My online friend Nate recently stopped by to challengesomething I said that appeared anti-Catholic, which I immediately clarified inthe post (in parentheses) because I have no desire to appearanti-Catholic. On the other hand,it’s hard – given my general positions and observations – not to appearanti-church. I’m not actuallyanti-church either, but I reserve my sharpest critiques for the powerful, andfor those I most closely identify: I am a man; I am a Christian; I considermyself a member of the church. Mynitpicking follows…
Essentially, my argument in that post had been thatmore-often-than-not, the interests of men consistently occupy the church’sprimary focus (not just the Catholic church, but Christianity in general). Women and minorities followsecondarily. I used the Pope’srecent statements about contraception “for male prostitutes” as an example: parfor the course.
Nate referenced several articles. Among them, Mary Eberstadt in “The Vindication of Humanae Vitae.”
I’ve come to respect Nate’s opinions immensely over the lastfew years. We used to dialogue a lot here, and at his blog. He’s not online much these days,so I’m looking forward to his thoughts on my response, and while we probablywon’t end up agreeing, I’m expecting him to be able to pick apart some of myarguments here. Which is good forme. Hones my thought process. I tend to digest at a gut level, whichmeans my arguments aren’t often effectively structured. I was never good at formal debate.
This is (most of) my response to Nate’s critique, where he said (quite respectfully): “this does come off as anti-catholic. Namely the phrase “Interesting, once again, the only concern from the Church is for men:” is a clear indicator–as it is far from accurate–and if it is pure hyperbole, it is certainly incendiary.”
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I believe that the Christian institution is first & foremost orientedtoward the priorities of men, & this attitude is normalized in much ofChristian religious culture. ?I appreciate Eberstadt’s articulation of theissues at hand in “Vindication” because her priorities are clear& she’s not inflammatory or defensive, but there is much I disagree withher on.
She mentions the result of widespread contraception leading to”a lessening of respect for women by men.” I hardly think that 1950ssocial behavior toward women was better than current attitudes, although I’llgrant attitudes are bad now, & potentially getting worse in post-feministbacklash. That’s not birth-control’s fault, that’s (a) the growing pains ofdramatic social change, & (b) retaliation from principalities & powersthat are direct beneficiaries of male hegemony. That can be as localized as athreatened husband, or as nebulous as global patriarchy. I’d challenge anyone to find anidealized situation where women were widely “respected” more thanthey are now (again, that’s not a case for today being particularly good). The 1800s?Victorian America? In the past, women had doors held open for them, men stoodup when they entered the room, yet they were “revered chattel,”silent & powerless in polite society.
??Even if contraception did contributeto greater disrespect of women (which I reject), that doesn’t mean we take itaway, as one of the few protections women have – particularly those sexuallyobligated in misogynistic, dominated relationships. We deal directly with theroot of the problem, which is disrespect. ??
I know she isn’t saying this, but it makes me think oflegitimizing “separate but equal” to avoid racist violence. Itdoesn’t deal with the underlying social evil, it just avoids problematicsituations. I know, maybe that’s a stretch…??I agree with Eberstadt that thesexual revolution may have contributed to the weakening of family cohesion, buteconomics has a large hand in that as well: as the middle class dissolves, itbecomes increasingly impossible for most families to survive on a singleincome. This keeps parents separate from their own children’s upbringing -absent parents, even in married households.??Eberstadt also uses thecontraception discussion to argue against the legitimization of homosexuality,which I have a problem with.?
?As far as I can see, church heirarchies -Catholic, Orthodox & Protestant alike – are still heavily dominated by masculinepower. Culturally, they still isolate & (I believe) systematicallydelegitimize women, both corporately & in local parishes. This is notsurprising, since our canon reflects the exact same vantage: a world of men,writing about the perspective & interests & actions of men. The”presence” of women does nothing to counter this.??
Phyllis Trible’s‘Texts of Terror’ demonstrates this emphatically. Until we learn tocontextualize biblical gender roles, we’re doomed to keep running in circlesaround this issue.??
Nate, I like you a lot, dude, & we may have toagree to disagree, but I don’t think I know more about this issue than you.Certainly not more about Roman Catholicism. I can only take responsibility formy own observation of the world, which I acknowledge is as problematic &stilted as anyone else’s. ??But I honestly did not mean to come across asshocking or incendiary. The more I really look around myself – paying attentionto interactions & behaviors – the more aware I am of how problematic ourgender dynamics are. I cannot separate those observations from the influence ofthe church.?? And all that said, I believe the church has the capacity (&proven ability) to transcend this dysfunction, & to be a redemptive,equalizing entity in the world. I’ve seen that firsthand, too. I’m just notconvinced that’s the norm.
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