1. The Religious Roots of Gender Violence
Violence Against Women|
in Contemporary World Religion:
Roots And Cures
Daniel C. Maguire
Professor of Moral Theology & Ethics, Marquette University, and President, The Religious Consultation On Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics
Note: The following is quoted (with permission) from Violence Against Women in Contemporary World Religion: Roots And Cures, Daniel C. Maguire and Sa'Diyya Shaikh (Editors), Pilgrim Press, 2007, 248 pages.
Excerpts from Chapter 3, "The Karma of Women," by David R. Loy, pages 50-51:
"The earliest Buddhist texts reveal a curious ambivalence about women, which reminds us to place the Buddha's transformative message in its original social context. Although revered as the original words of Shakyamuni Buddha, these teachings were preserved orally for about four hundredr years before being written down, providing many opportunities for some passages to be intentionally or unintentionally "corrected" by monks less enlightened that the Buddha. Just as important, however, we need to remember that the historical Buddha was raised in a very patriarchal culture. His teachings as they have come down to us perhaps reveal a struggle against that sexist conditioning.
"Buddhism arose largely in response to the Brahamanical culture developing in India in the middle of the first millennium BCE. Brahamism emphasized caste and the inferiority of women. As later codified in the Laws of Manu, women were fettered to men for life: fiest as obedient daughters, then as subservient wives, and finally as aging mothers depndent on their sons. A wife's main duty was to produce sons. She was usually confined to the home and had no rights of her own -- certainly no opportunity to study the Vedas (reserved for male Brahmins) or engage in other spiritual practices.
"Religiously, a large part of the problem was that women are believed to be polluted and polluting. This refers not only to their association blood (the messiness of mnestruation and childbirth), but especially to their role as temptress and seducer, an uncontrollable threat to the chastity of ascetic men trying to follow a spiritual path. Women were chastised for their stronger sex drive, which today seems like a classic example of psychological projection: ascetics blaming their own problems with celibacy on women, the objects of their lust.
"Early Buddhism did not completely escape this misogyny, for there are many passages in the Pali Canon, some of them attributed to the Buddha, who warned his monks about the impurity of sexuality generally, and the snares of women in particular. A prime symbol of this is the three daughters of Mara, the Buddhist symbol of evil (although a rather bland symbol compared to the malevolent Satan of Christianity), who tempted him just before his final enlightenment: although Mara himself is male, his offsping Rage (lust), Arati (ill-will), and Thana (craving) are always depicted as feminine."
Editor's Note: It would be wise as well to examine the impact of patriarchal religious practices on boys and men. The symptoms may be different but, directly or indirectly, religious patriarchy harms men as much as it harms women. Recent examples include the incredible cases of child abuse in several Christian churches and the bellicose fundamentalism that persists in some Islamic cultures. Violence begets violence. What goes around comes around. In both religion and society, when 50% of the population dominates the other 50%, 100% of the population is bound to suffer in one way or another. A civilized transition from consumerism to sustainability requires the talents and collaboration of all men and women, heterosexual or homosexual, in all dimensions of human life and across the full range of the gender continuum.
For further study and reflection on religious violence:
"What I want is mercy, not sacrifice." Matthew 9:9-13
Colloquium On Violence & Religion (COV&R), Official website for exploration, criticism, and development of René Girard‘s Mimetic Theory.
Faith Beyond Resentment: Fragments Catholic and Gay, James Alison, Crossroad, 2001.
The Masculinity Conspiracy, Joseph Gelfer, CreateSpace, 14 August 2011.
The Forgiving Victim, James Alison, The Raven Foundation, forthcoming July 2012.
2. Heterosexuals and Homosexuals in Religion
Patriarchy preceded all the major religions that exist today, and biased them all from the beginning in favor of heterosexual male hegemony and domination (Cf. Genesis 3:16). This section is a synopsis about the universality of the deeply ingrained prejudice - undoubtedly based on male-only images of God - that must be overcome if organized religion is not to become an obstacle to integral human development.
Two Wings of a Bird: The Equality of Women and Men, Bahá'í International Community, 1999.
- Religious Tolerance, Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 1995-2011.
This web site offers an excellent synopsis (with passage quotations, annotated citations, and links to other web sites) about the status of women in the Bible and in early Christianity. It is structured as follows:
- During Old Testament times, when the roles of women were severely restricted
- Hebrew scripture passages treating women as generally inferior to men
- Hebrew scripture passages treating women as property of men
- Hebrew scripture passages describing women in other negative terms
- Hebrew scripture passages describing women as equal to men (very few)
- Hebrew scripture passages describing women as leaders (but not as religious leaders)
- During Jesus' public ministry to the people of Israel, when the roles of women were severely restricted in accordance with the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) traditions and practices
- Changing roles of women after the execution and resurrection of Jesus (circa 30 CE)
- Regressive statements by Christian religious authorities (all male) after the 2nd century CE
By following these lists of biblical and post-biblical statements, the reader is able to verify the descriptive versus prescriptive passages about women, and the significant discontinuities that must be researched, as pointed out in Section 1.
- The emerging field of women and gender studies now includes issues of men, masculinities, and spirituality. See, for example:
- Sex on the Brain: The Biological Differences Between Men and Women, Deborah Blum, Penguin, 1998.
- Does Masculinity Thwart Being Religious?, Edward H. Thompson Jr. and Kathryn R. Remmes, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, September 2002.
- Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace, Judith L. Hand, Questpath Publishing, 2003.
- Biological Differences Between Men and Women With Respect to Social Stability and Aggression, Judith L. Hand, 2006.
- Young Men, Religion and Attitudes Towards Homosexuality, Yasemin Besen and Gilbert Zicklin, Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality, Novermber 2007.
- Guide to Graduate Work in Women's / Gender Studies, Joan Korenman and NWSA, 2009.
- Contemporary Masculine Spiritualities and the Problem of Patriarchy, Joseph Gelfer, Equinox Publishing, 2009.
- The Patriarch's Nuts: Concerning the Testicular Logic of Biblical Hebrew, Roland Boer, Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality, June 2011.
- The Other Side of the Gender Equation: Gender Issues for Men in the Europe and Eurasia Region, Susan D. Somach, KDID Social Transitions, July 2011.
It is important for gender studies to be balanced and include the study of both men and women, heterosexual and homosexual. Gender studies, if properly integrated along the gender continuum, can provide crucial insights to help foster gender equality and gender balance.
- What "America's Pope" thinks of gay marriage, priestly celibacy, and women priests, CBS Sixty Minutes Overtime, 21 August 2011.
On the ordination of women:
Archbishop Dolan: "Jesus gave women positions of responsibility. The only ones at the foot of the cross except for St. John? Women. The people that discovered his resurrection? Women. The people that were with him on his journeys? Women. People say, 'This guy was kind of a pioneer in women's rights.' So, if he were going to intend them for the priesthood, he woulda done it. And he didn't."
Mother Pelican's Response: The good archbishop is offering a specious argument based on a literalist interpretation of gospel texts taken out of context. There are many things Jesus did 2000 years ago that he wouldn't do today. Would he, in the globalized society of the 21st century, select twelve Jewish men to represent the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel? Likewise, there are many things Jesus didn't do 2000 years ago that he would do today (such as including women among the apostles, since the credibility of women as witnesses now has as much credibility as that of men) and he warned his disciples about thinking that they already knew everything he might do in the future (John 16:12-13).
The Bahá'í religion is a shining exception to the phallic syndrome that prevails in many religious institutions: "The emancipation of women, the achievement of full equality between the sexes, is essential to human progress and the transformation of society. Inequality retards not only the advancement of women but the progress of civilization itself. The persistent denial of equality to one-half of the world's population is an affront to human dignity. It promotes destructive attitudes and habits in men and women that pass from the family to the work place, to political life, and, ultimately, to international relations. On no grounds, moral, biological, or traditional, can inequality be justified. The moral and psychological climate necessary to enable our nation to establish social justice and to contribute to global peace will be created only when women attain full partnership with men in all fields of endeavor." It is noteworthy that the Bahá'ís do not have clergy, so it may have been easier for them to avoid the trap of a male-only hierarchy.
Was Jesus gay? Probably, Paul Oestreicher, The Guardian, 20 April 2012.
"Heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual: Jesus could have been any of these. There can be no certainty which. The homosexual option simply seems the most likely. The intimate relationship with the beloved disciple points in that direction. It would be so interpreted in any person today. Although there is no rabbinic tradition of celibacy, Jesus could well have chosen to refrain from sexual activity, whether he was gay or not. Many Christians will wish to assume it, but I see no theological need to. The physical expression of faithful love is godly. To suggest otherwise is to buy into a kind of puritanism that has long tainted the churches."
In brief, since their inception most religions have absorbed the patriarchal mindset of male hegemony, and awareness that this isa prejudice to be overcome - rather than a sacred tradition to be conserved and transmitted - is a new phenomenon. Perhaps the impending economic and ecological crises, and the unavoidable need for all humans to collaborate in transitioning to a world of solidarity and sustainability, will induce a religious renewal and help to overcome pseudo-dogmatic resistance to change.
3. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Judaism
Wikipedia article on Women in Judaism:
The role of women in Judaism is determined by the Hebrew Bible, the Oral Law (the corpus of rabbinic literature), by custom, and by non-religious cultural factors. Although the Hebrew Bible and rabbinic literature mention various female role models, religious law treats women differently in various circumstances.
Relatively few women are mentioned in the Bible by name and role, suggesting that they were rarely in the forefront of public life. There are a number of exceptions to this rule, including the Matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah, Miriam the prophetess, Deborah the Judge, Huldah the prophetess, Abigail who married David, and Esther. In the Biblical account these women did not meet with opposition for the relatively public presence they had.
According to Jewish tradition, a covenant was formed between the Israelites and the God of Abraham at Mount Sinai. The Torah relates that both Israelite men and Israelite women were present at Sinai, however, the covenant was worded in such a way that it bound men to act upon its requirements and to ensure that the members of their household (wives, children, and slaves) met these requirements as well. In this sense, the covenant bound women as well, though indirectly.
To continue reading the Wikipedia article, click here.
The Wikipedia article includes a very comprehensive bibliography and a directory of links to Jewish religious sources. With regard to current trends on the role of women in Judaism, the following articles are very instructive:
Disturbing recent news on religious violence against women:
If this is the situation today, imagine how it was 2000 years ago!
4. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Christianity
Wikipedia article on Gender Roles in Christianity:
Gender roles in Christianity vary considerably today as they have during the last two millennia. This is especially true with regards to marriage and ministry.
Christianity traditionally has given men the position of authority in marriage, society and government. This position places women in submissive roles, and usually excludes women from church leadership, especially from formal positions requiring any form of ordination. The Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, and many conservative Protestant denominations assert today that only men can be ordained—as clergy and as deacons.
Many progressive Christians disagree with the traditional "male authority" and "female submission" paradigm. They take a Christian egalitarian or Christian feminist view, holding that the overarching message of Christianity provides positional equality for women in marriage and in ministry. Accordingly, some Protestant churches now ordain women to positions of ecclesiastical leadership.
Despite these emerging theological differences, the majority of Christians regard women with dignity and respect as having been created alongside men in the Image of God. The Bible is seen by many as elevating and honoring women, especially as compared with certain other religions or societies. Women have filled prominent roles in the Church historically, and continue to do so today in spite of significant limitations imposed by ordination restrictions.
To continue reading the Wikipedia article, click here.
Mari Leppänen is using her position to drive equality within the conservative faith.
Source: Uutiset, Yle, Finland
The first female minister of Finland’s Conservative Laestadian revival movement, Mari Leppänen, is calling attention to gender equality issues such as contraception within the Lutheran sect.
Leppänen has spoken out for the right of Laestadian women to have a voice within the puritanical movement. Such views have led her to be shunned by some members of the community, which adheres to bans on birth control, makeup and earrings.
”Those parts of the bible are drawn from ‘wordliness,’ where women are subordinate to men. These rules want to accept inequality, which does not fit well with the teachings of Jesus,” says Leppänen who works in Lieto near Turku.
Other rules covering both sexes include bans on television, dancing and theatre. Laestadian children, however, attend regular school in Finland.
The Finnish League for Human Rights regards the Laestadian ban on birth control as a violation of human rights. Finland's highest birth rate is among Laestadian families in Ostrobothnia. Conservative Laestadians believe they are God’s chosen people on Earth.
5. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Islam
Wikipedia article on Women in Islam:
The study of women in Islam investigates the role of women within the religion of Islam. The complex relationship between women and Islam is defined by both Islamic texts and the history and culture of the Muslim world. The Qur'an makes it clear that men and women are equal, however the Qu'ran states in 4:34, "Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient and guard in the husband's absence what Allah orders them to guard." Although the Quran does say this, the superiority of men is interpreted in terms of strength by the context - men maintain women. This verse however refers to a relationship between a husband and wife, not in society as a whole.
Sharia (Islamic law) provides for complementarianism, differences between women's and men's roles, rights, and obligations. However neither the Quran nor Hadith mention women have to cook or clean. The majority of Muslim countries give women varying degrees of rights with regards to marriage, divorce, civil rights, legal status, dress code, and education based on different interpretations. Scholars and other commentators vary as to whether they are just and whether they are a correct interpretation of religious imperatives.
To continue reading the Wikipedia article, click here.
Some additional references:
The Women of Islam, Lisa Beyer, Time Magazine, 25 November 2001.
Mauritanian Islamic leaders ban genital mutilation, Mohamed Abdel Wedoud, Magharebia, 15 January 2010.
Women in Islam, Catherine of Siena Virtual College, 2010.
Gender Equity in Islam (Foundations of Spiritual and Human Equity), Jamal Badawi, Islam Online, 29 March 2011.
Gender Equity in Islam (The Economic Aspect), Jamal Badawi, Islam Online, 30 March 2011.
Gender Equity in Islam (The Social Aspect), Jamal Badawi, Islam Online, 4 April 2011.
Gender Equity in Islam (The Legal/Political Aspect), Jamal Badawi, Islam Online, 7 April 2011.
Gender Segregation and Inequality inside Israel and Palestine, International Middle East Media Center, 30 November 2011.
International conference calls for gender equality in Muslim societies, Today's Zaman, Istanbul, 23 December 2011.
Within, Without: Dialogical Perspectives on Feminism and Islam, Sara Ashencaen Crabtree and Fatima Husain, Religion & Gender, February 2012.
Muslim Women in India Seek Gender Equality in Marriage, Nilanjana Roy, New York Times, 24 April 2012.
6. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Buddhism
Wikipedia article on Women in Buddhism:
"Women in Buddhism is a topic that can be approached from varied perspectives including those of theology, history, anthropology and feminism. Topical interests include the theological status of women, the treatment of women in Buddhist societies at home and in public, the history of women in Buddhism, and a comparison of the experiences of women across different forms of Buddhism. As in other religions, the experiences of Buddhist women have varied considerably.
"The founder of the religion, Gautama Buddha, permitted women to join his monastic community and fully participate in it, although there were certain provisos or garudhammas. As Susan Murcott has commented: "The nun's sangha was a radical experiment for its time" [Murcott, Susan (1991). The First Buddhist Women:Translations and Commentary on the Therigatha. Parallax Press. page 4.] Dr. Mettanando Bhikkhu says of the First Buddhist council: "Perhaps Mahakassappa and the bhikkhus of that time were jealous of the bhikkhunis being more popular and doing more teaching and social work than the bhikkhus. Their anti-women prejudice became institutionalized at that time with the eight garudhammas, the eight weighty restrictions. We must discontinue that prejudice. There is no anti-women prejudice in Jainism and they survived in India; whereas Buddhism had prejudice and did not survive in India" [see The First Council and Suppression of the Bhikkhuni Order]. Although it must be said that this is factually incorrect, because there are jain sects like the Digambara sect, which believes that women are capable of spiritual progress, but must be reborn male, in order to attain final spiritual liberation. It is also highly doubtful that the garudhammas were motivated by Mahakaasapa's being jealous, as he is said to be an enlightened one and one of the principle disciples of the Buddha. Furthermore there's no support within canon, to suggest that the bhikkunis were more popular, taught more or that they did more social work than Bhikkhus.
"The various schools and traditions within Buddhism hold different views as to the possibilities of women's spiritual attainments. Feminist scholars have also noted than even when a woman's potential for spiritual attainment is acknowledged, records of such achievements may not be kept - or may be obscured by gender-neutral language or mis-translation of original sources by Western scholars. According to Bernard Faure, "Like most clerical discourses, Buddhism is indeed relentlessly misogynist, but as far as misogynist discourses go, it is one of the most flexible and open to multiplicity and contradiction."
To continue reading the Wikipedia article, click here.
Some additional references:
The Place of Women in Buddhism, Swarna de Silva, Enabling Support Foundation, 1994.
A Grand Declaration of Gender Equality, Writings on Buddhism, Soka Gakkai International, 1996.
Full Ordination of Women in Tibetan Buddhism, His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama, 2007.
An Argument Against Gender Discrimination Within The Buddhist Sangha, Anthony Burns,
International Buddhist College, Thailand, 2007.
Buddhism and Women, BhudaNet (with links to other resources), 2008.
The Position of Women in Buddhism , L.S. Dewaraja, Buddhist Pub Soc, Sri Lanka, 2011.
Ordination of Women in Buddhism, Wikipedia, 2011.
Buddhism Gender and Sexuality, Patheos, 2011.
7. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Hinduism
Wikipedia article on Women in Hinduism:
The role of women in Hinduism is often disputed, and positions range from equal status with men to restrictive. Hinduism is based on numerous texts, some of which date back to 2000 BCE or earlier. They are varied in authority, authenticity, content and theme, with the most authoritative being the Vedas. The position of women in Hinduism is widely dependent on the specific text and the context. Positive references are made to the ideal woman in texts such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, while some texts such as the Manu Smriti advocate a restriction of women's rights. In modern times the Hindu wife has traditionally been regarded as someone who must at all costs remain chaste or pure. This is in contrast with the very different traditions that have prevailed at earlier times in 'Hindu' kingdoms, which included highly respected professional courtesans (such as Amrapali of Vesali), sacred devadasis, mathematicians and female magicians (the basavis, the Tantric kulikas). Some European scholars observed in the nineteenth century Hindu women were "naturally chaste" and "more virtuous" than other women, although what exactly they meant by that is open to dispute. In any case, as male foreigners they would have been denied access to the secret and sacred spaces that women often inhabited. Mahabharata and Manusmriti asserts that gods are delighted only when women are worshiped or honoured, otherwise all spiritual actions become futile.
There is a wide variety of viewpoints within the different schools and sects of Hinduism concerning the exact nature and gender (where applicable) of the Supreme person or being; there are even sects that are skeptical about the existence of such a being. Shaktism, for example, focuses worship on the goddess Devi as the supreme embodiment of power, or Shakti (feminine strength; a female form of God). Vaishnavism and Shaivism both worship Lakshmi with Vishnu and Parvati with Shiva respectively as beings on an equal level of magnitude (the male and female aspects of God). In some instances such as with Gaudiya Vaishnavism, specific emphasis is placed on the worship of God's female aspect (Radharani) even above that of her paramour Krishna. Thus it could be said that Hinduism considers God to have both male and female aspects, as the original source of both.
To continue reading the Wikipedia article, click here.
Some additional references:
Landmark Step to Gender Equality, Bina Agarwal, The Hindu, 2005.
Women in Hinduism, Hindu Wisdom, 2008.
Gender equality is passé, let us usher in gender partnership, V. N. Mukundarajan, The Hindu, 2010.
Shaming numbers, Editorial, The Hindu, September 2011.
8. The Resilience of Patriarchy in Religious Institutions
This section examines the vexing resilience of patriarchal structures in most of the world religions:
Sharia Law - Source: Author Unknown
Papal Apology - Source: Kirk Anderson
VATICAN PROJECTING BIAS IN ASSESSMENT OF AMERICAN NUNS
The following are links to recent news about the resilience of the patriarchal mindset of command and control in the Roman Catholic Church:
Our First Most Cherished Liberty, USCCB, 12 April 2012.
Reaffirmation of Women's Rights Key to Rio+20 Success, IPS News, 16 April 2012 (mentions continuing Vatican efforts to block UN initiatives in matters of gender equality and reproductive health).
Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Vatican CDF, released 18 April 2012.
Statement of Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR, Vatican CDF, released 18 April 2018.
Vatican Names Archbishop Sartain To Lead Renewal Of LCWR, USCCB, 18 April 2012.
CDF and USCCB announce 'renewal' of LCWR, America Magazine, 18 April 2012.
The Catholic Bishops Lobby Against Legislation to Protect Children, Marci Hamilton, Verdict Justia, 19 April 2012.
Vatican goes after Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Iglesia Descalza, 20 April 2012.
Vatican orders crackdown on American nuns, David Gibson, Religion News Service, USA Today, 21 April 2012.
We Are All Nuns, Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, 28 April 2012.
Rome vs. the Sisters, Marian Ronan, Religion Dispatches, 29 April 2012.
EDITOR'S PERSONAL REFLECTION
Indeed, the time for "reform" has come for the entire church, including the Vatican. But authentic reform will require a renewal of the Catholic ethos about all matters of human sexuality, and desisting from further attempts to impose our morals on others while blocking gender equality initiatives and evading responsibility for clerical misbehavior.
I am not concerned about the nuns getting fried; they can handle the heat. I am not concerned about the church either, for we have the Lord's promise that "the gates of hell will not prevail." My concern is for the bishops. We need to pray for these guys. After failing so miserably to resolve the pedophilia scandal in a timely manner, is this a good time to reassert themselves as the "authentic teachers of faith and morals" by seemingly using nuns as scapegoats?
Modern psychology has established that there are male and female polarities in every human being, even though the human population is a bimodal distribution with one of the polarities being dominant in most individuals. The Christian faith is that, at the incarnation, the Second Person of the Trinity fully assumed the concrete totality of human nature - both male and female along the entire gender continuum - even though the divine Person, in fully embracing the human condition except for sin, was limited with regard to everything else, including anatomical plumbing and socially constructed gender limits.
If this is the case, it follows that the exclusion of women from ordination to the ministerial priesthood is a disciplinary aberration and a doctrinal absurdity. In fact, from the perspective of sacramental doctrine, and with all due respect for St. Peter, isn't it time to recognize that a celibate woman is a better icon of Christ than a married man? Two thousand years doing something wrong is no justification to keep doing it. This is the basic problem the Vatican is struggling with, and there is no way in the world they can finesse themselves out of it without loosing face.
Much good can come out of this. I hope it becomes an opportunity to recognize the difference between clear cut issues, such as the right to life and the fully inclusive humanity God assumed at the incarnation, and other issues of human sexuality and reproductive health in which there are many shades of gray. Surely the Vatican must know that, in matters that have not been infallibly defined as revealed truth, there is room for discussion.
After 2000 years teaching doctrines that are 99% good and 1% bad, the bishops are understandably concerned about not throwing out the 99% of good Catholic heritage in the process of correcting the 1% bad heritage. The problem is that, just as cancer cells produce a tumor that starts small but grows like Topsy, the 1% bad heritage (sexism in particular) is now corrupting the good 99% by an admixture of truth and error that grows bigger and bigger, and more and more perverse, as the Vatican and the College of Bishops try to push error and truth together down people's throats in a vain attempt to buy time while the clock is clicking. Is this the kind of "chemotherapy" that the church needs in preparation for the mission of evangelization in the third millennium?
It boils down to this: sexist bias (and masculinist language) must be exorcised out of all Christian doctrines, including the Creed, in order to regain credibility as veritatis in caritatis; else, the future of the "new evangelization" is grim. And by the way, after all the phallocentric accretions have been removed, the church can honestly say that nothing essential has changed, because nothing that has been infallibly defined as revealed truth has changed. In particular with regard to the sacraments, going beyond "skin-deep" understanding is a mark of constructive doctrinal development, not to be confused with relativistic or revisionist change.
Since the Vatican wants to elevate a matter of discipline to a matter of doctrine, let's discuss the issues at the level of doctrine, and in the process contribute to purify both discipline and "doctrine" from sexist error!
Luis T. Gutiérrez
Editor, Mother Pelican Journal, 26 April 2012
9. Amrutha - A Theological Novel by John Wijngaards
From the book's website:
"The areas of Christian sexual ethics and the role of women in the Church both touch on natural law. In recent decades Pope after Pope has appealed to natural law to impose painful prohibitions. Contraceptives may never ever be used in planning the family. Why? They ‘go against the law of nature’. Homosexual intimacy is always ‘intrinsically evil’ as a sin against natural law. Women’s nature defines and restricts their role.
What is at stake?
"Theologians in the Middle Ages revamped the notion of ‘natural law’ already discussed by the Greeks and the Romans a thousand years earlier. The idea was: when God created humankind, he/she laid down a law in their nature. And no one may ever transgress the law of the Creator. In our time the principle resurfaced as the dignity of the person, as human rights; becoming a useful starting point for international agreements. However, the problem is: what does fall under natural law?
"The traditional norms for deciding what is natural and what is not, are purely arbitrary. Thomas Aquinas, for example, worked out that polygamy, a husband marrying more wives, though not ideal, does not go against natural law, while natural law totally forbids a woman to have more husbands. Surely mutilating the male sexual organs is against natural law, you would think? No, not so obvious. Enter the castrati, male singers castrated before puberty so that they retained their high soprano voices. Pope Clement VIII declared it was not against natural law. The ethics of natural law have in past centuries mistakenly been used by the Church to justify slavery, the colonial conquest of nations, the inferior statusof women, torture no less than wars of aggression.
The origin of the story
"Wijngaards wrote the book thinking: what would happen if a naïve monsignor from Rome would try to implement utter fidelity to natural law in everyday life? Also: what do the celibate lawgivers in Rome really know of the lives of ordinary people, especially the lives of women?
"The main character in his story - Mgr. Shamus McKenna - demonstrates what might take place. His quest for the truth brings him to explore options that he never considered before. He meets extraordinary women who invariably push out his boundaries. At every point his determination to follow natural law leads him into more murky and untested waters of sex, morality, heroism, and women’s lives.
"His salvation lies in Amrutha whose name means: nectar & immortal. She is a fighter: resourceful, intelligent, able to overcome incredible challenges. With her he eventually finds out that for human beings 'natural law' is the use of reason, that is: of our conscience.
"But will he ever escape the menacing, stifling, suffocating stranglehold of the LAW OF NATURE?!"
To get a copy of the book, click here.
"Past Catholic morality has been tainted with negative views on sexuality. On this site we present a balanced view, supported by modern Catholic theology. We try to preserve a healthy balance, asserting that sex is good & sacred, avoiding left and right extremes:"
New Focus in Catholic Sexual Morality
- 1. The shift from ontological constructs of gender, marriage and sexuality to the experiential discovery of gender, marriage and sexuality.
- 2. The shift from 'Augustinian' dualism to celebrating the marvelous gift of body, gender and sex
- 3. The shift from law-centered sexual ethics to person-centered sexual ethics
To read this sections, click here.
The Controversy about Natural Law
- Background information about 'Natural Law'
- Medieval views based on the work of Thomas Aquinas
- The natural law of sex
- The tyranny of the Catholic Church's sexual ethics
- The thinking of Church leaders fails
- Human intelligence is natural law for us
To read this sections, click here.