by Dale O'Leary
July 1, 1994
Before we begin to talk about feminism we need to lay a foundation of repentance. I have given many talks on the this subject and no matter how careful I am, I find that when I am finished one or two women in the audience will be terribly offended by my talk. The interesting thing is that they are usually offended by something I didn't say. I tried to explain the points that disturbed people more carefully, but frankly to no avail.
Since you may face the same problem, let me explain what I think happens. There has been injustice toward women by men. This should be no surprise to us. The book of Genesis tells us that the first fruits of original sin were the disruption in the relationship between men and women.
The question is not: Have women suffered? We all agree they have. The question is: Why and what should we do about it? To agree that women have suffered does not force one to agree with the feminist analysis of what causes that suffering and what should be done about it. The problem is that suffering creates bitterness and envy. And feminism breeds in bitterness and envy. This is why when we challenge feminist analysis of causes and solutions some women react defensively, feeling that we are denying our suffering.
Unless each of you repents personally of the sins of envy and resentment, I can tell you quite frankly that you will not be able to hear what I am saying.
Scripture says "Envy thou not the oppressor", (Prov. 3:31). Envy is a serious sin because when we envy we question the perfect wisdom of God's plan for our lives; we think that He denied us some good to which we are entitled, particularly if we, as women, envy men, or say, heaven forbid, "I wish that I had been born a man." God made us male and female. To be displeased with His decision, challenges God's goodness. Therefore, if you have ever said, "I wish I were a man" repent of it and ask God for the grace to accept the gift of your womanhood.
Second, we must repent of all bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness. We must forgive everyone who has injured us in any way. There are no exceptions. Every time we recite the rosary, six times we say, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us". These are not idle words, If we don't not forgive, we are asking God to hold our sins. Jesus said, when he taught the Lord's prayer, "If you do not forgive others, neither will your heavenly father, forgive you."
People have strange ideas about forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn't mean that you have not been harmed; on the contrary, it means the exact opposite, it acknowledges the reality of the harm. Forgiveness is isn't letting the other person off, its letting yourself off. Resentment is re-feeling. You are continually refeeling the hurt.
There are no exceptions, no hurts that can't be forgiven. If you are as innocent as Jesus, if the nails are still in your hands, if your persecutors are still standing around jeering at you, you must still say "Father forgive them."
How to do it? Forgiveness isn't an emotion, it is an act of the will. Make a list of all the people who have injured you in any way, and take it to confession, and out loud make an act of forgiveness. It may also be good to talk about the pain with someone who understands. Women, in particular, must forgive the men who have hurt them: fathers, brothers, cousins, boyfriends, husbands, sons, teachers, employers, every one who has injured them.
Having done all that we can begin to talk about the feminist challenge to the faith.
I'd like to give you a little background about how I came to be interested in this subject. About 15 years ago I became involved in the prolife movement. Our opposition calls itself feminist and claims to be the defenders of women. I had just written a series of articles on the negative effects of abortion on women, and I really believed that the information I had uncovered would show these feminists that abortion was terrible for women. However, when I went out to debate, I found that my information had absolutely no effect on them. In fact, they knew about all the negative effects of abortion. They knew it better than I did because they knew more women who had abortions.
They didn't want to talk about the effects of abortion on women. They didn't want to talk about the baby. They wanted to talk about the liberation of women. I thought to myself, "Am I missing something here?" So I embarked upon a two year study of feminism, trying to understand where these women were coming from.
I discovered I didn't understand feminism? I had thought that feminism was about equality for women, equal treatment under the law, equal education, equal opportunity, equal dignity and respect. Things which I supported and which I am sure you all support, which the church supports. To my surprise I discovered that this philosophy of liberal - equality based - feminism had been almost totally superseded by the ideology of radical feminism.
This is what had happened. In the 1960's women had joined the radical Marxist based movements of revolution, and been treated terribly by the radical men. They had been denied a voice, relegated to menial tasks, and used sexually. Around 1970 a group of radical women split off from the men and formed their own groups. They applied the radical Marxist ideas they had learned to the relationship between men and women.
The most influential of this women was Shulamith Firestone who wrote the feminist classic . You probably have heard of Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, and Gloria Steinem, but the real founder of radical feminism was Shulamith Firestone. The feminists have kept Shulamith in the academic closet because she was so radical. She advocated the destruction of the family, and marriage, total sexual liberation including the acceptance of child/adult sex and incest, and finding a technological replacement for pregnancy.
Firestone applied the philosophy of Marx and Engels, particularly the ideas found in a book by Engels entitled , to the situation of women. Engels and Marx had argued that all history is the history of class struggle - the oppressor against the oppressed, the owner against the worker, and the man against the woman. Classic Marxism holds that originally there was a classless society without property or family. According to this theory which is totally without foundation, in the beginning, in the Marxist garden of Eden, men didn't know they were fathers. They didn't associated intercourse with child birth and therefore there were no fatherheaded families and no inheritance of property through the male line. All goods passed from the mother and her family to the children. But then the great evil occurred, the Marxist original sin, men discovered that they were fathers and they claimed their right to their children and the right to pass their property on to their children. Men enslaved women in marriage, so that they could be sure who their children were, and this caused private property and all the evils of oppression.
For the classic Marxist, these evils can be eliminated only when private property is eliminated. The elimination of property must be combined with laws that make divorce easy. Women wouldn't need husbands, the state would provide. All women would work outside the home, the state would provide 24 hour free day care. Illegitimacy would be acceptable since the state would provide for children. Religioun would be eliminated, since religion promoted the family. Once this was accomplished the great and wonderful classless society would emerge, and people would finally be free. Of course, no Marxist society ever succeeded in creating a classless society. They have all been disasters.
The radical feminists were not deterred by the failures of classic Marxism or the failures of Communist states. They felt that they understood the cause of those failures. The Marxist had focused on the economic issues, but according to Marxist theory, the first oppression was caused by marriage. Women were the true oppressed class. Therefore, to eliminate oppression and suffering it would be necessary not to have an economic class revolution but a sex class revolution. Firestone writes:
So that just as to assure elimination of economic classes requires the revolt of the underclass (the proletariat) and in a temporary dictatorship, their seizure of the means of production, so to assure the elimination of sexual classes requires the revolt of the underclass (women) and the seizure of control of reproduction: the restoration to women of ownership of their own bodies, as well as feminine control of human fertility, including both the new technology and all the social institutions of childbearing and childrearing. And just as the end goal of socialist revolution was not only the elimination of the economic class but of the economic class itself, so the end goal of feminist revolution must be, unlike that of the first feminist movement, not just the elimination of male but of the sex itself: genital differences between human beings would no longer matter culturally.
(Now listen to the rest of this)
polymorphous perversity would probably supersede hetero-, homo-, bi- sexuality.
The reproduction of the species by one sex for the benefit of both would be replaced by at least the option of artificial reproduction. Children would be born to both sexes equally or independently.
The dependence of the child on the mother and vice versa would give way to a greatly shortened dependence on a small group of others in general and any remaining inferiority to adults in physical strength would be compensated for culturally.
The tyranny of the biological family would be broken.
The feminist movement has the essential mission of creating cultural acceptance of the new ecological balance necessary for the survival of the human race in the twentieth century.
The goal is clear - Man becomes (and here she quotes Engels) The Lord of Nature, master of his own social organization.
Feminism is a war against - from the word Pater, the Greek for father. While we are all opposed to abuse of fatherhood, the failure of fathers to imitate God the father, while it is important to call men to repentance, to call them to imitate the loving merciful fatherhood of God. That is not the feminist goal. The feminists want to eliminate fatherheaded families and every institution were men accept responsibility for protecting and providing for women.
Scripture says "I bend my knee before the Father from whom every fatherhood (patria - family) in heaven and on earth takes its name." All fatherhood, all family is rooted in God's fatherhood, as the Holy Father has pointed out in and in his recent letter to families. Fatherhood is men laying down their lives for women and children. This society doesn't suffer from too much fatherhood; it suffers from too little. The evils come not from the fatherhood of men, but when men failed to act as true fathers.
The feminist analysis is nonsense. Women aren't going to be better off when there are no families. There is no evidence that any of this will work. From the beginning the goals of feminism were clear: destruction of patriarchy; control of reproduction including contraception, abortion, and reproductive technologies; destruction of the fatherheaded family with divorce and illegitimacy made normal; all women in the workforce, no man able to support his family and free 24 hour day care; destruction of all-male institutions; total sexual liberation including sex for children, homosexuality, and bisexuality; destruction of worship of God as father.
From 1970 to the present day the feminist movement has worked to achieve these goals. Radical feminists are firmly entrenched in the universities, in the media and now in the government. Liberal feminists and non-feminists have been driven out. The radical feminists have collaborated with sexual liberationists, with populationists, with haters of religion, political liberals. They have hidden their purposes and worked stealthily always keeping their goal in mind. The latest battle is being fought over the Cairo Conference of population. Joycelyn Elders is a spokeswoman for the ideology.
When I first came upon all this I was afraid that I might to exaggerating the feminist point of view, so I went to several campuses, Columbia, Notre Dame, Washington U. and discussed the issues with students. I found that they denied none of what I charged and, in fact, had gone beyond . I was given this book by a confused student at Salve Regina. It is also being used at Brown. While the book is written in almost undecipherable deconstructed language, after one learns the language, one discovers that this book teaches is: the categories of sex are social constructions designed by men to oppress women and that we have to get rid of them and of compulsory heterosexuality. In other words, they are teaching our children that men made up the idea that humanity is divided into males and females. What they want to deconstruct is sexual identity. They want the ultimate choice: to choose whether they are male or female or something else or nothing in particular.
This is an all out war on reality and on the God of reality. We are the enemy. They have no desire for compromise. They want to destroy everything that we believe in family, faith, even our identity as men and women. They work by playing on resentment. If you read feminist literature, you will find the books follow a set plan. The opening chapter lays out the feminist agenda, usually quoting Engels and Firestone, the concluding chapter lays out their agenda for change, and the middle is devoted to cataloguing all the evils that men have done to women. I will tell you frankly after reading these catalogues of complaint, you have to have heroic virtue not to give in to resentment. Of course, none of the sins of women against men are mentioned. This is why at the beginning I explained how necessary it is that the sin of resentment have no place in us. If we harbor our own personal resentments, these catalogues will remind us of our own sufferings and we will not be able to see how we are being manipulated.
I happen to have been a history major and as I read these litanies of sins against women, I could see the distortions of history, the total inability of these writers to understand the lives and characters of women different from themselves, women like you and I, who loved God, family, service. But to those without historical background the inventory of offenses is very convincing. I could fill volumes correcting the errors promoted by feminists which have been transformed into contemporary myths. The most common, and I am sure you have all heard it, is the idea that the Church didn't ordain women in the first centuries because it was contrary to the accepted practice of the times, but now the times have changed and we should ordain women. The fact are totally different: every religion of the period had priestesses except Judaism. When the church broke with Judaism and moved out into the Greek world, nothing would have been more simple than to adopt the pagan practice of priestesses. There were heretical cults which sprang up which ordained women, and these were condemned by the Church, part of the evidence against them, that they had ordained women.
Mother goddesses and female deities, were common during Biblical times. Many feminist theologians have praised these religions as validating women's experience. But these goddess religions were hardly pro-woman. Their rituals included male and female temple prostitution and the sacrifice of living children. These societies accepted polygamy and the mistreatment of women.
The feminists work from within, by infiltrating the bureaucracy of the churches. A few months ago Protestant feminists held a conference. They denied the fatherhood of God and the atonement. Feminist theologian, Mary Hunt, who spoke at the conference has said, "Christianity is an abusive theology that glorifies suffering. Is it any wonder that there is so much abuse in modern society when the dominant image of theology of the culture is of 'divine child abuse' - God the father demanding and carrying out the suffering and death of his own son.? If Christianity is to be liberating for the oppressed, it must itself be liberated from this theology." And "I believe that life pleasure and justice are to be valued equally, that the God of creation is at the same time the Goddess of pleasure, and the spirit of justice."
What are we to do? First, lead women to repent of envy and unforgiveness. This is the soil in which these ideas take root. Second, we must study the scriptures and the teachings of the Church, particularly the writings of the present Holy Father on these issues and conform our minds to the mind of God. As it says in Paul's letter to the Philippians, "Have this mind in you which was in Christ Jesus who did not think equality with God a thing to be grasped but humbled himself and became obedient even unto death death on the cross." The letters of Paul are not some mistake. They are the word of God inspired by the Spirit. We can't read the Bible with feminist scissors; we must read it as the word of God.
I really encourage all of you to learn to read Greek. It isn't all that difficult. I know you may have had difficulty with language in school, but reading a language is only one fifth of what you had to learn in school. You don't have to learn to speak it or understand it when it is spoken. You aren't going to be holding a conversation with any first century Greeks, and you aren't going to be writing them letters. Biblical Greek is much simpler than classic Greek and half the nouns are cognates. If you are going to know the Word of God, it is helpful to know what the words really mean.
Take for example the question of submission, "Wives submit to your husbands". The word in Greek is hupotasso. It is primarily a military term "to rank under". It isn't about being a wimpy weak woman. It has the feel of a Marine salute. It doesn't imply inferiority, but order. I have argued with feminists about this. "Why," they ask, "should women submit?" Consider, I reply. the other possibilities: that the family would have no head. This would result in confusion and crossed purposes, two people can't solve things by a vote. Give the children a vote, and the parents would have to lobby the children. Without a clear head, we don't have equality but tyranny of the most stubborn, the most selfish, the one who won't give. "Well", my feminist opponents retort, "Why should it be the man? Aren't some women more capable then their husbands?" To this I agree, some women are more capable of leadership than their husbands. Men are not given headship because they have merited it, it is their assignment. We wouldn't want a contest in every marriage to determine who was a better head. Who would be the judge?
Furthermore, every Christian must submit - stand under - someone else. Who are married women to stand under, someone else's husband, another woman? The alternatives are terrible. Headship is resisted is because headship has been abused. We need to attack the abuse.
Feminists say its about power, but they do not understand where power comes from. In Greek three words are translated power. Kratos - God's mighty arm, power and strength. Dunamis - power or the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Exousia - power or authority. Now feminists can hardly be coveting kratos, we aren't going to compete with God or even men in arm strength. Dunamis which is the root for the word dynamite, has always been equally available to men and women, therefore they must be looking for exousia - authority power. But where does authority power come from. The story of the centurion gives us a clear explanation of exousia. The centurion says to Jesus, "Lord I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof but speak the word only and my servant shall be healed for I am a man under authority (exousia), having soldiers under me and I say to this one Go and he goeth and to another come and he cometh and to my servant do this and he does it."
What did the centurion understand that he had greater faith than Jesus had found in all Israel. He understood that authority power comes from obedience to higher authority. He wasn't obeyed because of his might arm or his wining personality, he was obeyed because Caesar sat in Rome. True authority comes from obedience to those God has put over us and all authority power ultimately comes from God. My son is a Marine officer and he has explained to me that the officer doesn't use those under him. He is responsible for their protection. His power is not a personal fiefdom, it is service.
A woman needs to submit, because she needs a source for her own authority, she needs to be part of the chain of command. A woman says to her children, "Do it because your father says so." She says to the plumber "Do it right because my husband is very particular". She doesn't stand alone, she has authority. She stands under and therefore someone is standing behind her, backing up her words protecting her. For the wife in the home, there is no other source of authority, but her own husband.
Of course, if the husband abuses the wife, he is in the same position as an officer who issues illegal orders, he doesn't have to be obeyed. If a man who tells his wife to get an abortion, the Christian wife should have no problem saying "No way". It is those who do not understand obedience and authority, who have no higher power to appeal to and get trapped in abusive relationships.
Feminist theology is not only a liberation theology, it is also Modernist. It denies revelation. Feminists do not believe that God has spoken. They believe that the scriptures and teachings of the Church are things which men made up to oppress women and if women were priests or bishops they would make up different things -religion is just a social construct. For them we aren't made in God's image and likeness, men made God father in their image and likeness and now the feminists want to reimage God as mother. For feminists liberation is freedom from imaging God, the ultimate rebellion.
We must respond to this by accepting the true human vocation to live as images and likeness of God our father. For myself I never had any problem with a father God or Jesus as son, I can sing faith of my fathers and read about the sons of God without feeling the least bit excluded. All human beings image God, his fatherhood includes human fatherhood and motherhood. But women are called in a special way to be a sign of the Church as virgin, bride, and mother.
Now we can see why the Marian movement is so important in these last days, because here is the answer, Mary the perfect woman, Mary a sign in the heavens, Mary, ever Virgin, Mother of God, Mother of the Church.
Virginity is not just about never having sex. The virgin is an escatalogical sign - she is the woman waiting for her husband, keeping herself pure for him, as the Church waits for the coming of Christ. Every human bride is like the New Jerusalem who descends from heaven arrayed like a bride for her husband.
The whole songs of songs is a celebration of the love between the bridegroom and the bride, the symbol of Christ's love for the church the mystical union of the soul with God. If human love is to image God's love, it must be procreative that is why contraception is so alien to the marital union, why abortion is such an abomination. The love of God, of which human love between husband and wife is the image, creates.
And once life has been conceived it must be nurtured and feed. The mother in the home is an image of the Church. The Mother's everyday actions are the pattern and preparation for the sacramental life of the Church. She washes the child, feeds him, confirms his vocation, forgives his sins, heals his hurts. Women are the constant and everyday sign of the church.
And those women called to celibacy are even more a sign of the church, as virgin and bride and as spiritual mothers. Barren women are a sign of the Church who though barren becomes the mother of many. Even the deserted wife is a sign of the Church as the prophet Isaiah says. "For he who has become your husband is your Maker, his name is the LORD of hosts, the LORD calls you back like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, a wife married in youth and then cast off."
Every woman is called to a sign of the love of God manifest in world as the church, for the church is not an organization, but a woman, a virgin, a bride, a mother.
It is not enough for us to come here and cling to Mary like frightened children in the midst of great a storm. Just as she is the sign for this age, we must be a sign and image of God's love made manifest.