Saturday, July 31, 2004

Holy Mary!

She's the only kind of woman that could make it to the Dean's List of the Roman Catholic church. A new 'Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World' by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Pope's favorite theologian, tells us women (and goddesses?) what our basic characteristics and roles are. I'm very happy to be enlightened about these questions by a man who is a celibate, of course. Only adequate distance can provide neutrality and objectivity, right?

Thus quoth Cardinal Ratzinger about women's characteristic traits:

'Listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting.'

What, nothing about vanity or competitiveness or greediness or ambition or the hunger for power? Nothing about intelligence, the love of peace, the ability to understand and manipulate people? If we start using all sorts of ancient stereotypes about women, why not add those that the Catholic church used to hold before? For example, that women might be soulless, or especially easily seduced by the Devil or like temples built on top of filthy sewers.

But of course Cardinal Ratzinger knows better than I ever could what women are like. It's the woman's special ability to give birth that molds her in ways totally unknown to men. This ability, according to Ritzinger:

'allows her to acquire maturity very quickly, and gives a sense of the seriousness of life and of its responsibilities. A sense and a respect for what is concrete develop in her, opposed to abstractions which are so often fatal for the existence of individuals and society,'

'A sense and a respect for what is concrete'! Indeed. Abstractions are really hard for us female creatures. We never get them. When I hear stories about Jesus as a shepherd I always wonder why he needed to do magic about the loaves and the wishes; why didn't he just eat his flock for Chrissake? And women certainly mature very quickly. As a religious brother of Ratzinger, one Martin Luther, used to say, girls grow so much faster than boys because weeds mature before valuable plants do.

Given the way women are, meek and passive and meant to think of concrete stuff, what would the Cardinal have women do in the society? Here he goes all feminist on us; he even allows for the possibility that women might hold jobs, though always remembering about the waiting and the humility and stuff. And the main place of women is at home, of course.

Why this sudden feminism? I'm kidding you, sort of. In fact, the letter is an attack on feminism which the good Cardinal views responsible for all sorts of evils in this world. Feminism has:

inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent".

Even more worrying to Cardinal Ratzinger is his belief that feminism can persuade women to become "adversaries of men" and that this can have "lethal effects in the structure of the family". Consider what this statement would sound like if Ratzinger had talked about the Civil Rights Movement as having persuaded blacks to become "adversaries of whites" and as having caused "lethal effects in the structure of the society". Just consider it.

For Cardinal Ratzinger men and women are fundamentally different (remember all that waiting and humility stuff?) and the feminist attempts to increase gender equality have been misplaced because he sees them as trying to erase these fundamental differences between the sexes. But if he's right and such differences are so fundamental, what's his worry? Surely no social movement can erase fundamental god-ordained differences? So why worry about feminism? All our Cardinal needs to do is to bide his time.
You can read the whole letter here.