The Personalist Project

Comments (59)

Katie van Schaijik

#1, Dec 4, 2013 4:01pm

Samwise, this is all great and helpful.  I want to mull it further before I say anything else.  But meanwhile, thank you so much!

Sam Roeble

#2, Dec 4, 2013 5:11pm

The main source, and what prompted me to write it, was a program I"m involved in at my parish called "That Man is You".  It's based out of Texas by a man named Steve Bollman (a personalist for sure).  The slideshow link in the beginning of the piece will direct you to more info on the source.

Jules van Schaijik

#3, Dec 5, 2013 1:26pm

Thanks for this post Samwise. I had not known that Beauvoir meant to correct Sartre's view of women.

However it seems to me that while JPII's views are not a mere "conservative reaction" to early feminists like Beauvoir and Friedman, they are a response to them, and hence shaped by them the way any true response must be shaped by the question it addresses.  Wouldn't you agree?

Sam Roeble

#4, Dec 5, 2013 2:14pm

I hesitate to give full credit to the women in question.  The 'response' could just as easily have been motivated by the saintly women I listed at the end.  I don't know for sure if JPII wrote the letter as a strict correction of misinterpreted femininity, or as a way of lauding those who interpreted it well.  If I had to guess, I would say the latter--since it simultaneously addresses the former. 

The approach I took, as inspired by the seminar at my parish, starts with Sartre and Beauvoir (since I was unaware of their influence too).  I would like to think, however, that JPII did not start there and instead began with the exemplary women

Sam Roeble

#5, Dec 5, 2013 2:55pm

I think I would re-word the following: "The two works together form the catalyst for both the worst of feminism today, and the best" to just "The two works together form the catalyst for the worst of feminism today"  and then go on to say how the saints have provided the "best"--for JPII to respond to.

Katie van Schaijik

#6, Dec 6, 2013 11:39am

A difference, though, between Beauvoir and, say, Mother Teresa, is that Beauvoir was an intellectual. She challenged the tradition and proposed new theories in the intellectual realm. 

I think there's no question that the Wojtyla's elaboration of the dignity of women is partly indebted to the challenged raised by feminism.

"O happy fault," we might say.

On the point of dominance:

I agree with you that theme of dominance vs. service is key in Wojtyla's thought, and key in his "answer" to feminism. But it seems to me you leave out an important element here, viz. that Wojtyla grants that what's true and valid in feminism is their protest of the fact that women have been unjustly dominated by men throughout history.

They are right to protest this dominance, and to seek its remedy, including in practical life.

They were wrong to think that the solution to being dominated was to become dominators.

Katie van Schaijik

#7, Dec 6, 2013 11:41am

Another point I think important to mention:

Satre wasn't just a friend and intellectual influence over Simone de Beauvoir.  He was her very abusive paramour. She even served as his procuress.  

It was a perverse relationship. It is not surprising that she grew to despise and resent femininity.

Sam Roeble

#8, Dec 6, 2013 12:34pm

Yea, I need to add more quotes from "Mulieris Dignitatem" that agree moreso with that anti-thesis.  For example, "In the name of liberation from
male 'domination', women must not appropriate to themselves male characteristics contrary to their own feminine 'originality'. There is a well-founded fear that if they take this path, women will not 'reach fulfilment', but instead will deform and lose what constitutes their essential richness."

This, and others, seem to be direct responses to an opposing intellectual current which originates with Beauvoir.  As TMIY states, "thought matters"

I see what you're saying about Sartre, and TMIY was much more explicit about it.  I don't think it has a place so much in this piece, but would be appropriate in something like "JPII vs. machismo/male domination" 

Katie van Schaijik

#9, Dec 6, 2013 1:12pm

Yes, I agree whole-heartedly with the quote you offer.  But I would want to add that a full solution to the crisis between the sexes involves, also, men ceasing to dominate.

Women have to learn to stand up for themselves and their dignity without appropriating the "dominance" habits of men.  And men have ot learn to stop trying to dominate women, and stop imagining that we can go back to the pre-feminist status quo, in which women really were illegitimately subservient.  

Edith Stein is great on this theme.

Sam Roeble

#10, Dec 6, 2013 2:06pm

I added the quote from MD with a little more explanation on Sartre as a poor example of manhood.

However, the text itself already contains the idea that men should not dominate as is evidenced by this quote, "Ironically, neither sex benefits from dominance, but rather, 'service' remains the key to reigning with dignity ('to serve is to reign')".  I don't think much more needs to be said in a piece like this, which as a "happy fault" is nonetheless entirely under Beauvoir and Friedan's control.  That is to say, they chose to react to male dominance in the way that they did.

C.S.Lewis explores this topic brilliantly in Perelandra.  The Unman (very Sartre-like) tempts the green lady with all kinds of lies and half-truths, but she does not lose sight of who God and man are (thanks to Ransom, etc.).  Beauvoir consciously lost of God in her early years, and as a result she lost sight of man as well (thinking him to be Sartre only). 

That doesn't justify men's dominance, but it shouldn't excuse her choices either.

Sam Roeble

#11, Dec 6, 2013 2:34pm

In other words, women and men would be a lot better off if they chose Wojtyla's "ethos of redemption" over "suspicion", no matter their relational circumstances.

Beauvoir began her life as a baptized theist, and had the opportunity to know the redemption of Christ.  Instead, her life ended with the conclusion that men were like the Unman, and that she must be like the Unman (Sartre).  Her anti-Christian ideas are her legacy and they resonate with the fallen nature of women worldwide.

Katie van Schaijik

#12, Dec 6, 2013 2:47pm

Sam, I don't mean to be disagreeing with you as much as stressing an aspect of the issue that I find too often and easily overlooked by those on "my side" of the culture wars.  

In our opposition to feminism we are sometimes very unlike Wojtyla.  What is so striking in his work is his immense sympathy for and affirmation of the legitimate concerns of feminism.  

I remember what a shock it was for me to read his Letter to Women in the 90s and find him there praising feminism as a substantially positive development in history.

When especially men attack feminism and emphasize that women are happier and more fulfilled when they are serving, it can have the unfortunate effect of seeming to suggest that women should be in a subservient role vis a vis men. Protestants and many Catholic traditionalists are quite explicit about this.

I also don't think we do SdB full justice unless we note that she was horribly victimized and abused in her relationship with Satre. He was a creep and a disgusting sexual pervert. 

It doesn't excuse her, but it does throw light, imo.

Sam Roeble

#13, Dec 6, 2013 3:06pm

Haha, it's funny to me how defensive I get with this topic.

My thoughts are that, like with any civil rights type of issue, the pendulum swing can go totally opposite.  The danger that i don't want to excuse is an overcompensation for the good things of feminism.  My argument is simultaneously meant to convict SdB of false feminism and only slightly portray her as a victim ( because I think she way overcompensates).

Katie van Schaijik

#14, Dec 7, 2013 6:12am

Of course she does. Her philosophy is horrid. Her view of women and motherhood is revolting.

On the other hand, I'm wondering whether you agree with Wojtyla when he says that feminism has been a substantially positive development in history, and if yes, how you see it to be so.

Katie van Schaijik

#15, Dec 7, 2013 6:40am

I've been looking at that TMIY slideshow you link.  I love the Wojtyla quotes he uses! But some of his emphases makes me balk a little. For instance, is it just to call Freud the Father of the West?  

I mean, the West pre-dates Freud by a couple millennia, and had many fathers, including, say, Plato and Aristotle, Cicero, Augustine and Aquinas, etc.

I can see calling Freud the Father of the Sexual Revolution, though.

I also feel uneasy about his seeming to make freedom the problem. Freedom is good. And women did need to be freed from illegitimate social barriers and male-domination.  It's good that women now have a greater "ownership" of their bodies. These are all things that JP II acknowledges, affirms, and praises as among the real achievements of the modern world.

Where radical existentialists go wrong is in their denial of nature and essence—i.e. real limits—and in their failure to grasp what freedom is for.  The person isn't fulfilled in formlessness and aimlessness, or through domination of nature and domination others, but through self-receiving, self-determining, and self-giving.

I was glad to see that Paul Johnson quote about Beauvoir having been Satre's much-abused slave for decades!

Sam Roeble

#16, Dec 7, 2013 9:48am

I wouldn't have written it if I didn't see the good.

About Freud--I agree, Steve Bollman overstated that.  I don't think he has any formal training but is a good-hearted businessman

About freedom--Neither Steve or I say that Beauvoir's freedom was wrong.  Sartre was the one who said women were without freedom by design, and that men were absolute freedom.  Beavoir overcompensated by not advocating for women's freedom, so much as wanting women to become like men.

Given that Beauvoir was not advocating for "feminism" so much as "masculinization of women", is it fair to credit her (and Friedan who took a similar approach) with the "positive aspects of feminism"?  All I could credit her with is a reckless reaction to Sartre! 

Instead, I am inclined to credit saints with good aspects of feminism (reinforced by the bad examples of SdB, etc.).

In other words, I am arguing that feminism cannot be called feminism unless it points to the truth and beauty of the human person as a woman--and I don't think SdB or Friedan did that.  I do think Edith Stein (thanks for suggestion), and other female intellectuals (Von Hildebrand) did that.

Katie van Schaijik

#17, Dec 7, 2013 11:12am

When I use the term "feminism" I don't mean by it "a true and adequate account of the nature and dignity of women." I mean, rather, a certain set of ideas concerning the place of women in society, and the historical developments that followed from them. 

From that point of view, feminism is a mixed bag, including lots of evil, but, according to Wojtyla (and I agree with him) still "a substantially positive" development in history. Compare it maybe with "republicanism"—i.e. the move away from monarchy toward representative government.

That movement, too, included bad guys and good guys; it involved some deplorable sin and blood. But, on the whole, we can say it was a positive development, and that we've learned a lot through it, even from the bad actors (like Karl Marx, say).

When Wojtyla called feminism "substantially positive", he wasn't speaking about beautiful examples of femininity; he was speaking about feminism—the historical movement by which outmoded and inadequate ideas about the nature of women and their role in society were challenged and overcome through the intellectual and practical efforts of particular women.

If he had meant "femininity", then he would have said "wholly positive," wouldn't he?


Sam Roeble

#18, Dec 9, 2013 9:03am

Yes, you make an important distinction there. 

Politically, I think moves away from monarchy have stunted femininity and masculinity.  Representative government, according to Aquinas, is tolerable (until legislation becomes corrupt)--Communism's sense of sexual identity would be much worse!

Overall I would say that monarchy maintains/has maintained the most dignity of masculinity and femininity.  Is Queen Elizabeth II less feminine than Nancy Pelosi?

France, SdB's home, has seen some of the most drastic political changes of any country in the wolrd: Monarchy, empire, republic, and now socialist state.  I can't see this as progress, and its citizens' confusion, along with immoral legislation, supports my point. 

Sam Roeble

#19, Dec 9, 2013 9:16am

I purposefully used this example to show the epitome of women's power as we have known it in history:

"For a hypothetical example, the widowed queen of France can either choose to 'dominate' or 'serve' the common good by approving or disapproving of unethical legislation, and behaving in a way that befits her office as a high-profile woman who influences others."

The good thing about monarchy is, since this was a widowed queen, she shared authority with her husband the king as a married couple (also held accountable by some sort of parliament, etc.)  But, monarchy places the fundamental unit of society, the family, as the top--thereby, potentially, uphelding masculinity and femininity as an ideal.

The downside, as Aquinas says, is Tyranny which is the worst form of government.  Tyranny in marriage, just as in government, is dominance and not service

Katie van Schaijik

#20, Dec 9, 2013 9:17am

You mean you're a monarchist?

You don't think the move toward representative government was, on the whole, a positive development in human history?

More to the point of the discussion here, do you then disagree with Wojtyla when he says that feminism was a substantially positive development in human history?  Do you think we should go back to the way things were before feminism?  If yes, how far back?

Back to where women had no vote?  No access to higher education? No means of supporting themselves economically? Should we go back to the practice of having fathers choose husbands for their daughters?

I remember Dr. Crosby once pointing out that an argument Newman made for establishing convents in the Anglican church (this was before his conversion) is that without them, 19th century women had no option but marriage or dependency on relatives.

Katie van Schaijik

#21, Dec 9, 2013 9:49am

A key thing I've learned from Wojtyal is that, thanks to the Fall,  every human relationship is menanced by the master/slave hermeutic.

In general, throughout history, the way that evil dynamic has manifested between the sexes is that men have tended to be domineering toward women, and women have tended to be servile toward men.

Feminism—in its basic thrust—is a protest against the subordination of women to men.  It is an assertion of their equal rights and dignity as persons and as members of society.

This was good. Catholics—Wojtyla above all—affirm that this aim is right and true. Wherever men are domineering and women are oppressed, change is called for—both on the individual and on the social level. Men must learn not to dominate. Women must learn not to be servile.

Feminism goes wrong when it tends in practice to despise femininity and maternity, or to hate and belittle men,  or to abolish the differences between the sexes, and so forth.

Christians personalists want to try to show that just as reverse-racism is no true solution to the injustice of racism; the kind of feminism that teaches women to become domineering exacerbates rather than heals the strife between the sexes.

Katie van Schaijik

#22, Dec 9, 2013 9:56am

But we want to take care not to become reactionaries.  We want to make sure we don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.  We don't want to seem to suggest that women should be subordinate to men, because service is their vocation.

Sam Roeble

#23, Dec 9, 2013 10:20am

 I think the move away from pre-determined vocations like arranged marriage, forced seminarians and nuns was positive, insofar as men and women could freely respond to God's grace for either marriage or celibacy.

However, I think that the loss of a monarchical system has also led people to believe in "vox populi, vox dei" and not in a kind of trust and obedience to authority that St. Paul asks for in his letter to the Romans. 

Given what we know now about the American experiment, I think that monarchy could be lived well, but without returning to past mistakes:

1)women would maintain high education and voting/campaining rights.  Parliament would have women or men leaders

2)401k, nursing homes, insurance and all the benefits available to men and women would remain available locally

3)parents would not determine vocation for their children, but help them develop the necessary self-knowledge to respond to God's grace

4)Monarchs themselves could choose between marriage or celibacy (King Edward the Confessor, Queen Elizabeth I for example). 

Sam Roeble

#24, Dec 9, 2013 10:37am

 Corrections: parliament *women and men leadership.

Furhter note, as members of a Republic, we cringe at the mention of monarchy.  Because, as Aquinas says, we fear tyranny to the point of never allowing it to even be thought of again.  But, that doesn't change the fact that monarchy is the most virtuous form of government if lived well.

Yes, the master/slave dynamic is a reality in relationships and government.  But to pretend, as we do today, that it is taken care of by "equality" is worse than tyranny. 

I'm not saying that women are not equal to men, as they can just as easily hold positions of authority on par with men.  Nevertheless, that position will have a different expression.

For example, have you ever heard of a queen who was a tyrant?  Probably not, since that term is more closely associated with men.  Nevertheless a country could have a 'domineering' queen or a corrupt queen, vs. one who serves the common good.

Katie van Schaijik

#25, Dec 9, 2013 12:29pm

I don't cringe at the mention of monarchy.  I think it has lots to recommend it.  Nevertheless, I think the general historical movement toward self-government is a positive one, coinciding with a greater and deeper appreciation of the rights and dignity of persons.

But you still aren't addressing the nub of the issue I'm raising.

Feminism is a response to the historical problem of women's subordination to men.  Women should not be subordinate to men.  You agree with that right?

Hence, if we want to overcome the errors in feminism while preserving its valid achievements, it's not enough to urge women to see that it's better to serve than to dominate.  We have to also affirm that it's true that women are in no way subordinate to men; we have to encourage women to stand up for themselves and their equal dignity as persons without becoming domineering; we have to encourage men likewise to serve and not domineer.

Katie van Schaijik

#26, Dec 9, 2013 12:33pm

Keep in mind that not only did JP II say that feminism was substantially positive, he thanked the feminists for the stand they took on behalf of women, even though it involved trial and sacrifice, including the accusation of being "unfeminine."

Sam Roeble

#27, Dec 9, 2013 1:22pm

The wording I use is "interdependent" which correponds with "be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph 5).  This is in stark contrast with both "dependence" and "independence".

As for JPII lauding 'feminism', I don't see that in MD.  I do see the following:

"The Church gives thanks for all the manifestations of the feminine 'genius'" and "she gives thanks for all the fruits of feminine holiness"  and lastly, ""Therefore the Church gives thanks for eack and every woman: for mothers, for sisters, for wives; for women consecrated to God in virginity; for women dedicated to the many human beings who await the gratuitous love of another person; for women who watch over the human persons in the family, which is the fundamental sign of the human community; for women who work professionally, and who at times are burdened by a great social responsibility; for "perfect" women and for "weak" women - for all women as they have come forth from the heart of God in all the beauty and richness of their femininity" (MD #31)

Sam Roeble

#28, Dec 9, 2013 1:35pm

To interpret 'feminine genius' as 'feminism', I think is a mistake.  I try to make clear in my post that 'feminine genius' differs from 'feminine mystique' as well.

Is there a different document that you're referring to where JPII lauds feminism?

Sam Roeble

#29, Dec 11, 2013 3:33pm

I interpret Dr. William Oddie to agree with me in his article from Crisis Magazine,

John Paul II’s Definitive Answer to Secular Feminism

Where he says, "

What Pope John Paul showed in Mulieris Dignitatem was that we have nothing to learn from the feminism of our own day; we’ve always had an authentic feminism at the heart of the Catholic faith. It’s when you take Mary out of the equation—as first Protestantism and then modern secularism did—that the debased secular feminism of our own day inevitably arose. John Paul didn’t say that of course. He didn’t need to."

Katie van Schaijik

#30, Dec 13, 2013 6:43am

I agree that men and women are inter-dependent, and I agree that it corresponds to "defer to one another out of love for Christ."

What's striking in JP II is that he deliberately shifted the emphasis in that passage away from "wives be subordinate to your husbands" to "defer to one another." Historically, he said, wives have been subordinate.  This is a wrong and an injustice that you seem to me to be reluctant to acknowledge. Am I wrong?  I mean, am I wrong to think you're reluctant to acknowledge:

1) that women have historically been subordinated to men

2) that that's an injustice

3) that the "legitimate kernel" of feminism is a protest against this injustice?

Katie van Schaijik

#31, Dec 13, 2013 6:55am

I also agree with you that "feminine genius" is not a synonym for feminism—not at all!

Feminism is a historical essence and a mixed bag. "Feminine genius" is a spiritual reality emanating from the design of women, and entirely good.

JP II's explicit commendation of feminism and feminists is not in MD, but in his Letter to Women.  

Here I cannot fail to express my admiration for those women of good will who have devoted their lives to defending the dignity of womanhood by fighting for their basic social, economic and political rights, demonstrating courageous initiative at a time when this was considered extremely inappropriate, the sign of a lack of femininity, a manifestation of exhibitionism, and even a sin!

When he speaks of women who devote their lives to fighting for the social, economic, and political rights of women, in the face of intense opposition, he is speaking very plainly of feminism, the historical movement, not "the feminine genius," which is timeless.

Katie van Schaijik

#32, Dec 13, 2013 7:03am

Here he is even more explicit: [my bold]

[W]hen one looks at the great process of women's liberation, "the journey has been a difficult and complicated one and, at times, not without its share of mistakes. But it has been substantially a positive one, even if it is still unfinished, due to the many obstacles which, in various parts of the world, still prevent women from being acknowledged, respected, and appreciated in their own special dignity" (No. 4).

This journey must go on!

Again, he is plainly speaking of the historical phenomenon of "women's liberation"—a process that includes complications, difficulties and mistakes, but which is substantiallly positive and still unfinished.  He means that more must be done in the political and economic sphere to increase women's rights and influence.

As far as personal rights are concerned, there is an urgent need to achieve real equality in every area: equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements, equality of spouses with regard to family rights and the recognition of everything that is part of the rights and duties of citizens in a democratic State.


Katie van Schaijik

#33, Dec 13, 2013 7:12am

I think Dr. Oddie (in the passage you quote) is completely wrong in his interpretation of JP II.  JP II would never have said that we have nothing to learn from modern feminists.  In fact, he said the opposite. 

Of course the Catholic answer to the challenge of feminism will come from the gospel.  Nothing is added to the Deposit of Faith.  Every authentic development involves a deeper penetration and fuller application of that original store of spiritual treasures.

But it's through human experience, human reflection, and human effort that the need for that deeper penetration becomes apparent. We learn that we haven't gone far enough (individually and socially) in understanding the demands of the gospel and its implications for our way of living.

Anyone who doesn't think modern feminism was needed can't have looked closely at the state of affairs before, including in Catholic culture.

Katie van Schaijik

#34, Dec 13, 2013 7:13am

Here's another passage from the Letter to Women, wherein the Pope acknowledges that injustices against women were also perpetrated in the Church.

Unfortunately, we are heirs to a history which has conditioned us to a remarkable extent. In every time and place, this conditioning has been an obstacle to the progress of women. Women's dignity has often been unacknowledged and their prerogatives misrepresented; they have often been relegated to the margins of society and even reduced to servitude. This has prevented women from truly being themselves and it has resulted in a spiritual impoverishment of humanity. Certainly it is no easy task to assign the blame for this, considering the many kinds of cultural conditioning which down the centuries have shaped ways of thinking and acting. And if objective blame, especially in particular historical contexts, has belonged to not just a few members of the Church, for this I am truly sorry.


Sam Roeble

#35, Dec 13, 2013 8:56am

I stand corrected with "Letter to Women", I haven't read that.  I will have to adjust my post in accord with it.

What I appreciate about Dr. Oddie's insight, though somewhat off kilter, is his recognition of the necessity of male ordination.  And here's the crux:  In the sense of "ordination", women are 'subordinate'. How does the world see that?  Women are inferior.  How does the Church see it?  Men must be the Servant of the servants.

If husbands and fathers can be ordained deacons, their wives are 'sub'ordinate.  This doesn't erase either sexes' Interdependence, RATHER, it orders it to Christ as Suffering Servant.  Dr. Oddie became Catholic in recognizing women cannot be ordained and are subordinate.  But, don't misunderstand me to mean that they are somehow ontologically inferior to men.  On the contrary, Mary is ontologically Superior to any ordained man.  Rather, men must serve "beneath" their wives, so to speak (Phil. 2)

Sam Roeble

#36, Dec 13, 2013 9:19am

If this sounds too hypothetical, let me give practical examples in my own life:

1)  I do dishes(morning b4 work) and diapers(after work) to support my wife who likes to cook (On some weekends, I cook because she needs a break)

2) As soon as I get home from work, I take the baby to relieve my wife (I also set the table and listen to my wife's day)

3) I take care of finances, but have a weekly meeting with my wife to discuss budget, etc.  and she has full access to accounts, bills, and funds

4) I also intentionally meet with my wife weekly to care, get feedback, and plan for our family

5) Lastly, and most fun, we have a speciacl meal on Saturday nights involving Mass readings, prayer, and leisure that I lead on all fronts for the sake of God and my wife's sanity

Sam Roeble

#37, Dec 13, 2013 9:34am

UNfortunately those examples put too much emphasis on me.  Here's what my wife does:

1) Counsels college age women in our townhome while I"m at work

2) Plans/organizes women's nights and small groups

3) makes meal plans and does laundry

4) feeds, changes, exercizes our baby boy with other moms (Catholic and Jewish) who live in our neighborhood

Katie van Schaijik

#38, Dec 13, 2013 9:49am

Sam, you sound like a great husband. :)

I am with you in opposing ordination for women, but not because women are subordinate to men. 

The priesthood is an essentially masculine function, just as maternity is an essentially female function.  And priesthood is "superior" to laity only in a way analogous to the superiority of motherhood over fatherhood.

Both priests and laymen are equally Catholic, equally called to holiness, and dependent on each other. But priesthood is a superior—more radical and more religiously intimate—vocation (implying greater responsibility for self-emptying service.)  Both mothers and fathers are equaly parents, equally responsible for their children.  Yet motherhood is a notably greater—more mysterious, more intimate, more radically self-giving—mode of parenthood than fatherhood.  (Consider, for instance, the contrast between the father's bodily relation the developing fetus and the mother's. Consider that God forms each new human soul in the woman's womb.)

IMO, the best way to respond to the feminists' demand for women's ordination is not to stress the "subordination" of women to men, but rather to stress the unique dignity of the maternal vocation—something men are unable to attain.

Women are not only the ontological equals of men, we are their social equals, too.  

Sam Roeble

#39, Dec 13, 2013 9:51am

If I told my wife, who approved of my original post a week ago w/no objections, that Amelia Earhart and Rosie the Riveter are icons of feminism and deserve to be studied alongside women of the Church--she would laugh in my face

Katie van Schaijik

#40, Dec 13, 2013 10:00am

Here's another analogy: Every church has an altar and a tabernacle. They are intimately and meaningfully related to one another, but they are not interchangeable. Nor could we sensibly say one is "greater" than the other.

Similarly, men and women are complementary equals. They are intimately related and mutually dependent on one another, but not interchangeable.

Before feminism and the John-Pauline response to it, we could say that Catholic culture (speaking very generally) regarded women as ontologically equal to men, but socially inferior.

Now, thanks to John Paul, the Church recognizes that women are the social equals as well as the ontological equals of men. She rejects the social subordination as an injustice. That doesn't mean there's no difference between the sexes, but it does mean that men are not "over" women, and women are not under men. It's not a hierarchical relation.

Katie van Schaijik

#41, Dec 13, 2013 10:07am

Rosie the Riveter is not a real person.  But Amelia Earhart is, and she is a feminist hero.  I don't see how that can be intelligently disputed.

Being a feminist hero doesn't necessary mean being an exemplary woman.  It means having contributed substantially to the progress of "women's liberation."

I consider Mother Teresa a saint, but I wouldn't call her a feminist hero.  

Edith Stein and Gianna Molla (who was a physician and a working mother) were both saints and feminist heroes.

Sam Roeble

#42, Dec 13, 2013 10:22am

Can we agree then, that when St. Paul says, "wives be subordinate", he is not stating an ontological fact about women; RATHER, he is imploring them to make the decision to complement their husband's headship/servanthood of the family?

Because how else do we interpret St. Paul?

Katie van Schaijik

#43, Dec 13, 2013 11:29am

I follow JP II in holding that "wives be subordinate to your husbands" is not prescriptive, but conditioned by the culture of the day, in which women were subordinate to men.  It's like "slaves, obey your masters."

A deeper reflection on the mystery of marriage (in light of Christian experience, including the challenges presented by feminism) leads to a new understanding, viz. that the verse "defer to one another out of love for Christ" is the true interpretive key to the passage.

The submission of husband and wife is mutual, though it will take different forms reflecting the differences between masculinity and femininity.

"Headship" is not a Catholic term, I think.  In any case, I don't find it in post-Vatican II Church tearching on marriage.  There's been a lot of teaching on marriage, including TOB and Familiaris Consortio.  None of it speaks of the husband being the head or leader of his wife. None of it urges obedience and submission on the part of the wife.

I wrote about this in a post on the topic not so long ago.  It generated a lively debate.

Katie van Schaijik

#44, Dec 13, 2013 11:36am

Here's another passage from Letter to Women, where the Pope highlights the fact that "in the beginning" men and women were equals—not only ontologically, but in their vocation to "have dominion over the earth."

 As a rational and free being, man is called to transform the face of the earth. In this task, which is essentially that of culture, man and woman alike share equal responsibility from the start. In their fruitful relationship as husband and wife, in their common task of exercising dominion over the earth, woman and man are marked neither by a static and undifferentiated equality nor by an irreconcilable and inexorably conflictual difference. Their most natural relationship, which corresponds to the plan of God, is the "unity of the two", a relational "uni-duality", which enables each to experience their interpersonal and reciprocal relationship as a gift which enriches and which confers responsibility.

In other words, men are not their wives "leaders", they are their wives' husbands.  To husband means to cultivate, care for and protect. It doesn't mean to govern. 

A wife is not her husband's subordinate, she his helpmate. The Pope stresses earlier in the same document that this help is mutual.

Katie van Schaijik

#45, Dec 13, 2013 11:41am

See especially Jules' great comments under that post of mine I linked.  They give more context.

Sam Roeble

#46, Dec 13, 2013 1:54pm

Very good thoughts from previous post...

I want bring to the forefront the idea of 'covenant' to the argument, as it was glossed over in the comments of the previous post.  JPII has much to say about it, as does Scott Hahn, and Covenant Community as well.

Marriage is a 'covenant'=an exchange of persons (one male & one female in this case)

Who initiates the covenant (besides God)? Man

Therefore, since the man initiates the pursuit of the woman for covenant--and she responds in covenant agreement--this dynamic continues throughout the relationship.  Man initiates, woman responds.  Clear so far?  See how this applies to man as head of his family in many cases (exceptions aside)?

More examples:  Adam first in the Garden, then Eve

Husband stands beside the priest, then wife joins him at wedding, etc.

IMO, Any woman who insisted on being an initiator or pursuer of a man would be overstepping the bounds of God's way with his people (Revelation, pursuit, covenant, pursuit, etc.)

Conclusion: the covenant exchange of persons in marriage begins with the Man's initiative (of service and not dominance)

Sam Roeble

#47, Dec 13, 2013 2:08pm

In that sense, we can say man is the 'head and leader' of his wife

Katie van Schaijik

#48, Dec 13, 2013 3:50pm

I can't agree, Sam.  

Nor do I think you could justify the theory using the teachings of the Church. 

I know several good and happy marriage in which the woman was definitely the initator of the relationship. It's not the usual mode, but by what right or authority do we say that's not okay?

The head/heart analogy is helpful here.  In some cases, the head leads—as when we really think through a dilemma and resolve it based on the conclusions of our reasoning.  There are other times and occasion, though, when the heart leads, i.e., when  we go with our intution or strong, inarticulate "sense"—not because we're "carried away" by emotion, but because we recognize that our hearts are in touch with something that our heads aren't yet grasping.  As Pascal says, "The heart has reasons that the reason does not know."

This reality is reflected in the happy marriages I know (my own included.) The wives typically depend on their husbands' characteristic clear-headedness and decisiveness.  And likewise, the husbands rely on and frequently defer to their wives' intuition.  He see that she sees something—feels something—that's beyond him, and he goes with her.

"Okay. You're right."

Sam Roeble

#49, Dec 13, 2013 3:55pm

Dancing is the perfect example for this!

The man asks the woman to dance (initiates)

The woman responds, and continues to respond, to the man's leadership in the dance.  She is more than welcome to direct his initiatives, give suggestions, etc.  But the moment she herself becomes the initiator of the dance, then there is confusion and train wreck!

Onlookers notice the dancers, "look they are equally graceful!"  Nevertheless, "the man is leading but at times it looks like they are merely cooperating in harmony"

Katie van Schaijik

#50, Dec 14, 2013 2:18am

A member brought up the dancing analogy too in the debate that followed my post on the subject.  You'll find it in the comments under this post. (Once again, I think Jules' remarks are especially valuable.)

In short, my response is to point out that the analogy does nothing but show the gracefulness of male/female complementarity.  It has no prescriptive moral force whatsoever.

In other words, you cannot derive from the fact that male initiation works beautifully in dancing that men ought to have authority over their wives in marriage.  To show that, you would have to use natural law evidence to prove that men are objectively superior to women, or you'd have to use Church documents to show that the Church authoritatively interprets the Bible as indicating that husbands have authority over their wives.

I am claiming, on the contrary, that since JP II the Church explicitly rejects that interpretation of the Bible.

Can you point to any post-Vat. II Church documents in support of the idea that husbands have authority over their wives? that husbands are meant by God to lead, while wives are meant to follow?

If you can, I'll be very surprised.

Sam Roeble

#51, Dec 16, 2013 10:23am

The last Pope to refer to a father of a family as 'head' of his wife was Leo XIII in his encyclical on Christian Marriage. 

In terms of leadership of fathers of families during VCII, John XXIII quotes a previous pope, "It [private property] secures for the father of a family the healthy liberty he needs in order to fulfil the duties assigned him by the Creator regarding the physical, spiritual and religious welfare of the family" "Mater et Magistra"

From then on, there is no reference to fatherly leadership, headship or authority. 

How do I interpret a father's position if JPII and VCII presents the family as the "domestic Church" and may be as you imply Katie, leaving behind the ideal of pater-familias?

Again, I have yet to write a post "JPII and chauvenism", but in it, I would address the issue of men's dominance and offer the command for service in marriage/family.  Just because 'headship' isn't mentioned in Church docs since Leo XIII, IMO, does not mean that it is heretical, etc.  Rather, I think the understanding of the Church has developed to emphasize a husband's duty to "lay down his life in service" for his wife as a way of exercizing leadership out of love for her. 

Sam Roeble

#52, Dec 16, 2013 10:51am

Another way I would say it is, the "pater-familias" model of family (which the Church adopted from Roman society) is no longer the prevailing model of family life in the Church.  Nevertheless, it is still a model of family life that, IMO, the Church will never condemn unless the wife is being 'dominated, belittled,treated with indignity, etc."

The other model of marriage/family life that I would say JPII coined is "Unity of the Two".  This is a much more impartial pastoral model, as it understands that the modern marriage/family is not "pater-familias", and therefore treats both spouses as equal in virtue, service, authority, etc.

Again, if I were to write a post "JPII and family", perhaps I would identity these two models and show how the latter is more in line with VCII thinking.  Nevertheless, I don't think that I favor one model over the other in my post "JPII and/vs Feminism"

Sam Roeble

#53, Dec 16, 2013 11:28am

Lastly, I want to reiterate that I don't think the "paterfamilias" model is heretical.  It has certainly and inarguably been abused by men in the Church (alcoholism, infidelity, dominance, divorce, laziness, etc.)!

Despite all of it's downsides, I think the paterfamilias model still has great potential to teach husbands/fathers to be servants (and in fact, is being taught that way in parishes, communities, men's formation (TMIY), etc.)

because it tangibly shows that "to serve is to reign".  Is there a higher way?  Yes--harmony of spouses, unity of the two, etc.

Katie van Schaijik

#54, Dec 16, 2013 11:47am

Let's put aside the question of heresy. I don't know anyone who thinks thinks that the traditional model of family life is heretical.

Nor does "the updated model" deny that the man is the father of the family.  Of course he is!

The claim is rather that the foregoing understanding (and the cultural norms that embodied it) is inadequate to the fullness of the mystery of marriage and in particular to the dignity of women. (From this point of view, an emphasis on the husband's duty to lay down his life in service doesn't suffice. The point is not that he is supposed to exercise his duties generously and with love. No one disputes that. The point is rather that his position is not a position of authority over his wife. He is not her leader and she is not his subordinate.)

If the Church is saying—with great profundity and eloquence, grounded in deep theological and philosophical reflection—that the subjection of the spouses is to be understood as entirely mutual, why would any faithful Catholic insist on adhering to the previous understanding and cultural mode?

Sam Roeble

#55, Dec 16, 2013 1:29pm

Because from a men's formation standpoint, it resonates on a local level with sons of men who are only 1 generation removed from the paterfamilias norm.  

Keep in mind that although marriages are not arranged, they are subject to the prior generation's customs, advice,etc.

So, when I asked my father-in-laws blessing for my wife, I was communicating, "You are a paterfamilias, and I am asking for your blessing to be a paterfamilias"--even if my understanding of the expression of that is different than his, I am subjecting myself to his judgment.  Likewise, my wife subscribes to the same way of thinking...

So, should the permission of marriage, as initiated by a son-in-law be removed?  No.  Should the understanding of "paterfamilias" be changed to "unity of the two" from one generation of men to the next? No, because the respect owed from son-in-law to father is essential.  But, between the couple--as husband relates to wife--it should be changed, Yes. 

Sam Roeble

#56, Dec 16, 2013 1:41pm

here's my theory:

  before Church documents became accessible to all (c. 1960s), they were addressed to Bishops= men.

When men speak to men, they tend to use masculine language--as in the Nicene Creed from the council of Nicea (for us men and our salvation...)

Likewise, the paterfamilias model was used (for better or worse) as the means of communicating holiness--and is still used today among men.  IMO, as long as it is communicated as a means of service and not domination, then it is an acceptable way of communicating as a husband.  A generation later, things may be different...

Katie van Schaijik

#57, Dec 16, 2013 3:57pm

I get what you mean about the need for a certain cultural delicacy as the Church assimilates developments and searches for new customs that reflect it.

I think I detect this kind of delicacy in the way the teaching of the Church has unfolded over the course of the last several decades, and in the way the Popes have expressed themselves. There's nothing abrupt and jarring. They're careful and gentle in their manner of approach—sympathetic to those who are used to the old ways.

I have no objection to gestures of respect toward such people.

I do object to attempts to reassert patriarchy, as if it were Catholic truth and better for society.  I also don't like to hear Catholic men sneering at feminism.

And I want to stress that when real conflicts arrise in practical life, it's crucial that a husband realize certain things. For instance:

- His prime duty is to his wife, not her father.  If he thinks her father (or his) is to domineering or interfering with the well-being of his family, he ought to oppose him.

- He does not owe her father (or his) obedience

- His wife does not owe him obedience.

Sam Roeble

#58, Dec 16, 2013 4:18pm

true.  And your practical references are synonymous with "peer group", etc.  As in, youth ministry does not take precedence over time between husband and wife--even though it is a good service. 

The wife deserves the "unity of the two", moreso than the husband or wife deserves public recognition in a parish.

Katie van Schaijik

#59, Dec 16, 2013 4:24pm

I've known women who started out marriage in a kind of feminist mode. They were demanding and domineering and constantly in conflict with their husbands. Then they had a conversion and learned to defer. Everything changed. Peace, harmony, joy.

It's beautiful.

But I've also known many, many cases of women who were oppressed in marriage, whose husbands demanded obedience as a biblical-enjoined right, etc.  Those women had to learn to stand up for themselves, to insist on being respected.

That's a harder row to hoe, but just as necessary.

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