The Papists

Apologetics and Evengelization
  • June 3, 2012 4:44 pm
    Anonymous:  I am trying desperately to be open minded and understand the conservative and religious point of view (as I am very liberal and atheist). I understand that it is against your beliefs to use contraceptives and a Catholic wouldn't want to pay for contraceptives because of the belief of life-giving acts, etc. However, what about when birth control is used for health reasons? Some people need birth control for hormonal, or other (possibly dangerous) issues. What if they can't afford it on their own?

    Hey anon! Sorry for taking so long, I wanted to make this as good as possible. I want to start off by letting you know that I greatly appreciate your desire to maintain open minded. I respect that very much. 

    In regards to oral birth control, it is morally acceptable to use it if your intention is for corrective purposes and not for contraception. Oral birth control does have alternative uses that do improve the health of a woman; it could be little things such as acne and regulating abnormal menstrual cycles, or it could be more serious, such as Endometriosis and Polycistic Ovary Syndrome. In these cases the medicine should not be described as “birth control” because it is not the intention; it is a medicine with a side-effect of suppressed fertility.

    The issue with the Mandate is that it forces companies who give healthcare to their employees to cover multiple forms of contraception. The reason why the pill is on there to begin with is because it is used as a contraceptive. I doubt that the people who wrote this mandate were thinking about the alternative uses for oral birth control (my own opinion). 

    Keep in mind that the Church’s goal is not to out law the covering of birth control, but we don’t want the Government to force employers to cover certain things, especially if it infringes on the conscience of the employer. I’m sure we can all agree that we don’t want the government to make us do things we don’t want to do.

    The thing is, no one needs birth control. I realize that it can be a very good option when being used to correct something, but as far as I know, almost every medical condition has multiple ways of being treated. I know Jordan, one of the contributors here on The Papists, used to take an oral contraceptive for corrective purposes and decided to change her medication. 

    So if a woman can’t afford oral birth control and wants to use it for corrective purposes but works for a company that doesn’t cover it, she could still find another option that would be covered by her healthcare.  Furthermore she has the ability to choose whether or not she wants to be covered by the company and can even choose not to work for the company.

    The Catholic Church is all about helping people, She would never leave someone without more than one option. 


    P.S. Your question on abortion should be coming out soon. 

  • May 7, 2012 11:53 am
    commedia-divina:  I think you guys really missed a great opportunity to explain that we refer to God as a He because He is the one who penetrates into reality and is the active force in producing life within us while we assume the feminine role of nurturing that life essence. The sexual imagery is deliberate because in the beginning sex was not meant to be a lewd act, but as a beautiful participation in God's creation. Hence ProCREATION. We refer to God as He because He is the penetrative potency in our reality.

    You’re right, that is one traditional way of explaining the imagery.

    So stated, however, it misses the subtlety of more modern understandings of the feminine role in procreation. It was once thought that women contribute nothing to new life, that they were simply “empty vessels” to be filled up with the man’s life force. Even in the early modern period it was thought that each sperm was a whole, tiny human being, and this was “proven” by microscopic studies that showed humanoid shapes. 

    Now, of course, we know that women actively contribute so much to procreation, in both the genetic and the spiritual senses: it takes an egg and a sperm to create a new human being; bodies and souls are not just empty receptacles, but actively nurturing, life-giving agents, that operate primarily inwardly.

    So yes, the traditional imagery and explanation does have that value: it sees an accurate analogy between God’s ex nihilo creation and the male part in reproduction, and every soul’s feminine relationship to God is, if not quite doctrine (I’m not sure), an unavoidable part of Tradition—in part we are all the Church, which is feminine, and Christ’s Bride—but it’s also important not to miss or minimize the extremely important elements of our growing understanding of the “active” power of “female receptivity.”

    Water, after all, is a traditionally feminine symbol, and water has a power, even in still, quiet pools, that people underestimate at their own risk.

  • April 11, 2012 11:53 pm
    Anonymous:  1. Firstly, I'd like to say that the anon who concluded with "Hope you die tomorrow!" was a different anon than myself, and I am the one who originally posed the question re: women and the church. While they did make a point that I myself was going to, the way they ended that message was very inflammatory and rude, so I apologize for their actions, whoever they may be. Secondly, I'd like to thank you all very much for giving me an intelligent debate rather than just blindly arguing your beliefs.

    Thank you! And no problem. Faith and reason are the “two wings” which allow the human person to rise to the contemplation of Truth, as a famous pope said. Faith without reason is nothing, a false faith; reason without faith is impotent and self-destructive.

    2. While, yes, it is true that the “separate but equal” argument was used to say that AA’s were less than human and disqualifying women from priesthood is not nearly as terrible, this does not excuse that it’s the same argument. You’re saying that women were called to fill separate roles in the church but are equal in the eyes of God. “Separate” roles that are “equal.” Plus, I never said women’s roles were lesser, I just pointed out that they’re separate and that in itself precludes equality.

    It is not the same argument. The premise of racial segregation is that skin color is of supreme importance in determining salient differences between individuals. It’s akin to saying all blondes must be dumb because they are blonde. The Church’s position is that sex/gender is a different kind of difference, something more substantial than skin color or hair type. You are free to disagree with that idea, but you cannot say that it is the same argument as the racial segregation argument without attacking a straw man.

    You said men and women’s jobs the Church are “separate, and that in itself precludes equality.” They are “separate” because they are different. There are all kinds of jobs to fill in the Church and many roles to play. Many of them can be filled by both sexes. Only Holy Orders cannot. If difference in and of itself means inequality, then you are arguing that women are inherently inferior to men just because they are different. If that’s the premise you’re after, I refer you to radical Feminists and Islam, which both hold that opinion. The Catholic Church does not.

    Motherhood and fatherhood are different. Is one superior to the other? No. I’d give you another example, but I can’t think of anything off the top of my ahead that isn’t a false analogy. (Motherhood and fatherhood are not analogies to the priesthood, because, as I described, they are in fact the essence of the differentiated male and female natures/essences and subsequent activities that we’re discussing.) If I think of a solid analogy, I will post it separately.

    The language of the two arguments is, unfortunately, the same, but the premise and the conclusions are radically different.

    3. The role of the pope and higher-up members of individual churches ARE more important simply because they have some measure of power. They are able to adjust the dogma and practices of the church and its community. Nuns CANNOT do this. Power is what determines importance, /especially/ to those outside of the church. And I speak this as someone who was upset with this issue when I WAS a practicing Catholic and went to a Catholic school for 9 years. Priests were always more respected than nuns.

    You’re equating power with importance. The Church does not do so. It’s not the Church’s fault that the world, people outside (and even inside) the Church do not understand this—it’s the Church’s job to educate on that point.

    That education is the Gospel itself. God’s own “power” was revealed and encased in weakness: An infant. A child. A dying man on a cross. God’s way, the Church’s way, is “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” It is not supposed to be the world’s way. The Church’s conclusions are not based on the world’s premises. If you want to understand the Church’s argument, you will have to accept it on its own premises, not yours. If the whole world wants to condemn the Church as sexist because they refuse to start from this simple premise, that true “power” and leadership are found in what the world condemns as “weakness,” then of course they’re not going to understand! The Church, like her Lord, must not ever come to the world on her terms in such matters, because that would mean rejecting the very salvation which the world is being offered. 

    Any time priests are given “more respect” than nuns, that is a problem. Priests certainly deserve great respect because of the unique role they have to play in the Church, but they are human beings, worth exactly as much as every other human being—infinitely! Clericalism—the privileging of the clergy over all the rest of the faithful—is one of the most dreadful recurring temptations in the Church, but it is just that: a temptation, a corruption of truth, not a genuine expression of doctrine or love.

    The Pope does not determine dogma. The Magisterium does not determine dogma. Individual bishops and priests do not determine dogma. God who is Truth has revealed himself to humanity and established the Church as the one sure-fire way to interpret that revelation. The Holy Spirit guides the Church into preaching that truth infallibly. The Pope and the Magisterium do not discern that revelation in a vacuum; it is not revealed to them alone and they do not interpret it alone. And not just in theological matters, but in matters of custom and canon law, as well. To think of the Magisterium as a bunch old white men alone in their ivory tower sending down arbitrary proclamations that everyone else has to follow blindly is to think of a caricature of the Church, a harmful and base stereotype conceived and propagated in ignorance and even willful stupidity. It bears no relation to the actual organic unity, organization, and running of the Catholic Church, yes, even in its most mundane, hierarchical, worldly, men-filled roles.

    Returning to doctrine: Just for a quick example, two of the most important points of revelation, were, in fact, revealed to women. To the Virgin Mary, at the annunciation, and to Mary Magdalene, the first disciple to know that our Lord is a Risen Lord. Bear this in mind: if the Twelve—stupid, commonplace, patriarchal men to the core without God’s assistance (this is one of St. Peter’s claim to fame, after all: like Moses, his absolute ineptitude when without the assistance of God) would certainly never have dreamed of announcing the resurrection through a woman. They wanted to convince the Jews that the Messiah had come, and women could not legally testify in Jewish courts. They didn’t believe her themselves! Nevertheless: from first to last, salvation history hinges upon the actions of women as well as men. 

    Furthermore: Certain people are named Doctors of the Church because of the “great advantage the whole Church has derived from their doctrine” (x). There are definitely women on this list. Not many, to be sure, but that is the fault of misogynistic culture, not the Church. The Church moves and transforms slowly, but eventually if the Gospel were truly lived out in society, it would be the end of sexism (and every other harmful -ism) and women would have all the educational and economic opportunities as men; then we’d see a great many female names added to that list. We’re already headed that direction.

    And, as I mentioned in this post, St. Paul himself, wrongly vilified as a misogynist, both affirmed and allowed the role of women in both speaking to and for God, in church and out. Some of his dear friends, missionaries like him, were women. One of the most famous is Priscilla, wife of Aquila. You might call them the original husband-wife convert team.

    In a separate post someday I’ll have to expand on this list of “powerful” and worthwhile women’s roles in the Church—and make no mistake, it can be expanded, almost infinitely—but questions don’t have the “read more” feature, and this is already going to be a Wall O’ Text.

    4. I brought up slavery in the latter part of my question completely separately from the first part re: the “separate but equal” argument. Sorry if that wasn’t clear. I wasn’t referring to American slavery at all, I was just referring to the act of slavery itself as it is mentioned in the Old Testament. Which we, as human beings, later realized was not right and we /now/ don’t agree with how the bible upholds slavery… (Now, what’s keeping the rest of the OT from holding these morality errors?)

    It’s a common mistake to assume that because the Bible talks about something, the Bible is supporting that something. The Bible describes the sins and errors of everyone from Adam to Noah to Moses to Lot to Judas, but it doesn’t condone any of their sinful actions. 

    The Mosaic Law, the Old Covenant, is made up of two distinct parts: moral law and cultural law. For the Jews, before Christ, these two intermixed with each other in the same way religion and culture are inextricably intertwined in societies all over the world.  Easy example: The Ten Commandments v. kosher laws. “Thou shalt not murder” is a universal principle,” whereas “thou shalt not have cheese on thy hamburger” was part of the series of laws given much later in Jewish history in response to specific and repeated violations of the moral law.

    This is the pattern of law giving found throughout the Old Testament. I recommend Sailhamer’s The Pentateuch as Narrative if you want an in-depth overview of this. (It’s more scholarly than general reading, but not impenetrable.)  Originally, there was only the commandment of love. But the more times and the more ways the Jews failed to love, the more specific laws were added—enter the Ten Commandments—and when they couldn’t even keep those, further, more nitpicky laws followed—enter rules about food, clothing, when and how to sleep, wake, do business, etc etc, ad infinitum. Most notably, the problem was the Jews kept looking for a Visible God—remember that The God of Israel, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is the Unseen God. So they kept falling into idolatry, trying to worship pagan idols. (Famous example: the Golden Calf.) Thus the sacrifice laws are mandated: instead of sacrificing to the forms of idols, they were mandated, to sacrifice the form of the idol itself—notably bulls—before God. 

    Point being, the purpose of the law, as St. Paul says over and over again, was to outgrow its own usefulness. Now that Christ has come and the grace of salvation is open to all, the law can again be summarized shortly: to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself. Christ had made the Lord God visible; with the Incarnation, the restriction against graven images passed, because now we have a true image of God; the Jewish ways of living were not part of the new covenant, and certainly didn’t apply to the Gentile converts (see the Council of Jerusalem, where this was made universal by denying the fallacious notion that somehow these customs were necessary for salvation—rather, they Council affirmed, only believing in and living out Christ’s Passion is necessary for salvation.) The extraneous things, therefore, passed away. 

    It may sound like I’ve gotten off topic, but I haven’t. Jesus Himself gives us a perfect, self-contained example of this whole process in Mark 10:1-12. In this passage, Christ identifies Mosaic divorce as a concession made to the “hardness of your hearts”—a temporary bit of legislation that served its limited, culturally continent purpose, and now passes away that the law is fulfilled in Christ, and living in grace is possible.

    In the same way, slavery was tolerated in the Old Testament. In an, “If you must live like this, do it this way, and try not to hurt each other” way. It’s the same way St. Paul writes to people living in the Roman Empire: “You’re stuck in {x] culture and situation—it may suck, but here’s how to live a Christian life in that context, since you kind of can’t get out of it.” The fact that Biblical “slavery” is different, as I said, from the racist slavery that mars American history, is extremely important. Much of the time, it was much more like indentured servitude. Practices varied from culture to culture, of course, but Jewish slavery was not on the whole, from what I know, and inherently barbaric practice. 

    In other words, the Bible does not uphold slavery, either racially or economically based. The Bible records that it happened—it records how people, no matter what system they lived in, were called to treat each other well—but it does not say, “Slavery is moral, it’s great, thou shall own slaves.”

    As Jesus said, “Before, you were allowed to divorce because you were young and blind and hard-hearted people, but now, you are capable of knowing better, so live better”; just so, St. Paul says, “Masters, obey your slaves." No, he didn’t in these particular letters call for the abolition of the economic system which made this servitude necessary—which people entered willingly, even, to work off their debts—he was writing in specific occasions to specific people who needed advice living in the situation that life found them in. "Servants, treat your masters as dignified human beings whom Christ died for, who are redeemed and free just are you are. Masters, treat your servants as dignified human beings whom Christ died for, who are redeemed and free just as you are.”

    Anyone who uses St. Paul to avoid fighting for the economic liberation and equality of all peoples is grossly misusing the text. (This was the case in every justification for slavery in America.) But more importantly, anyone who denies that the spiritual freedom—i.e., salvation—gained in Christ is more important worldly position has missed the point of the Gospel

    5. Also, re: fatherly priests, you contradicted your own argument. You said that God is sexless, but is considered the Father. Thus, if one can be considered a father regardless of if he/she is considered male by sex, then anyone can be a father according to the church, even women.

    On the contrary: we have a simple confusion of terms. Generally speaking, the word “sex” denotes the physical characteristics of a body, primarily reproductive and related features, while “gender” denotes the rather more intangible characteristics of soul, personality, and gender roles. The Church does not see an absolute separation between the two the way modern secularists, particularly radical Feminists, do, but nonetheless there is a separation: a woman may be analytical, science-minded, the breadwinner of a family, etc, even those those characteristics and roles have been associated with  men by most of Western civilization. 

    So, when we say God is sexless, we mean it quite literally: God the Father has no sex because he has no body and therefore no sexual organs. Rather, God, who is pure spirit, who logically and necessarily must be the perfection of all things, (perhaps you’re familiar with Aquinas’ arguments there?), if God really is God as Christians understand God to be—rather, then, God contains, God is, both and simultaneously the perfection and fulfillment of male and female, masculinity and femininity. 

    And yet: in God’s relationship with humanity, God takes primarily the title, role, character, and characteristics of Father, not Mother. “Primarily” not because the feminine characteristics and reality are not there, but because the relationship nonetheless exists in such a way that we cannot truthfully call God Mother—no more than we could call our own fathers mother. (You’ll probably want to introduce the LGBT* community here, and rightly so—I am willing to have that conversation at some point, but it is, though related, a separate conversation.) Fatherhood, we must conclude—and can conclude from a merely human perspective, as well—has something more to it than sperm count.

    Here’s the thing about God and the nature of humanity and family, and it’s a point both Blessed Pope John Paul the Great and Pope Benedict XVI (among others) have written about: God is so infinite, so incredibly beyond our finite understanding and capabilities, that necessarily whenever we speak of Him in human terms, it is in somewhat allegorical terms. This must always be kept in mind.

    But it must also be always kept in mind that the relationship between humanity and God is not so infinite that it can never be bridged, that we can never know anything of God—it has been bridged, we have seen His face—a human, male face—and what we do know, we know truly. 

    Finally, to return to my original argument concerning the male priesthood: The job of holy orders is to physically be Christ to the world. Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine. Part of Christ’s humanity is his sex, his masculinity. It is not inessential to him and his salvific acts, and thus it is not negotiable in those who are called to become him  through Holy Orders. In essence, this is the Catholic argument that the modern world finds so troubling: that men and women are inherently different. And that that difference, that particular way of being and living as a sexed, gendered being, has important ramifications in who is and represents Christ as a Christian.

    Now: if you want to talk about the ways the Church has failed in her mission to apply her doctrines about the equality and dignity of all human beings to women, about how slow she’s been to throw off the cold lethargy of centuries of ingrained cultural misogyny, about the individual theologians who wrote (undogmatic, untrue) hateful, hurtful, and limiting things about women, if you want to talk about all the ways the Church needs to step up her defense and celebration of womanhood in all its myriad and beautiful manifestations—if you want to talk about that, if that bothers you, then believe me when I say you won’t find a more sympathetic and indignant conversation partner than I. Just ask my fiance’, who gets to listen to me rant about such things.

    But however painful and infuriating, those sins and failures are not the whole story; they are not part of Christian doctrine; and they are, slowly but surely, being left behind. The Church is made up of fallible human people—we are a “hospital for sinners,” after all—and it’s slow going. But we’re getting there. It’s part of the whole process of transforming ourselves, and the world, in Christ. 

    Although I doubt this answer will convince you, I hope it helps you see the doctrine in a new light. God bless you!

    - Q

  • April 2, 2012 6:28 pm
    deadbrainflakes:  Now I have questions regarding the teaching (correct me if it changed since I was in Catholic school) that god is neither male nor does that mesh with the insistence on using the "father"/"lord" masculine terminology at all times. It seems to fairly smack of bias when (aside from nuns, who you can't really argue are prominent members of the community) all the authority figures in the church are male.

    First, the Church:

    I know a lot of nuns who would be pretty offended by that assumption! First, define “prominent member of the community.” And second, that’s not what Christians of any sort are supposed to care about. “Those who humble themselves will be exalted, and those who exalt themselves will be humbled.” It’s all about service to other people and devotion to God—and everyone can do that no matter what their station in life. 

    Yes, the Church is a human institution, with a hierarchy and ordained leadership, but she is not simply a merely human organization. She is the Mystical Body of Christ, where the organic unity and fellowship of the members is just as real and important as the hierarchy.

    The pope is not like a president or a CEO—he is the successor of St. Peter, who, at Christ’s bidding, was chosen to serve. It’s much more accurate to say that Mother Church is served by men than ruled by them. 

    And what do we find when we examine actual parishes? Women are everywhere, in individual parishes, even in the Vatican, holding offices, coordinating, running things, ministering to people, leading retreats and youth groups and Bible studies and book clubs and every other conceivable thing imaginable. Can you imagine if all that was left to a single man to do? How can denying the essential and important place that those activities have in the real life and heartbeat of the Church be anything but sexist? 

    So what if women are not ontologically capable of administering the Sacraments? Objecting to that is like complaining that women are inferior because they don’t have male genitalia. It’s not about what’s being done, it’s about what male and female are. So what if there will never be a female pope? The Church herself is feminine. The highest example of purely human holiness, service, and Christian love that every single person, male and female, is called to imitate is the Blessed Virgin Mary. Undervaluing the place of single women, mothers, wives, and nuns is why secular society in such trouble—the Church will only escape the same misogynistic troubles by finally beginning to take note of the real women within her ranks. Enter Blessed Pope John Paul the Great, the “Feminist pope,” who did a great deal of positive work in that area.

    If the question is about leadership, then we must ask: What is leadership? What does it look like? What are its roles? What kind of leadership is valuable? Is one kind more valuable than another? Christ gave us the answer to all these questions in the Sermon the Mount, and other places. The key words, as I’ve already hinted, are service and humility. Valuing what priests do above the many other roles that women fill commits the double sin of ignoring the very real positions of “leadership,” even by worldly standards, that women hold, and continuing the nonsensical belief that “women’s work” (i.e. anything women can do and do well) is somehow less important or worthwhile than whatever men happen to be doing at the moment.

    As I endeavored to explain in my other answer, the essential nature of the priesthood is bound up with the sacraments. Sacramental work (including the authoritative interpretation of Tradition, including Scripture and doctrine,) is the only thing that non-priests can’t and don’t do. After all, in a loose sense, every Christian is a priest: Christ came to make us a royal nation, a priestly people. 

    Ordained priests are and have been sinners, of course. There has been sexism and power-grabbing and greed and worse in the human hierarchy of the Church. But just because someone fails to live up to their calling does not change the nature of that calling itself.

    Second, the nature of God:

    God is neither male or female but contains the perfections of both. “He” is not androgynous, or a mix, or anything—God is neither, in a way that no human being could ever claim to be, because God has no body. God is pure spirit.

    God only has a sex in the human person of Jesus Christ, and that sex is male.

    But God has revealed himself continuously as Father, and his relationship to creation, to humanity, our relationship to him, as that of a Father-child relationship. It says a lot about the nature of fatherhood that this is the reality which is bound into God’s own nature, and our own nature as finite beings seeking union with the Infinite, seeking salvation. 

    Where is motherhood, you ask? Everywhere. Everywhere. In the Virgin. In us. In God’s creation of us and raising of us. In the Church. 

    Here’s an interesting analogy. So the Trinity is distinguished as One Yet Three by the fact that what separates the Son from the Father and them from the Holy Spirit is simply and only that each person is not the other. In a very roughly similar way, in God, the uniqueness, distinction, and existence of fatherhood and motherhood are distinguished only by their being and acting in tandem, intimately tied together but nonetheless differentiated. Even in human parenting, where does motherhood end and fatherhood begin? Both parents change diapers, prepare bottles, feed the children, raise and educate them—where is the difference? In who each parent is, and the way that affects those same actions. God contains the equal perfections of both motherhood and fatherhood—but it is as Father that he has chosen to reveal himself, and his divine motherhood, and the universal role of motherhood, is expressed in different ways.

    I do very much think that it is high time for a renewed emphasis on a Christian anthropology of womanhood, on the place of women and motherhood in salvation history, and in the daily life of the Church. There has certainly been a long—and necessary—emphasis on manhood and fatherhood. But as the Church—that is, as we, as Catholics—go forward into the future and continue separating out culture and truth from sexism and bigotry, we will be ever more capable of articulating just where and how male and female work together best in the world, the Church, and salvation.

    - Q

  • April 2, 2012 4:58 pm

    Why can’t women be priests?

    Re: This question, which argues that the phrase ‘separate but equal’ applied to the sexes in regard to the priesthood is just as bad as it was when applied with regard to racial segregation. Chris and I both had responses, so I’m posting mine here separately.

    Slavery in the Bible:

    Slavery was a tradition in most cultures, but unlike American slavery, it was not based on racism but war and economics. Still not defensible, of course, because it reduced people to commodities, but it is important to note that the base hatred of another skin color was not what fueled slavery for most of world history.

    The Catholic argument is simply that men and women are different, and that those differences mean something. Skin color is not an ontologically significant difference among people; sex is. Of course, that is precisely what so many modern people protest… Christians, however, are called to believe in the Genesis creation story: “Male and female, He created them.” Male and female together make up humanity which is made in God’s image.

    Is it just about gender roles?

    No. The male priesthood is not legitimately argued for from an “only men are suited for careers” premise or some such nonsense. Instead, it’s about the kinds of actions that stem rom whether one is a woman or a man. Let me put it this way:

    Mothers and fathers are different kinds of parent. Both essential, both wonderful, but these ways of parenting are inherent and expressed in different ways. Well, the priesthood is spiritual fatherhood. Women cannot be priests because women cannot be fathers. Priestly actions are fatherly actions. The priest acts in and for the person of Christ, the Son, and speaks in the name of the Eternal Father. Just as carrying a child inside for nine months and producing milk are inherently maternal actions, the actions the priest performs and the words he speaks in the person of God and on behalf of God in the Mass are inherently paternal.

    If we think of the priesthood as just another job made of external actions that bear no inherent relation to the actor, we’ve made a grave mistake. Yes, priests spend much of their time preaching, educating, and taking care of people—actions that women can and do perform, whether as laity or religious—but the essence and heart of a priest’s work is what he does as Christ, in persona Christi, in the Mass, becoming an instrument through which the power of God transubstantiates mere bread and wine into the very Body and Blood of Christ. 

    The reason male and female were needed to both be humanity to complete the image of God is because God, sexless, contains the perfections of both male and female. But God has revealed himself specifically as Father.

    (Certainly there is much beautiful feminine imagery of God in the Bible—in the Old Testament there are numerous places where the original Hebrew suggests God’s “birth pangs” and “giving birth” to His children—but that imagery is supplemental to the direct revelation of God as the Father, Abba, and God the Bridegroom who seeks his bride, Israel.)

    This revelation of divine Fatherhood is not inconsequential—nor is it without significance that Jesus was incarnated as a man. There is something about the Father-Son relationship, revelation tells us, that is central to the identity of God, to salvation, and to our relationship with God. 

    When priests perform the sacraments—especially the Eucharist, but any of the seven sacraments—he becomes a living embodiment of that Father-Creator identity, that Father-Son relationship, and the male, human-divine, Jesus Christ. Just as certain forms of matter—wheat, grape wine, oil, pure water—are necessary and appropriate for the sacraments, just so a male Son was the necessary matter for the great sacrament, the Incarnation, and inasmuch as priests take on that role themselves when the sacrament of their ordination confers that ontological change in their souls, so too their male humanity is necessary for them to be proper and fit matter to act and teach in persona Christi. 

    And just for the record, I used to despise the male-only priesthood. It was one of the Catholic doctrines it took me the longest to come around to. So believe me when I say, as a woman and a Feminist, that I understand your frustration, Anon. But the great and beautiful scandal of Christianity is precisely this scandal of particularity, of Incarnation, of limitation and choice. By the same logic that an infinite God could become a finite man, by the same logic that only wheat bread and grape wine are appropriate and necessary matter for the greatest miracle the world has ever known, by the same logic that a mother and father are what they are, unique, different, and equal, by virtue of their being, not simply the external duties they perform—just so is the male priesthood necessary and unchangeable.

    God bless. 

    - Q

  • April 1, 2012 10:53 pm
    Anonymous:  i feel like the bible is sexist, is it really? here are some sections that make it seem sexist in Corinthians: But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman [is] the man;Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak. and in Ephesians: Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands,For the husband is the head of the wife

    Hello Anon!

    I’m glad you worded your question that way, using words like “seem” and “feel.” Because the truth is, 1 Corinthians, like every other book in the Bible, is an historical document, written by a human person to other other human persons in a particular society, culture, time, and place. Those variables make all the differences the world. 

    Reading any of Paul’s letters today, like 1 Corinthians or Ephesians 5, is a somewhat impossible task for the average modern person who doesn’t know the first thing about the culture or history of first century Rome, much less Judaism. It’s as if you accidentally overhear half a conversation, say some guy talking on the phone: “Yeah, give it to her! Come on, you know she deserves it! Don’t hold back, go for everything you’ve got!” 

    It’s dark. His voice sounds threatening. You can’t see anything. You’re nervous anyway. Maybe the first thing you might think is, Abuse! Violence! Should I call the police? But what if you heard the other half of the conversation: “I don’t know if I should give her a diamond necklace on our six month anniversary. Is it too soon? Sure she’s wonderful, but I don’t want to come on too strong…”

    The lack of context in a dark environment is exactly the kind of unilluminated context surrounding ancient Jewish writings. Judging them from our cultural context isn’t going to do the trick, especially when we haven’t heard the other half of the conversation—in this metaphor, the specific situation Paul was writing to rectify.

    The average modern Christian doesn’t know who Paul was talking to, what the context was, or the issue he was responding to. Now add to that the confusion that comes from translating that conversation across three or four languages—and translation is always a tricky business in the most favorable of circumstances—and the whole ordeal is ripe for misunderstanding and confusion. 

    One of the most prevailing Biblical stereotypes is that St. Paul was a horrible misogynist who wanted to repress women. Poor Paul probably rolls over in his grave every time someone says that! Several places in the Bible, Paul talks about his friends, missionaries and preachers of the Gospel: he speaks highly of them and recommends them to whatever community he’s writing to at the moment. Among those listed are, guess what, women! Everywhere, Paul stresses the equal dignity of personhood of men and women. The most famous passage is of course Galatians 3:28: There is neither male nor female in Christ. 

    So what does Paul mean, then in 1 Corinthians 11, by talking about “heads” and veils and so forth? 

    The best concise explanation I have on hand is from Michael J. Gorman’s book Apostle of the Crucified Lord: A Theological Introduction to Paul and His Letters. I’ve bolded certain really important parts.

    Disorderly Women and Men in the Assembly (11:2-16):

    Few passages in the Pauline letters are as vexing for the interpreter as this one. … Within this exegetical morass, one very important aspect of the text, about which all interpreters should be able to agree, is often overlooked: Paul assumes without hesitation or discussion that women, like men, may pray and prophesy—speak both to God and for God—in the gathered church (11:4-5). No matter what else we conclude, we must stress that in this respect men and women are equal in Christ.

    The text does raise many specific questions, among which we may note the following:

    • Does the text describe male-female or husband-wife relationships—or a little of both? (The Greek words for “man” and “woman” can also mean “husband” and “wife.”)
    •  What does the word “head” mean in these verses? Does it have multiple meanings in the text? (Some possible nonliteral meanings include “authority,” “source,” “most prominent figure,” and “contrast or complement to the body.”)
    • Does the text refer to the practice of wearing some article of clothing (hood, veil, head covering) to hairstyles (loose or bound), or to both?
    • Does the passage interpret male-female or husband-wife relationships as hierarchical, reciprocal, or both?
    How are we to put together all these variables and answer all these difficult questions? Any interpretation must be offered with due humility and tentativeness. However, despite differences in detail, something of a scholarly ‘majority opinion’ has emerged. It appears that some women in Corinth felt that the gospel (i.e., life in Christ and the Spirit) emancipated them, at least when they were at worship, from their culture’s normal public expressions of (a) female distinctiveness from men and/or (b) sexual modesty. These women expressed this evangelical emancipation in  the assembly by uncovering their heads and/or letting their hair down, thereby emitting cultural signals of maleness and/or or sexual looseness.
    Paul seeks to redress this practice, not by “putting women in their place” (i.e., under the authority of men,) but by reminding male and female believers alike of the ongoing need for culturally appropriate sigsn of gender identity and/or modesty, as well as the reality of equality and interdependence in the church. 

    In other words, certain women in Corinth had begun violating cultural norms in a way that undercut eternal truth, as well. I suppose a modern example would have to be pretty extreme to capture the same sense of alarm and shock that their behavior caused Paul, but imagine this: what if a group of women walked into a Catholic church for mass in bikinis and began preaching heresy? No, that’s not what has happening, but what was happening had the same kind of shock value for those times. Elsewhere in 1 Corinthians we learn that the Corinthians were under the impression that because Christ had saved their souls, it didn’t matter what they did with their bodies (see 1 Corinthians 5.) The problems are definitely related: after all, if nothing is immoral sexually, then what does it matter if you’re a woman or a man?

    What Gorman is suggesting so far is that, essentially, there were certain women who were causing riotous problems in the middle of mass because how they were dressing and acting. In our modern age where so many people believe that “male” and “female” aren’t actual realities, or at least not the only ways of being a gendered, sexual human person, Paul’s message of respecting one’s gender identity as a woman or man can certainly sound terrible, but for Christians it’s really nothing radical. It’s a reaffirmation of the creation story: male and female God created them, and saw that it was good. 

    In other words, Paul’s message here isn’t “sit down and shut up, you stupid women,” it’s, “Women of God, remember to comport yourselves as dignified and modest women in an appropriate way, especially during mass.”

    But this still leaves those confusing remarks about the “head.” Take this to heart: no one really knows what that word means. The original Greek word is very problematic for translating. Gorman discusses several possibilities, remember; see the second bullet point above. But he continues his analysis this way:

    Paul opens and closes the passage (11:2-16) by appealing to the importance of apostolic tradition and universal custom in certain matters (cf. also 11:23-26; 15:3-7), including this one. The affirmation of three relationships of “headship” (11:3) can be understood in either specifically hierarchical (head as authority) or in more generally relational (head as source or contrast/complement) terms. In either case the relationship implies that the “head” can be shamed or disgraced by the behavior of the other (11:4-5), who is the “reflection” (NRSV) or “glory) (NAB, NIV) of the corresponding head (11:7).

    And just for the record, of those translations listed there (NRSV, NAB, NIV), the NRSV is the most accurate and most widely used in English-speaking scholarly circles. The NAB is the next-best, made to be “accessible” but mostly just clumsy as far as accuracy goes, and the NIV is not a Catholic translation. (Gorman is, in fact, a Protestant; however, and I have this on good theological authority as well as my own reading, there is nothing in this book contrary to Catholic doctrine.)

    Gorman continues:

    These somewhat confusing remarks about headship and glory envelop the concrete practice at issue: the appropriate head covering or hairstyle for men and women at worship. (The context includes but is also broader than just husband-wife relations.) If a man prays or prophesies with his head covered (11:4)—as contemporary males with sufficient social status to lead rites in pagan temples often died (as ancient statues and coins bear witness)—he shames his head (probably meaning Christ; cf. 11:3) by treating Christ like a pagan deity, drawing attention to himself, and dressing in an inappropriate effeminate way. 

    Let’s repeat that: Paul is saying that if a man prophesies with his head covered he looks way too much like pagan priests and is treating Christ like a pagan God. And that is not okay.  

    Gorman continues:

    On the other hand, a woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered (and/or her hair unbound) disgraces her head (her husband), perhaps by failing to maintain her gender identity and/or her sexual modesty; she has become a ‘loose woman,’ so to speak, and she might as well adopt the most culturally radical sign of rejecting her femaleness and modesty, a shaven head (11:5-6). 

    In other words, in terms appropriate for his culture, Paul is telling women: Don’t come to teach in church dressed like a hooker. In modern terminology, he’s not “slut shaming,” he’s stressing what all Christians are called to be: chaste people. He’s saying, you’re supposed to be living a different lifestyle; by choosing to follow Christ you’ve chosen to live a chaste life; so live it!

    Gorman continues:

    The head covering and/or bound hair, then, is a sign of chastity, a symbolic barrier to sexual advances. It is possible that a woman’s uncovered head or loose hair in worship would be associated also with the frenzied activity of women in certain pagan cults.

    At first glance, the next few verses (11:7-10), which appeal to the Genesis creation narrative, sound like the most hierarchical and patriarchal sentences in the passage, and they may well be. But modern translations can actually create more forceful impressions along those liens than what the text actually says. For example, “but woman is the reflecton/glory of man” (11:7b) can be translated “and woman….,” while woman’s creation “for man” (11:9 NAB, NIV) or “for the sake of man” (NRSV) is better rendered “on account of man.” These nuances may suggest that the relationship of man to woman is not primarily one of superiority but rather of source, as 11:8 states.

    Now we need to backtrack to the creation story for a minute. Man (literally “adam,” Hebrew for “the man,”) was created as a singular male being. He names all the animals and does not find among any of them a suitable sexual or life partner. So God puts him into a deep sleep and creates the first woman from his rib—the part of him closest to his heart, from his center. Trying to find a “superiority” moral in the order of creation is pointless and silly. If we say maleness is more important because the man was created first, then we should say that light is more important than humanity because it was the first thing God created. If we say that woman was created last therefore she is better than man, we diminish the dignity and value of manhood. No, the only way is the Christian way: male and female are made together to be the image of God; they are mutually interdependent and complementary; they are no different in dignity and worth and power; they are different, but they are equal. Whatever else you might try to pull out of the Genesis narrative or Paul’s words here (and believe me, books and books and books haven been written about it,) this one fundamental fact of complementary equality must not be denied. 

    There is one further point about origin that must be stressed, but it will be addressed several paragraphs down.

    Gorman continues:

    The enigmatic references to a sign of “authority” and to “angels” (11:10) are probably intended to reinforce the need for order in the assembly, where angels were apparently thought to join with humans in the worship of God.

    This is completely true! The liturgy we celebrate on earth is the same eternal liturgy celebrated in heaven before God’s throne.

    Gorman continues:

    Whether or not hierarchical tendencies are present in 11:7-10, the ultimate significance of any such tendencies is countered by the reciprocity and equality affirmed in 11:11-12. In the Lord (Christ) men and women are thoroughly inter-dependent (11:11); the gospel makes them equals (cf. Gal. 3:28) who build one another up through prayer and prophecy. This evangelical affirmation is supplemented by a reminder thateven in the ongoing creation of humanity through childbirth, man comes from woman, and both from God (11:12)—and explicit egalitarian affirmation. 

    This is the other point about origin I mentioned above that it is necessary to stress. Yes, woman may have originally came from man’s rib—whether we take that literally or symbolically—but in all successive human generations, men are born of women. Think of it as the “circle of life.” Not the same, but equal. 

    Gorman continues:

    The conclusion of the passage is a final admonition in the form of an invitation (11:13), grounded in an appeal to nature (11:14-15) and church custom (11:16). In sum, Paul in this passage affirms both culturally appropriate expressions of gender identity (distinctiveness and sexual modesty), grounded in creation, and gender equality and interdependence, grounded in both creation and Christ. Truly Spirit-filled worship respects these principles and embodies the order that is appropriate to the worship of God and the edification of the community (cf. 14:33, 40.)

    It’s just as Gorman says: what we, modern Christians, are to take from this passage is not that it is necessary for women and men to dress and behave like first century Roman Christians (for the people of Corinth were largely Gentiles, that is, non-Jews), but that we, men and women alike, behave in culturally appropriate ways that respect our own gender identity and the differentiation of the two genders. 

    That answers your first question—now for Ephesians.

    Ephesians 5 was my own special object of study for a whole semester, so I have a much wider range of sources to draw on to answer that question. So first and most importantly, I’m going to link you to this essay. Please read it. It explains why, based on a cultural and linguistic reading of Ephesians 5, what Paul was really affirming and preaching was the mutual submission of both spouses to each other out of love and in the imitation of Christ. 

    Here are a few highlights from the essay:

    • Most people try to say that Ephesians 5 is a “household code,” just like any other number of traditional, sexist writings of the day that prescribe women’s roles in a patriarchal society. Take note, however: the passage is addressed to husbands, not to wives! 3/4ths of the passage is telling husbands how to behave, not wives, and Paul likens both spouses’ behavior to Christ’s. 
    • And how did Christ behave? He wasn’t the guy to order anyone about, or “rule” in the traditional, patriarchal sense of the term. He served. He loved. He died to himself for our greater good. In stark contrast to what pagan Roman husbands were like at the time, Paul said: No. That’s selfish and cruel. Be Christ to your wives. Love and serve them. 
    • Similarly, Paul uses unique vocabulary when speaking of the wife’s duty to her husband. Some of the sources I quote in that essay discuss how unusual his choice of wording was. He counsels them to “submit” to their husbands in the same way Christ “submitted” to do his salvific duty. 
    • In short, in Ephesians 5 Paul uses Christ-centered language to make women’s “submission” take on a whole new character and meaning, and posits an entirely new, Christ-centered, way for husbands (and wives!) to live. It’s the original equal, egalitarian marriage model.
    • In fact, it’s the same thing he does in the next chapter: he tells masters to submit to their slaves! If those masters had actually done so, it would have been the end of slavery. Paul didn’t need to say, “End patriarchy! End slavery!” He just needed to do the same thing Jesus Christ did: tell people to love each other as they loved themselves.

    I hope that answers your question, Anon.

    TL;DR: The Bible isn’t sexist. If we were reading these documents as first century Jewish-Christians, we would be shocked and amazed at the implications true, lived-out Christianity had for how we were supposed to treat everyone around us. Paul, following in Jesus Christ’s footsteps, was in fact one of the earliest abolitionists and Feminists. 

    God bless you!

  • February 15, 2012 1:56 am

    @Anon who asked about women veiling at mass

    I hope someone passionate about the practice of veiling will answer the question itself, since mostly what I have to offer are a lot of highly subjective feelings on the subject, but this thought is of a higher caliber and should be thrown out there:

    The best defense of veiling I ever heard (and I’ve heard some pretty bad ones) made it clear that this is not a sign of respect to men, but to God. Unlike the rather unpleasant Jewish practice where it originated, despite revisionist history to the contrary, veiling is not about sex or lust or what men think of women at all, but about honoring the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

    It made a more sense when men wore hats all the time: men took off their hats in respect, and women veiled. Now men don’t usually wear hats, though I’d be glad to see the fashion come back, and women are under the mistaken impression that veiling is not “required” because it was removed from Canon Law. On the contrary: veiling is only required in the sense that it is appropriate, but it is a voluntary humility, and so it was removed from Canon Law. 

    (Parenthetical thoughts: I have, at the moment, no commentary on the theology behind why it’s appropriate, since I have not yet read a full and authoritative treatment of the subject, nor on the Pauline passages usually cited in favor of veiling—except to say that it is quite likely that if those passages are interpreted as shallowly as Ephesians 5 usually is, someone has done a very poor and inadequate job of exegesis.

    And: Individual churches are, of course, as free to make their own policies on the matter as they are to enforce certain aspects of appropriate dress, so there are places, particularly ancient churches or parishes where the Tridentine Mass is celebrated especially reverently, where all people are asked to cover to their knees and shoulders, and women are offered veils for the duration of their visit in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Some conversations about modesty, victim blaming, etc, are here, if you’re interested.)

    Just some thoughts!

  • February 15, 2012 1:13 am
    Anonymous:  What is the Catholic view on men and women roles in the church and in society? Is woman always supposed to be submissive to man and never a leader?

    As the only person I know who actively uses the #Catholic Feminism tag, it seemed only right that I take this question.

    There are, of course, disagreements among Catholics about the role of women in the church and society, because the question isn’t really over doctrine—not if we’re being honest—but over how the doctrine is applied. The devil, as they say, is in the details.

    The straight answer to the question you asked is, no. Scripture, Tradition, and the Catechism clearly indicate that God created humanity, male and female, in God’s own image: together, they form in family an image of the Trinity. Male and female are equal in dignity and one in Christ. Here are a few extracts from that doctrinal teaching:

    In Galatians 3:28-29, for example, Paul writes that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    St. Gregory Nazianzan wrote, “The Woman sinned, and so did Adam. The serpent deceived them both… Christ saves both by His Passion. Was He made flesh for the man? So He was also for the woman. Did He die for the man? The woman also is saved by His death. He is called of the seed of David; and so perhaps you think the man is honoured; but He is born of a Virgin, and this is on the woman’s side. The two, He says, shall be one flesh; so let the one flesh have equal honor.”

    There have been a lot of misogynistic theologians throughout the centuries. Fortunately, none of them were writing Infallible Dogma, and we are as free to brush aside their ill-founded conclusions as we are to ignore Aquinas’s unfortunate lapses in scientific acumen. I recommend Sr. Prudence Allen’s historically and doctrinally sound, and impressive, book, The Concept of Woman, for further details.

    There is also a long-standing tradition of strong, independent, intelligent, educated women in the Church, from the semi-mythical St. Catherine of Alexandria, to St. Gertrude the Great, to St. Ursula, and beyond. The important thing to note here about them is that they are exceptions for their Feminism, as it were, in their respective cultures, not in their place in Catholic revelation or its interpretation. It is Islam which claims women are “generally deficient” in reason and faith, not the Catholic Church.

    The Catechism (#378) says that “work” was created to be “the collaboration of man and woman with God in perfecting the visible creation” (my emphasis.) #1605 affirms that woman is man’s “equal, his nearest in all things.” (There’s other aspects of that passage which should be addressed, but in another post.) #2333 affirms what might be called a “feminism of complementarity”: men and women are different, yes, but that does not mean “unequal”: “Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented to the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.” In #369, the Catechism affirms that  ”man and woman … have been created … in perfect equality as human persons. … Man and woman are both with one and the same dignity “in the image of God.” #2335 builds on this, adding, “Each of the two sexes is an image of the power and tenderness of God, with equal dignity though in a different way.”

    The easiest way to talk about these differences as different but not unequal is to reference the distinction between motherhood and fatherhood. These identities and roles are different, but equally important; they are manifested in different ways. Fatherhood, especially when it comes to the priesthood, is always discussed in terms of leadership. But there is a big difference between Christian leadership and worldly leadership. Worldly, fallen leadership says, “Bow down before me and serve me as an inferior.” The leadership of Christ and the example He gave is a leadership of service. 

    Fatherhood requires a specific kind of serving. This, for example, is the role of priests. Simply put, women are not called to be priests because women are not called to be fathers. Motherhood is equally dignified and also leadership, but it requires different duties and a leadership of service in a different way. And there is nothing in doctrine which claims the leadership of motherhood is inferior or inherently submissive to the leadership of fatherhood. (People contest this, because nothing about this subject is simple. But people contest every doctrine relating to sex, so that’s nothing new.) The Church is just now reaching a point in culture and history where she is capable of really delving into what motherhood is and means, of separating sexism and culture from divine revelation. We’ve had 2,000 years of emphasis on fatherhood: God the Father and Christ the Son came and showed an extremely painful, patriarchal, and misogynist world a better way of being, of living, and of interacting with the other half of humanity.

    To move from doctrine to semi-speculation: one way of looking at this is, to put it bluntly, to say that the emphasis was on fatherhood because fatherhood needed it more. That idea is not original with me, and I suggest that anyone who wants to fight it (as I did at first, though probably for different reasons than men would) think long and hard about the treatment women have received at the hands of men over the course of centuries—and then look a woman straight in the eye and tell her it hasn’t been a long and painful process towards redemption. There’s some more about that here.

    Anyway, none of that means ”a woman’s place is only in the home,” or only in the convent. But I would question those who react violently to the dignity of such callings whether or not they are being sexist themselves by refusing to acknowledge the importance of so-called “women’s work.” For a secular example of what I mean, check this out.

    Of course, not even all of that specifically answers the question of submission. The essential question is, is maleness of such a kind of thing that it requires femaleness to submit to it? Short answer: no, but the “why” isn’t easily decided.

    Many Christians will tell you that it is dogma that men give orders and women receive them. That’s nonsense. Ephesians 5 is often pointed to as a “proof text” for this idea that women are only around to do what their husbands tell them, but a proper understanding of Paul’s epistles shows that is not the case. Pope John Paul II taught, as did St. Paul, that husband and wife are to mutually submit to each other in love. As many have noted, Paul wrote advice to slaves and masters as well as husbands and wives. And he gives them almost exactly the same advice, which is appropriate, since he was writing to new Christian converts in pagan Rome, and pagan Roman marriage was often little better than slavery. His advice is: masters, submit to your servants in love of them and Christ. Servants, submit to your masters in love of them and Christ. If his advice had been followed, it would be the end of slavery! Just so, if his marital advice had been properly followed, it would mean the end of patriarchal marriage. I don’t have any links handy for other Pauline passages often brought into this debate, “women keep quiet” and so forth, but it is worth noting that two of Paul’s good friends, Priscilla and Aquila, were a husband and wife team who went around writing letters, preaching, and generally doing great missionary work, together, as a team—and Paul had absolutely no problem with Priscilla’s activities. 

    Some Christians, including some Catholics, will tell you that “male headship” (as this authority of maleness is often referred to as) shows itself only in such a scenario as, for example, an unsolvable argument. C.S. Lewis and von Hildebrand are proponents of such arguments. Personally, I find this ridiculous, since male headship, stripped of all its sexist affirmations—that it means women have no place in the workforce, or can never argue with their husbands, or aren’t leaders in the household, for example—has no essential or tangible qualities, and therefore does not exist. For an elaboration on that and similar topics, I refer you to this post

    John Paul the Great, despite the mudslinging of his critics, was a man, a Catholic, and a pope deeply attuned to the profoundest depths and divine heights of the Deposit of Faith. Of all people to respect authentic Catholic doctrine and anthropology and place those truths within the context of the modern world, he was uniquely placed to do so. And he called himself “the feminist pope.” He advocated a feminism of complementarity, mutual submission within marriage, and wrote, “Thank you, women who work!” He recognized that any attempt to make women more like men to achieve “equality” is actually just about the most sexist attitude you can have. He recognized the intelligence, authority, and leadership capabilities of women as a whole and demonstrated this in his interactions with them as individuals. I freely admit that I am not as familiar with his writings first-hand as I want to be, but that much, I am certain of.

    What I’m getting at is this: short of dumping a library of sources in your lap and going through all the nuances of this subject bit by bit, this as close to a thorough doctrinal treatment of the subject I give you to show that both “radical” camps, the ultra-conservatice and ultra-liberal (for lack of better designations) have got their faith twisted into politics—to the detriment of both. As usual, the genuine Catholic position is somewhere in the middle. Gone are the days (thank God!) when it was true and acceptable to say, “a woman has no business in life except to look after her husband’s happiness,” but so too is it incompatible with the Catholic faith to affirm that women are “the same” as men, whether in body, mind, or spirit. 

    There are a lot of “conservative” traditions and opinions that rankle my nerves, (some on that here,) from purity balls to the “etiquette” of marriage proposals, but my personal antipathy to them, though well-founded, does not mean that they are incompatible with the Catholic doctrines of equal dignity, complementarity, and mutual submission. (However, it is true that any custom or opinion which attempts to reduce woman to a completely passive being who is not an end in herself, which is proper to personhood, but as a means to maleness, is in conflict with Catholic doctrine. I, personally, would argue that many so-called “conservative traditions” lend themselves to such error, but that application of doctrine to culture is opinion, not divine revelation.) On the other end of the spectrum, self-identified Catholics who have accepted the secular free-love model of equality-as-sameness Feminism, or any of its variants, aren’t being true to Truth, either.

    In short, individual Catholics are, I suppose, free to believe that women ought to be submissive to men “because that is the nature of the sexes,” but they often claim that in such a way that does violate truth. The doctrinally sound alternative is Catholic Feminism, which, properly understood and lived, shouldn’t offend anyone, Catholic or not, except misogynists and equality-as-sameness Feminists. And, I suppose, the various more or less “Catholic” camps campaigning for female priests. We’ve got all kinds on tumblr, so this is bound to offend somebody, but that’s why we try to please God first, and not people. I’ve said what’s true to doctrine as well as my opinion, which is, if not acceptable to everyone, at least not contrary to doctrine, and I hope this answered your question somewhat. If you have follow up questions, I strongly suggest reading through the Catechism, these posts and these posts, and/or contacting me personally here.

    TL;DR: The answer is no. Men and women are equal in dignity, called to mutual submission in love and Christ, women are as fully capable of succeeding at using their human faculties as men, are persons fully in the image of God and therefore ends in themselves and not merely an end to maleness or male pleasure, the concept of “submission” has been widely misunderstood and appropriated by fallen, misogynistic cultures to oppress women because that is the nature of fallen humanity, and if it wasn’t for women leaders, humanity would be in pretty dire straits. 

    God bless, Anon.