A young woman holds a sign as Pope Francis greets the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov. 12. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
No one should be surprised that the L.A. Times would run a
piece critical of the Church's supposedly unenlightened and backward
teachings about women. It's par for the progressive, secular course.
a recent op-ed, "Pope Francis' woman problem"
(Dec. 7) is a bit more interesting, as it is co-authored by two
theologians, one of whom, Candida Moss, is professor of New Testament
and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame. Dr. Moss, from what I
can tell, is something of a Catholic Bart Ehrman, intent on two
apparent goals: undermining and attacking the tradition
she claims to adhere to (Ehrman, it should be noted, is a former
Evangelical who now identifies as an "agnostic"), while garnering as
much publicity and fame (and income) as can be snapped up.
Actually, she may be more akin to Dan Brown
than Ehrman. Suffice to say that Moss likes to take umbrage with the
Church when the Church fails to obediently agree with her, and therefore she has plenty
of material to mine, undermine, and misrepresent. For instance, take
the opening lines of the L.A. Times piece:
first, it was easy to overlook. With all of his statements about caring
for the poor, the disabled and immigrants, and all the fanfare
surrounding his famous “Who am I to judge?” proclamation, Pope Francis
seemed like a breath of fresh air for a
church stuck resolutely in
the past. The fact that he never commented on the longstanding
marginalization of women in the Catholic Church, and asserted quite
plainly that there would be no ordination of women, did nothing to
dampen progressive enthusiasm for the new pope. There has been a hopeful
sense that he would get around to it eventually.
You know what they say about assumptions, right? Well, they are on full display here:
The Church is "stuck in the past," which means, obviously, that the
Church's teaching about women is wrong. Period. No need to argue it. No
need to even describe what the Church actually teaches. Which is
convenient, since Moss and her co-author, Joel Baden, professor of
Hebrew Bible at Yale University, don't seem to know what the Church or
Pope Francis actually have said about women.
2). Francis has indeed said quite a bit about women, as Michael Bradley of Ethika Politika readily demonstrates.
Anyone who has followed the many public utterances of the Holy
Father knows he has remarked several times about the role and place of women in the
Church, society, etc. But, of course, the authors are fixated on "the
longstanding marginalization of women in the Catholic Church," which,
again, simply assumes that such is an established fact.
And that is apparently founded on the factthis one an actual fact, not
a "fact" factthat the Pope has not yet signed off on the Moss-Baden
Plan for Progressive Faith Communities and begun ordaining women. The
line"There has been a hopeful sense that he would get around to it
eventually"tells me everything I need to know: that Moss and Co. not
only think they are right (of course), but that the Pope will (of
course) inevitably follow suit. Because no one wants to be stuck in the past and be found wandering about aimlessly on the wrong side of history! I'm not sure which is more revealing: the lack of
theological knowledge when it comes to this particular matter or the
surplus of progressive hubris about the same.
Remarkably, the piece goes downhill after that opening paragraph, probably because once the authors courageously
threw themselves over the cliff of their progressive assumptions, there
was only one direction to go. For instance: "Instead of a more
and understanding take on the standing of women in the church, Francis
has repeatedly embraced the traditional Catholic view that a woman's
role is in the home." As Bradley responds:
has often praised the necessity of the mother’s presence in the family.
He has also called for more female theologians; called for a more
profound theology of woman; speaks fondly of the female religious (a
mother of a different sort) who first catechized him; called for the
“feminine genius” to animate the life of the Church in every way; cited
favorably, in Evangelii Gaudium, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church’s
section 295 (titled “Women and the right to work”), which begins: “The
feminine genius is needed in all expressions in the life of society,
therefore the presence of women in the workplace must also be
guaranteed” (original emphasis); and delivered many other remarks to the
There is much more (and Bradley's piece is worth reading for a blow-by-blow account), but this sentence is especially sad: "Francis has made it clear that he sees childbearing and child rearing as crucial womanly roles."
How could he? Doesn't he know that men should be bearing children just
as much as women? (And if you don't a know a pregnant man, well, shame on you! You need to get out and about more often.) I expect this sort of nonsense from the usual feminist
suspects, but coming from a professor at the University of Notre Dame,
it is, well, not that surprising. Sadly.
It brings to mind Chesterton's comment, "The
tragedy of the modern woman is not that she is not allowed to follow
man, but that she follows him far too slavishly." That is, in seeking to
be like men in every way, women forfeit and lose what Saint John Paul
II, nearly 20 years ago, called the "feminine genius":
this vast domain of service, the Church's two-thousand-year history,
for all its historical conditioning, has truly experienced the "genius
of woman"; from the heart of the Church there have emerged women of the
highest calibre who have left an impressive and beneficial mark in
history. I think of the great line of woman martyrs, saints and famous
mystics. In a particular way I think of Saint Catherine of Siena and of
Saint Teresa of Avila, whom Pope Paul VI of happy memory granted the
title of Doctors of the Church. And how can we overlook the many women,
inspired by faith, who were responsible for initiatives of extraordinary
social importance, especially in serving the poorest of the poor? The
life of the Church in the Third Millennium will certainly not be lacking
in new and surprising manifestations of "the feminine genius".
In the end, it appears to me that the Moss-Baden
op-ed is ultimately a cynical promotional stunt for their recently
released book. Moss has clearly mastered the art of using controversy
for promotion; unfortunately, she does so in ways that are sloppy,
disingenuous, and self-serving, hardly traits worthy of admiration, in
either women or men.