are now doing jubilation-cartwheels because of this. No. Not at all.

If they don’t understand these matters and their rationale in the first place, of course they won’t understand that particular decision or why only men are priests. Their objection is at the level of premise.

Women ask only for an equal participation in Church & State. We are, after all, half the human race. And Miriam of Magdala, not Peter or John, was the first witness to the resurrection. An “apostle” — one “send forth” to testify to & proclaim the Good News.

I think it’s great. The male disciples were a bunch of cowards and wimps and didn’t even believe the report at first. I stood in the spot where this happened in our visit to Israel in 2014. Whenever I was in a spot where the Blessed Virgin Mary was, it was a profound spiritual experience.

In 1992, I wrote a 3-part article (each reasonably short & trenchant) about female priesthood, for possible inclusion in the Philadelphian Catholic Standard & Times. One that was philosophically, scripturally, & historically grounded. No surprise: It was rejected. No reasons given. I never bothered to try to re-submit my arguments anywhere since then, since I know that the RCC will not listen …

Dogmas (by nature and definition) can’t change. Surely you know that. Do you have a fundamental objection to the notion of dogmas, too? They’re not that different from, for example, fundamental laws of science. Try to argue with a scientist that the laws of thermodynamics ought to be challenged, and that a scientist ought to be welcoming of such a change. Try to argue against e = mc2 or other well-established scientific tenets accepted by all. They’re not “dogmas” in the same sense that Catholics hold positions in faith, based on supernatural revelation, but they are still extremely averse to opposing opinions because they are so widely accepted and presupposed.

That said, I think a case can be made that that publication ought to have accepted your article, but with a counter-view also. That’s what I would do on my blog (and do it all the time on hundreds of topics). :-) So if you like, send it along . . .

I’ll respond to more of what you have written, but in another post. This is becoming too lengthy :)

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The fact remains that abortion involves another human being, with DNA just as all of us have, and possessing everything he or she needs to become as you or I, if simply given time and a chance to live in this world. And that is something I must speak up about. The fact that I am a man is absolutely irrelevant to the question of whether a preborn child is a human being and a person, and whether they have an inherent right to life.

No doubt an acorn has oak-DNA. It’s a proto-oak, if you like. Or that a maggot has fly-DNA, making it a proto-fly. That doesn’t make an acorn an oak tree or a maggot a fly. Yes, given time & luck, they may grow into their destinies, just as a a human embryo might become a living child. But such developments are incremental & uncertain, since miscarriages (spontaneous abortions) are common. In the earliest stages, zygotes are simply blood clots routinely found on our tampons/pads. Or, in other words, just part our monthly bleeding, not some “life”.

This is what men, who experience no monthly issues of blood, cannot experience & therefore not comprehend. A blood clot isn’t a “person”.

You know what women can’t understand? Why a male who wants no children won’t have a vasectomy. After my abortion (kinda simple) & insertion of an IUD (agonizingly painful), I finally asked my husband why? After all, he’d impregnated 2 other women before meeting me, & they’d had abortions, so why hadn’t he done something about it? He’d even refused to use a condom. So why? He seemed confounded & didn’t seem to know. I loved this man dearly, but this denial of responsibility shook me. Yes, I continued to love him, but something was then lost in our relationship. He died in 2007 of 2 sudden strokes so I will never have an answer.

When it comes to females & males, we clearly experience pregnancy differently. It’s her body. “We” aren’t pregnant; “she” is.

I’ll continue this later. I’m just exhausted these recent days & need to sleep.

By the way, my husband was a truly good person. This was a blind spot he, & too many other men, have. It’s simply not a part of their lives. See, it’s fairly easy for most women to become pregnant. It takes wisdom to avoid having procreating un-wisely.

When does human life begin? When did you begin your existence?

[I]n other words, just part our monthly bleeding, not some “life”. . . . A blood clot isn’t a “person”.

Since the menstrual flow is (almost always) an unfertilized egg breaking down, along with other non-human things, I don’t see how that comment is relevant to anything, since we’re not talking about a human being in the first place. No one is saying that
a “blood clot” or menstrual flow is a person. There’s nothing to “comprehend” about it (whether male or female observer . . .). It’s straightforward biological fact.

Remember the uterine lining we talked about a few weeks ago? Thanks to hormones produced by the ovary as it develops a mature egg, that lining, also known as the endometrium, develops as well, thickening to accommodate increased blood supply and fluid-secreting glands. All of this activity preps your uterus to be the coziest, most nourishing place possible for an implanted embryo, allowing a pregnancy to flourish.

If no pregnancy occurs, that cozy lining has to go somewhere, and so does the unfertilized egg. Enter the menstrual period. In addition to blood, the menstrual flow contains disintegrated endometrial tissue, vaginal secretions, cervical mucus, and the unfertilized egg—all the good stuff that your body sheds to get ready for a new cycle of ovulation. (“Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Your Period”Extend Fertility, 5-5-16)

A vasectomy or other brand of contraception makes perfect sense for those with the contraceptive mentality (not saying I agree with it). For Catholics, and indeed all Christians before 1930, contraception is and was gravely evil because it is “playing God” and messing with the natural law and the nature of things: separating what ought not be separated in essence.

When we contracepted as a married couple (from 1984-1990), we used mostly the birth control pill, which we later learned is often an abortifacient. That made perfect sense from the modern secular viewpoint, where sex is ultimately reduced to urges and the “plumbing” and desire for pleasure and orgasm (not bad in and of itself, but only when made the sole end and purpose).

When we understood the Christian view held by all Christian before 1930, we stopped doing that and abstained during the fertile times we didn’t want to conceive a child (Natural Family Planning). The Catholic view allows such sensible planning for the right reasons (emotional, financial, and health).

Like many other things in serious Christianity, this was very difficult to do many times. Jesus never said discipleship would be easy. But it leads to joy, peace, and (usually) happiness (a more fleeting and changeable thing) . I can certainly testify to that in my own life.

Secular social studies show that serious Christian couples not only have far more stable marriages and marital happiness, but also (surprise!) that they have a more satisfying and exciting sex life.

So you concede that people can speak about things they haven’t experienced and can’t personally experience, up to a point. . . Then of course it is to be determined what that point is. . . And that’s not so easy, either.

No concessions necessary here, Dave. This is irrefutable. Yet there’s a difference between what we haven’t experienced & what we can’t experience. As a female, I can’t experience this male Viagra-need. As a male, you can’t experience female menopause. Lacking breasts, you cannot experience how sensitive they can become. Lacking testicles, I can’t experience how sensitive they are to pain. [Shrug]: Just as genders differ, so do individuals. I’m okay with that. Marrying a man, living with a man, doesn’t make me an expert on males. At best, it gives me some insight into our differences.

Yes, we all have sufferings. As I’ve said, I have severe sciatica & scoliosis, as well as arthritis though my neck & shoulders since my 30s. And my 65-yr-old knees are now rebelling. Both men & women have such age-related disabilities. Men do not have hot-flashes. Some debilities are gender-specific.

Again, I’ll abbreviate this post, since I’m tiring too much. I’ll come back to your remarks.

That’s a lot of suffering. So sorry you had to go through it. No rush here. You do what you have to do to feel better. I hope you feel at least relatively better soon.

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Photo credit: Bacembassem (6-3-16) [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license]

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