Feminism Invades Church and World, and I’m Frustrated

Feminism Invades Church and World, and I’m Frustrated October 25, 2015

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.

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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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