Catholic Church

The Typical Article

Patience is a fragile thing, and I’m afraid mine is going to crack if I come across one more article asserting that the Catholic Church considers women but the chattel of men. It may come as a real bombshell to those whose hubris is surpassed only by their ignorance, but the inferior status of women is not a doctrine of the Catholic Church. It is Catholic doctrine, however, that man is a little lower than the angels. It is also Catholic doctrine that Mary, of the race of man, is a little higher than the angels. And it is leftist-feminist doctrine that Catholic women are a little lower than Catholic men. I will let the thoughtful reader decide where the confusion lies.

When Saint Paul exhorts wives to submit to their husbands, as feminists are swift to point out, there is seldom little discussion of the attendant command with which he binds the consciences of husbands – as in laying down their lives for their wives. Might a woman be willing to submit to the sacrificial love of a man, or would she rather be one more slab of meat hanging in his locker, as is her current status under the reign of radical feminism?

Ah, but Saint Paul explicitly stated that wives are to be subordinate to their husbands just as the Church is subordinate to Christ, its head. Hence, argue the feminists, husbands are clearly given the reins of power, to steer and to dominate their wives and children alike. But did not Christ also state that his followers must not be as the pagans whose leaders lord it over them? Are not the greatest to be as the least, the master as the servant? Once more, then, a Christian husband leads with love, with service and with sacrifice. His role as head is not one of power, of ownership, or domination – but rather is his role as head the same as that given expression in the crucifixion of Christ, who laid down his life for his bride, the Church.

But such theological quibbling is lost on the likes of Frank Bruni, whose recent column in The New York Times explains in typical fashion how it is that the Catholic Church “undervalues women”, indiscriminately listing all the familiar ways in which the Church practices its Bronze Age misogyny in the modern era.

The trigger event for Bruni, the thing that really set him off, was a rather banal and harmless remark from the pope in regards to women collecting unequal pay for equal work. According to Bruni, such an utterance coming from the pope’s lips is the height of hypocrisy; or in his own words, it is a bit like a “Pringles vendor sounding the alarm about obesity.”

As far as I can tell, the reason he thinks the pope a hypocrite in this regard is simply because the pope happens to be the leader of an institution that rejects the tenants of his own leftist-feminist faith – especially when it proclaims that men and women are indeed equal in dignity, though differing in their respective roles. Therefore, according to Bruni, the pope, as the chief of that patriarchal tribe called the Catholic Church, cannot speak as a champion of women’s rights without tying himself into all sorts of hypocritical knots, since his Church is the leading heresiarch amongst a handful of heretics who deviate from leftist-feminist orthodoxy.

This dogmatic adherence to a sort of secular fundamentalism, especially of the feminist flavor, explains why Bruni comes across in his article like a religious zealot, cataloguing the heresies of his enemy with a fanaticism that would make Torquemada blush. To anyone who maintains that leftist-feminist ideology isn’t at least a pseudo-religion in the minds and lives of those who profess it, even a cursory review of Bruni’s article will disabuse them of this notion.

Hence, immediately after comparing the pope’s remarks to a Pringles vendor sounding the alarm about obesity, Bruni commences his inquisition by stating rather provocatively that the pope “left out the part about women in the Roman Catholic Church not even getting a shot at equal work. Pay isn’t the primary issue when you’re barred from certain positions and profoundly underrepresented in others.”

Needless to say, Bruni doesn’t exactly beat around the bush. Actually, far from beating around the bush, he takes the hedge clippers in-hand and lops off each branch which does not produce feminist fruit. And supposing each severed branch to represent a heresy, we could easily imagine a pile of broken branches and snapped twigs accumulating at Bruni’s feet, till that pile form a sort of index of heresies, beginning as such:

First heresy: Men and women have different roles in the life of the Catholic Church.

Notice too that Bruni, in typical leftist-feminist fashion, refers to these different roles as “positions”, since one is either positioned above or below another, as in a master-servant relationship. Anyone slightly familiar with the language of feminism knows that everything revolves around power and how men are thought to hold the reins of power in society, using their privileged “position” to oppress women.

Continuing his inquisition, Bruni then reminds his audience that “Pay isn’t the primary issue when the symbolism, rituals and vocabulary of an institution exalt men over women and when challenges to that imbalance are met with the insistence that what was must always be — that habit trumps enlightenment and good sense.”

Second Heresy: Liturgical language is not sufficiently in-line with current political correctness standards.

Bruni is rather vague as to what he is referring to here, citing as he does approximately zero examples, but I suppose he would feel more at ease if the Church replaced its ancient Trinitarian formula of “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” with something more gender neutral and non-offensive like “Rock, Redeemer and Friend.” As to Catholic ritual exalting men over women, I haven’t the foggiest what this means. And as far as symbols are concerned, I wasn’t aware that water and oil are repressively masculine.

Third Heresy: An undue preoccupation with tradition over the latest ephemeral fads and fashions, which Bruni here renames “enlightenment” and “good sense.”

After this prelude of sorts, Bruni really starts to rattle his saber like a true inquisitor, crying out that “For all the remarkable service that the Catholic Church performs, it is one of the world’s dominant and most unshakable patriarchies, with tenets that don’t abet equality. For women to get a fair shake in the work force, they need at least some measure of reproductive freedom.”

Fourth Heresy: Obstinately patriarchal, as in not radically feminist, and thereby demonstrating an appalling lack of interest in the chief dogma of leftist-feminism: “equality” – meaning, of course, a mere flattening of the sexes into one, undifferentiated thing – biological, emotional and physical differences notwithstanding.

Fifth Heresy: A cold, calculated opposition to child murder, condoms and morning after pills, or as master euphemists like Bruni and his ilk prefer to call it, “reproductive freedom.” It has a much pleasanter ring to it.

Moving right along, Inquisitor Bruni continues the investigation by revealing how the Catholic Church flashed its wild anti-feminist, pro-patriarchal fangs in its opposition to those portions of Obamacare which required employers to pay for their employee’s contraceptives – including Church affiliated institutions like schools and hospitals. Further, he reminds us of the terrible witch-hunt that befell those poor nuns from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, who were accused by the Kingpin of Patriarchy himself, Pope Benedict XVI (better known as “God’s Rottweiler”), along with his male co-conspirators in the Vatican, of “radical feminism” merely for rejecting Church teaching on almost every point – including, but not limited to: denying the all-male priesthood, supporting abortion, preaching New Age mumbo-jumbo, touting gay marriage, and heaven knows what else – which Bruni pretends amounts chiefly to giving, “more attention to the poor than to sexual mores.”

I can assure Mr. Bruni that had the chief sin of these so-called Catholic nuns been the mere practice of a preferential option for the poor – as in that sort of thing practiced by Mother Theresa of Calcutta – then the discipline handed down by the governing body of the Church might have looked something closer to praise. Truly, the complaint here seems to be that the Catholic Church, in ways eerily reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition, dared to defend its own teaching against dissidents flouting its teaching while flying its banner. This would be like a communist calling himself a capitalist and Mr. Bruni castigating the leaders of the capitalist club for disciplining the comrade in their midst merely for giving “more attention to the tenants of the Communist Manifesto than to the idea of private property.”

Bruni mercifully brings his inquisition to a close, though not without firing off a final volley in hopes that at least one wet noodle will stick in the minds of his readers. Thus, he informs his readers, who are presumably more uninformed than himself, that women can’t preside at a Catholic Mass, can’t wear the cassock of a Cardinal or the vestments of a pope. And to cap it all off, he serves up this howler: “Male clergy are typically called “father,” which connotes authority. Women in religious orders are usually called “sister,” which doesn’t.”

Now we’re reaching! I wonder if Mr. Bruni is aware that the heads of women religious orders are called “Mother” or even “Mother Superior?” Likewise, I wonder if he is aware that only consecrated religious men are called “father”, while others who join male orders are called “brother?” And since we are going down this road already, I wonder if he is aware that the Church he dismisses as so much patriarchal rubbish actually refers to itself as a Mother, since like a mother it teaches and guides its children? Then again, I wonder if he is aware that that same Church also considers itself a Bride?

These seem to me rather peculiar titles for a patriarchal institution to go by. Come to think of it, I wonder if such titles are examples of that patriarchal vocabulary that exalts men over women? If so, it appears Mr. Bruni and I have a difference of opinion as to the standard a word must approximate in order to be sufficiently patriarchal.

But it’s all useless. Bruni and his leftist-feminist clique are not really interested in learning, much less hearing, of the reasons for why the Church does what it does and teaches what it teaches. They don’t care a lick to learn why the Catholic priesthood is male, or why some functions in the Church are fulfilled only by men, or why the Church holds a view of human sexuality and human life other than their own. The perceived concern for the plight of women is but a thinly veiled animus for the Catholic Church, and thus is it profoundly disingenuous. Sure, Bruni makes a passing remark acknowledging that all twelve of Christ’s disciples were men, but then he goes off into the forest fiddling the leftist-feminist tune, reminding us – just in case we had forgotten – that Christ appeared first to Mary Magdalene after the resurrection, which then leads him to follow up with this feebly provocative question: “Isn’t her role just as foundational as to the Church’s birth?”

Oh Mr. Bruni, your question only serves to ratify your confusion: For Magdalene’s role was just as foundational to the birth and life of the Church, even if she wasn’t one of the chosen twelve apostles, and therefore a priest. Magdalene, like the apostles, received that mission to preach the gospel of the resurrection, which is the life of the Church in every age, since it was she who preached that gospel first to the apostles! She preached the resurrection, the good news, just as every baptized member of the Church, male or female, is called to do – yes, even to men like you, Mr. Bruni – and without which effort the Church would have never been born, much less lived past its infancy. Indeed, the birth-event of the Church, according to tradition, was the day of Pentecost, wherein the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the apostles, along with another rather important individual, precisely to equip them to fulfill this preaching mission which in a certain sense brings the Church to birth in every age.

Did I mention that there was one other person alongside of the apostles on the day of Pentecost? Curiously enough, it was a woman; or as Catholics would say, it was The Woman: the woman foretold of in the book of Genesis who would give birth to the savior of the world and who would, by her “yes”, untie the knot of Eve’s “no”, thereby crushing the head of the serpent and ushering in our redemption. That woman, of course, is Mary; and Catholics, it is fair to suggest, place her above all men save one, since that one is God Himself.

If this is patriarchy; nay, if this is all intended to shame and silence women and to cast them as second fiddle to men – well, then, I would hate to see what matriarchy looks like. But I’ll give you a hint: It doesn’t look like the pagan thing that was replaced by the Catholic Church so many centuries ago. If Bruni would like a true picture of a patriarchal, misogynist society, then perhaps he ought to study the Roman Empire which was converted to the faith he now reproaches. As far as history is concerned, nothing in this world has liberated women more than Christianity, though that liberation suffers peril as the world seeps back into the soil of its pre-Christian, pagan roots under the guiding pen of men like Frank Bruni.

You see, it could be that the Church disapproves of abortion because it wishes to keep women under the foot of men; or it could be that the Church views every human life, whether male or female, to be more precious than the career a woman might have to give up in order to nurture that life. Again, it might very well be that the Church disapproves of contraception because it views women as mere incubators for the cherished offspring of men; or it could be that the Church views human sexuality as something sacred, creative and life-giving, as in an image and analogy of the very life of the Trinity. It might even be that the Church allows only men to be priests because it wants every woman sitting in the pews to see her place beneath the man every time she raises her eyes to the altar; or perhaps it is that the Church feels herself bound to the example of the one made present on that altar, who being man and high priest chose twelve men to carry on the function of his priesthood.

This is all to say that the Church is audacious enough to see the two genders as something separate in role and function, though utterly equal in dignity. And that is where Bruni goes off the rails: he cannot fathom a world in which equality means something other than sameness. He can only imagine men and women as equals whence they work the same job, receive the same pay, have the same sort of meaningless, sterile sex, and go through life challenging one another: “Anything you can do I can do to!”

You see, Mr. Bruni, in Catholic thought Mary is above the apostles – indeed she bears the title of Queen of the Apostles – and yet the Church, following her founder’s example, insists that only the apostles, all of whom were men, fulfill the role and function of the priest. Once more, to spell it out, Mary is quite literally above the apostles – in devotion, in her prominent and indispensable role in salvation history, in her singular privilege as the Mother of God, in her sinless nature etc. – and hence is her role in the birth and life of the Church even more foundational than that of the apostles! But it is the apostles alone, as men, whose role it was and is to carry on the priesthood of Jesus Christ.

This example alone should suffice to end the silly talk of the all-male priesthood standing as irrefutable proof for the superiority of men in the Church. The role of the priest is not one of superiority and power; rather, it is one of service, as Christ clearly instructed on the eve of his passion while washing his disciple’s feet. Again, the role of the priest is not the role of power, but of mediation: for he offers sacrifice on the people’s behalf. Therefore, the priesthood is male in expression and character not as an arbitrary privilege bequeathed to men qua men, but simply because certain men, as priests, are called to act in the person of Christ, whose bodily expression was of a man. Or to sum it up in one question: “How could a woman act in the person of a man?”

In a word, the Church takes gender seriously, even if the leftist-feminists can only blather on and on about “social constructs”, “gender theory”, and other such nonsense. A belief in the Divine Logos who orders and creates makes it impossible for the Church to view anything created and sustained in being as arbitrary or accidental – especially in regards to the dual image-bearers of that Divine Logos: man and woman.

I am sorry if Bruni and his fellow travelers cannot agree with the Church’s reasoning, but at least give the Church the benefit of the doubt. Take her at her word, instead of judging her by your own confused, cultural standards. And if you cannot ever come to agree with what she does and why she does it, at least stop pretending that she acts only out of malice for women and thus for no reason at all. At least be broad-minded and liberal enough to investigate the Church’s own reasons for acting how she acts and for doing what she does. Is that really too much to ask?

Until that time comes, I hope beyond hope that my eyes will never again fall upon the typical article. For I would hate to lose my patience.

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