The National Catholic Review
Battle of Sexes Not Part of God’s Design

The battle of the sexes and, particularly, the subjugation of women are the result of original sin and not of God’s original design for creation, said a document released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Attempts to advance the cause of women by seeing men as enemies to be defeated or by claiming that no real difference exists between male and female have had lethal effects, particularly on the family, the congregation said. The congregation’s Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World was released on July 31.

Instead of competing for power or ignoring the God-given differences between men and women, the church, enlightened by faith in Jesus Christ, speaks instead of active collaboration between the sexes, says the document. The letter was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the congregation, and by Archbishop Angelo Amato, S.D.B., congregation secretary, after approval by Pope John Paul II.

In an interview broadcast on July 31, Archbishop Amato told Vatican Radio that the letter was meant to offer a Christian criticism of two current trends: that of emphasizing a radical rivalry between the sexes and that of trying to cancel the differences between the sexes. From a Christian perspective, he said, men and women were created with differences precisely in order to enter into a partnership and a relationship of self-giving that would bring new life into the world.

The consequence is that the man and the woman no longer see their differences in terms of rivalry and opposition, but in terms of harmony and collaboration, he said. Collaboration is needed in the world, particularly in formulating political and social policies to help the poor and advance the cause of peace, the document says.

The church, too, needs collaboration in order to bring feminine values of listening, faithfulness, humility, understanding and caring more to the forefront, it says. While reaffirming church teaching that only men can be ordained priests, the doctrinal congregation said the role of women in the church is not a passivity inspired by an outdated conception of femininity.

The document says attempts to convince people that differences between men and women are simply cultural have inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father. The affirmation that differences are only social constructs also make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent in a new model of polymorphous sexuality, it says.

The central part of the documenttaking up 16 of its 37 booklet-size pagesis devoted to a survey of biblical statements about man and woman, male and female. From the very beginning, it says, God’s work of creation involved making distinctions out of the original chaos, creating sea and dry land, day and night, fish and birds, male and female. With the sin of Adam and Eve, however, power and manipulation entered into the world, disrupting their relationship with God and with each other, the document says.

Under the influence of sin, it says, the relationship between man and woman will be a relationship in which love will frequently be debased into pure self-seeking, in a relationship which ignores and kills love and replaces it with the yoke of domination of one sex over the other. But in Christ, the rivalry, enmity and violence which disfigured the relationship between men and women can be overcome and have been overcome, it says.

The doctrinal congregation also said that although potential motherhood is a key part of a woman’s identity this does not mean that women should be considered from the sole perspective of physical procreation, an attitude which often is accompanied by dangerous disrespect for women.

Bush Courts Knights of Columbus

President George W. Bush courted Catholic voters by praising the Knights of Columbus’ support of such issues as school vouchers, faith-based initiatives and pro-life legislation during the group’s national convention on Aug. 3 in Dallas, Tex. Mr. Bush received a rousing ovation from a packed room of more than 2,500 Knights and their families. Much of the president’s talk was devoted to listing efforts of his administration in terms such as building a culture of life, a favorite phrase of Pope John Paul II that resonated with the Catholic fraternal organization.

Among the references in the speech that received the heartiest applause were his thanks to the knights for your working to protect the Pledge of Allegiance, to keep us one nation under God, and his reminder that he had signed into law a ban on partial-birth abortion. He also thanked them for defending the values of faith and family that bind us as a nation and listed their support of the Federal Marriage Amendment Act, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act and proposals to ban human cloning.

The president called the knights soldiers in the armies of compassion and lauded the fraternal group as one of the great American organizations dedicated to charity and mutual assistance and the fight for civil liberties.... You have a friend in this administration, he said. You have someone who wants to work with you.

Mr. Bush recalled meeting with Pope John Paul II in June and called the experience awesome. Pope John Paul II has been a unique and commanding voice for the cause of the poor, the weak, the hungry and the outcast. He has challenged our nation and the entire world to embrace the culture of life, Mr. Bush said. The president did not mention Iraq in his address, or that during their meeting the pope reiterated his strong criticism of the U.S. military action there.

A Knights spokesman told The Associated Press that Mr. Kerry was not invited, although the president is routinely asked to attend. The last time a president accepted the invitation also was an election year. In 1992 President George H. W. Bush spoke at the convention.

Though the Knights of Columbus is a nonpartisan organization, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson welcomed Mr. Bush by saying his visit to the convention provided our chance to say thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for restoring moral integrity to the office of the presidency.

Communion Controversy Worries Democrats

Catholic delegates to this year’s Democratic National Convention in Boston expressed concern about the decision of some U.S. bishops to deny Communion to Senator John F. Kerry because he is Catholic and pro-choice. It is a very difficult issue for women. It is a difficult time to be Catholic, said Vivian Juan Saunders, a delegate from Arizona. Two former high-ranking Clinton administration officials shared Saunders’s sentiments, saying that denying Communion to a pro-choice politician breaches the wall that should separate church and state.

I am very concerned, said Leon Panetta, the former chief of staff in the Clinton White House. Values matter, but in the end it is [Kerry’s] public positions we should be paying attention to, not his private faith, said Panetta, adding, the decision to receive Communion is between you and God, not you and the priest.

Henry Cisneros, secretary of housing and urban development in the Clinton years, also expressed concern. I cherish the church. This move [denying Communion to pro-choice politicians] would be harsher than the Catholicism I’ve known my entire life. I can’t imagine that it’s the right thing for the future of the church or its place in society.

Cisneros also commented on what he sees as a reversal from 1960, the last time a major political party nominated a Catholic for president. According to Cisneros, the bias against Catholics in public life in 1960 was that they could not think for themselves, that we would be taking orders from the pope. Catholics countered this prejudice, he said, by invoking their belief in the separation of church and state. But now it is the reverse, said Cisneros.

Pro-life Democratic delegates expressed mixed feelings at the convention, noting improvements but realizing that they were politically motivated. In a break with past gatherings, this year’s Democratic National Convention in Boston did not highlight the pro-choice plank of the party’s platform. Abortion was barely mentioned in the week’s primetime speeches and was not mentioned directly in either John Edwards’s or John Kerry’s acceptance speeches.

They are more open than in the past, said Democrats for Life president Carol Crossed. She said that much has changed in the Democratic Party since 1992, when Bob Casey, the pro-life governor of Pennsylvania at the time, was denied a speaking role at the party’s New York convention. The party is not that hostile anymore, said Crossed.

She added, however, that the party’s openness to pro-lifers might reflect not a change of heart, but recognition of the electoral reality. The Democrats want to win, she said and cited a December 2003 poll conducted by Zogby International that argued that America is increasingly pro-life. According to Zogby, some 43 percent of Democrats now agree with the statement that abortion destroys a human life and is manslaughter. They also want to appeal to Catholics. Crossed, who is a Catholic, says that the pro-choice plank poses a huge dilemma for Catholics. I can’t tell you how many Catholics have left the party because of this issue.

Bishops Check Lay Ministers on Teaching

Several bishops have taken steps recently to assure that their lay ecclesial ministers or those who speak at church events are in full accord with church teachings. Bishop Robert F. Vasa of Baker, Ore., has issued a two-page document, Affirmation of Personal Faith, with instructions that anyone who applies for any role in lay ecclesial ministry in the diocese must read it and affirm it. Included are affirmations of the sinfulness of abortion, contraception and the church’s teaching that any extramarital sexual relationships are gravely evil and that these include premarital relations, masturbation, fornication, the viewing of pornography and homosexual relations. On the doctrinal level, the affirmation attests to belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and to church doctrines on hell, purgatory, the nature of the church and the suitability of special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago recently reminded all pastors that archdiocesan policy calls for all lay ministers to be loyal to the church’s teachings as a prerequisite for service. Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of Richmond, Va., appointed a diocesan theologian to assist him on doctrinal and moral issues and to review any person under consideration to lecture, present a workshop, give a retreat or otherwise speak...on Catholic property.

Students’ Beliefs Vary by Gender and Politics

A new study shows that college students who are strongly religious tend to identify themselves as politically conservative and hold traditional views about sex, abortion, homosexuality and drugs. But the same college students lean in a liberal direction when it comes to issues such as gun control and the death penalty, according to results released on July 28 from Spirituality in Higher Education: A National Study of College Students’ Search for Meaning and Purpose.

The results also show that women report significantly higher levels of spirituality and religiousness than men and are more apt to be involved in charity work. The national study, conducted last year by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles, surveyed 3,680 third-year college students at 46 colleges and universities.

About one-fifth of the students described themselves as highly religious. About the same number indicated they had low levels of religious engagement, which was defined as attending religious services, reading sacred texts, attending religious/spiritual workshops or retreats and joining a religious organization on campus.

The students who said they were highly engaged religiously differed from their less religious classmates in attitudes about a number of social issues. The largest gap in attitude was about casual sex, with 7 percent of highly religious students finding it acceptable, compared to 80 percent of the least religious students. The most and least religious students also differed significantly in their views on legalized abortion. Twenty-four percent of the more religious students agreed that abortion should remain legal, compared with 79 percent of the least religious students. Regarding the legalization of marijuana, 17 percent of religious students were for it, compared with 64 percent of the less religious students.

Thirty-eight percent of the more religious students also said they would support laws prohibiting homosexual relationships, compared to 17 percent of the less religious students.

A different pattern emerged with regard to gun control and the death penalty. Seventy-five percent of the most religious students and 70 percent of least religious students felt that the federal government should do more to control the sale of handguns. Thirty-eight percent of the most religious students said they supported abolition of the death penalty, compared with just 23 percent of the least religious students.

Twenty-one percent of the women showed high levels of charitable involvement, compared with only 8 percent of the men. By contrast, 33 percent of the men and only 12 percent of the women showed little or no charitable involvement.

Civil, Church Law May Collide in Bankruptcy

The bankruptcy filing by the Archdiocese of Portland is almost certain to place church law and civil law in conflict. Judges dealing with the first bankruptcy filing in history by a U.S. Catholic diocese will need to consider canon law against bankruptcy law and First Amendment rights of freedom of religion. The archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy protection on July 6 as two lawsuits seeking restitution for childhood sexual abuse by a now-deceased priest of the archdiocese were about to go to trial. One plaintiff was seeking $130 million. The other wanted $25 million.

The archdiocese said it has almost $100 million in investment accounts, but added that parish property included in that sum is held in trust and is not on the table for a reorganization plan to pay sex-abuse lawsuits. Lawyers for victims of sexual abuse view the parishes and schools as assets of the archdiocese. Archbishop John G. Vlazny has said that canon law holds that parish property belongs to the parishes, not the archdiocese. Federal bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Perris said that deciding what property the archdiocese actually owns is at the center of the bankruptcy proceeding. Then the resolution of the lawsuits can go ahead, she said.

One federal bankruptcy attorney, who asked to remain anonymous, said the archdiocese will have a big job stating its case. The problem is that Section 541 of the bankruptcy code defines what is property of the estate, and it is a very broad definition, said the attorney. It is defined to be very broad and inclusive, he told The Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Portland Archdiocese.

But Dan Murray, a Chicago bankruptcy attorney and professor at the University of Notre Dame law school, said the bankruptcy court will likely try to distinguish between property that is part of the archdiocese’s core mission and property that is spare. A church and school being sold and closed down might be seen as impinging upon religious doctrine and practice, he explained.

Comments

Nicholas Clifford | 8/15/2004 - 12:24pm
I am deeply saddened (though not surprised, I suppose) by the item headed "Bishops Check Lay Ministers on Teaching." In many institutions, the kind of massive failure of leadership we have seen evident in the appalling scandals of the past few years, would bring about an impetus for reform and change, and a willingness to address their underlying causes. In the case of a church, we might even have hoped that it would bring about a new purification and a new commitment to spiritual leadership. It sounds, however, as if Bishop Vasa and his ilk have missed the point. Without seeing the text of the "Affirmation of Personal Faith" (and it’s either not on the Baker diocesan web page, or extraordinarily well hidden) it’s hard to be certain, of course. But he and the others cited sound as if they once again are simply seeking refuge in juridical action rather than spiritual regeneration. While many American Catholics find the moral authority of hierarchy shattered by the revelations of recent years, leaders such as Bishop Vasa appear to believe that all that is necessary is a restoration of its juridical authority; that is, cracking the whip and expecting the remaining faithful to salute. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I fear that such actions will only lead to a further narrowing of the definition of "church," and a further move from Catholicism towards sectarianism. This must be the same Bishop Vasa who, a year ago, reportedly managed to transfer property held by his diocese as a corporation to 60 separate parish corporations. At the time some asked whether he was a late convert to the principle of subsidiarity, or whether he was trying to shield diocesan property from several large pending lawsuits. I do not know the answer to that question
Lucy Fuchs | 2/9/2007 - 4:52pm
Never have I felt so alienated from the church I love as I did after reading the Signs of the Times on Aug. 16. First, we are given more of the same-old, same-old words about femininity: we women have great dignity, but we should never desire the priesthood, and we should appreciate feminine values of listening, humility, understanding and caring. It would be wonderful if we could see those same values appreciated and practiced by our dominant and domineering male hierarchy.

Then I was exposed to the Knights of Columbus fawning all over George W. Bush because he claims to build a “culture of life”! What dreamers they are, when Bush’s policies include such death culture as war, the death penalty, lack of care for the poor and weak. And they say that the president has restored moral integrity to the office of the presidency, as if the only morality were sexual morality.

Then the bishops want to make sure that no lay person would dare serve in an office without an affirmation of church teachings, once again on abortion, contraception and homosexual relations.

There is a consistent pattern here, easy to identify, because all of those speaking are men dressed in outmoded fashions—from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s red beanie to the knights’ capes and hats and Robert Vasa’s collar and pectoral cross. By their clothes you shall know them? Is this really the church of Jesus Christ?

(Rev.) Sebastian L. Muccilli | 2/9/2007 - 4:40pm
The enthusiasm of the Knights of Columbus for President Bush and his party’s policies, demonstrated in their convention in Dallas, is at odds with Catholic social teaching, which endorses an option for the poor (Signs of the Times, 8/16). The knights have strayed from the party that gave us Medicare and Social Security, the party that fights for just wages, decent housing, medical insurance and adequate drug relief.

The “moral integrity” that the Supreme Knight claimed President Bush has restored to the White House is not the morality of Pope John Paul II, who opposes the carnage of the war in Iraq. The presence of cardinals illustrates the traditional loyalty of the hierarchy to the party of the rich and powerful.

Nicholas Clifford | 8/15/2004 - 12:24pm
I am deeply saddened (though not surprised, I suppose) by the item headed "Bishops Check Lay Ministers on Teaching." In many institutions, the kind of massive failure of leadership we have seen evident in the appalling scandals of the past few years, would bring about an impetus for reform and change, and a willingness to address their underlying causes. In the case of a church, we might even have hoped that it would bring about a new purification and a new commitment to spiritual leadership. It sounds, however, as if Bishop Vasa and his ilk have missed the point. Without seeing the text of the "Affirmation of Personal Faith" (and it’s either not on the Baker diocesan web page, or extraordinarily well hidden) it’s hard to be certain, of course. But he and the others cited sound as if they once again are simply seeking refuge in juridical action rather than spiritual regeneration. While many American Catholics find the moral authority of hierarchy shattered by the revelations of recent years, leaders such as Bishop Vasa appear to believe that all that is necessary is a restoration of its juridical authority; that is, cracking the whip and expecting the remaining faithful to salute. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I fear that such actions will only lead to a further narrowing of the definition of "church," and a further move from Catholicism towards sectarianism. This must be the same Bishop Vasa who, a year ago, reportedly managed to transfer property held by his diocese as a corporation to 60 separate parish corporations. At the time some asked whether he was a late convert to the principle of subsidiarity, or whether he was trying to shield diocesan property from several large pending lawsuits. I do not know the answer to that question