The Vatican issued a letter this weekend blasting feminism. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sent out the "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and the World" after it was approved by the Pope on Saturday. It is difficult to imagine how a male-only priesthood riddled with a discriminatory record on women’s issues perceives that is has the moral authority to claim:
In order to avoid the domination of one sex or the other, their differences tend to be denied (by feminism), viewed as mere effects of historical and cultural conditioning. In this perspective, physical difference, termed sex, is minimized, while the purely cultural element, termed gender, is emphasized to the maximum and held to be primary. The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has enormous consequences on a variety of levels. This theory of the human person, intended to promote prospects for equality of women through liberation from biological determinism, has in reality inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality.
You can read the entire letter by clicking here.
Catholic feminists were quick to condemn the letter. The Washington Post reports:
"The demonization of feminism is most disturbing," said Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, an advocacy group for abortion rights, who said her blood pressure "shot up 20 points" when she read the letter.
"It takes extreme positions that may have been historically held by five people and casts them as if they were held by every woman," Kissling said. "The feminism I know is all for partnerships and is all for empowering both men and women. The feminism I know does not ignore the fact that there are sexual differences."
Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, a feminist theologian at Harvard Divinity School, said the document restated positions the Vatican has taken many times and that the only surprise was its timing. She said church leaders may be feeling some urgency to combat same-sex marriage, as well as renewed pressure to consider ordaining women in response to the worldwide scandal over sexual abuse by priests.
"It has some positive things in it, but the political function of the document is the same as the ones before," Fiorenza said. "It's trying to make a theological case, which they're really not able to make, against the full equality of women in the church."
Many Catholics in the United States will find this letter offensive. Even many priests will oppose – in one way or another - teaching this doctrine. It is fair to say that the sentiments expressed in the letter represent those of a generation out of touch with the lives of women. The Pope has never had the benefit of a female equal to learn from and grow with. This statement is more inline with the teachings of the Southern Baptist church than any other theological belief structure.
Not all denominations share these views. The United Church of Christ ordained the first woman pastor, Antoinette Brown, in the United States back in 1853 and in 1972 ordained the first openly gay minister, William R. Johnson, in the US.