As the Vatican cleans house in the US and Catholic organizations oppose provisions of Obamacare, media outlets in the US have gone on the offensive by dredging up more of the sex abuse scandal and making a mountain out of the molehill of a scandal that has emerged concerning the pope’s butler.
Although there is a lot of distrust of the Catholic church in the US (which goes back a long, long way), I’m happy to see it finally taking a stand. One of the reasons I stopped going to church was the strange interpretation of Catholicism in Seattle, which was possibly the most radically liberal archdiocese on earth. When I was a child, local churches would hold fund drives for the Sandinistas, join anti-nuclear protests that were all but orchestrated by Bolsheviks, and host PRIDE rallies. What they got away with was breathtaking. After years of this behavior, Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, personally handled the problems with our local archdiocese, forcing the removal of archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, who presided over the transformation of the local church to something resembling the contemporary Episcopal Church, which is all but dead.
Speaking of the Episcopal Church, I have some perspective on this institution as well, having been raised attending a Catholic Church with one set of grandparents, and an Episcopalian Church with the other. What happened to the Episcopal Church in the US is a terrible shame. I actually preferred the Episcopal liturgy to Vatican II services in Roman Catholic churches, and I still remember the hymns from Episcopalian summer school. I’m afraid Anglo Americans have lost a great deal of their heritage thanks to the lack of spine on the part of the Episcopalian leadership. The Episcopal Church leaders cast themselves as “courageous” for going along with prevailing fads, but in fact they look like cowardly weaklings in hindsight.
Perhaps the Catholics finally woke up to the threat posed by dilution of the church’s core messages. From an outside perspective, a lot of the church’s teachings look like so much superstition and myth, but one of the characteristics of a successful faith is that its members hold beliefs that bond them together, whether rational or not. As soon as leaders of the faith start rejecting doctrine and tailoring the message to suit the outside culture, members begin to feel there is no longer any point in adhering to it. But with many mainline Christian churches, they took it a step farther, and began to reject their own scripture, which is even more alienating to believers. Why go to church if the church itself admits that what it is teaching is so much bull?
So one would expect any church that cares to preserve itself to take measures to defend its beliefs and hold true to them. However, now that the Catholic Church has begun to do so, a very loud noise has begun to emanate from a number of people who seem to have thought that they were entitled not only to defy doctrine, but to be supported by the church in doing so. Many of them are feminists, including among them a number of lesbian nuns. Perhaps most prominent among them is Margaret Farley, a lesbian nun and professor at Yale divinity school.
Sr. Farley has published a number of books on sexuality, including one that argues that lesbian relationships are not fundamentally different from heterosexual marriage, which directly contradicts the church that has fostered her for decades. Farley’s book “Just Love” was recently censured by the Vatican, in a rare move that indicates a clear new opposition to the unchecked feminism that had been tolerated for nearly 40 years.
In response, female columnists around the nation have been raging at the church. Maureen Dowd, who has taken up something of a feminist crusade against the Catholic Church in recent years, took a swipe, and Lisa Miller of the Washington Post denounced cardinals in a particularly misleading, puerile screed:
Members of the Vatican hierarchy are using the word “feminist” and even “radical feminist” the way third-graders use the word “cooties.” In April, the Vatican accused the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents 57,000 nuns nationwide, of allowing “radical feminist” ideas to flow unchecked in their communities. In 2008, after launching an investigation against American nuns (the results of which have not yet been released), Cardinal Franc Rode told a radio interviewer that the nuns are suspected of “certain irregularities,” a “secular mentality” and “perhaps also a certain feminist spirit.”
The authors of these rebukes never define “feminism” or “radicalism.” In their hands, these words, which can carry legitimate intellectual meanings, appear to signify something like: “Yucky women who fail to heed our instructions and, anyway, don’t meet our standards of womanhood.” In other words, the sisters aren’t behaving as girls should.
Commenters on both articles decry the “misogyny” of the patriarchal church, and ask why it can’t get with the times. Again, one need only look to the example of the Episcopal Church, which did get with the times, and then proceeded to give up the ghost.
The fact is that patriarchy works, and always has. It’s the reason the Catholic Church, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and, yes, even Buddhism (the Dalai Lama is not a feminist; there are no female lamas) are still around.
If feminists reject the patriarchy and “misogyny” of major religions, they have the option of simply rejecting them and starting their own faiths. If so many people feel as they do, they should have great success attracting faithful followers. Obviously, this is not the case, so rather than simply accepting that their own ideology is contrary to human nature, they attempt to strong-arm the institution into caving to their demands, and for some time had great success doing so.
But now the tide has shifted, and the water is coming back in to cover the weeds on the beach. Feminists are furious, and are making a terrible fuss, but their twilight time is here. Taking a stand against feminism has finally started to come to the mainstream.