Feminism and the Language Wars of Religion
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
- The roots of the feminism, as
we know, are at variance with Christian principles. It argues from a massive
discrimination of women by men, and urges women to revolt against men. The most
famous proponent of this ideology was Karl Marx and his disciple, Nikolai Lenin.
They urged a revolution depends upon the degree of participation by women.
On these terms, womens liberation is simply part of the larger struggle for
the eventual creation of a classless society. (1)
- Our class today will be on Feminism
and the Language Wars of Religion. Ive given you copies of Helen Hull Hitchcocks
article on the subject.
- My plan is to make a series of
basic statements, drawing on Helen Hull Hitchcocks analysis.
- The English language has been
specially used by the feminists to promote their ideology. (2)
- In the Catholic Church, the ICEL
has been the leader in revising the meaning of the original Latin of the liturgy
since 1974, when the Church approved the use of the vernacular in the liturgy. (6)
- In recent years, the ICEL has
been urging what is called an inclusivist translation of the entire Catholic
liturgy. This effort has been widely publicized. At root is the effort to get
women ordained to the priesthood and to remove what is called the male domination
of the Catholic Church.
- Since the rise of Protestantism
in the early 16th century, feminism has been constantly growing.
However, the main reason for this growth has been the rise of Marxist Communism.
The Catholic Church, we may say, is the principal target of radical feminism.
Such organizations as Catholics for a Free Choice; the lesbian Womens Alliance
for Theology, Ethics and Ritual; the New Ways Ministries; the Loretto Womens
Network; Call to Action; the Association for Rights of Catholics in the Church;
and the New Age movement are examples of how deeply feminism has penetrated
Catholic circles. (19)
- The ideological leader of the
American feminism may be identified as Sr. Sandra Schneiders. I have known Sandra
Scheneiders since the late 1950s, when I taught her as a novice of the Immaculate
Heart of Mary sisters in Monroe, Michigan. She has taught seminarians for years.
- Her definition of feminism is
Feminism is a comprehensive ideology which is rooted
in womens experience of sexual oppression, engages in a critique of patriarchy
as an essentially dysfunction system, embraces an alternative vision for humanity
and the earth, and actively seeks to bring this vision to realization
is a comprehensive theoretical system for analyzing, criticizing and evaluating
ideas, social structure, procedures and practices, indeed the whole of experienced
This definition of feminism as an ideology suggests immediately
that one cannot be a feminist by default, e.g. by not being overtly and deliberately
sexist; or anonymously, i.e. without knowing; or on the side, as an interest
which can be displaced in favor of other concerns. (22)
- The most basic roots of feminism
are its opposition to the Catholic Church. According to the feminists, the foundation
of feminism goes back to Catholicism. In the language of Sandra Schneiders,
Catholicism has been dominated by men. Christianity has wrongly been interpreted
by men. (23)
- A more correct term than inclusive
language would be feminist language. Over the centuries, the English-speaking
world has used the masculine gender to refer to both men and women. (24)
- The fundamental aim of feminism
is to correct the language of prayer and worship. That is why feminists are
so eager to change the prayer language of the English-speaking world. (25)
- Feminism is not only interested
in manipulating the language of worship. It has penetrated every part of the
English-speaking world. For example, it is rare to see the terms, unborn child
or unborn baby in the secular press when speaking of abortion. (26)
- Radical feminism is not only
opposed to masculinity or fatherhood. It is even more savage in its rejection
of motherhood. The feminists are radically hostile to the mothering of children.
In fact, the image of mother is just as much in need of transformation as
the image of father. (27)
- One of the most radical changes
of feminism is never to speak of God in the masculine gender. Why? Because to
speak of God as He implies that God has mastery over the whole human race.
This, in fact, may be said to be the radical foundation of feminism. At root,
it is opposed to any faith in God who is Creator and Master of the universe.
- To be emphasized is that this removal of faith in the existence
of God is at the root of the massive crisis through which the modern world is
involved. The best refutation in print of this widespread unbelief is Pope John
Paul IIs The Splendor of Truth.
- What does the pope teach in The
Splendor of Truth? He teaches that the modern world has detached human freedom
from its necessary relationship to God. Thus, it is said that the commandments
of God are basically irrelevant to the daily decisions of individuals and societies.
It also said that we can love God and our neighbor without obeying the Ten Commandments.
It is further said that there is no necessary and unbreakable bond between faith
and morality. These errors have widely penetrated the Catholic Church.
- How has this thinking affected
the language of the Catholic liturgy?
It has deeply affected the language
of the Churchs liturgical vocabulary. This is clearly brought out in the claim
that the whole Bible is essentially anti-feminist. It must, therefore, be thoroughly
revised. Indeed, not only must the Biblical language be changed, but all of
Christianity must be revised to remove every overtone of male domination.
- What is the basic issue at stake
It is nothing less than a questioning
or even denial of Gods supremacy over the human race. Throughout divine revelation,
both as Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, God is consistently identified
in the masculine gender. At heart, the feminist movement is consistent with
Marxism, which simply denies the existence of a Supreme Being who made the universe
and on whom everything constantly depends. (36-43)
- How important is it for Catholics
to be aware of what inclusivism is about?
Most important. Our Catholic faith
and its verbal expression are not a matter of variety or change. As Cardinal
Ratzinger makes clear, Liturgy is not only concerned with the conscious mind
and with what can be immediately understood. Liturgy addresses the human being
in all of his depth. Not coincidentally, the widespread undermining of faith
in Christs Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist is one of the goals of feminism.
- Is there such a thing as development of doctrine?
Yes, our Catholic faith remains absolutely
unchanged and unchangeable since God completed His divine revelation at the
end of the first century of the Christian era. However, the Churchs understanding
of Gods revealed truth does indeed grow. But this is true growth. It is never
in contradiction with what the Church has taught over the centuries. Unlike
feminism, development of doctrine remains faithful to Gods revealed truth from
the beginning of the New Testament until the end of time. (51-54)
- How has feminism affected Catholic worship in our day?
Feminism has deeply injured the Catholic
Church in many countries, especially in those in which the English language
is used in the liturgy. It is therefore imperative that we understand how the
feminist ideology must be combated by study and prayer. (57-59)
Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica