Friday, August 11, 2006

Explaining the Distinction Between Gender Differentiation in a Paradigm of Equality & Woman-Hating Chauvinism, to a Radical Feminist (vs. "Nenya")

This exchange came about after a radical feminist responded on her blog to an old (1997) short summary-type paper of mine on women and feminism. I elaborated as to my meaning in a much longer, recent paper. A second feminist (friend of the first) then came and commented on my blog, and I had another chance to further explain my intent in the original paper.

In retrospect, it is clear to me that the old paper was too short to be very helpful, with regard to such a complex subject. So I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to clarify at length my positions on this matter, and those of the Catholic Church (which are identical). I was hoping that this person (who goes by the nickname "Nenya" - her words will be in blue below), and/or the original critic, would hang around long enough to do a second round of discussion, but sadly (as predicted), it was not to be, and so the needless misunderstandings and misrepresentations of the Catholic view of gender roles and differences, and family and sexuality continue on. Nothing will ever change unless people of different persuasions can be civil and open-minded enough to talk to and try to better understand each other without all the mindless accusations flying around.

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I don't speak for bellatrys, but I think what she was after was something like this: if it's about the idea that you don't accept certain people's possible claims to spiritual authority over you, and not about gender, why spend so much time emphasizing the just women whom you don't accept as spiritual authorities? Church authority seems very important to you - specifically church authority, who can speak for God legitimately to the people under them; it also seems very important to you (judging from this paper) to say that only men, not women, can have that authority.

They can't tell you what to do, because they are female. Not because of their maturity, immaturity, knowledge, lack of it, observed holiness, quality of logic, persuasive ability, visions from God, personal integrity, or length of service to the church - but because they have two X chromasomes. Yet you assure women that you don't look down on them, really - you just know that whether what they have to say is more or less important or divinely inspired than what you have to say is decided by the fact that they're female. Some women have a problem with that, and call it sexist.

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Hi Nenya,

Thanks for being willing to come here to discuss this. I appreciate it.

if it's just about the idea that you don't accept certain people's possible claims to spiritual authority over you, and not about gender, why spend so much time emphasizing the women whom you don't accept as spiritual authorities?

Precisely because what should not be an issue at all (and never was for the vast majority of Christian history) has been made an issue by others (and because of the bum rap that Catholics constantly get on this matter). I am simply responding to that, according to my task as an apologist. Otherwise, I doubt that I would give it a moment's notice. In other words, it is mostly the "demands" of the criticism that cause me to write about it: not simply my own impulses and motivations: imaginary or real.

The fallacy here (one of many) is to presuppose with no reason that the notion of gender role differentiation in the Church is necessarily based on some supposed view of chauvinism or denigration of women or inherent inequality. This doesn't follow at all: neither in my own views nor the Church's. It is simply superimposed onto my comments and "psychoanalyzed out of" my alleged interior opinions and attitudes. This is a back-asswards and utterly irrational methodology, to put it mildly.

As Randy noted, it was a very short paper, which is quite unusual for me. I have written some other papers on the general topic, but not much, considering my overall output (over a 1000 Internet pages by now and 13 finished books: four published in paperback; soon to be five).

Church authority seems very important to you-specifically church authority, who can speak for God legitimately to the people under them . . .

This is correct, because I am a Catholic and we place an emphasis on the Church and its God-given authority, and, antecedently, because I am one who is intensely interested in how one arrives at theological truth and the epistemological basis of the same.

it also seems very important to you (judging from this paper) to say that only men, not women, can have that authority.

In terms of the priesthood, bishops, and the pope, yes. I didn't come up with this notion; I have accepted it from Tradition (one which used to be held by all Christians: Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant alike.

Now I hasten to add that just because I accept the validity of a Spirit-guided and protected Christian Tradition, it doesn't follow that I can give no external reasons for why I accept that Tradition, generally-speaking, or why I reject women's ordination.

They can't tell you what to do, because they are female.

This is a broad brush, and ultimately distorts my position. Women have no authority over me in the Church, in terms of the ordained priesthood. But of course there are many instances where a women would have authority, in terms of the local parish, or a nun, etc. It has nothing whatsoever to do with some supposed dislike or distaste or disrespect for women, which is nonexistent in me.

Not because of their maturity, immaturity, knowledge, lack of it, observed holiness, quality of logic, persuasive ability, visions from God, personal integrity, or length of service to the church - but because they have two X chromasomes.

Not at all; rather, it is because this is how our Lord Jesus Christ established things in the Church. Women were not to be ordained. Priests must be men because Jesus was a man and they represent Him at the Mass. Ontology is also part of ontology; not just biology.

Why would you think that means no one can learn anything from women? This is such a shallow understanding of Catholicism, because the Blessed Virgin Mary is the highest creature according to our view: the most holy person who ever lived, and venerated as highly as a human being can be. We even hold that God channels all graces received by human beings through her (for which we receive no end of misery from our Protestant brethren). I respect her more than any created man (including any priest), and have learned a great deal indeed from her.

I truly cannot comprehend how this translates in your opinion to some sort of disrespect for women. Have you never heard of the great female Doctors of the Church, such as St. Catherine of Siena and St. Therese of Liseux and St. Teresa of Avila? Doctors of the Church are those who are considered "outstanding and authoritative witnesses to authentic Christian belief and practice" (Catholic Almanac, 1986).

Are you contending that Catholics do not believe they can learn anything from these women, let alone from other saints such as St. Edith Stein or St. Faustina, or eventual canonized saints such as Mother Teresa, etc.?

This is why a narrow, self-serving reading of my words distorts my meaning and beliefs. It was a wholesale hatchet job done on this blog, designed to make me look like a blithering chauvinist idiot. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Yet you assure women that you don't look down on them, really . . .

Not at all; quite the contrary; I have always believed that women are finer creatures than men. It is men who have caused most of the world's problems.

Why must you believe that I regard women as inferior simply because I accept traditional Catholic teaching that the priesthood is confined to men?

If you make no effort to understand why we hold that view and merely assume it is for reasons of sheer prejudice and "patriarchy," then of course you would arrive at the position you hold to now. How could you do otherwise? You don't have enough information to form a fair, informed opinion about our rationale.

It's easy as pie to just assume with extreme uncharity and cynicism that some opposing view flows only from stupidity, prejudice, and generally unsavory motives and reasonings. It takes work to truly understand the rationale of other viewpoints besides our own.

- you just know that whether what they have to say is more or less important or divinely inspired than what you have to say is decided by the fact that they're female. Some women have a problem with that, and call it sexist.

And I have a problem with calling my view chauvinist, especially in light of the fact that those who believe this have usually made little or no effort to understand the Catholic viewpoint on such matters. I've explained a little bit here why this is unfair and untrue; and it is only the tip of the iceberg. There is plenty written on the subject from an orthodox Catholic viewpoint.

What have you read of that, I wonder? And if indeed you haven't given our position a fair shake by at least studying why we believe it (perhaps I am wrong about that and you can correct me), why should I give credence to your strong opposing opinion, since in that case it would be based on ignorance and a purely one-sided consideration of the issue?

In any event, I do appreciate your comment and hope we can continue on in this relatively substantive exchange, which is far better than the purely personal attacks and stupid, untrue conclusions that characterized the comments on the other blog. At least you are talking to me, and not only about me and my supposed opinions [behind my back on another blog]. That's good progress already.


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