For The Ladies

It is with great regret, gentle reader, that today I must direct you to an article – more of a diatribe, really – by Laura Bassett of The Huffington Post, which was published yesterday.  No doubt its appearance was deliberately timed to coincide with the Solemnity of All Saints, a feast which commemorates the lives of all of the great men and women who have gone before us in the Faith.  It is one of the lengthiest, most savage pieces of anti-Catholic journalism that I have seen in quite some time.

Ms. Bassett has filled her screed with thinly-veiled hatred, demonstrating the author’s complete misunderstanding of Catholic moral teaching, let alone even a basic understanding of how the Church actually functions.  The author’s thesis is that the Church hates women: an assertion proven, the author believes, by the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops’ efforts to lobby American politicians on Pro-Life issues.  She then seeks out and interviews those who share her views to back up her thesis and, presumably, insulate her from having to stand on her own opinions and assertions.

However, I am not interested in attempting to wade through the flood of raw sewage which is Ms. Bassett’s article.  Moreover, I am not a writer possessed of the skills, or indeed the sex, of great Catholic women writers like Lisa Hendey, Danielle Bean, Kathryn Lopez, and Elizabeth Scalia, all of whom would no doubt be able to craft a better response than I to their rather angry and misinformed sister.  What I am interested in here is in telling you, from my perspective as a Catholic man, how important women have always been to me as a Christian, but particularly in the education I received in the Catholic Faith.

From the time I began my education at the age of 5, until I moved on to university at the age of 18, my mind and my faith were shaped, in large part, by the teaching and example of Catholic women.  The sisters and lay Catholic women who ran the school I attended gave me the foundation for my intellectual and spiritual formation as an adult.  These ladies taught me about English grammar, literature and poetry, the history of America and the world, and the wonders of nature.  They taught me how to write, do maths, perform scientific experiments, be responsible for my actions, behave properly in public, speak German, engage in elected student government, write articles for student newspapers, and so on.

And more importantly, for the purposes of this post, these ladies also taught me the Faith.  We studied the Bible, Church history, the lives of the saints and their writings, and theological concepts ranging from Original Sin to Transubstantiation to the Parousia.  They prepared me to receive the Sacraments of Confession, Holy Communion, and Confirmation.  They took me to mass, led me in daily prayers, and encouraged me to examine seriously whether I had a vocation to the priesthood.

When shocking events took place around the world, such as when President Reagan was shot, or when the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up as we watched on television, the sisters and the lay women of my school gathered us together to pray, and to comfort those of us who needed comforting.  If we heard an ambulance or fire truck pass outside, alarms blaring, they would stop teaching, and have us pray for the rescuers and the victims of whatever tragedy was unfolding nearby.  They organized busloads of us to go on spiritual retreats, or to visit historic sites both Catholic and civic where we could learn more about our Church and about our country.  In short, these women taught me, both directly and by their example, that Catholics were and ought to be out there in the world, using their brains, their talents, and their faith in as well-integrated a whole as possible.

From my perspective therefore, it is ludicrous to assert that the Catholic Church is anti-woman, when I could not be more grateful, or more aware, of the tremendous role that women have played in my development as a Christian.  I do not malign, denigrate, or look down upon women in any way because of my faith, nor do the bishops who lead our Church, standing as the successors of Jesus and His Disciples, all of whom depended on the aid and assistance of countless numbers of women in order to spread the message of Christianity to every corner of the globe.  After all, even if you as a Catholic did not have nuns or lay women for your teachers as you learned about the Faith, none of us would even have Holy Mother Church – and yes, Catholics refer to the Church in the feminine – if it were not for the “fiat” of a young woman of Nazareth to the Will of God two thousand years ago.

That we as Catholics seek to stop the exploitation of women who find themselves pregnant and in difficult circumstances by those who would pressure them into making a terrible decision that will haunt them for the rest of their lives, does not make us haters of women: in fact, quite the reverse.  If we did not love and care so deeply for women, we would not be so concerned with trying to help those who find themselves in crisis to make the right moral choices about how they treat themselves, and how they treat the life of their unborn child.  People such as Ms. Bassett look at the Church and see a group of older men who are telling them not to do something, and think that therefore these men are evil ogres who want to hurt any women they find.  The real analogy here, at least for those of us who understand the Church’s teachings, is to look at opinion-makers such as Ms. Bassett and see an immature, whining child, stamping her feet and screaming because her father will not let her play with a loaded gun.

It is one thing to disagree with Catholic teaching on abortion and contraception on philosophical or scientific grounds.  It is quite another to attribute the reason why the Church teaches what she does about these topics to a hatred of women.  Such an attribution is more than simply a groundless assertion: it is a flat-out lie, and an insult to the tremendous acts of love, piety, and charity women have given to the Church and to the world for the past 2,000 years of the history of Catholicism.


“The Virgin and Child Surrounded by Female Saints”
by The Master of The St. Lucy Legend (c. 1488)
Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels

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11 thoughts on “For The Ladies

  1. William, very heart felt reply. For a moment I thought I was sitting along side you reading over your shoulder, as you pleaded for common sense. It was a very engaging read.

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  2. You couldn’t be more right. It’s wise to remember that attacks by the other side usually mean you’re doing something right. They also must redefine words in order to make their accusations stick, just as Protestants must change the meaning of words to make their theology stick. So, exploitation means not allowing women to have sex whenever they want to, and making them suffer the consequences when they do??? What folks don’t realize is that we love the person even while decrying their sins.

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  3. Hi Billy – I read the article… well, enough of it before I decided that it was a waste of perfectly good English words. The fact that this woman may actually believe the insulting drivel she has written says more about her own prejudices and inadequacies than it does about anything else. The stunning testament of the contribution of Catholic women to the church and civilisation throughout the ages gves the lie to her sad little rant.

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  4. wait, let me get the logic straight: catholic men dont hate women because catholic women were so great to the catholic men while growing up. and then you cite examples of sexless nuns. no wonder your ideal women are sexless beings who never could never possibly need birthcontrol or an abortion. you all are pathetic. statistically, women who are married with other kids have the highest incidence of abortion rates, showing that most of the time, they do deal with the consequences, and they are mothers who care about their children and are contributing members of society and arent haunted by anything, and don’t need your paternalistic concern.

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    • Catholic men don’t hate Catholic women. The greatest human of all time was (is) a woman. We have doctors of the Church who are women, several of them. Before the Catholic Church was given to the world, women were as slaves, property of the men who provided for them. Nuns, for your information, are not sexless. They are female. They do not copulate because they have given their sexuality for Christ. (By the way, who is the woman-hater, aurora??? You hate nuns because they don’t have sex?) In the Catholic Church women who have other children are among the lowest statistically to have abortions. And again, talking about hating women, you obviously hate women because to you, they’re nothing more than baby machines who should have the right to terminate other life forms simply because they live within their bodies??? And what’s so woman-loving about sucking life out of her uterus?

      We see the entire woman-her spirtuality, her holiness, her sexuality and her health, the entire woman, and we care for the entire woman. True what the author says about being nurtured and well formed by the women in our early lives-nuns, teachers, mothers, and so on. We owe them all thanks for our current well-being.

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  5. Thank you, Mr. Newton, and commenters Daniel, David, and Shawn, for standing up for happily Catholic women everywhere. Not only do I not believe the drivel being peddled by HuffPo, I’m insulted by its implications. By the grace of God, I am a Catholic woman, and that above all else. 🙂

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  6. What a great post and I thank you for writing it. I am a Catholic woman and have never felt as if anything of or in the Church “hated me.” Good post. God Bess, SR

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  7. Well … I am a great fan of the blog, but sometimes I think you go off the rails.
    First off, your logic is spotty. The fact that you had good teachers in Catholic school (as did I – thank you very much) does not mean that the church is pro-woman. In fact, as I recall, the nuns at St. Aloysius were treated by the priests as less than second class citizens and only slightly better than dirt.

    Second, we live in a democracy that is predicated on the separation of church and state. The very fact that the US Council of Bishops is an effective lobbying group is, well, an abomination…

    Finally, if the church wants fewer abortions, it should not be so tireless in its efforts to preach against contraception. (I could take a cheap shot about how many priests get around this by preferring male children, but I wouldn’t stoop to it.)

    Also always – thanks for the column!

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  8. Catholics don’t hate women, not because we had good Catholic women teachers, but because we believe in human dignity. It also doesn’t matter that some priests treated some nuns inappropriately, except for those priests’ souls.
    Regarding USCCB as lobbyists, if not them, then who, to represent Catholic thought? As long as they’re not publicly espousing one person or another, and dealing with issues, there’s no issue. Separation of Church and State is non-existent. The law is that government shall not espouse one religion over another, like England did under Henry VIII.

    And finally, contraceptives don’t stop abortions, they create a false sense of security that lead to more unexpected pregnancies. But I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard the Church preach against contraception. Certainly, it’s well known that the Church is against it, but that’s God’s word, and not subject to revision.

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  9. By the authority given to Her by Christ, the Church is the guarantor of faith and morals. When they see, not even Church law, but even the more fundamental natural law (the law that is written on the heart of man as creature of the Creator) she must speak out. Her members live within certain territorial boundaries that are governed by certain people (elected or otherwise). She respects that governmental system and, not using it to her advantage but rather caring for the human person, male and female, operates within that system for the betterment of humankind, the common good.

    William thank you for showing me this article. ‘Tis sad, but nothing new in our country, as you well know. Misrepresenting Catholics has, unfortunately, a subtle but persistent passtime in the United States. 100, 200 years ago it was convicted and misinformed Protestants. Now it is convicted and misinformed secularists. This particular progression will be much more difficult for the Church in the United States because there is no longer the Golden Commandment to make reference. The Golden Commandment for the secularist is “I am” and “you are my friend” if you fit my predetermined world view. In that is no true relationship. Hence, they turn to the glorification of sex, which gives the semblance of a relationship because in it is self-gift. But in non-marital sex the gift is not fully there to give. Will has total power. Intellect is subordinated under it. Will determines truth instead of the intellect pursuing truth and informing the will.

    Indeed, we should pray for Ms. Bassett and many times I would mean this in the pious holier-than-thou-I’m-gonna-get-you tone, but really and truly that is what she deserves as a woman, the love of a fellow human person.

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