Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Spare Us These Improvements

With the announced retirement of the present Pontiff, I’ve again encountered the diatribes of the anti-clerical and other radicals who want to foist married and women clergy on us. The old canards of “injustice” and “boy’s club” were trotted out by one fellow I crossed paths with.

The Catholic Church has long recognized that the role of men and women in society should take seriously the nature of the individuals involved – in the modern idiom, to have nurture build on nature or intrinsic purpose. In this way a father and mother work in a complementary manner to raise their children whole and entire, the father with qualities and abilities germane to his nature, the mother hers. In private and in public life the man and the woman each have their roles, responsibilities, and privileges. Thus are raised not just the children in a given family, but an entire society. For those with an interest in the subject of woman’s nature, Gertrud von le Fort’s “The Eternal Woman” is a profoundly good treatment.

The Church acknowledges that, in terms of attaining individual sanctification, men and women are each complete in their own nature, whole and entire; it has thus rejected the pagan notion of women being incomplete men (the Aristotelians continued this idea, but the real Thomists put a stop to it when they could). The Christian view was the perspective by which society was organized for many centuries. In modern times a Marxist-driven feminist ideology – which fundamentally misunderstands human nature, both masculine and feminine – has subverted the order and tried to turn women into imitation men in a way that the corrupt old pagans might have relished. This has had adverse consequences for society and the culture, for marriage and families, and for men and women themselves.

In the Catholic Church men and women are recognized to have their own societal roles. From a moral standpoint men and women are equal. At the same time, each has qualities that the other lacks; thus, in terms of raising family and other societal aspects, they are incomplete and require the complementary efforts of the other. Broadly speaking, the distinction between the nature of men and women is that of the exterior and the interior. Men by their nature have many qualities that best fit them for life in the exterior sphere; women, in the interior. Neither masculine nor feminine nature is anything like complete in itself in its social dimension. Also, no individual is entirely exterior or entirely interior; unique qualities aside, the differences are those of proportion. By their nature men are typically better suited to the exterior; by their nature, women are typically better suited to the interior. Note that I use the terms exterior and interior, not active and passive; they are not identical or even similar: the former treat of the domain, the latter treat of the manner in which one acts in the domain. Thus, a person can be passive in exterior things (here we have examples of ineffectual and weak leaders) or active in interior things (here we have the examples of countless saints, among them many heroic women). It is part of the formally-condemned heresy of Americanism that treats interior things in a most derisive manner. This prejudice has led to an almost insane emphasis on unreflecting external activity; it is at the root of a great deal of anti-intellectualism.

I mention these few points by way of a preliminary to frame the matter under discussion, which seldom is treated well in modern discourse. The Marxist-feminist technique would have it that unless men and women have identical exterior roles in the same proportions, an injustice is inflicted on women. That the solution of these revolutionaries does violence to women in their nature – that it returns us to pagan sensibilities by making women into imitation men – appears to be completely lost on them. The confusion of the proper roles and responsibilities of men and women in their nature is at the root of modern epidemics of frequent divorce, abuse, abortion, infidelity, pornography, and the like: people are being fundamentally injured and violated by attempting to live according to perverse moral and social norms.

One could also point to problems in the logic of critics: for instance, assertions that an all-male hierarchy necessarily offends against women. Surely if we had women in leadership roles, then by this reasoning men would necessarily be disenfranchised? If the present arrangement is bad for women, why would one introduce a substitute that would harm men? This argument exposes a fatal flaw in modern efforts to obliterate very real, normal, and healthy distinctions. Ironically, an era that professes to celebrate diversity would turn us into bland and generic Calvin Klein hermaphrodites.

To extend the exercise a little further: why do we stop at considerations of male and female? Who says that I have to limit my identity politics to what others select for me? The present Pope is a German; certainly citizens from all other countries across the globe should be outraged? The rationale is the same; that one is chosen as a basis for grievance over another is just an arbitrary selection of secondary criteria.

On the subject of celibate clergy: having been a Protestant, I’ve seen what married clergy are like. If we need we can go there too; suffice it to say, I’m quite glad for the Catholic arrangement.

No comments: