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.