Kaya Oakes, a revert to Catholicism after spending time as a self-described pro-choice liberal, has penned a little screed—a veritable bundle of befuddlement!—aimed at the recent New Emangelization interview with Cardinal Raymond Burke (which I posted about on Monday). I’ve not read Oakes’ book about her spiritual, uh, arc, which is titled, Radical Reinvention: An Unlikely Return to the Catholic Church, but my impression is that she has some—nay, numerous—issues with orthodoxy, or what she apparently calls “Catholic conservatism”, which is in keeping with the usual practice at Religion News (where her piece is posted) of describing orthodox Catholics as “conservative” and dissenting, or bad, Catholics as, well, “Catholic”.
Oakes’ analysis, if you will, of Cardinal Burke’s interview is that the distinguished American prelate is “paranoid,” “bewildered,” and probably hates women. I’m guessing that Oakes was a star on her high school debate team. Perhaps she still is. What is sad, however, is that she gets everything wrong and seems to believe that smirking is the equivalent of an intelligent riposte. For instance:
In an online interview this week, Cardinal Raymond Burke said the “radical feminism which has assaulted the Church and society since the 1960s has left men very marginalized.”
But many women will head to Mass this weekend and note that the priest, bishop and pope have something in common: They are all men, and the power they hold in institutional church structures hardly looks like marginalization.
Ooh, how clever—if we were still in high school. Of course, it ignores the fact that the interviewer, Matthew Christoff, and Cardinal Burke are clearly talking about lay men. For example, Cardinal Burke says, at the start:
I think there has been a great confusion with regard to the specific vocation of men in marriage and of men in general in the Church during the past 50 years or so. It’s due to a number of factors, but the radical feminism which has assaulted the Church and society since the 1960s has left men very marginalized [emphasis added]
Oakes continually misrepresents Cardinal Burke, despite the fact that he is very clear about who and what he is talking about. So, for instance, she snidely writes:
Yet Burke is bewildered by women’s “self-focused attitudes” and “constant and insistent demanding of rights.” Women, he said, “respond very naturally to the invitation to be active in the Church.” And yet, when the sanctuary becomes “full of women,” and the parish activities and liturgy are influenced by them, these become “so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved.”
This badly misconstrues the prelate’s remarks via creative editing (Oakes teaches “creative writing,” but creative editing seems to be her lone talent). Cardinal Burke first describes the situation during the turbulent ’60s and ’70s:
I recall in the mid-1970’s, young men telling me that they were, in a certain way, frightened by marriage because of the radicalizing and self-focused attitudes of women that were emerging at that time. These young men were concerned that entering a marriage would simply not work because of a constant and insistent demanding of rights for women. These divisions between women and men have gotten worse since then.
That is a fair assessment, in general terms, and it hardly goes contrary to anecdotal evidence or studies of male/female relations over the past few decades. Quite the contrary. Then, later, Cardinal Burke is asked about what those attitudes have resulted in today:
Matthew: Your Eminence, what has been the impact of this Catholic “man-crisis” on the Church?
Cardinal Burke: The Church becomes very feminized. Women are wonderful, of course. They respond very naturally to the invitation to be active in the Church. Apart from the priest, the sanctuary has become full of women. The activities in the parish and even the liturgy have been influenced by women and have become so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved.
Men are often reluctant to become active in the Church. The feminized environment and the lack of the Church’s effort to engage men has led many men to simply opt out.
Is he wrong? I don’t think so. In fact, I’ve seen this at work in many parishes, and I’ve heard many, many men—good men and devoted, loving husbands—make frustrated remarks about the same. Of course, they are “conservative,” so they are probably paranoid to boot. Anyhow, Oakes’ true colors are evident enough:
The problem with Burke’s idea of manhood is that it is oversimplified and based on antiquated notions of gender. Men, according to Burke, have “particular gifts,” they “make sacrifices” and defend their families with “chivalry.” They are “heroic” and should demonstrate a “manly identity” and “manly virtues.”
Heaven forbid that men should be manly and exhibit masculine traits and virtues! That would be so very, well, normal. But the problem with normal, all you rubes out there, is that it is “oversimplified and based on antiquated notions of gender.” Such is the myopic, snarky perspective of the radical feminist.
Oakes then simply resorts to mockery and stupidity:
Irony is perhaps the bottom-line takeaway from Burke’s ideas about gender. It is ironic that a man who wears silk and lace chooses to lecture men on what it means to be masculine.
It is ironic that the same man blames women for the drop in vocations to the priesthood when many of those women would make excellent priests.
Here, it appears, she is simply taking a page from regular Religion News “reporter” David Gibson, who wrote a Religion News piece today about the same interview, concluding:
Burke, a liturgical traditionalist as well as a doctrinal conservative who is renowned for wearing elaborate silk and lace vestments while celebrating Mass, also said that “men need to dress and act like men in a way that is respectful to themselves, to women, and to children.”
Gibson, as many readers know, is incapable of thinking and writing about Catholicism without using the word “conservative” at every turn to highlight those he deems offensive and contrary to his watered-down, trendy, insipid brand of beliefs.
In short, Cardinal Burke offered up some thoughtful comments on how certain radical feminists have been part of an anti-man movement within the Church for quite some time, a movement marked by angry demands, dissent, and animosity—and then is crudely mocked by a radical feminist “Catholic” whose ignorant remarks are full of anger, dissent, and animosity. That’s irony for you.
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