Feminism and the Launch of the Catechism

Author: Michael Baker


by Michael Baker

Whilst launching the English version of The Catechism of The Catholic Church at the National Press Club in Canberra on 22 June 1994, His Grace, Archbishop Barry Hickey, remarked that the Catechism was being released at a time when the errors of monism and pantheism were gaining ground again. He said moreover that the Catechism strongly reaffirmed the transcendence of God, and in this he could only have been criticising the tenets of the heresy of Modernism which is so rampant in the Church. In the context of these strong remarks, it is a pity that His Grace did not take the opportunity to address the more pernicious error bedevilling the Catholic Church and its members today, namely, the philosophical and theological error of feminism, especially when the reason for the delay of a year and more in publication of the Catechism in English was largely the result of the influence of feminism.

His Grace was at pains, in making answer to questions from the floor, to distance the correction of the first draft from any suggestion that it had been prompted by a deliberate attempt to remove from it "gender inclusive" language. The reason given by His Grace for the delay was that it was necessary to modify the language of the draft so as to express more accurately in translation the language of the original French. With great respect to His Grace, while that explanation is true, it does not state the half of it. The analysis by Mons. Michael J. Wren and Kenneth D. Whitehead of the errors in the first draft, published recently, makes it abundantly clear that it was replete with the so called "inclusive language" and that this constituted a fundamental flaw.

His Grace indicated that he saw the effect on the English language of such influences as part of its development. Earlier he had surmised that when the latin version of The Catechism was published there would be scope for other translations which he described as "more culturally appropriate". The disturbing implication that might be drawn from these remarks is that it may be open for a "gender inclusive" language version of The Catechism to be published.

Despite what Archbishop Hickey had to say, the influence of feminism on the English language is not part of the natural development of the language but an influence which is working to corrupt it. For by insisting on so-called "inclusive" language feminism seeks to remove from the language certain concepts. There are many words whose meaning feminism wishes so to modify. The word which will serve as an illustration for the purposes of argument is the word 'man'. 'Man' has a number of meanings in the English language but there are two which are basic. The first, and more universal, expresses the concept of the genus - rational animal. The second, and less universal, expresses the concept of gender - male rational animal. The confusion that feminism seeks to introduce is to insist that 'man' only ever indicates 'male rational animal'. This has the character of a lie and by this character the philosophy that promotes it may be judged.

Feminism is simply another strand of the subjectivism which characterises all modern philosophies and which was so roundly condemned in the Encyclical Humani Generis by Pope Pius XII in August 1950. It is of the character of all modern philosophy to deny that we can know natures and to assert that there are only collections of individuals which are similar. The only unity it will allow is a nominal one [nominalism]. In its efforts to force the populace to accept its so called "inclusive" language, feminism seeks to demonstrate that there is no such thing as the nature of man: there are only men; there are only women.

The philosophy of feminism asserts as its fundamental principle: Men and women are equal in ability in every respect, whether at the material level or at the spiritual, at the physical level or at the psychological. This principle gives rise to a number of corollaries, including the assertions that women have always been oppressed by men and their rights have always been suppressed by men, and it is for this reason only that they have been unable to achieve the same status as men in the fields of science, art, work and in social and public life. Feminism denies any value to feminine traits or dispositions. Feminism asserts that only the masculine talents and activities are worthwhile and that no longer should men be allowed a monopoly on their exercise. From this there can be observed the fundamental paradox in feminism. Feminists are loud in their calls for "women's rights"; but what they want are not women's rights, but men's rights.

For men and women are different. They do not have equal abilities and talents; they have different abilities and talents. These different abilities and talents occur at every level and they reflect the design of the Creator that men and women should complement rather than compete with each other. Different rights and different obligations attach to them. A man has the right to be treated as a man and has obligations which are specific to his sex. So also a woman has the right to be treated as a woman and has obligations accordingly.

The confusion of these rights and obligations, which feminism intends, has worked and continues to work grave harm in the lives of men and women and, especially, children. It is high time its evils were addressed.

A consideration of the language that feminism employs will show that almost universally, it takes a word which has an ancient pedigree and a certain meaning and, through the addition of a suffix or some qualification, it loads the word or phrase with obliquy. Apply this test to the following feminist terms: "sexist","paternalistic","patriarchal","chauvinist", "male chauvinist","discrimination". It turns an ordinary and acceptable word into a curse. It invests its terminology with the character of hatred.

Feminism is nothing but a passing philosophical fad. In this it is to be compared with other philosophies which are now regarded as passe. Consider the philosophies of idealism and of dialectical materialism [ie. Communism]. Each of them had a view which it sought to impose on the world: so does feminism. Each of them tried to change history to make it suit its theories: so does feminism. Each of them gave birth to a terminology which is now regarded as dated and otiose. Who today, for instance, uses expressions such as "bourgeois capitalist","revanchist" or speaks of "the revolution","the proletariat" or "the withering away of the state", except with humour? Language such as this meant something to the adherents of these philosophies because it expressed some aspect of their ideology. But, save to the extent that there is always some element of truth in every false philosophy, the language did not express any true statement about reality. It was as if its adherents looked at the world through the rose coloured glasses of their ideology and uttered a coloured language to reflect what they saw. But what they uttered had very little to do with truth.

In the same way is feminism a false philosophy and its terminology a false terminology. And it is important that we should make a point of declining to use this false terminology because of the false presuppositions contained in it. The aphorism that Cardinal Mindszenty used against the Communists is appropriate here: "If you use their words, you will end up thinking their thoughts." Therefore the correct answer to make to those who accuse us of being "sexist" or "paternalistic" or of "practising sex discrimination" is to say to them that their expressions are meaningless to anyone except those who accept their theories and that they contain no valid criticisms.

Feminists never stop to ask themselves why it is, if the tenets of feminism are so self evident, that they have never achieved any measure of acceptance before the latter half of the 20th century. The reason is that only in the latter half of this century have contraception and abortion become regarded as acceptable behaviour and feminism could never flourish save in such an atmosphere. Very few women would seek to pursue callings which are peculiarly masculine or allow themselves to be misled into thinking that they should pursue them if their energies were absorbed in the mothering, in the loving and in the educating of their children.

That feminism should have come into existence in such a setting is not accidental. Those who are responsible for its existence include Marie Stopes, Margaret Sanger, Havelock Ellis, Bertrand Russell and George Bernard Shaw. Each of them advocated contraception,"free love", and the "freedom" of women from the necessity of giving birth to, and having to love and cherish, children. The freedom they advocated was the freedom the devil sought when he said: "Nil serviam".

Feminism is a false and evil philosophy and it works great harm in society. It attacks women because it attacks the realities of motherhood and virginity, the two values in which a woman realises her most profound vocation. The preoccupation proper to woman is a preoccupation with persons which is noble "per se". Feminism seeks to change her interests to the masculine, and more degrading, preoccupation with things.

Feminism attacks men because it denies that the vocation of bread winner in a family properly belongs to the man. It denies that he is head of his household. It removes from him, when it poisons the mind of his wife, the counsel he would expect from his helpmate. It removes the natural harmony in his family because it replaces the single and common goal of the care of the family with two competing goals: the care of the family and the wife's "fulfilment". Feminism attacks the children of the family because no longer do they have a mother prepared to give them total service. Very often the feminist mother is prepared to give them no service at all.

And most importantly, feminism attacks Christ and His Church. It does so through its attack on the family. Feminism denies that the husband is the head of his wife: it insists that the family should be a democracy [is it not one of the slogans of this Year of the Family that the family is 'the smallest democracy'?]. But St. Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians [5:23-24]:

". . . The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church . . . therefore, as the Church is subject to Christ, so also let wives be to their husbands in all things."

In denying that the husband is the head of his family, feminism denies that the Church is subject to Christ. This is the reality behind the feminist complaints that the Church is "paternalistic" and represses women and that the Church is not democratic. Feminism denies the legitimate authority of bishops as fathers of their dioceses and of priests as fathers of their parishes. If bishops and priests could only see that the feminist dogma ultimately destroys their own positions they would not tolerate its nonsense. And finally, of course, feminism denies the authority of the Pope as the father [il Papa] of all the faithful.

So inimical is feminism to the Catholic Faith, that it is true to say that you cannot be both a Catholic and a feminist. Sooner or later you must leave the Church or abandon the feminist creed. There are innumerable Catholics today, especially amongst members of the clergy and religious orders, who have effectively [de facto] cut themselves off from the Church, but who think that they remain within the Church because they continue to attend Mass and to receive [and, in the case of clergy, administer] the Sacraments. The time is upon us when they will separate themselves or will be separated from the Church in law [de jure].

For this is the effect that the Pope's Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis will have. Notwithstanding comments allegedly emanating from Cardinal Ratzinger to the contrary, no one should be in any doubt that the definition in this document is an infallible one. What was the firm teaching of the Catholic Church for twenty centuries has now been defined. The false philosophy which has precipitated the definition is feminism.

[Michael Baker is a Sydney lawyer and a vice chairman of The St. Joseph Foundation, an institution which specialises in giving canonical advice to Catholics. This article appeared in Fidelity published by John XXIII Fellowship Co-Op]