Sunday, August 15, 2004

Time to get back on the horse and discuss Deep Issues. Tally ho!

This time out - the recent statement by the Vatican on Feminism and its aftermath.
(I love the word 'aftermath' - implies something "went down", doesn't it?)

Cardinal Ratzinger (head of the Congregation on the Doctrine of the Faith) said in this 37 page pamphlet that makes a number of points. One of the most critical is that governments should focus on helping working women so that they do not have to choose between families or careers. The document also criticizes attempts to create an adversarial relationship between men and women, discusses the importance of women within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, and decries the treatment of the work of women in the home as 'less important or less valuable than the work of women outside the home.

These points seem to be, if not well-received, 'under the radar'. The ones that cause real reaction are the statements on post-modern attempts to deconstruct gender. Cardinal Ratzinger challenges such attempts head-on as attempts to deny reality in the form of biology. Men and women are different in their essential nature and such ideas as 'male' and 'female' are not merely constructs of society and conditioning. Ratzinger argues that attempts by ideological feminists to state otherwise will have far reaching negative effects, some of which we are already seeing in assaults on the concept of family and marriage.

This document calso clearly condemns the subjugation of women and calls for a collaboration between men and women.

While I thought it was a very interesting work, where the core concepts of feminist thought (male and female equality; freedom for women to work; the valuation of women's work in the home; no sugjugation of women; etc.) are supported but the excesses of post-modern thought are discarded (as they should be). But here are some sample headlines concerning this document; 'Vatican letter denounces 'lethal effect' of feminism' (Washington Post); 'Vatian Fears Feminism Threatens Families' (; 'Vatican Fears Effects of Feminism' (AJC). Many of these articles parrot one another as they mention the same things that i do; the core concepts of feminism are supported, but radical attempts to create adversarial relationships or to erase the biological differences between the sexes are condemned.

On NPR I heard a commentator state that (I paraphrase) "...women met the document with irritation or amusement...". But there seem to be quite a few who support it (check the forums at, or any Baptist, Evangelical, etc. web site for the responses of women).As a matter of fact, some prominents Protestant speakers have thrown their support behind the document (although they shy away from 'that Mary stuff').

All in all, I think that we have two things going on in the media. First, they use misleading headlines. The Vatican doesn't 'fear' anything directly, they are concerned with the possible impact of certain ideologies on society. More importantly, the majority of the document supports equal rights for women. This reflects a long-standing dedication from John Paul II and the Magisterium to support and champion women. JP II has issued dozens of papers, encyclicals, and pamphlets support equal pay, equal treatment, and freedom from oppression for women. Most of the 'experts' quoted in the article either say that the document is no big deal or they point out the support to women that JP II has always given. The only real critical voice is Francis Kissling, and anti-Catolic media hound, and a professor that worries that it will be misused.

In short, a non-controversy blown up into one.

No comments: