Friday, January 16, 2009

Should a Woman Teach a Man? Women in the Catholic Church

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St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897): a Doctor of the Church and one of my very favorite saints. She certainly "teaches men" . . .

From the CHNI board. Someone asked, initially:

A evangelical friend asked me what I thought of 1 Timothy 2:12 "I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man." So what to think? We have women at all kinds of staff positions, including various teaching roles in our parish and diocese. In my parish, all but one staff position is a woman (plus the priest makes two).
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For the roles and vocation of women, I would strongly recommend anyone reading Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter, Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women) from 15 August 1988.

Some of the statements from Paul about women have an immediate cultural context, which means they aren't binding for all time (and the Church has obviously interpreted them as such). Women can't be priests, because Christ designated that as a male-only vocation, but they have many prominent roles in the Church. This is especially, obviously true in the case of saints like Mother Teresa or St. Therese of Lisieux or St. Teresa of Avila (the last two: doctors of the Church). The Blessed Virgin Mary is the very highest creature God ever made: far higher than any created man.

So I think a woman teacher at a parish is no sweat for God. Women do most of the lay work on a parish level because men are too selfish and lazy to do it.

The magisterium is all men (popes, bishops, and both in council), but that doesn't exhaust the teaching capacity in the Church at all. It only exhausts the "official" or "dogmatic" teaching capacity. We still have female nuns, teachers, DRI's, Bible study leaders, prayer group leaders, professors of theology, apologists and catechists, authors, administrative positions, etc., let alone saints and doctors of the Church. How could a Doctor of the Church not teach a man???!!! St. Catherine of Siena is also a Doctor of the Church.

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A woman on the board asked:
At the same time, as someone said, I would not have the ability to supersede whatever the real teachers, a member of the priesthood (all male) say in matters of doctrine (a fancy word for teaching). Nor would I want to.
If your priest or bishop spoke that which was clearly, undeniably heresy and contrary to the teaching of the Church, you would have as much right as any man to rebuke them, according to Church teaching. You not only can do that, but should (and should want to). Now, be sure to have everything you are contending documented to a tee, and let it be an extremely rare occurrence, and show the utmost respect and deference to the offices and persons involved, but rest assured that you or any layperson can do this.

St. Catherine of Siena was known to give popes an earful. St. Joan of Arc called a spade a spade, too, didn't she?, which is why she is so universally admired, even by non-Catholic skeptics like Mark Twain and George Bernard Shaw.

Of course you can't change what is truly Catholic dogma, but no man can, either, so that is a moot point in this discussion of "women as teachers." All laypeople, male or female, are in the same submission to official, dogmatic Church teaching.

Lots of priests (if they are dissenters or so-called "progressives") teach stupid and unorthodox things. That's happening now. Not so much in the case of bishops, but even that is not without historical precedent.

Cardinal Newman wrote a lot about the Arian crisis in the 4th century and holds that because most of the bishops had gone astray, it was truly the laypeople who heroically held to orthodoxy. Rome never adopted heresy, but many bishops did, especially in the East, but also to a large extent in the West. This is historical fact: not at all debatable.

We also see that in England under Henry VIII's brutal regime, only one bishop, St. John Fisher, was willing to die for the Catholic faith. All the rest capitulated, while many hundreds of Catholic laymen and laywomen -- and priests and monks and nuns as well -- (including St. Thomas More and many other saints) died for their faith: often in hideous ways (having their hearts and intestines ripped out, etc.) that gave Nero's methods a run for their money.

So this is not historically nonexistent (though, thankfully, those time periods are the exceptional cases). But no one need despair: the holy Catholic faith has never been corrupted yet and never will be. The Church is indefectible. I'm entirely, totally optimistic about that. We haven't even had "bad popes" for a long, long time (arguably all the way back to the Renaissance).

If we look to Rome and the Church for what is orthodox, we'll be fine.

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Not to mention what we dense men learn from our wives practically every day . . . ;)

The same woman wondered what it "means in terms of man and woman being created in the image of God. What is my place in all this, as a woman?" I replied:

You're created in the image of God, just as a man is. I think it is interesting that God has revealed Himself "anthropopathically" in feminine, motherly terms also, as I have shown in one of my papers:
Isaiah 42:13-14 The LORD goes forth like a mighty man, like a man of war he stirs up his fury; he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes. For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in travail, I will gasp and pant.

Isaiah 46:3-4 "Hearken to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am He, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save. (cf. Jer 3:19-20; 2 Cor 6:18)

Isaiah 49:14-15 But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me." "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. (cf. Matthew 23:37-38)

Isaiah 66:13 As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. (cf. Ps 131:2-3)
Technically, God (the Father) is neither male nor female, being a spirit. He has both aspects in His nature, which is why we both are made in His image and reflect Him. Even psychologists and those who talk about the four temperaments will say that a balanced person has both feminine and masculine characteristics in the right proportion, depending on their gender.

I'm not talking about a stupid secular analysis of homosexuality and all that. This is a far deeper perspective. It has to do with the proper emotional response at the appropriate time. Women excel in certain characteristics and men do in others. But we both have to have some of what the opposite gender "specializes" in to be balanced, rounded human beings.

That's extremely evident in Jesus Himself. He could coddle children, weep over Lazarus' death (even though He knew He was gonna raise Him shortly after), and express the utmost tenderness, and also furiously overturn the moneychangers' tables and denounce the Pharisees in quite "masculine" fashion, and speak truth to power.

I sure hope that I am nurturing and compassionate when my child comes to me, emotionally or physically hurt (in fact, my wife Judy always claims I am more of that sort than she is, which is quite debatable, but it's true that I'm a much more "huggy" type). Yet we see that as a "feminine" characteristic. And I would hope my wife disciplines our children when they do something wrong, when I am not around (which we categorize as more of the father's role: she does do so).

Even the "God the Father" terminology is anthropopapthic, in part, I believe (though these are very deep waters and I am not qualified to go down that road).

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Then there are the women teachers who have no business being such, like Episcopal "Bishop" Katherine Jefferts Schori. Here we are on an entirely different plane: radical feminism and theological liberalism (both of which are touted by many men, along with women). I wrote about a report that she was blasting Catholic closed communion (as well as more traditionalist Anglicans):

Of course what the High Priestess-Princess of Piddly Puffery fails to understand is the biblical notion of unity of doctrine (including -- GASP!! -- MORAL teaching) in conjunction with communion. We don't just come together in a touchy-feely, feel-good, warm fuzzy, druggy-hazed Woodstockian, Frisbee-tossing celebration of "we can all get along!" but in unity of belief as well, which is precisely why the early Church forbade catechumens from the Holy Eucharist until they fully understood and accepted Catholic teaching. See my papers:

Replies to a Lutheran Who is Offended by Being Excluded From Holy Communion at a Catholic Mass

Why Are Non-Catholic Christians Excluded From Receiving the Catholic Eucharist, or Communion?

Another astute woman on the board observed: "Now why does this lady bishop look so terse and tight and not-so-happy while she is promoting this feel-good approach to worship? To look at her is not to see someone who is soothed and comforted by our Lord."

Good point. Probably because she can't for the life of her conceal her animus against us evil men and "our" evil "patriarchal" Catholic belief-system. She's a classic example and living embodiment of what I have said for years: "Feminism is the simultaneous hatred of men and the desire to be exactly like them."

Is that confused and schizophrenic or what??!! But it is so droningly predictable and boorish I fall asleep in boredom even thinking about it for a moment. We backwards, Neanderthal Catholics venerate the Immaculate Blessed Virgin Mary, ask for her preeminent intercession, and place her in the highest and most exalted category of any human being. I dare say that not even Schori's "enlightened" liberal Episcopalians hold her in such high honor.

So she (and all the feminists who think like her) can spare all of us the lectures on "patriarchy" and all the rest of the rotgut.

Bottom line: no women priests, by the design of our Lord, but plenty of teaching opportunities for women in the Catholic Church, and the very highest, most exalted, venerated place for any creature is reserved for a woman: the Blessed Virgin Mary. The female saints (including three Doctors of the Church) have much to teach any man. If that is "anti-woman" just because we agree with Jesus that the priesthood is confined to men, then I confess I am out to sea as to the "reasoning" processes involved.

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