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Heresies & Heretics

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Feminism and the Language Wars of Religion

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

  1. 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, women’s liberation is simply part of the larger struggle for the eventual creation of a classless society. (1)

  2. Our class today will be on Feminism and the Language Wars of Religion. I’ve given you copies of Helen Hull Hitchcock’s article on the subject.

  3. My plan is to make a series of basic statements, drawing on Helen Hull Hitchcock’s analysis.

  4. The English language has been specially used by the feminists to promote their ideology. (2)

  5. 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)

  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.”

  7. 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 Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual; the New Ways Ministries; the Loretto Women’s 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)

  8. 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. (21)

  9. Her definition of feminism is worth memorizing:

    Feminism is a comprehensive ideology which is rooted in women’s 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 … Feminism is a comprehensive theoretical system for analyzing, criticizing and evaluating ideas, social structure, procedures and practices, indeed the whole of experienced reality … 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)

  10. 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)

  11. 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)

  12. 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)

  13. 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)

  14. 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)

  15. 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.

  16. 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 II’s The Splendor of Truth.

  17. 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.

  18. How has this thinking affected the language of the Catholic liturgy?

    It has deeply affected the language of the Church’s 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.

  19. What is the basic issue at stake here?

    It is nothing less than a questioning or even denial of God’s 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)

  20. 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 Christ’s Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist is one of the goals of feminism. (46-49)

  21. 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 Church’s understanding of God’s 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 God’s revealed truth from the beginning of the New Testament until the end of time. (51-54)

  22. 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

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