Blog Template Theology of the Body: July 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Queen Susan's Bow: Woman as model for the role of the laity

(Because movie audiences these days are excited about the forthcoming "Voyage of the Dawn Treader," which I love)

When the film 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" was first released, various feminists began cooing over one particular moment in C.S. Lewis' adapted story: Susan Pevensie fires a well-aimed shot from her bow and mortally wounds the wicked little dwarf who is about to kill her brother in the Great Battle. This moment is notably absent from The Book, wherein Lewis, that consummate and self-identifying layman, points out that he would rather not have his women fighting in battles, for the mere fact that they are women.

As a joyful gender essentialist, I believe that there are intrinsic gifts, responsibilities, and vocations inherently connected with being male or female, and I love being the latter, because it means being a mother and a sister and a daughter to the rest of the world, in a variety of ways. I think that a good solid patriarchy can be wonderfully advantageous to ambitious young women. I trust my father and almost always defer to his wishes; I obey my husband, with God's help. I think that men are naturally inclined to lead and protect women, and I think that women should let them do so. But I am not one to shrink from battles.

Queen Susan, the Gentle and Accurate, takes up her weapon and defeats a demon, and with that she joins the generals Deborah and St. Joan of Arc as women who I, purportedly submissive and non-feminist gender essentialist, want to imitate. Why? Because on Lewis' allegory, we all know that Susan has fired her shot in a spiritual battle between an enslaving, death-dealing, and demonic power, and it is on this sort of battlefield, that we truly are all one, neither male nor female, in Christ Jesus. Having delivered another traditonal household code in Ephesians 5, wherein women obey while men sacrifice, Paul turns immediately in Ephesians 6 to the weapons which all take up in order to deal out death blows to the Enemy of souls. This warfare is the prerogative of every Christian Person. And the offensive is not optional. It is on the battlefield where the Church is attacked by a ruthless enemy that gender is truly relativized in light of the expediency of Christ's Kingdom, such that women as well as men must take up arms to deal death blows to demons. Was there ever a besieged army that cut its ranks in two at the height of a conflict? Why would the Church do such a thing? Why would the Church not promote her daughters in the gender-neutral Christian mandates to evangelize, to chatechize, to do systematic theology... in short, to do warfare? And in this regard, the Church is no civic community. The Church is, in many ways, an army that needs every baptized person to bear arms in the context of its critical, eschataological Battle.

At this same time, this does not mean that the Church has the option of counting women in that apostolic succession which adminsters the sacraments and formulates doctrine. As Kalistos Ware has put it, "to no woman has Jesus said, 'he who hears you hears no woman did He make the promise to ratify in heaven what she has bound or loosed on earth." And, as Thomas Hopko concurs in On the Male Character of Christian Priesthood, to speak of women being "excluded" from the Christian episcopacy is absurd and nonsensical, because "exclusion" supposes a possible and prior "inclusion," which does not in fact exist in the history of the Christian tradition. But neither does the Church have the option of preventing women from passing on the Faith once delivered to the (male) apostles through the teachings of her female doctors and mystics, or engaging in the ministry of an apostolate, or prophecying, or leading and initiating in the Church, in as much as the Church may require. If we are an army under attack, then we need all hands on deck.

It is in this way that the Church's understanding of women corresponds to her understanding of the laity in general. The sacrament of Holy Orders is not one of those sacraments to which everyone is entitled; the conferring of ordination is simply the Church's obedient acknowledgment of those rare and particular men whom God has called to serve His Church as priests. At the same time, the Church makes it very clear that her ministry, her vocation of taking Christ's light into each and every dark corner of the earth, properly belongs to those women who are not ordained by virtue of their essential vocation to the lay state, and to those men who are not ordained by virtue of having received an alternative calling. The Church's seeming "no" to women who might like to be priestesses is really at the same time the Church's resounding and urgent "yes" to the lay vocation, in which the gift of our Confirmation flourishes in the most radical ways, because God has entrusted the more dangerous responsibilities of non-ordained ministry to all women and to Christian laymen.

And this brings me to two conclusions. The Church reminds us that at her very heart there is not an oppressive patriarchal system, but a woman. It makes sense that a Church that is essentially Marian would call to her women to model the patience, surrender, and perfect love that is required of all her people in their original lay state; perhaps it is in this regard that John Paul II stated that "women will be the most fruitful element in the Apostolate." And with this mandate in mind, as women who submit in love to the Catholic tradition, and who, in speaking first to Christ, remain silent or speak very softly in the Church, by all means let us do so wholeheartedly; but let us carry a very big stick.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A small tirade against feminism: "now, now dearie, use your feminine pronouns..."

I've about had it. The next time a White European Male professor with fewer degrees than I've got tells me that I cannot refer in my extensive writing to "mankind" or the masculine pronoun "he" or "his" for the human being, or the Fatherhood of God, or the Sonship of Christ, etc., I am going to throw a royal fit.

... actually, no time like the present.

Feminists, God bless them, have exploited the rhetoric of The Oppressed! to revise the way we speak about one another. They have thus distorted the beauty of the English language and the dignity of a woman's right to self-expression in the academy. - We have to refer to "humanity," never use the masculine pronoun (though we can use FEMININE pronouns, which is hilarious when one is speaking about historically male-dominated cultures), and above all, God must be "Mother" and "Nurturer" and "Sustainer," etc. etc. Which makes things very difficult when once wishes to refer to Christ's robust language of His Father. Which makes things difficult when one is perpetually sick of being patronized for (her) refusal to be a feminist.

Even with references to our predominately male-behaving God aside, I prefer to use masculine pronouns. Why?

1. Because I am a Christian. As such, I believe that all of humanity- and especially we baptized- are categorically and really identified by this MAN, Christ the Lord. We are capitulated by this male. We believe that we are from Him, through Him, in Him. We believe that in some sense, every person ever created is from Him, through Him, in Him, even for Him. He is before all persons, and by Him all things consist. We hope, in the end, to be regarded as "in" Him, under His juridical and ontological headship and hence constituted by His very self, safe and flourishing under His protection. Thus- from His masculinity- it becomes perfectly rational to refer to persons in general with the masculine pronoun.

2. Because I am my father's daughter and my husband's wife. Whether modern feminism likes it or not, my life has in a very precious way been lived "through" these amazing men who lay their lives down to promote the women in their lives. My dad was instrumental in my creation. He protected me and trained me and made sure that I had every opportunity that he and I could imagine. He inspires me. He interrupts his meetings to take my calls. He takes me around the world and insists that I never neglect a single dream. Now, I similarly live my life "through" and "in" my husband, who became my husband in order to serve Christ in me. In as much as my whole life is characterized by the gifts, love, and leadership of such men, it makes sense that I would employ... masculine pronouns.

With this in mind, I recall that language is supposed to be an instrument for honoring the other. Language, with its grammatical order and normative clarity, was (and should be) a means of the charity to which we are called in every moment. When this woman refers to the masculine pronoun, I freely honor the men in my life. (If the men in my life were to become so besotted with me that they insisted on always using feminine pronouns in my particular honor, well then, more power to them). As a woman who is willing to use masculine pronouns, I honor all men as fundamentally other than myself, and with whom I stand in loving solidarity as persons nonetheless. It's all about charity, people.

All this to say: I am a traditional Catholic woman who regards herself in the man Christ Jesus, and who honors her dad and her husband among men, and I am thus become a voice of the marginalized.

Off to overthrow the oppressors.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Reinhard Huetter and a Marian corrective to feminist theology

Reinhard Huetter is Professor of Christian Theology at Duke University. These are my notes from one of his conference presentations in 2008.

Professor Huetter describes the enterprise of renewing theology in a Marian key as a project of re-discovering an "abandoned palace" full of particularities that are relevant to ecclesiology and soteriology, in lieu of contemporary theology's less fecund abstractions.

In particular, Huetter focused on the doctrine of Mary's Assumption as vivifying the eschatalogical hope of the Church; in Mary we find fulfilled - and already actually anchored in Heaven- what God has promised for all humanity. In this way, the Church's hope for salvation and the particular resurrection of the body is sustained because of Mary, in whom the Church can rejoice that the economy of salvation has been completed.

Huetter invoked Louis Bouyer's own renewal of Marian theology in The Seat of Wisdom of the 1960's. Huetter also referred to and the Scriptural significance of Mary's being the only creature ever greeted by an angel as indicative of her excellence above all creatures in grace and consequent familiarity with her Creator, and as indebted above all for the grace which preserves her, unstained, from original sin.

My favorite acecdote from this presentation was the suggestive note that the doctrine of Mary's assumption into Heaven reminds the feminist revolt in modern theology that there is indeed already a woman in Heaven, so they need not worry so much about de-gendering God the Father; we see in Mary that there is a fully, integrated, maternal creaturely life enjoying the Beatific Vision and interceding for the rest of the creation already.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Vatican: Equating the abuse of minors with the attempt to "ordain" women?

How is this for some drama? No, I don't mean that the recent promulgation of substantive norms for discipline by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is so hot- it happens regularly, and is generally pretty dry stuff- but the fact that if NPR says one more time that the "Vatican has equated the ordination of women with the sexual abuse of children," I am going to SCREAM.

Instead of behaving with such obtuse sloppiness in such honeyed tones, the media would do well to begin simply with the facts: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued revised norms for disciplinary measures in central areas of Church life. The attempt to make priestesses is defined as a "more grave delict" against the life of the Church; (Article 5) the sexual abuse of minors is defined as a "more grave" violation of the moral law itself. (Article 6) These are different categories entirely, which even the New York Times is fair enough to recognize, in its brief citation of Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, the Vatican’s internal prosecutor:

“Sexual abuse and pornography are more grave delicts, they are an egregious violation of moral law,” Monsignor Scicluna said in his first public appearance since the sex abuse crisis hit. “Attempted ordination of women is grave, but on another level, it is a wound that is an attempt against the Catholic faith on the sacramental orders.”

These are the facts and the relevant distinctions. That a horde of antsy feminists and dissenting Catholics wish to take this opportunity to propose that a defunct Church revise its foundational tradition with respect to the sacrament of ordination... that is another maelstrom of a different color. Expect some thoughts on feminist revisionism here in the next few days.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Aborted Fetal DNA in Children's Vaccines

I have been doing some research into the traditional gamut of vaccines administered to infants and toddlers; the Autism Research Institute and the National Vaccine Information Center have been especially helpful. Perhaps one of the most concerning things is the connection between aborted fetal DNA and some traditional vaccines. The Minnesota House of Representatives is currently dealing with legislation on point:

"ST. PAUL – Citing studies that suggest stem-cell based vaccines are temporarily linked to rising autism levels across the nation, State Representative Laura Brod (R-New Prague) is authoring legislation requiring product labeling and patient consent before human DNA vaccines are administered to them." LinkYou can read more here.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center confirms that this should be a point of concern for parents who vaccinate their children:

"There are a number of vaccines that are made in descendent cells of aborted fetuses. Abortion is a grave crime against innocent human life. We should always ask our physician whether the product he proposes for our use has an historical association with abortion. We should use an alternative vaccine if one is available."

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Blessed Conchita of Mexico

“I did not see there was any other pathway for me to come to God... I am going to seek my perfection and become a saint on carrying out the sacred duties of a mother.” (the latter from Diary, October 1901)

This amazing woman was the wife of one, the mother of nine, and the foundress of the religious community in which she died at the age of seventy-five; "her children all had the same words to say about their mother. She was balanced, simple, fun-loving, always turning the conversation toward Christ without boring anyone. She had a deep love for the poor and those who suffered. She wore a constant serenity that made even the most difficult situations, possible to get through. She (would say) time and again, ‘Everything passes, except having suffered for God out of love.’ The Lord led Conchita to an always-deepening interior life with Him. He led her to prayer. She received visions about the renewal of the Church and about her own mission and vocation as a mother for priests and foundress of communities." More here.