Friday, August 06, 2004
Why I’m glad I’m not a Catholic anymore . . .
From the Vatican’s recent security-alert warning about “lethal” strains of feminism infecting our families:
Recent years have seen new approaches to women’s issues. A first tendency is to emphasize strongly conditions of subordination in order to give rise to antagonism: women, in order to be themselves, must make themselves the adversaries of men. Faced with the abuse of power, the answer for women is to seek power. This process leads to opposition between men and women, in which the identity and role of one are emphasized to the disadvantage of the other, leading to harmful confusion regarding the human person, which has its most immediate and lethal effects in the structure of the family.
A second tendency emerges in the wake of the first. In order to avoid the domination of one sex or the other, their differences tend to be denied, viewed as mere effects of historical and cultural conditioning. In this perspective, physical difference, termed sex, is minimized, while the purely cultural element, termed gender, is emphasized to the maximum and held to be primary. The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has enormous consequences on a variety of levels. This theory of the human person, intended to promote prospects for equality of women through liberation from biological determinism, has in reality inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality.
While the immediate roots of this second tendency are found in the context of reflection on women’s roles, its deeper motivation must be sought in the human attempt to be freed from one’s biological conditioning. According to this perspective, human nature in itself does not possess characteristics in an absolute manner: all persons can and ought to constitute themselves as they like, since they are free from every predetermination linked to their essential constitution.
This perspective has many consequences. Above all it strengthens the idea that the liberation of women entails criticism of Sacred Scripture, which would be seen as handing on a patriarchal conception of God nourished by an essentially male-dominated culture. Second, this tendency would consider as lacking in importance and relevance the fact that the Son of God assumed human nature in its male form.
OK, yes, it’s great that Cardinal Ratzinger has been reading Gayle Rubin’s “The Traffic in Women” and immersing himself in the classic (though now dated) Lacanian film-theory debates in m/f and Screen of 25 years ago, and I hope he makes it all the way to Eve Sedgwick’s Epistemology of the Closet and Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, by which point he’ll have to rethink that entire sex/gender thing. But in the meantime, what if, just what if, we actually didn’t have to “liberate” ourselves from biology in order to have these here polymorphous sexualities? What if it’s not a “new model” at all? What if we’re just polymorphous? Scary, huh, kids?
As Sedgwick once put it:
Has there ever been a gay Socrates?
Has there ever been a gay Shakespeare?
Has there ever been a gay Proust?
Does the Pope wear a dress?