New Vatican document slams feminist ideology, Vatican fears radical movements blurring differences between men …, Vatican denounces feminism, Vatican document says feminism has mixed up gender and family …, Vatican castigates feminism, Women slam Vatican’s "time warp" policies, Vatican document attacks feminism, Vatican denounces drive for male, female equality, Vatican blasts feminists, Vatican assails feminist thinking, Vatican criticizes ‘feminist rhetoric’, Vatican criticizes feminist ‘distortions’
All of these headlines refer to new document on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the world.
What do all of these headlines have in common? It is that they are all wrong. Of course we go through this cycle every time a new document is released and reporters search through it to find affronts to secular sensitivities like homosexually and women’s rights. Tom of Disputations has previously talked about the Ginger Factor and the tendencies of journalist to search for sound bites in a complex document. Documents that are steeped in scripture and theology have a very high Ginger Factor for journalists and this one is no exception.
Now I have read through the document and it generally does not go into a critical analysis of modern feminist ideas, but is more of a reflection on constant Church teaching and scripture on the roles of men and women. Its one reference of the word feminist only says a certain type of "feminist rhetoric."
Among the fundamental values linked to women’s actual lives is what has been called a “capacity for the other”. Although a certain type of feminist rhetoric makes demands “for ourselves”, women preserve the deep intuition of the goodness in their lives of those actions which elicit life, and contribute to the growth and protection of the other.
I guess any document that angers radical feminists and homosexual activists is probably a good document. Jimmy Akin says of this document that it is a step in the right direction and I agree with him. His criticism of the document is also on target.
What the document says about the genders is correct, but it does not offer sustained argument for the positions it takes–at least not the kind of argument that many feminists are likely to find persuasive. The document appeals more to the biblical vision of womanhood than to natural law considerations. The latter could serve as common ground (or at least potential common ground) with those attracted to feminism but likely to dismiss scriptural considerations as the product of a past culture. Natural law considerations are not absent from the document, but they are not its focus.
The document has a very restricted scope. It is not a full-orbed articulation of the meaning of manhood and womanhood and how the sexes should relate. Indeed, there is virtually nothing said in the document about the biblical or natural meaning of manhood. The document speaks much of "feminine values" and their importance in society and the Church, but there is no parallel discussion of "masculine values" or their importance.
The following paragraph is what will get the most attention by the media.
A second tendency emerges in the wake of the first. In order to avoid the domination of one sex or the other, their differences tend to be denied, viewed as mere effects of historical and cultural conditioning. In this perspective, physical difference, termed sex, is minimized, while the purely cultural element, termed gender, is emphasized to the maximum and held to be primary. The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has enormous consequences on a variety of levels. This theory of the human person, intended to promote prospects for equality of women through liberation from biological determinism, has in reality inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality.
In fact that is one of the paragraphs that Todd of Catholic Sensibility cries out against it saying:
Ah! Feminism is the root of the Gay Rights Movement. This is incisive reporting that would put the NCR to shame.
I would guess the NCR he is referring to the National Catholic Register and not the National Catholic Reporter. But Cardinal Ratzinger is exactly right here when he equates the interchangeability of the sexes that modern feminism proclaims as inspiring other ideologies. If men and women are not different except for the mechanics of reproduction, then homosexual sex and same-sex marriage can not be seen as different from heterosexual sex and marriage. The moral teachings of the Church are like an orchestra that requires all parts to support each other. To remove one teaching is to introduce a dissonance that weakens the rest. But feminism is not the root of the gay rights movement, original sin is. Radical feminism has only made the gay rights movement more acceptable. It is not likely that the gay rights movement would come first. And that has been true of the pattern throughout the world. When everyone is contracepting does it matter if they are heterosexual or homosexual? Todd continues:
Seriously, I find the beginning of this letter to be as flawed as the blogosphere arguments I see that set up the worst of the arguments of one’s adversaries for the sole purpose of blasting away. What would have been really interesting? The CDF sitting down with Catholic feminists and coming to a collaborative agreement on what to tell the bishops. If the CDF can’t model collaboration with women, how can it hope to say anything substnative on the issues of men and women in society?
Please enlighten us as to what Catholic feminists would critique or add to this document. These documents are not written in a vacuum by just one person. I wonder just how Todd knows exactly who was consulted for this document? What theologians and others provided input? Also I doubt that what I have in mind as a Catholic feminist like Alice von Hildebrand is also his definition. Unfortunately EWTN does not have her excellent series roundtable discussion show called "Femininity and Feminism" archived or I would point people to that as and authentic discussion of Catholic feminism. Alice is fond of reminding people that Eve was taken out of the side of Adam as an equal, where Adam was created out of dust.
I wonder if any radical feminists will see these parts?
Whenever these fundamental experiences are lacking, society as a whole suffers violence and becomes in turn the progenitor of more violence. It means also that women should be present in the world of work and in the organization of society, and that women should have access to positions of responsibility which allow them to inspire the policies of nations and to promote innovative solutions to economic and social problems.
It is appropriate however to recall that the feminine values mentioned here are above all human values: the human condition of man and woman created in the image of God is one and indivisible. It is only because women are more immediately attuned to these values that they are the reminder and the privileged sign of such values. But, in the final analysis, every human being, man or woman, is destined to be “for the other”. In this perspective, that which is called “femininity” is more than simply an attribute of the female sex. The word designates indeed the fundamental human capacity to live for the other and because of the other.
One of the problems with what passes for feminism in Catholic circles is the measure of equality used. St. Paul in !st Corinthians said:
But all these things one and the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as he will. 12 For as the body is one, and hath many members; and all the members of the body, whereas they are many, yet are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free; and in one Spirit we have all been made to drink. 14 For the body also is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot should say, because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were the eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God hath set the members every one of them in the body as it hath pleased him. 19 And if they all were one member, where would be the body? 20 But now there are many members indeed, yet one body.
They equate no women’s ordination as a slander against the female sex and a blow to equality. That the eye must also be the hand. That as part of the body of Christ you can only make a difference if you are in a specific office of it. During the period of the Avignon papacy it was not a priest or Bishop that brought the Papacy back to Rome. St. Catherine of Sienna a laywomen (and Third Order Dominican) who maintained correspondence with bishops, kings, scholars, merchants, and obscure peasants was the impetus for Pope Urban VI return to Rome. She didn’t live her life complaining that she couldn’t become a priest. She spent no time complaining that family obligations prevented her from entering a convent. Instead she lived a life of holiness ordered to her vocation as a single women. All of us are called to that life of holiness in accordance with the vocation we are called to whether single, married, or the religious life.
The Church has not been perfect in proclaiming the message of participation in the Church by both men and women. It wasn’t till the last hundred years that women were named Doctors of the Church, though women were always recognized as saints. There is always room for improvement of both the proclamation of this message and its carrying out by individual members. It is funny that Protestants attack the Catholic Church for "worshiping" Mary and feminists attack the church for it’s hierarchy hating women.