Blog Template Theology of the Body: Sarah Palin, Women in Charge, and Catholic Perspectives

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sarah Palin, Women in Charge, and Catholic Perspectives

Reuters yesterday raised a surprising question: should a 44-year-old mother of five, including a newborn with special needs and a pregnant teenager, take on a job that will keep her away from her home for much of the next two months to eight years?

Some of the far right Prots on whom the McCain ticket depends have already condemned the choice of Palin as anti-family; citing such authorities as the revolting John Knox ("To promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion or empire above any realm, nation, or city, is repugnant to nature, contumely to God, and a thing most contrary to his revealed will and approved ordinance. . . .”), etc., these critics complain as follows: that Palin's political activity compromises her children, by turning her maternal duties to the civil sphere and away from their needs; that Palin's political activity compromises her husband, by positioning her to literally rule over the man who is supposed to be caring for her; and ultimately, Palin's political activity compromises the total message of the Christian right, who want to protect marriage from redefinition by the homosexual movement, and yet ironically are more than willing to redefine marriage (and motherhood) to do it.

In 1995, Pope John Paul II exclaimed in his Letter to Women:

"Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life-social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of "mystery," to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity.

...As a rational and free being, man is called to transform the face of the earth. In this task, which is essentially that of culture, man and woman alike share equal responsibility from the start. In their fruitful relationship as husband and wife, in their common task of exercising dominion over the earth, woman and man are marked neither by a static and undifferentiated equality nor by an irreconcilable and inexorably conflictual difference. Their most natural relationship, which corresponds to the plan of God, is the "unity of the two", a relational "uni-duality", which enables each to experience their interpersonal and reciprocal relationship as a gift which enriches and which confers responsibility."

However, while celebrating the contributions of women to cultural structures and change, the Pope nowhere mentions the role of women in government per se. In light of this omission, the language of Pope Pius XI in Casti Connubii (1932) becomes all the more interesting:

"The same false teachers who try to dim the luster of conjugal faith and purity do not scruple to do away with the honorable and trusting obedience which the woman owes to the man. Many of them even go further and assert that such a subjection of one party to the other is unworthy of human dignity, that the rights of husband and wife are equal; wherefore, they boldly proclaim the emancipation of women has been or ought to be effected. This emancipation in their ideas must be threefold, in the ruling of the domestic society, in the administration of family affairs and in the rearing of the children.

It must be social, economic, physiological: physiological, that is to say, the woman is to be freed at her own good pleasure from the burdensome duties properly belonging to a wife as companion and mother (We have already said that this is not an emancipation but a crime); social, inasmuch as the wife being freed from the cares of children and family, should, to the neglect of these, be able to follow her own bent and devote herself to business and even public affairs; finally economic, whereby the woman even without the knowledge and against the wish of her husband may be at liberty to conduct and administer her own affairs, giving her attention chiefly to these rather than to children, husband and family.

This, however, is not the true emancipation of woman, nor that rational and exalted liberty which belongs to the noble office of a Christian woman and wife; it is rather the debasing of the womanly character and the dignity of motherhood, and indeed of the whole family, as a result of which the husband suffers the loss of his wife, the children of their mother, and the home and the whole family of an ever watchful guardian. More than this, this false liberty and unnatural equality with the husband is to the detriment of the woman herself, for if the woman descends from her truly regal throne to which she has been raised within the walls of the home by means of the Gospel, she will soon be reduced to the old state of slavery (if not in appearance, certainly in reality) and become as amongst the pagans the mere instrument of man."

... Thoughts?