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Does the Catholic Church Hate Women?

Women

The Catholic Church is subjected to a great deal of suspicion, if not outright scorn, when it comes to its treatment of women. Does the Church treat women as "second class"?

In short, does the Catholic Church hate women? Few people would put the question that strongly, yet many believe the answer is "yes."

As evidence, they point to sexist quotations from Church Fathers and sexist interpretations of Scripture. Even Scripture contains "subordination" passages, such as "Let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands" (Eph. 5:24). Moreover, the Catholic Church is also well-known for its opposition to abortion and contraception, which many believe are the keys to women's sexual and economic freedom. Finally, only men can be ordained priests. Isn't that clear evidence of discrimination? As one slogan puts it: "If women are good enough to be baptized, why aren't they good enough to be ordained?"

A Church of Sinners

 
Unfortunately, members of the Church have not always followed Christ as closely as they should with respect to the treatment of women, and this lends credence to the accusations. As Pope John Paul II confessed, many members of the Church, including some in the hierarchy, have acted – and sometimes still act – in ways that fail to express the equality of man and woman. As John Paul wrote:

"And if objective blame [for offenses against the dignity of women], especially in particular historical contexts, has belonged to not just a few members of the Church, for this I am truly sorry. May this regret be transformed, on the part of the whole Church, into a renewed commitment of fidelity to the gospel vision. When it comes to setting women free from every kind of exploitation and domination, the gospel contains an ever relevant message that goes back to the attitude of Jesus Christ himself. Transcending the established norms of his own culture, Jesus treated women with openness, respect, acceptance, and tenderness. In this way he honored the dignity that women have always possessed according to God's plan and in his love. As we look to Christ at the end of this second millennium, it is natural to ask ourselves: How much of his message has been heard and acted upon?" (Letter to Women 3)

The situation today is better than it once was, but sexual and physical abuse of women still occurs, as does unjust discrimination and the failure to recognize talents.

Of course, failing in Christian discipleship is not limited to wrongdoing against the dignity of women – baptism does not remove the believer from the temptations and weaknesses endured by all of humanity. Moreover, it is not only Catholics who victimize, and it is not only women who are victimized. As Robert Burns wrote, "Man's inhumanity to man makes thousands mourn."

But such shortcomings do not reflect what the Church is called to be. Sins against young and old, black and white, male and female are characteristic of all people. What is characteristic of Christians, though, is the imitation of Christ. The degree to which someone does not imitate Christ is the degree to which that person fails to be fully Christian. There is a long list of "Catholic" murderers. But when a Catholic commits murder, he separates himself from Christ, and therefore from the body of Christ, the Church.

Theologians Sometimes Fail

 
In addition to the sad but real failings of Catholics to live up to their calling in their treatment of women, Christian theology has also fallen short in this regard. Personal sin undoubtedly plays a role in the corruption of theology, but the cultural context must also be considered. Christianity arose in an environment of female inequality. Greek philosophy, as well as Hebrew sources, are rife with misogynistic judgments. It is not surprising that the Church Fathers sometimes adopted these attitudes without critical reflection – and some academics have been quick to interpret passages in the least charitable light. John Paul II continues in his Letter to Women:

"Unfortunately, we are heirs to a history that has conditioned us to a remarkable extent. In every time and place, this conditioning has been an obstacle to the progress of women. Women's dignity has often been unacknowledged and their prerogatives misrepresented; they have often been relegated to the margins of society and even reduced to servitude. This has prevented women from truly being themselves, and it has resulted in a spiritual impoverishment of humanity. Certainly it is no easy task to assign the blame for this, considering the many kinds of cultural conditioning that down the centuries have shaped ways of thinking and acting." (LW 3)

Just as Christian thinkers will sometimes uncritically adopt the scientific outlook of the day, so, too, in the social realm. Hence, great Catholic theologians not only at times uncritically repeated the sexist truisms inherited from the secular culture of their day but sometimes interpreted the theological tradition in light of those assumptions. The same attitudes and judgments can also inform the reading of Scripture.

Therefore, the theology of the Church sometimes stands in need of correction. If revelation is really from God, then nothing revealed can be false or lacking in justice or goodness. But the same does not hold true for any individual's interpretation of revelation, even a saintly and learned individual. The development of doctrine leads to a greater understanding of revelation in part by sorting out what actually pertains to revelation from what only seems to.

From Sublime to Repellent

 
Among all the sublime thought of great Christian theologians, we occasionally come across something repellent. For example, St. Thomas Aquinas, following the sexist views of his time, held:

"The male sex is more noble than the female, and for this reason he [Jesus] took human nature in the male sex." (Summa Theologiae III:31:4 ad 1)

At the same time, Aquinas believed that the female sex should not be despised on this account, since Christ took his flesh from a woman. In other passages, too, Thomas shows an awareness of the equality of men and women recognized by Christ:

"If a husband were permitted to abandon his wife, the society of husband and wife would not be an association of equals but, instead, a sort of slavery on the part of the wife." (Summa contra Gentiles III:124:[4])

In fact, Thomas used the idea of equality in marital friendship to argue against polygamy and in favor of an unconditional love between husband and wife:

"The greater the friendship is, the more solid and long lasting it will be. Now there seems to be the greatest friendship between husband and wife, for they are united not only in the act of fleshly union, which produces a certain gentle association even among beasts, but also in the partnership of the whole range of domestic activity. Consequently, as an indication of this, man must even "leave his father and mother" for the sake of his wife as it is said in Genesis (2:24)."

Furthermore, Aquinas believed that the fact that Eve was made from Adam's rib indicates that she was not above him (as she might be had she been created from Adam's head) nor below him, like a slave (as she might be had she arisen from his feet). She comes from his side, indicating that she is a partner and companion. These statements of the equality of man and women – not the statement of male superiority – were new and radical. The specifically Christian attitude toward women – not the pre-existing pagan attitude – was new and radical. It has taken some time, though, for the wheat to be separated from the chaff.

Equal-Opportunity Moral Code

 
As it still does today, divorce in the ancient world left many women in dire economic and social straits. At the time of Christ, Mosaic law allowed a husband to leave his wife, but a wife could not leave her husband. Jesus' prohibition of divorce established Christianity as the only religion in the history of the world to call its members to strict monogamy:

"Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery." (Mark 10:11–12)"

This teaching of Jesus protected women, for, according to Church Father Gregory of Nazianzus:

"The majority of men are ill-disposed to chastity and their laws are unequal and irregular. For what was the reason they restrained the woman but indulged the man, and that a woman who practices evil against her husband's bed is an adulteress and the penalties of the law severe, but if the husband commits fornication against his wife, he has no account to give? I do not accept this legislation. I do not approve this custom." (Oration 37:6)

By establishing one moral code obligatory on men and women alike, Christianity fostered a lasting commitment of unconditional covenantal love, protecting the family structure and putting the sexes on an equal footing.

What Women Really Thought

 
Apparently the justice of Christian morality offered a refreshing perspective to women in the ancient world accustomed to husbands who cheated and left at will. The number of women who converted to Christianity in the early centuries after Christ indicates that women were attracted to this new way of life. Indeed, they were among the most zealous converts and defenders of the faith:

"Christianity seems to have been especially successful among women. It was often through the wives that it penetrated the upper classes of society in the first instance. Christians believed in the equality of men and women before God and found in the New Testament commands that husbands should treat their wives with such consideration and love as Christ manifested for his Church. Christian teaching about the sanctity of marriage offered a powerful safeguard to married women." (Henry Chadwick, The Early Church, Penguin, 58–59)

Many women today do feel alienated from the Church for a variety of reasons, but it is often because they disagree with the Church's basic beliefs about the meaning of life, the nature of human happiness, and the interaction of the divine and the human.

Is Scripture Misogynistic?

 
But what should be made of subordination passages in Scripture, such as "Let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands" (Eph. 5:24)? This appears to contradict the idea that Christianity views the sexes as equal. Pope John Paul II's answer was:

"The author knows that this way of speaking, so profoundly rooted in the customs and religious traditions of the time, is to be understood and carried out in a new way: as a "mutual subjection out of reverence for Christ"." (Mulieris Dignitatem 24; cf. Eph. 5:21).

Discussing the bond of marriage as it exists after the taint of original sin, John Paul states:

"The matrimonial union requires respect for and perfection of the true personal subjectivity of both of them. The woman cannot be made the object of dominion and male possession." (MD 10)

That husband and wife are to be subject to one another is reinforced in the next verse of the original passage cited: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her" (Eph. 5:25). This injunction transforms the potentially selfish orientation of male love into a form of intense self-sacrificial service. Subordination is mutual, but the admonition is given to husbands, perhaps because they need it more. What is implied, then, is not general female inferiority but general female superiority in the order that most matters eschatologically – the order of charity.

It's Not about Power

 
The reservation of priestly ordination to men is perhaps the sorest spot among contemporary critics of the Catholic Church's treatment of women. Many people understandably believe that the Church feels that women are less holy, less intellectually capable, less pastorally sensitive, or less capable of leadership than men. It is true that medieval theologians defended male priestly ordination with just such arguments, but the reservation in and of itself does not imply the inferiority of women. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church recalls, Christ himself established what constitutes the sacraments. The Church, in obedience to the Lord, is free only to follow what Christ has ordained.

Baptism must make use of water and not sand. This does not imply that sand is in and of itself less than water; indeed, those lost at sea need sand much more than they need water. The Eucharist must make use of bread and wine and not sausage and beer, even in Germany, where presumably those celebrating the Eucharist would prefer a meal of sausage and beer to one of bread and wine. Similarly, the Church teaches that Christ established that the proper recipient of the sacrament of holy orders is a baptized male; similarly, this in no way implies that men are better than women. The teaching itself does not imply in any way inferiority on the part of women.

Some theologians have even speculated that one reason for the reservation of priestly orders to males could be that men are typically worse people than women. Most murderers, rapists, thieves, and scoundrels of the highest order are men. It is, therefore, men and not women who are in particular need of models of self-sacrificial service and love. A priest is one who gives sacrifice, and the sacrifice is not only something he does but something he is:

"We who have received the sacrament of orders call ourselves "priests." The author does not recall any priest ever having said that "I was ordained a victim." And yet, was not Christ the Priest, a Victim? Did he not come to die? He did not offer a lamb, a bullock, or doves; he never offered anything except himself. "He gave himself up on our behalf, a sacrifice breathing out a fragrance as he offered it to God" (Eph. 5:2)...So we have a mutilated concept of our priesthood if we envisage it apart from making ourselves victims in the prolongation of his Incarnation." (Fulton J. Sheen, The Priest Is Not His Own, McGraw-Hill, 2)

The priesthood is misconstrued in terms of domination, power, and exultation; it is properly understood in terms of service, love, and sacrifice, and there are more than enough opportunities for both men and women to exercise these offices outside of the priesthood.

Conclusion

 
The myth of Catholic misogyny is well addressed in terms of the practical care the Church offers to women (and men) throughout the world. Has any institution educated more women? Fed more women? Clothed more women? Rescued more female infants from death? Offered more assistance or medical care to mothers and their born and unborn children? Members of the Church have undoubtedly behaved badly, but no less have members of the Church undoubtedly behaved well, heroically well. It's to those models we should turn when examining the Catholic Church's view toward women.
 
 
Originally posted in This Rock magazine, March 2006. Used with author's permission.
(Image credit: Third Age)

Dr. Christopher Kaczor

Written by

Dr. Christopher Kaczor is Professor of Philosophy at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He holds a Ph.D. (1996) from the University of Notre Dame and did post-doctoral work in Germany at the Universität zu Köln. He has authored several books, the latest of which is The Seven Big Myths about the Catholic Church: Distinguishing Fact from Fiction about Catholicism (Ignatius, 2012). Dr. Kaczor's research on issues of ethics, philosophy, and religion has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post, National Review, NPR, BBC, EWTN, ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, MSNBC, and The Today Show. Learn more and follow Dr. Kaczor at his website.

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  • nowornever

    Can someone please point me to the line in the New Testament where Christ specified that "the proper recipient of the sacrament of holy orders is a baptized male?" I have a Bible right here, just need the chapter and verse.

    The argument that it's a mistake to understand priesthood as involving power is so mindbogglingly absurd that it's hard to to believe it was made in good faith. The Catholic church is, among other things, an institution; it's priests, bishops, cardinals, and pope wield tremendous over it's policies. The Catholic Church limits it's officeholders to men, and in doing so limits the exercise of power to men. I get that theologically or philosophically, priesthood might be all about sacrifice, but that's not the way it plays out in reality.

    Here's a question- what if the Catholic Church has a rule that priests had to be white? Would you still find that 'just because we use water instead of sand, doesn't mean sand is inferior to water' argument persuasive? Incidentally, that's the exact same argument that has been used to justify apartheid throughout history.

    And moreover, the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion are fundamentally misogynistic. You can't claim to respect women, and also fight against their right to control their own bodies. The Church has literally excommunicated doctors for performing LIFE-SAVING abortions.

    • Mike A

      Still waiting for that Bible citation.

      • MichaelNewsham

        As the old joke goes, the Vatican has just announced that entry to the priesthood will be limited to Jewish fishermen.

      • Martin Conroy

        It should be noted that Jesus did not ordain any women. He selected all of his apostles, and none were women.
        Some say that he was bound by the cultural norms of his era to suppress the roles of women, but no one has been able to prove that this was his motive. Furthermore, this accuses Jesus of sexism and it paints an inaccurate portrait of Christ, who had no qualms about shattering the cultural norms regarding interaction with women (Matt. 9:20; Luke 7:37; John 4:27). The idea of priestesses was not unknown to him, since it was a common practice in religions of his time and culture, though not Judaism. (If Jesus had wanted women as priestesses, he would have had the ideal candidate in Mary. Here was a woman who could have spoken the words of consecration literally: "This is my body. This is my blood.")
        There were other roles that Christ had in mind for women. For example, they played a key role in the spread of the Gospel, being the first to spread the news of the risen Christ. They were also allowed to pray and prophecy in church (1 Cor. 11:1-16), but they were not to assume the function of teaching in the Christian assembly (1Cor. 14:34-38; 1 Tim. 2:1-14), which was restricted to the clergy.
        Two thousand years later, no one – including the pope – has the authority to change the designs of the Church that Christ instituted. Specifically, the Church is unable to change the substance of a sacrament. For example, a person cannot be baptized in wine, nor may a substance other than bread be used for the consecration at Mass. If invalid matter is used, then the sacrament does not take place. Likewise, since the priest acts in the person of Christ, the Church has no authority to confer the sacrament on those who are unable to represent the male Jesus Christ.

        • Andrew G.

          1Cor 14:34 is an interpolation and 1Tim is a late forgery (as are the other Pastorals), though I doubt that the Catholic church pays much attention to such inconveniences.

          A more interesting case is Rom 16:7 (which is undisputed as to authorship).

          • How confident you sound - more so than any scholar who actually knows the texts

          • Cui Pertinebit

            Thank you so much, Pope Andrew, WTG! Ohmigosh, where were you at the Synod of Carthage, like IDEK! St. Cyprian was like "this is supposed to be in the Bible" but you were like "no, dog, check your privilege," and we were all like, "Oooohh, snap!" It was super cool of you. Cyprian was, like, totally posing but you just were keepin' it real like you always do.

            Some people used to think that the Holy Spirit guided the Church into all truth, so that whatever wound up being generally received in the Canonical Scriptures would have been considered to be free from error in faith and morals in any case. But then you came along and God, like, totally just told the whole universe what should be thrown out because you, His chosen instrument, were given the charism to herald the infallible truth of God in divinely inspired blog posts like the one above. I just want you to know that you mean so much to all of us who follow your teachings and enjoy communing with your apparitions every Thursday at Evensong in the chapel of the Mother of Prelest in the Hills Outside the Walls. Who needs the Church's Apostolic Authority or Sacred Tradition, when there's.... you?

            Do you keep copies of all your posts anywhere? Some of us are reading your posts at Mass; they're so much better than the Scripture readings anyway, but it's hard to keep up with all of them because we're so sinful. I hope you will write a series of inspired commentaries on your infallible utterances for us! Alright, your holiness. TTYL and stay cool.

          • Susan

            Thank you so much, Pope Andrew, WTG!

            You could have responded to Andrew's points:

            1Cor 14:34 is an interpolation and 1Tim is a late forgery (as are the other Pastorals), though I doubt that the Catholic church pays much attention to such inconveniences.

            A more interesting case is Rom 16:7 (which is undisputed as to authorship)

            But you didn't.

            Instead you accused Andrew of thinking he was a pope because he dared bring up possible facts.

            And you never even explained why being the pope makes a person an authority on scripture.

            On a site that despises "snark" and espouses "reason", I will wait to see how BV responds. But I won't hold my breath.

          • MarcAlcan

            Instead you accused Andrew of thinking he was a pope because he dared bring up possible facts.
            Possible facts? If they are facts, then there is no question about their "being possible" they just are.
            So obviously they are not facts but conjecture for the simple reason that there is a possibility that they might be true.

          • AugustineThomas

            You're misunderstanding the point here.. This guy clearly wants the atheist perception to win out and is doing his best (but not very good) at making that happen, at least in his little corner of the Internet!

        • Mike A

          Jesus didn't ordain anyone to the priesthood. But even if we're following your logic, he also didn't have any black apostles. I also challenge you to tell me who those apostles actually were, since your Matthew, Luke, and Mark contradict each other on the matter.

          More importantly, though is that you're not defending the actual issue at hand which is that as far as I can tell, the author of the article made up a quote and put it in Jesus' mouth. I get that you can make arguments based on who Jesus picked to be his apostles, but the author wrote "Christ established that the proper recipient of the sacrament of holy orders is a baptized male;" that's a much stronger claim than "Chris picked baptized men to be his apostles."

          • Cui Pertinebit

            Ooo, He didn't ordain anyone?! I am rocked to the core. I guess Trent forgot to consult you! Major oversight on their part, for sure...

            I wish I had received the gift to have infallible personal opinions that contradict the received tradition of all Christendom before me! It would make it SO much easier. Well, easier for me; harder, I guess, for all the rest of Christendom. Still, that's the price they have to pay for not trusting me more than every saint and father before me. Fools.

          • Raphael

            Though there was no ordination ceremony, Jesus did lay the foundation of a ministerial priesthood upon the apostles when he instituted the sacraments of the Eucharist and reconciliation.

          • fredx2

            First of all, we don't know the race of the apostles. Some of them may have been black. The Holy Land is certainly close enough to Africa for there to have been black apostles. Some may have been a mixture. In addition, the basis as stated in Ordenatio Sacerdotalis is not only what Jesus did, it also examines what the apostles did. They consistently only chose men. It is highly likely that they chose blacks in the first few years of the new church as it spread into Africa and around the world.
            But I take your point, perhaps the author did not phrase that sentence as well as he should have.

          • Mike A

            Fine, Fred, if we're going down this road, how do you know none of the twelve apostles were women?

        • David Nickol

          It should be noted that Jesus did not ordain any women. He selected all of his apostles, and none were women.

          I think Mike A is correct to say that Jesus didn't ordain anyone to the priesthood. Even if we accept what Catholics believe (or at least I assume they do) that Jesus somehow had the structure of the Catholic Church in mind (a pope, cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons), the Apostles were bishops.

          Jesus and the Apostles were all Jews. It was not until after the death of Jesus that gentiles became converts to "Christianity" and a clean break with Judaism occurred. And Jews had priests.

          • AugustineThomas

            Um. Have you ever read any of the bible whatsoever? You talk so much about it.
            Christ explicitly says that things are changing. It's time to worship Him, not be Jewish anymore.
            If you disagree with that, fine, but quit pretending we're somehow misunderstanding Jesus and you're an all-knowing expert despite never having read or taken his words seriously.

          • AugustineThomas

            And you sure better be happy that Christians didn't just stick their heads in the sand and die after Christ ascended to Heaven or else atheists like you would still be murdered in every society on the face of the earth!
            (Since we're being so honest with each other.)

          • David Nickol

            AugustineThomas,

            I have read the ten messages you addressed to me, all written within a very short period of time, which contain statements like the following:

            . . . . or else atheists like you would still be murdered in every society on the face of the earth!

            Um. Have you ever read any of the bible whatsoever? You talk so much about it.

            You have so much time to misrepresent Catholics, why don't you just go actually read some of what they say?

            Are they also, being religious, not capable of
            their own thought, because your secularist opinions supersede their beliefs?

            I do not identify as an atheist, I went to Catholic school for 12 years, and I take the Bible seriously and generally document what I say about it citing authoritative sources.

            You comments cross the line between disagreement (which I more than welcome) and personal insults. You might want to read the Strange Notions commenting guidelines.

        • Hartic

          It should be noted that women are missing the all important crucial penile appendage according to all power systems including the RCC which is the symbol of all authority beit in religion, warfare or politics. Someone had to say it! It should be noted that one does not have to have a large one to be one.

      • fredx2

        The biblical foundation can be found in John Paul II's Ordenatio Sacerdotalis.

        Also, consider the practical - the churches that have ordained women are the ones that are collapsing the fastest.

        You confuse honoring the dignity of women with them being priests.

        Here is one relevant quote from Ordenatio Sacerdotalis:

        Christ chose those whom he willed (cf. Mk 3:13-14; Jn 6:70), and he did so in union with the Father, "through the Holy Spirit" ( 1:2), after having spent the night in prayer (cf. Lk 6:12). Therefore, in granting admission to the ministerial priesthood,[6] the Church has always acknowledged as a perennial norm her Lord's way of acting in choosing twelve men whom he made the foundation of his Church (cf. Rev 21:14). These men did not in fact receive only a function which could thereafter be exercised by any member of the Church; rather they were specifically and intimately associated in the mission of the Incarnate Word himself (cf. Mt 10:1, 7-8; 28:16-20; Mk 3:13- 16; 16:14-15). The Apostles did the same when they chose fellow workers[7] who would succeed them in their ministry.[8] Also included in this choice were those who, throughout the time of the Church, would carry on the Apostles' mission of representing Christ the Lord and Redeemer.[9]

    • Martin Conroy

      On abortion:

      1. Abortion contravenes the 5th commandment

      2. Abortion is not about what a woman can or cannot do with her body. Obviously in any progressive society a woman should have, and generally has, the choice to do whatever she wants with a tuft of hair or an appendix, and certainly with her own body as long as the act does not harm others. But does she have the right to tamper with or kill a distinct person within her?

      3. It's not the Church's teachings on the subject that are mysoginistic but the abortion industry itself. Most abortionists are men, and most of the people who profit from the abortion industry are men. Men are also frequently responsible for abortions, in that they do not fulfil their roles as fathers, they abandon vulnerable women who are pregnant, and they bring pressure to bear on women whom they have made pregnant because they do not want the responsibilities of fatherhood.

      4. Abortion always kills a child and harms a mother

      5. Abortion is not always 'safe' and can and does kill mothers too

      6. The actual arguments against abortion are partly Biblical - Psalm 139 has this:

      For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

      Job has "Did not he who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?" and Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."

      The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation. If God recognises the humanity of the unborn, why can't you?

      • Michael Murray

        If God recognises the humanity of the unborn, why can't you?

        That seems like a strange question to ask an atheist. But let me ask you one:

        If God recognises the humanity of the unborn why is the miscarriage rate so amazingly high ?

        • Mike

          Biology is a complicated thing, and lots of steps are involved from conception to birth.

          • AugustineThomas

            Lots of steps are involved from the time one is a toddler to the time one is an adult.
            Can we murder toddlers because they're so different? Just "clumps of cells" anyway, am I right? Not even fully conscious until they're 20. By my logic that means we can murder anyone under 20!
            -A Leftist

          • Mike

            Hi Augustine,

            I think you may have misunderstood my comment. I was trying to respond why miscarriages occur, and that life in general, and in particular growth and development (especially gestational development) is complicated, and that because miscarriage rates are high doesn't mean that God doesn't recognize the humanity of the unborn.

            I believe that conception is the first moment of one's humanity, with all the rights and dignity inherent therein. Furthermore I would think the church should defend those who have no voice, which would be a long list, but would certainly include the unborn.

          • AugustineThomas

            Sorry for my mistake. I go to (Catholic) church for the Holy Eucharist, not the people who are there--who usually sound more like secularists than Christians.

        • David Nickol

          If God recognises the humanity of the unborn why is the miscarriage rate so amazingly high ?

          I have seen reliable estimates that between 60% to 80% of "babies" who are conceived fail to implant and consequently die within a few days of conception.

          PROF. SANDEL: Thank you. I have two questions about the rate of natural embryo loss in human beings. The first is what percent of fertilized eggs fail to implant or are otherwise lost? And the second question is is it the case that all of these lost embryos contain genetic defects that would have prevented their normal development and birth?

          DR. OPITZ: The answer to your first question is that it is enormous. Estimates range all the way from 60 percent to 80 percent of the very earliest stages, cleavage stages, for example, that are lost.

          Of these, it's estimated that 60% had chromosomal anomalies. But if the Catholic Church is correct that life begins at conception, it is not clear to me why that 60% should not be counted as "babies." Even the most profoundly disabled infants that are born (for example, babies born with no brains) are considered persons.

          Of course, this is not a justification for abortion. If life (in the sense of personhood) really does begin at conception, it is not at all persuasive to say, "Well, so many of the unborn die of natural causes that it is okay for us to kill some of the ones that don't."

          Still, I think those who maintain that a new person comes into existence at the moment of conception—a person with a soul and a right to life—why do so many die? What is their fate? For Catholics, these are infants who die without baptism? The Church cannot say whether they are "saved" or not (although it does say it can be hoped that they are). If (as the old Baltimore Catechism said) God made us to know, love, and serve him in this world and be happy with him forever in heaven, why do most "people" never even live "in this world"?

          • Jonathan Brumley

            "If life (in the sense of personhood) really does begin at conception, ..."

            I appreciated this comment because you point out a fundamental difference between the articulated positions - the pro-choice position being that not all human individuals possess "personhood", and therefore do not possess a right to life. Whereas, the pro-life position does not make the right to life contingent on "personhood" or "stage of development", but simply on identity as a unique human individual, e.g. a distinct human organism with his/her own unique DNA.

            For instance, take the following quote from the Pontifical Academy for life:

            "1. On the basis of a complete biological analysis, the living human embryo is - from the moment of the union of the gametes - a human subject with a well defined identity, which from that point begins its own coordinated, continuous and gradual development, such that at no later stage can it be considered as a simple mass of cells.[xiv]

            2. From this it follows that as a "human individual" it has the right to its own life; and therefore every intervention which is not in favour of the embryo is an act which violates that right."

          • David Nickol

            From this it follows that as a "human individual" it has the right to its own life . . . .

            I fail to see any distinction between a "human individual" and a "human person." If a "human individual" or "human being" or "human" is said to have rights, especially by the Catholic Church, it is being looked upon as a human person. I say "especially by the Catholic Church" because the Church doesn't recognize the concept of animal rights. I don't see how you can assert two kinds of rights—rights for "human persons" and rights for "human individuals." It is clear that the Church uses human individual and human person interchangeably. The Catechism says the following:

            2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:

            "The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being's right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death."

            "The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child's rights."

            2274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being. . . .

            It is a mistake to interpret "since it must be treated from conception as a person" to mean it may not really be a person but must be treated as a person. The reason the Catholic Church says "it must be treated from conception as a person" is because the Catholic Church means it is a person.

          • fredx2

            A partial answer may be that when we consider abortion, we are ALWAYS talking about an egg that has successfully implanted itself. That is the only situation the church has addressed itself to. It objects to the elimination of those that are growing in the womb. In one sense, Catholics only object to aborting eggs that have implanted themselves and are growing. You may have a debating point about the ones that do not implant, but no one has suggested any course with regard to those. The ones that implant are the only ones the church takes a position on. As to the others, it sounds as if a very great percentage of them have something deeply wrong with the egg, and the body recognizes this.

          • Geena Safire

            fredx2, You might want to take another look at the Catholic teaching.

            The Catholic church teaches that human life begins at fertilization, not at implantation. This is the reason why it is opposed to the legality of hormonal contraception and IUDs and the morning-after pill, because the church believes they can sometimes act to hinder the implantation of a fertilized egg.

            The medical community generally measures a pregnancy as beginning at implantation, however.

          • David Nickol

            You may have a debating point about the ones that do not implant, but no one has suggested any course with regard to those.

            I disagree. As Geena notes, the Church objects to the morning-after pill and IUDs. It calls them abortifacients because one mechanism of action may be to inhibit implantation. Incidentally, cigarette smoking increases the risk of implantation failure. Of course, it is highly doubtful that any woman ever smoked for its contraceptive effects, but nevertheless it does seem to me that, for pro-life advocates, any substance a woman might take or any practice she might engage in that would potentially inhibit implantation would be of at least some moral concern.

            Michael Sandel has argued that if people really believed personhood began at conception, the huge number of implantation failures would demand a huge investment to attempt to remedy it. If 60% to 80% of babies began to die within days of birth, imagine the medical resources that would be invested to discover the cause and stop the huge loss of life. But little or nothing is done about early embryo loss in humans. It is a much bigger concern in the cattle industry, for example. The Catechism says:

            2274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.

            I would be interested if you or anyone can point to any medical project, Catholic or otherwise, that is attempting to solve the problem of early embryo loss. Aside from cases in which couples are undergoing fertility treatments, to the best of my knowledge there is total indifference to the 60% to 80% of "persons" who are conceived but never implant. There is not even a Catholic prayer for them.

          • AugustineThomas

            The Church can object to evils like "the pill" (which poisons our water supply) and "IUDs", without having to believe they're actually baby murder like abortion.
            You have so much time to misrepresent Catholics, why don't you just go actually read some of what they say?

        • Martin Conroy

          Really what you're asking is if God exists and is all-knowing and all-powerful, why does he not prevent suffering/evil?

          "God allows evil only so as to make something better result from it" (St. Thomas Aquinas).

          Suffering and evil in the world is an obscure and painful mystery. Even the Crucified Jesus asked his Father, "My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mt 27:46). Much about it is incomprehensible. One thing, though, we know for sure: God is 100 percent good. He can never be the originator of something evil. God created the world to be good, but it is not yet complete. In violent upheavals and painful processes it is being shaped and moved toward its final perfection. That may be a better way to classify what the Church calls physical evil, for example, a birth defect, or a natural catastrophe. Moral evils, in contrast, come about through the misuse of freedom in the world. "Hell on earth" child soldiers, suicide bombings, concentration camps is usually man-made. The decisive question is therefore not, "How can anyone believe in a good God when there is so much evil?" but rather, "How could a person with a heart and understanding endure life in this world if God did not exist?" Christ's death and Resurrection show us that evil did not have the first word, nor does it have the last. God made absolute good result from the worst evil. We believe that in the Last Judgment God will put an end to all injustice. In the life of the world to come, evil no longer has any place and suffering ends.

          • One thing, though, we know for sure: God is 100 percent good.

            But how do we know this? If God is all-powerful and all-knowing, then (given the suffering and misery in the world) how can he be all good?

            You write that suffering and evil in the world is an obscure and painful mystery, but you might better say that God's goodness is an obscure and painful misery.

          • Martin Conroy

            We know God is good because, quite simply, God is love.

          • I'm not sure "God is 100 percent good" follows from "God is love," but even if it did, how do we know God is love?

          • Martin Conroy

            God shows us in Jesus Christ the full depth of his merciful love. Through Jesus Christ the invisible God becomes visible. He becomes like us. This shows us how far God's love goes: He bears our whole burden. He walks every path with us. He is thete in our abandonment, our sufferings, our fear of death. He is there when we can go no further, so as to open up for us the door leading into life.

          • Geena Safire
          • Seriously, Geena, you have to give us some kind of heads up!

          • Geena Safire

            With Martin Conroy's text. Still doesn't look like Jesus to me.

          • And once again I ask: How do you know?

          • Sage McCarey

            Martin, I disagree with your message. According to the Bible, it was Yahweh/Jehovah who cursed humanity to begin with. We would not need a Jesus to save us if god hadn't cursed us because our ancestors disobeyed one rule and ate from a tree of knowledge before they knew the difference between right and wrong. Do good parents curse their children and their children's children for eternity for one mistake?

          • Mike A

            How do we know God is love? Based on the available evidence, I'd say God is love in the same sense Santa Clause is love, but if we're to accept your Bible, I would say God is a monster.

          • Mike A

            You believe the statement that God is love? Because if so, it logically follows that love is God. And that opens up a nasty can of theological worms for you to deal with,

          • Martin Conroy

            It doesn't logically follow that love is God:

            God is love, love is good, therefore God is good.

          • Geena Safire

            And pizza is good, and I love pizza, therefore...

            Really, Martin, what we are trying to tell you is that these little platitudes just sound silly to us. What does it actually mean to you that God is love? Or how do you know that God is love except because "The Bible tells me so"?

          • Mike A

            If X = Y, then Y = X. This is pretty basic logic.

          • Michael Murray

            Do you understand the concept of a "deepity"

            http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Deepity

          • Mike A

            I was trying to remember that word!

          • AugustineThomas

            Do you understand the concept of theodicy?

          • Michael Murray

            Yes. It's a variety of desperate rationalisation.

          • AugustineThomas

            "It's a variety of desperate rationalization." ...You mean Leftism!
            ZING!
            No, seriously, theodicy is the very logical and intuitive understanding of the fact that the potential of evil is a side effect of true free will.
            If God made us as holy robots, so to speak, and we were programmed to do good only, we'd be angels in Heaven this very moment!

          • Michael Murray

            No it's a desperate rationalisation. Seriously. Otherwise you have to explain why God needed to make suffering endemic throughout nature with natural selection, why tsunamis, why cancer, why earthquakes, why couldn't He just turn down volume on the suffering just a little?

            Wait for it, wait for it, we have The Fall !

            Really it's a lot simpler just to accept the evidence. There are no gods.

          • Michael Murray

            I really was making a point more like David Nickol suggested. But I am happy to address your point instead.

            Suffering and evil in the world is an obscure and painful mystery.

            But it's not. There is a simple answer. If there is no God and no purpose then you can put down the dilemma of why there is suffering, forget about all the tortuous logic required to make God seem good and just get on with living and trying to eliminate as much of the suffering as you can.

          • Mike A

            I think that's one of the most terrifying aspects of Christianity; by presuming suffering has a reason, it ennobles something fundamentally ignoble. You see how terribly this plays out with people like Mother Teresa, who the Catholic Church venerates despite her monstrous sadism.

          • AugustineThomas

            Why do atheists have the highest suicide rates in the world then?
            It's a scientific fact that Catholics "get on" with charity far, FAR more than godless secularists.
            You can only be happy as an atheist if you lie to yourself. Thinking you're going to hit a black wall and disappear after a brief stint in this world full of evil and being truly happy--as opposed to indulging cheap pleasures-- is not a realistic proposition.
            True atheism is nihilism.

          • Michael Murray

            Why do atheists have the highest suicide rates in the world then?

            I've no idea if this is true but even it is so what ? Needing gods is not an argument for their existence.

          • Sample1

            I do recall a recent report highlighting a high rate of suicides among atheists but I don't recall where that was.

            If anything, it could be because of dearth of coping resources that aren't discriminatory against faith-free people some like so-called twelve step programs that often require an acknowledgement of a higher-power in their treatments.

            But you're right, so what?

            Mike

          • David Nickol

            MM: If God recognises the humanity of the unborn why is the miscarriage rate so amazingly high ?
            MC: Really what you're asking is if God exists and is all-knowing and all-powerful, why does he not prevent suffering/evil?

            I think you are answering a question other than the one MM asked. The question is not "why does evil exist?" It is why did God "design" the human reproductive system in such a way that "life on earth," which has since ancient times been considered to be the rule, has not been discovered to be the exception. There is a huge explanatory hole in Catholicism. What is the fate of the billions who have been conceived and never born? The Church says it doesn't know.

            It is not necessary a matter of evil. It would seem from Catholic doctrine that a person who is born and reaches the "age of reason" has a finite chance of committing a mortal sin, dying, and going to hell for all eternity. Now, if those who die before birth (or implantation) are saved, as the Church says may be our hope, they may be (in one way at least) the lucky ones. They have no risk of sinning and going to hell.

            The real question (for me, in any case), is if it really is true that a human person is created at the moment of conception, and it is also true that 60% to 80% of these die, then the ministry of Jesus, the Church, and the sacraments are available to possibly less than 80% of the human race. Baptism is only possible for less than 80% of the human race. It is still one question why the human reproductive process is so wasteful of human life. But the bigger question is what sense does the whole of Christianity have if the maximum number of people it can reach is 20% of those who are conceived? As I have said a number of times before, Jesus said, "He who has ears, let him hear." If life begins at conception, it may now be the case that 80% of the human race die before ears are even a possibility.

          • Mike A

            I would argue that if you take Catholic moral theology seriously, for a parent to murder their infants would be the noblest and most self-sacrificing act imaginable.

          • AugustineThomas

            Did you completely ignore his last comment?
            Catholics believe successfully conceived embryos are human.

            Furthermore, did you not read his statement on incidental evil?
            Why does a typhoon happen that kills 200,000 people? That's a mystery we can't answer, except to say that because God makes even better things of it. He takes all the victims to heaven with him and (hopefully) makes those of us still here more and more sensitive to the preciousness of life.

          • Sage McCarey

            Brilliant!

        • MarcAlcan

          The issue is not the value of the unborn. We are all valued. The question is who has the right to take a life. Certainly not the mother.

          Otherwise, if you reason the way you are doing, then basically you are saying that God does not value anyone since we all die in the end anyway. Which of course is the height of absurdity.

          • Michael Murray

            I'm an athiest. Why would it worry me to discover something absurd about God. But I agree with you. God is the height of absurdity.

          • MarcAlcan

            The height of absurdity is your total hubris.
            The idea of god is the height of absurdity
            Saying so does not make it so. Michael Murray says there is no god so there isn't. That is what is absurd. Delusional even.

          • Michael Murray

            You don't find all the rationalisations to get around the problem of suffering absurd ?

          • MarcAlcan

            Maybe when you can explain how they are "rationalizations' and how they are "absurd". At this stage, it is as absurd as your previous statement.

            And no, I was not introducing God as if He is a belief we shared. I was merely responding to your IF question.

            You said: If God recognises the humanity of the unborn why is the miscarriage rate so amazingly high ?
            So as you can see it was you who posited God with that question and I showed you the stupidity of your thinking within in your own argument.

          • Michael Murray

            Yes sorry you are right. It was I who posited God originally. It was a couple of weeks ago now. Let me go back and address that and set theodicy to one side. I asked

            If God recognises the humanity of the unborn why is the miscarriage rate so amazingly high ?

            My point was not about valuing unborn as unborn but the value God places on them having the experience of them being born and living a human life. That was how I was reading "humanity". In retrospect that might not be how the original poster intended it. But at the time I think that was what I was thinking: Why is God not concerned that so many foetuses don't undergo this important experience? The impression I get from the Catholic religion is that the being born and living as a human is important. If this is not so why bother with earth and life at all ? But, and I borrow this from a post of David Nickol's last year, it seems that being born and living is only done by a minority of humans.

            If I am wrong and "humanity" means intrinsic humanness, which I find hard to see in a one-day old collection of cells, then you are right I have missed the point.

          • MarcAlcan

            Actually, if you read back to my reply, you will realize that I addressed that directly from the beginning.

            Your question was: If God recognises the humanity of the unborn why is the miscarriage rate so amazingly high ?

            So I want to stress here first that you have already posited God.

            Therefore, having posited God, this must be answered based on a God-perspective.

            And this is precisely why I answered: if you reason the way you are doing, then basically you are saying that God does not value anyone since we all die in the end anyway. Which of course is the height of absurdity.

            If death (as in miscarriage) means that God does not really value the unborn, then it means that God does not value anyone because everyone dies in the end.

            This is why I said your reasoning is absurd.

            But this is not exactly our argument. We say that since it is God who created life, only He has the right to take it. The mother does not get to decide who will and will not be born because that life is not hers, it belongs to God.

            And this argument is perfectly within your IF question.

            IF God... therefore.

          • Michael Murray

            Sure I think I understand your point: Miscarriage doesn't imply God doesn't value a foetus anymore than death at 90 means God doesn't value the 90 year old. Right ?

            My question was not quite that. It was why doesn't God value more people actually being born and living in His creation. He seems to let 60-80% go straight from a few days past conception to heaven.

            Of course you could argue the 60-80% miscarriage rate is due to The Fall.

          • MarcAlcan

            The 60-80% is contentious first off because that would mean that there are more incidence of miscarriage than births in general.
            I don't know what the percentage of miscarriage is but we say that only God knows why He has allowed this to happen and thus bypass being born and living in His creation. I don't know if this can be linked to The Fall at all.
            Those who die at the hands of their mothers are due to sin. We have free will.
            But for Theists, particularly for Christians who believe in an all knowing and all powerful God, we can conclude that that would have been for the best.
            We - with our piddly little brains - could not possibly grasp the mind of God.
            A weak but reasonable analogy would be your dog trying to understand your reason why it was not taken out for a walk. There are many things that are beyond our comprehension. We try to give God the same brain capacity as ours and conclude that such and such action is unreasonable.
            Or even in human terms, how does a father explain to his 6 month old child the necessity of an operation that will cause the child much pain? Even if the father tried, the child would not make sense of it.

          • Michael Murray

            The 60-80% is contentious first off because that would mean that there are more incidence of miscarriage than births in general.

            Why does the fact that this means that there are more miscarriages than births make it contentious ? Or do you have some other reason you think it is contentious.

            So for the rest you are saying that it is a mystery. Fair enough but I'll stick with the simpler option that there is no God and the miscarriage rate is what it is.

            Or even in human terms, how does a father explain to his 6 month old child the necessity of an operation that will cause the child much pain? Even if the father tried, the child would not make sense of it.

            The difference is that if I had God like powers I'd use them to avoid my child having the pain of the operation.

          • MarcAlcan

            Okay, it seems we are talking terminology here. When I meant miscarriage, I meant reported miscarriage, that is when the baby has implanted and the mother lost the baby after implantation.

            Fair enough but I'll stick with the simpler option that there is no God and the miscarriage rate is what it is.

            But that position is just as absurd as you claim our position to be. You stick with the option that there is no God when you have no possible of knowing that there really is no God? So your belief that there is no God is really nothing more than faith.

            The difference is that if I had God like powers I'd use them to avoid my child having the pain of the operation.


            That is you. But you are not God. That would be like saying if I were you I would have.... But the thing is you are not this person and you are definitely not God. Which was exactly my point about transplanting your feeble little brain to a Person we say is super intelligent - an intelligence beyond our own comprehension. And yet you have come to the conclusion that just because this Person has not done what you would have done, therefore He does not exist. Rather an absurd and illogical way to reason.

            The analogy about the father and the child is to point out the vast difference in intelligence and knowledge. To tweak that analogy: a child wants to touch a hot plate and the father would not let him so the child throws up an almighty tantrum. Or when you see children at supermarkets behaving terribly because the parent would not buy them a toy or candy.
            .
            Even among adults, some get peeved because so and so did not do this or that when in fact it was for their own that a particular thing was not done. Now because they are on the same intelligence level, the person could later explain and the other one would be thankful. But that is not possible with the way things are at the moment. For one thing we are in space and time, totally limited.

          • Michael Murray

            Exactly I'm talking about miscarriage from conception because it is when the Church tells us the soul enters the foetus. That is the point of the question about why God, having gone to all the trouble to create a universe for his creation to suffer, grow and learn in seems happy for most of them to skip the exercise.

          • MarcAlcan

            But as I have said before, that is because you are assuming that your perspective is THE perspective. But how do you know that that is indeed the truth? How do you know that there is no good reason to allow this? Which is why I gave you the example of the child and the father. Or even the dog and its owner. If you have a dog, I doubt very much that it will be able to comprehend the decisions you make on its behalf.

          • Michael Murray

            But that position is just as absurd as you claim our position to be. You stick with the option that there is no God when you have no possible of knowing that there really is no God? So your belief that there is no God is really nothing more than faith.

            Oh dear you aren't really going to try that one are you ? I've never quite sure how "you are just as silly as us" works as an argument. But in any case your assertion is wrong. You are making the claim for existence of a God so you need to provide the evidence.

          • MarcAlcan

            Not Quite. If we look at the history of humanity, believe in god or gods was always there. Now I am not claiming that their belief is true. I am just saying that as a claim, that claim was always there.

            So if you are going to debunk a claim, then the onus of proof resides on the one debunking.
            Even in science, the same process applies.

            One scientist makes a claim and this is held for a time until someone makes a counter claim. The one making the counter claim is the one who needs to prove that the previous claim is false.

            So since you are claiming that the first proposition (there is some kind of diety) is false, then you have to prove it.

            But the thing is you can't.

          • Michael Murray

            Now because they are on the same intelligence level, the person could later explain and the other one would be thankful. But that is not possible with the way things are at the moment. For one thing we are in space and time, totally limited.

            I think you will find a lot of people have a lot of trouble with the argument that later we will understand that all the suffering was a good thing. It obviously satisfies you but not me I'm afraid.

          • MarcAlcan

            That a lot of people will have a trouble with that argument is a useless point. Truth is not a matter of the vote. Either it is true or it is not.
            So I think you need to make a better argument than that.

          • MarcAlcan

            A further example to my earlier reply.
            Suppose as a baby you had gangrene. Your parents decided it best to amputate. Now as a baby you would have suffered pain. But as an adult, would you not understand that that was necessary?

          • David Nickol

            If death (as in miscarriage) means that God does not really value the unborn, then it means that God does not value anyone because everyone dies in the end.

            The problem arises when opponents of abortion become emotional over the fact that an aborted infant will miss out on earthly life. If abortion is a terrible tragedy for an embryo or fetus, then failure to implant is also a terrible tragedy.

            I am not saying abortion is justifiable because so many of the unborn die of natural causes. If an embryo is a human person, then abortion is the killing of an innocent human being. That is forbidden. Nevertheless, if being aborted and missing out on earthly life is a tragedy for aborted infants, then God (or nature) has arranged it that the same tragedy befalls 60% to 80% of all infants conceived.

          • MarcAlcan

            It is true that some in the anti-abortion movement tend to stress that the baby is missing out on an earthly life.
            However, the pro-life movement (at least from the Catholic perspective) is pro-life in that it is pro-God's sovereignty. That is why it is also anti-contraception and anti homosexuality.
            Some people are in fact only pro-birth but not necessarily pro-life in all its ramifications.

            The stress here is that WE are killing the unborn. It is the murder of the child that is the tragedy. Everyone goes in the end but murder and genocide is not acceptable. We all know that killing a human being is wrong.

          • David Nickol

            The stress here is that WE are killing the unborn.

            It seems to me that the reason for Catholics to oppose abortion is that killing another human being before birth is wrong not because it will deprive the aborted child of an earthly life, but because human beings do not have the right to take an innocent life. Looking at it from the viewpoint of the aborted babies, they may actually be better off being aborted. If what is hoped for is the case, aborted babies go to heaven. People who are born and live to the age of reason may wind up being damned.

            At first glance, it may sound outrageous to entertain the thought that killing someone may be to their benefit. But suppose you know a person who keeps falling into mortal sin, coming to his senses, going to confession, refraining from sin for awhile, and then sinning again, repenting again, and so on. If you were to kill that person right after he made a good confession, he would go to heaven. If you leave him to go through the cycle I described above over and over, he may die in sin and go to hell. Now, it goes without saying that no one has a right to kill another person no matter how beneficial it may be to the victim. But that does not mean that in some respects, it would be doing the victim a favor. Hamlet thinks along these lines, although with the opposite intention in Act III, summarized by Spark Notes as follows:

            Hamlet slips quietly into the room and steels himself to kill the unseeing Claudius. But suddenly it occurs to him that if he kills Claudius while he is praying, he will end the king’s life at the moment when he was seeking forgiveness for his sins, sending Claudius’s soul to heaven. This is hardly an adequate revenge, Hamlet thinks, especially since Claudius, by killing Hamlet’s father before he had time to make his last confession, ensured that his brother would not go to heaven. Hamlet decides to wait, resolving to kill Claudius when the king is sinning—when he is either drunk, angry, or lustful. He leaves. Claudius rises and declares that he has been unable to pray sincerely: “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below” (III.iii.96).

          • MarcAlcan

            I will post a short reply at the moment because I am rather busy but will expound later.
            The short reply here is that it is never permissible to commit evil for a good end. Never.
            But will explain a bit more later in the day.

          • David Nickol

            The short reply here is that it is never permissible to commit evil for a good end. Never.

            I understand that principle completely.

            Cardinal Newman said:

            The Catholic Church
            holds it better for the sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth
            to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in
            extremest agony, as far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul,
            I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial
            sin, should tell one wilful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing
            without excuse.

            But that does not mean that good can never come from committing evil. It means that committing evil is always prohibited. It means a person may not commit evil so that good may come of it. It does not mean that if a person goes ahead and commits evil despite that principle, good cannot come of it.

            So suppose I know someone is in a state of grace, and I know also that he is setting off on a journey on which, unbeknownst to him, he will fall into mortal sin and die. I may not kill him, even if it is the only way to prevent that from happening. But if I do kill him in the state of grace, he will go to heaven.

            Now, you may say that is entirely hypothetical. But so is Cardinal Newman's quote. Neither his scenario nor mine will ever happen. But they both make valid points.

          • MarcAlcan

            But that does not mean that good can never come from committing evil.

            And that is true. But who decides when an evil act should be done that good may come out? And which good and what kind of good?

            If your death is beneficial to me, should I kill you just so I can have the good? Scott M Peck said something completely ridiculous in his biography. He said that if it would have benefitted his patients, he would have slept with them. And he is supposed to be a Christian.

            So suppose I know someone is in a state of grace, and I know also that he is setting off on a journey on which, unbeknownst to him, he will fall into mortal sin and die. I may not kill him, even if it is the only way to prevent that from happening. But if I do kill him in the state of grace, he will go to heaven.

            Sorry, but that is just plain stupid. How do you know that a soul is in a state of grace? Only God can know that. So should we now advocate for murdering people we "think" are in a state of grace just so we can send them to heaven?

            That same predicament presented itself to St Rita of Casia when her two sons decided to avenge the death of their father. Her solution? She prayed that she'd rather God took them than for them to sin. They did in fact die from the plague before they could murder their father's killers.

            The bottom line is we are not the arbiters of morality.
            I am assuming that you are some kind of Theist or even Christian so my reply here takes that in mind. Although whether you are theist or not, your reply has posited a Theistic God.

            If we believe in a God who is everything a theist claims Him to be, then He and He alone is the arbiter of morality and He and He alone has the right to say when a person will live and when he will die. And He does in fact ALLOW evil because He is able to bring about a greater good from it (e.g. think of the death of Jesus Christ). But that is HIM. We are not HIM.

            To appropriate for ourselves a right that belongs to God alone is the height of pride and it is precisely this thinking that landed us in this quagmire in the first place - when our first parents decided that they will be the arbiters of morality.

            I think the predicament that you have laid out is the predicament of one who does not trust in a Good and Loving God. We are only to follow the Lord. All other decisions are up to Him.

          • MarcAlcan

            If I am wrong and "humanity" means intrinsic humanness, which I find hard to see in a one-day old collection of cells, then you are right I have missed the point.

            So you think that if this one day old collection of cells were allowed to continue dividing and subdividing that we well get a dog or cat or some other form of creature at the end of it?

            Also, what difference does one day or several thousands of day make if as you say a collection of cells is precisely that, just a collection of cells. That reduces you to merely a collection of cells as well. So why should you think your existence has anymore meaning just because the collection of cells that is you happened to have been here for several thousand days more?

          • Sage McCarey

            You ignore your own hubris thereby disobeying the Jesus you claim to follow: something about removing the plank from your own eye before speaking about the mote in someone else's! Saying there is a god like the one you kneel to and worship does not make it so. Delusional? Well.....

          • MarcAlcan

            Sorry, Sage but your post does not make one tiny bit of sense.
            Firstly, how does the plank in one's eye even remotely related to what I wrote.
            Secondly, it is delusional to claim that what one says is when one has not even made the case.
            So I think maybe you should try to make an attempt at coherence.

      • Mike A

        2. Abortion is not about what a woman can or cannot do with her body. Obviously in any progressive society a woman should have, and generally has, the choice to do whatever she wants with a tuft of hair or an appendix, and certainly with her own body as long as the act does not harm others. But does she have the right to tamper with or kill a distinct person within her?

        Even if I accepted your argument that a fetus is a person, yes, she should have that right to remove it from her body, even if its death is the unavoidable side effect. On the same note, if it can be removed without killing it, then she has no extra right to make sure it dies.

        Imagine that, one day, you're kidnapped by the goons of a wealthy billionaire. He's dying, and the only way for him to survive is to hook you up to a futuristic machine that uses your body to keep him alive. Once you're hooked into the machine, do you really believe you have a moral responsibility to stay attached, or would you agree that while you don't have the right to take extra lengths to kill the billionaire, you do have the right to break the connection?

        In other words, there's no moral requirement to serve as someone else's life support machine. It's not murder to refuse to continue to do so.

        4) That's empirically false; abortion, like any medical procedure, can harm a patient but does not 'always' do so (unless you're talking about some theoretical, nebulous, supernatural harm that can't be studied and has no real-world effects, I guess).

        5) No medical procedure is always safe. In my town growing up, a young girl died having a routine cavity filling, because of an allergy to the anesthesia. But when you are 100% likely to die without an abortion, the tiny chance that you'll be hurt by it doesn't particularly matter.

        • David Nickol

          Once you're hooked into the machine, do you really believe you have a moral responsibility to stay attached, or would you agree that while you don't have the right to kill the billionaire you do have the right to break the connection?

          This is clearly inspired by Judith Jarvis Thomson's "famous violinist" argument. Peter Singer (the philosopher whom Catholics, and especially pro-lifers, love to hate) does not find the argument convincing. It should be noted that a pregnant woman does not have to carry the baby for the rest of her life, but for a maximum of nine months, so the analogy to the billionaire or the "famous violinist" is not a good one unless you must only remain attached for a matter of months to save his life. So in these hypothetical cases, it is not at all clear that the right thing to do is to give up a few months of freedom to allow another person to live.

          While I suppose I would classify myself as "pro-choice," and while I think there are cases when it is morally acceptable to have an abortion, it is not clear to me that if a woman becomes pregnant and has a good reason not to want a child (or another child), it is morally neutral to have an abortion. Why not carry the baby to term and give it up for adoption?

          • Mike A

            I'm not asking about what the right thing to do is, I'm talking about the rights people should have. Perhaps the right thing to do is to stay hooked up to the life support machine for nine months, or perhaps not, but I hope we can agree a human being should have the *right* to disconnect themselves and walk away.

            I haven't read any Judith Thompson, but I'd be happy to if you think it would illuminate the subject further. Frankly, I find Peter Singer abominable and don't particularly care what he is persuaded by.

            As to your last question, if you really can't think of any answers, I suggest you're either not trying hard enough or not talking to enough women.

          • David Nickol

            I'm not asking about what the right thing to do is, I'm talking about the rights people should have.

            First, it depends on what kind of rights you are talking about—legal rights or moral rights. In a free country such as the United States, we have the legal right to do many things that are not morally right. Since adultery is not illegal in most states, most Americans have a legal right to cheat on their spouses. But a legal right doesn't imply a moral right.

            Also, certainly one factor in deciding whether something should be legal is whether or not it is moral. I don't think anyone would say that no one should have a legal right to do anything that is immoral, but certainly when deciding what are legitimate rights and freedoms, morality is not irrelevant.

            And if abortion is immoral, there is no moral right to procure or perform one. One of the reasons abortion is such a difficult issue is that there is no universal agreement on the moral issues involved, a good argument (in my opinion) for keeping it legal.

            I haven't read any Judith Thompson, but I'd be happy to if you think it would illuminate the subject further.

            Here is the text of her essay A Defense of Abortion in which the "famous violinist" argument can be found. You have stated the essence of the argument, so I don't think reading it will have much impact on your thinking (except maybe to strengthen the opinion you already have).

            As to your last question, if you really can't think of any answers, I suggest you're either not trying hard enough or not talking to enough women.

            I can think of many reasons why a woman would not want to go through with a pregnancy, and I am not saying that I can't think of any reason that might justify an abortion. I lean toward believing an embryo or fetus, at least in the early stages of pregnancy, is not a human person with rights. However, neither is a dog, horse, dolphin, elephant, or baby seal, and I wouldn't say, "You want to kill a dolphin? Go right ahead. There is no reason why you shouldn't." Surely the life of a potential human being deserves some respect and protection. Even strong pro-choic advocates (like Barack Obama) say that they ""can trust women to make decisions in conjunction with their doctors, their families and their clergy." They generally don't say, "If you are pregnant and don't want to be, by all means, go get an abortion. It's a no brainer." I think only pro-abortion extremists would say there are no moral issues at all in getting an abortion. I once knew someone who told me his niece (who lived in an "inner city" situation), still a teenager, had had her fifth abortion "and she didn't care." It seems to me there ought to be some reverence and respect for starting and ending a human life or potential human life, and while I certainly do not accept the Catholic position that abortion is equivalent to murder, I am also not willing to say "anything goes."

            I think pro-choice advocates like Obama are at best fooling themselves if they think all women who opt for abortions take the decision very seriously and consult their family, their doctor, and their priest, minister, or rabbi to make a serious moral decision. I am sure that many do, but I am sure that many don't. What I find fascinating, though, is you will almost never find a pro-life/anti-abortion advocate who will criticize women who procure abortions. While the Catholic Church automatically excommunicates women who have abortions, the very last thing most Catholic "pro-lifers" will tolerate is talk of holding a woman legally responsible for procuring an abortion. This is a huge inconsistency within the Catholic pro-life movement, and I have never had anyone adequately explain to me how the can justify automatic excommunication by the Church while at the same time putting all the blame for a woman choosing an abortion on the abortionist and the "abortion industry."

          • AugustineThomas

            All the laws you talk about developed from Christian tradition. The hard learned lessons of who to execute or imprison and who not to.
            You're painting yourself into a completely irrational corner.
            Should we legalize murder of born humans? Aren't we being a bit too moralistic by telling murderers what they can and can't do?!!?

          • AugustineThomas

            I don't hate Peter Singer, I pray for his soul.
            Leftists love to hate sonograms and other recent technologies because they give us a live recording of the murder and the baby wincing in horror.

        • Long ago it was written: "The simpleton says in his heart 'There is no God'." Plus ça change ...

          • John, you should review the site's commenting guidelines. Calling people "simpletons" rather than engaging the substance of their arguments is strictly against site policy.

          • David Nickol

            Rob Tisinai beat me to it, but I I would also like to comment that all you are really doing is calling Mike A a simpleton. If you has slipped a bit of name calling into a message with any substance to it at all, at least you wouldn't have been engaging in pure name calling, but you haven't engaged anything he said, nor have you said anything relevant to the question of whether the Catholic Church hates women. Whether or not one is an atheist has no direct bearing on whether or not one believes the Catholic Church hates women.

          • AugustineThomas

            So we should just ignore the fact that so many atheists are bitter at theists and that atheists murdered more theists in twenty years than theists did atheists in several millennia?
            Atheists hate women. They're all addicted to pornography and abandon women when they're pregnant and try to force them to murder babies!
            It's a scientific fact that men who regularly attend church treat their wives and their families far better than those who do not (It's called morality, you guys should stop talking for once in your lives and go read some of the greats, like your Shakespeare, who can tell you all about it!)

          • Paul Boillot

            Rob and DN tackled your violation of site policy and lack of content, but I wanted to point out another aspect to your comment.

            In the King James translation, the word "simpleton" is rendered as "fool," ie "the fool hath said."

            Shakespeare rewrote the book on fools. The most celebrated dramatic explicator of the human heart chose to put some of his wisest, most biting, most incitement words in the mouths of his fools, often showing greater intellectual and emotional powers than the nobility and main characters in his plays.

            You're calling me a fool? I take it as a compliment.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakespearean_fool

          • FOOL The reason why the seven stars are no more than seven is a pretty reason.

            KING LEAR Because they are not eight?

            FOOL Yes, indeed: thou wouldst make a good fool.

            (King Lear, Act 1, Scene 5)

          • AugustineThomas

            You realize that Shakespeare was either a devout Anglican, or most probably, a devout Catholic?
            His stories all essentially retell biblical stories from a distinctly catholic Christian perspective. (You can read some real scholars on this!)

        • Jonathan Brumley

          A similar argument would be that mothers/fathers should be allowed to abandon their children without first ensuring the child's safety in the hands of another adult.

          But surely you recognize that willful abandonment is gross negligence and is murder if the abandonment results in the child's death?

          • Michael Murray

            I think the relationship between foetus and mother makes it a unique moral situation and attempts to argue by analogy to some case where two individual people are involved are tricky.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            Apologies for confusion - I was responding to the hypothetical "if I accepted your argument that a fetus is a person". I edited my comment to clarify this.

            The responsibilities of a parent diminish as children become more independent. I can let my 7-year-old to play by herself in the front yard, but I can't let my 2-year-old play in the front yard without supervision.

            Being pregnant is unique compared with parenting a newborn, but it should be acknowledged that part of the difference is that the fetus is _more_ vulnerable and _less independent_ than a newborn. It is this increase in vulnerability and dependence that demands an increase in responsibility.

          • AugustineThomas

            Thanks to your seven relatives for upvoting every comment you left! :)

          • Michael Murray

            Snark. Not very good snark but still snark.

          • AugustineThomas

            But the relationship between a man on life support and technology doesn't complicate anything?

            Why should the unborn be murdered because they're incapable of life on their own, but people on life support shouldn't be?

          • Michael Murray

            Lots of things complicate moral situations. I made no claim to the relationship between mother and foetus being the only complicated situation just that there are no others exactly like it. Unique.

          • Mike A

            If you believe this, then to be consistent you should allow mothers/fathers to abandon their children without first ensuring the child's safety in the hands of another adult.

            I don't see how that follows, at all, from what I wrote.
            I believe everyone has the right to bodily integrity; that doesn't imply I believe parents have the right to leave their children on the side of the road.
            'Convenience' is totally irrelevant.

          • fredx2

            If you believe that everyone has a right to bodily integrity, then you believe that about the fetus, too.
            And that is the point. You want to completely ignore that the fetus has any value as a human being whatsoever, That position seems to be an extreme one, I would think.

          • Mike A

            The fetus has the right to control it's own body, not somebody elses. Just like I can't force you to stay hooked up to my hypothetical life support machine, neither can a fetus.

        • fredx2

          The billionaire analogy fails in a number of respects.
          1) In the story, the abducted person has not done anything at all. In reality, women choose to have sex. They know that the natural consequence of sex is having a baby. They know that all forms of birth control have failure rates, and so she risks creating a new life every time she has sex. All her life she has thought about these things. So yes, if she has sex and gets pregnant, she has responsiblities to that nascent life. .
          2) Perhaps a better analogy is that the person has decided to join the billionaire's gang, and knows that the billionaire has the machine and is going to use it on someone. the person goes out to abduct someone with the gang, but the rest of the gang members decide to grab the person instead. Now, he has responsibility because he joined a gang, knew the consequences etc.

          • David Nickol

            So yes, if she has sex and gets pregnant, she has responsiblities to that nascent life. .

            Yet Joanna Wahlund, repeating the standard response of Catholic pro-lifers to questions about a woman's responsibility for procuring an abortion, says, "[A] woman is a second victim [of abortion], and in most cases should not be prosecuted."

            If the Catholic Church has come to the realization that women who have abortions are victims, isn't it time the penalty of automatic excommunication for a woman who procures an abortion be abolished? Only a handful of offenses incur the penalty of latae sententiae excommunication. A woman who kills all of her "post-born" children is not automatically excommunicated. Why should a woman who procures an abortion—and is its "second victim"—be excommunicated?

            I don't see how pro-lifers can have it both ways. I do not automatically reject the argument that woman shouldn't be prosecuted for procuring an abortion. Canonical and legal penalties are two different things. No one ever said they should be the same. But I cannot understand how Catholics can, in essence, argue that a woman who procures an abortion has no moral responsibility for what she has done. If she is indeed a victim, her moral culpability is diminished or nil. So why is she excommunicated? It is literally "punishing the victim."

          • Jonathan Brumley

            It's not true that the Church teaches that mothers have no moral responsibility for procuring an abortion, and I don't think this is what Joanna means by saying prosecution shouldn't happen "in most cases". What is true is that moral responsibility is lessened in circumstances of desperation, or in circumstances when others (the father, boyfriend, etc.) have demanded, convinced, or coerced the mother to procure an abortion. Such circumstances make the act less intentional and reduce culpability of the act. Reasons for abortion have been studied, and it's true that in a majority of cases, a woman feels "forced" into an abortion by her circumstances, or by the coercive influence of other people (father, boyfriend, husband). One study says that women felt "forced" by others 53% of the time.

            But the act of procuring an abortion is grave matter regardless of intention. And in the case of a Catholic who has been taught from an early age the gravity of the act of abortion, and yet intentionally commits the act of procuring an abortion... the full knowledge of abortion as a sin would be very likely to elevate the act to a mortal sin and therefore incur the penalty of latae sententiae excommunication. (It is my understanding that all mortal sins incur excommunication, by the way - excommunication means a person cannot receive the sacraments until reconciling with the Church). On the other hand, a Catholic, who through invincible ignorance does not know abortion is a grave act, would not automatically incur latae sententiae excommunication. Such a mother, if she later learned the gravity of the act, would need to reconcile with the Church before receiving communion again. And it's possible that a priest may explicitly excommunicate the woman, as a matter of discipline, if she is unrepentant of the grave act which she formerly committed.

            I suspect Joanna's point is that comparing the moral responsibility of the abortionist and the mother who procures the abortion, there is a very good argument that the abortionist has more responsibility for an abortion than the woman herself. Whereas a mother may act out of desperation, an abortionist does not act out of desperation; rather, he acts out of a habit intentionally acquired.

          • David Nickol

            It's not true that the Church teaches that mothers have no moral responsibility for procuring an abortion . . . .

            And I didn't say the Church teaches that mothers have no moral responsibility for procuring an abortion. The position of the Church is crystal clear. A woman who procures an abortion is automatically excommunicated. Very few offenses incur automatic excommunication. Serial killing or mass murder doesn't. I said Catholic pro-lifers argue that women are not morally responsible for procuring abortions when they argue that the pregnant woman is the "second victim" of abortion.

            What is true is that moral responsibility is lessened in circumstances
            of desperation, or in circumstances when others (the father, boyfriend,
            etc.) have demanded, convinced, or coerced the mother to procure an
            abortion.

            This is true of embezzlement, armed robbery, and first or second degree murder.

            Reasons for abortion have been studied, and it's true that in a
            majority of cases, a woman feels "forced" into an abortion by her
            circumstances, or by the coercive influence of other people (father,
            boyfriend, husband). One study says that women felt "forced" by others
            53% of the time.

            Cite your sources, please. See Table 2 on page 113 for what I consider a reliable source for the reasons women have abortions.

            It is my understanding that all mortal sins incur excommunication, by
            the way - excommunication means a person cannot receive the sacraments
            until reconciling with the Church.

            This is incorrect.

            . . . .there is a very good argument that the abortionist has more responsibility for an abortion than the woman herself

            So? Does that make the woman who procures an abortion not responsible? Please note that I asked if the woman who procures an abortion should be held responsible in any way. I did not ask if she should be held as responsible as the abortionist. I said:

            If not charged with murder, could she be charged as an accomplice? Or
            if abortion laws are not homicide laws, could a woman who has an
            abortion be charged with some kind of offense and sentenced to community
            service? Or could a woman convicted of having an abortion be required
            to go through some kind of educational program? Could she be fined $100
            and told that if she has another abortion, she will be fined $1000, and
            $10,000 for a third offense?

            I have been discussing this for years, and I have found only one or two "pro-life" Catholics who would find acceptable any legal penalty—even a $10 fine—for a woman who procured an abortion.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            Regarding my statement that all mortal sins incur excommunication, you said:

            This is incorrect.

            Well, you didn't show how I was incorrect, but I looked into this some more and now see that I have conflated the informal inability to receive communion and the formal penalty of excommunication. When a person commits a grave sin, he does bar himself from communion and the sacraments. It is only when a person obstinately persists in sin (or heresy, or schism), that the Church will formally excommunicate. Latae sententiae excommunication is used for abortion, because abortion is both very grave and because many Catholics (along with Western culture at large) are in obstinate denial of Church teaching on this issue.

            That being said, latae sententiae excommunication does not apply in all instances of abortion. Canon 1323 states that excommunication does not occur in the following situations: those who are not yet 16, those who are unaware of a law, those who do not advert to it or are in error about its scope, those who were forced or had an unforeseeable accident, those who acted out of grave fear, or who lacked the use of reason (except culpably, as by drunkenness).

            So the applicability of latae sententiae excommunication is similar to the conditions under which a grave sin is also a mortal sin. And the main reason the Church has applied this condition to abortion specifically is because of strong, obstinate, publicly visible, and thus scandalous internal opposition to the Church's teaching on this issue. The Church doesn't need to apply such a condition to something like murder, because there is practically no internal opposition to the Church's teaching on this issue. And she doesn't need to apply this penalty to an act like contraception which, although there is strong internal opposition, the act itself is far less grave than the act of abortion.

            You said:

            And I didn't say the Church teaches that mothers have no moral responsibility for procuring an abortion.

            I re-read your post and realize I misread this sentence:

            But I cannot understand how Catholics can, in essence, argue that a woman who procures an abortion has no moral responsibility for what she has done.

            I apologize for misreading this. I see you were distinguishing between what the Church teaches about the gravity of abortion and what individual Catholics say about women being victims of abortion and not deserving prosecution.

            I don't like the idea of prosecution of women for abortion, because I believe that many, if not most women who procure abortions, are acting out of desperate situations. I am thinking of the teenager whose father threatens to kick her out, the woman whose boyfriend has left her, the husband who asserts that there's no way they can afford a child. In addition to desperate conditions, many women, who would otherwise have a strong emotional resistance to killing their unborn child, are convinced by persuasive friends, or by the legality of abortion, that there's nothing wrong with abortion. "It's just a blob of cells", or "it's not a person".

            But even though I don't like the idea, you make a good point that in cases like murder, prosecution will happen regardless of the chance of culpability. There is no presumption of mental illness or self defense or any other extenuating circumstance, because murder is agreed to be a gravely immoral act.

            So, I think you are right that, from the Catholic point of view, (in the hypothetical situation that abortion were illegal), a woman found to intentionally abort her child, in violation of the law, should indeed be "prosecuted" - at least in some sense. I say in some sense, because what society does in response to an act of abortion should be the response that best achieves the goal of the law, the goal being to end abortion. What the best response would be, I don't know.

            Finally, in your request for a citation, you referred to the Guttmacher Institute in your own citation of what you would consider to be a "reliable" source. Given where you stand on that, then I don't see anything fruitful coming out of a discussion of sources, statistics and studies. I know as well as you that there are researchers on both sides of this issue, who are paid by their supporters to fine-tune their studies and questions to make the points they want to make. Guttmacher Institute was founded literally under the roof of Planned Parenthood's corporate offices, so if you consider their bias to be neutral, then I think you have been greatly misled. Likewise, studies I refer to have the same problem because of the connection to pro-life groups. If we can agree upon a truly neutral researcher and jointly fund them to do an unbiased study of this stuff, then we can have a great discussion of statistics. This is a sore point for me, so I apologize for bringing up statistics in the first place.

          • Michael Murray

            Excommunication is also used for essentially political purposes against priests who depart too far from the party line.

            http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/church-dumps-rebel-priest-20130920-2u5jp.html

            However less often it seems against priests who abuse children where the preferred "punishment" until recently was a quite move to another hunting ground, I mean parish.

          • Mike A

            Yeah, I find it really hilarious that the church considers support for ordaining women worse than raping children.

            I find it even more hilarious, in a kind of tragic way, that people still consider the Church a moral authority on anything.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            I guess you could consider it political (public scandal often demands a public response), but the article you mention seems to imply that the excommunicated priest was obstinately opposed to Church teaching. Excommunication in this case would be appropriate, but who knows if that was the real reason.

          • Michael Murray

            excommunicated priest was obstinately opposed to Church teaching

            Yes that was what I meant by "depart too far from the party line". Being an atheist of course I see the Church as predominantly a political organisation.

          • AugustineThomas

            That's funny, because I see your atheism as primarily a fundamentalist sect, not so much a religion, because religion brings good things.

          • Michael Murray

            I thought Jesus bought a sword but now you are saying its a basket of goodies ?

          • Susan

            the goal being to end abortion. What the best response would be, I don't know.

            Education and contraception seem to be very effective.

          • Mike A

            Yeah, the Catholic church can't value the lives of 'unborn children' all that highly, since it isn't willing to contemplate doing any of the things that actually reduce the numbers of abortions (like promoting contraceptive use).

            Look, even if you believe using condoms is wrong because it's damaging to marriages and so on, if you believe that abortion is actually murdering babies, then it's pretty clear which evil is greater. If you have a shred of intellectual integrity, you'd be willing to trade the greater ill for the lesser.

          • Andrew G.

            My understanding of Catholic ethics is that they explicitly reject the idea of doing a "lesser" evil to prevent a greater one (or to do a greater good).

            So it doesn't really advance the debate to point out that they're not doing something when to do it would be against their principles - the problem is that the principles are wrong.

          • Michael Murray

            So what do they do when they have to make a choice between two evils ? Or is the assumption that that can never happen.

          • Michael Murray

            Hhm. A quick glance around the internet says that a Catholic can never choose evil but can sometimes choose a good that has a secondary evil consequence (double effect) if the evil consequence is not intended. So the classic train switch scenarios say you can switch the train to kill less people because your intention is to save lives and you are not intending to kill the smaller group of people.

          • Mike A

            Ok, then- by that logic the church should support condom usage unless it believes sex with a condom is as evil as murdering an infant (their words, not mine), since higher condom use correlates with decreased abortion rates.

          • Andrew G.

            No, because they regard condom use as an evil, and intentionally doing one evil to avoid another doesn't qualify for the double effect rule.

          • Mike A

            And in that case we're back at square one. Any moral system which says you can't murder one innocent person to save ten innocent people- when you have no other options- is a moral system that places a higher priority on abstract ideals than on human welfare, and in my book, that's a pretty solid definition of evil (insofar as I'm borrowing a theistic word to describe a nontheistic belief).

          • Andrew G.
          • Michael Murray

            I think Andrew G is right the Church would say just don't have sex. I think the double effect works with things like you are about to crash your aeroplane into a busy city centre so instead you steer it to a less populated area and kill less people. I think the Church interpretation is you intentionally steered your plane away from the busy city centre (good) and unintentionally hit a less populated area (evil).

          • Mike A

            I realize that the Church would ideally prefer that, but my point is that in the real world, saying "don't have sex" isn't as effective at lowering abortion rates as promoting condom usage, and so there's a very real choice between the two.

          • Michael Murray

            Yep. Just like abstinence doesn't work that effectively as a stand-alone public health solution to the spread of HIV/AIDS. Even though for an individual it's optimal.

          • Mike A

            I see- I misunderstood that theological point. In that case, I would argue the Catholic system of ethics is evil- if they truly believe all harms are equal, they're arguing that pinching someone's arm is as bad as knifing them in the back. While I realize that this may sound hyperbolic, if you reject this statements, then you implicitly agree that there are different levels of harm, in which case you can't escape the original problem.

          • Andrew G.

            It's not that they believe all harms are equal, it's that they don't approve of intentional evils. You can't (they say) intentionally inflict a lesser harm to prevent a greater evil; but you can intentionally prevent a greater evil, inflicting a lesser harm in the process, provided that you didn't intend the lesser harm.

            This works for enough real-world cases that it doesn't look like a serious problem, but it breaks around the edges a lot: especially on reproductive healthcare, but also end-of-life care and a number of other issues.

          • MarcAlcan

            Education and contraception seem to be very effective.
            That is a big lie. The majority of those who commit abortion use contraception.

            In these modern times where contraception use is just massive, abortion is also massive.

            The one who contracepts will also abort because the mindset is already towards death. It all begins in the heart.

            So no, contraception has in fact caused an increase in abortion.

          • Michael Murray
          • MarcAlcan

            See, this is precisely the kind of irrational posts that I find infuriating.
            Firstly, how does that even address my point that instead of lowering abortion, contraception is in fact fuelling it?
            Secondly, what does it matter if even 99% of Catholics disagree with Church teaching on contraception? The truth was never a matter of the vote.
            Also, instead of just giving a link making me guess what the point of your argument is, maybe you could exercise the fingers a bit and give maybe even one sentence as to why the link is even relevant.

          • Susan

            That is a big lie. The majority of those who commit abortion use contraception.

            I'm interested in the statistics behind that statement and links to the studies.

          • MarcAlcan

            I'm interested in the statistics behind that statement and links to the studies.

            MYTH: Women are using abortion as a method of birth control.

            In fact, half of all women getting abortions report that contraception was used during the month they became pregnant.1 Some of these couples had used the method improperly; some had forgotten or neglected to use it on the particular occasion they conceived; and some had used a contraceptive that failed. No contraceptive method prevents pregnancy 100% of the time.

            http://www.prochoice.org/about_abortion/facts/women_who.html
            And yes that came from a pro-death website.
            Seriously, you would think its common sense.

          • Susan

            Seriously, you would think its common sense.

            "Common sense" is my favourite oxymoron.

            I read the study. It's interesting and worth reading. It's one study.

            Here is its opening statement:

            Each year, almost half of all pregnancies among American women are unintended. About half of these unplanned pregnancies, 1.3 million each year, are ended by abortion

            By "most" then, do you mean "about half"?

            How does this demonstrate that a combination of education and access to reproduction aren't effective in reducing abortion rates?

          • Michael Murray

            Hi Susan

            FYI

            http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/3429402.html

            RESULTS: Forty-six percent of women had not used a contraceptive method in the month they conceived, mainly because of perceived low risk of pregnancy and concerns about contraception (cited by 33% and 32% of nonusers, respectively). The male condom was the most commonly reported method among all women (28%), followed by the pill (14%). Inconsistent method use was the main cause of pregnancy for 49% of condom users and 76% of pill users; 42% of condom users cited condom breakage or slippage as a reason for pregnancy. Substantial proportions of pill and condom users indicated perfect method use (13-14%). As many as 51,000 abortions were averted by use of emergency contraceptive pills in 2000.

            So only 13-14% indicated perfect method use. Looks like lots of room for improvement by further contraceptive use and improved contraceptive use.

          • Susan

            Hi Susan

            FYI

            http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs...

            Hi MIchael,

            Thank you for more information.

            So only 13-14% indicated perfect method use. Looks like lots of room for improvement by further contraceptive use and improved contraceptive use.

            Yes. That's why I made the point about education and access to contraception. Seems like common sense to me if you want to reduce abortion rates.

          • MarcAlcan

            Isn't that rather self-evident? Just look at how much contraception is sold today and look at the abortion rates.
            Considering the massive use of contraception, we should hardly see abortion. But still we do. And that is because evil is born in the heart. If you don't want a baby, that's it. You don't want a baby. So by whichever means you can avoid a child, you will and even resorting to murder. A contraceptive mentality is an abortive mentality because the whole point of contraception is to not have a baby.
            As someone quipped, the add for the pill should be : if symptoms persist see your doctor.

          • MichaelNewsham

            Does a hitman have more moral responsibility than the person that orders the murder?

          • Mike A

            Less, I'd argue. But it's a close thing, and I could see being persuaded in either of the three directions.

          • Susan

            Whereas a mother may act out of desperation, an abortionist does not act out of desperation; rather, he acts out of a habit intentionally acquired.

            (or she) What does that mean?

          • Jonathan Brumley

            The act of a practicing abortionist is not an act of desperation because it is intentional, premeditated, and routine. Therefore, based on intention, the abortionist has more culpability than a woman who feels forced into an abortion. (for instance, a teenager whose parents tell her she must have an abortion or get kicked out of the house)

          • Mike A

            So it's less wrong to do something to avoid damage to yourself, than it is to do something to help someone else avoid damage.

            That's an awfully selfish moral system.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            I can see how you'd think that from your point of view, because you value lessening the woman's burden of pregnancy greater than you value the life of her unborn child.

          • Mike A

            Please don't tell me what I think. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt this one time and assume you aren't purposefully misrepresenting my views for the purpose of scoring rhetorical points in the most condescending way possible.

            Furthermore, your response is a non-sequitor. If I was to accept all your premises, you'd still be arguing it's worse to do something immoral to help a desperate person than it is to do something immoral to help yourself.

            So, to review; don't put words in my mouth, and try to pay attention to the argument at hand.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            If you prioritize these two goods differently, then please correct my statement for the record.

            I'm not saying you think this, but pro-choice folks in general seem to think that pro-life people value the child's life over the life of the mother. But I don't think this is true. Pro-life Catholics (at least) should value these lives as equal (principle of equal dignity), and individual circumstances would need to be considered.

            For instance, consider how Catholic physicians would handle an ectopic pregnancy. In such a pregnancy, the life of the child and the life of the mother are in danger. Leaving the fetus in its current location would likely kill both persons. There are three moral options. One option is to remove the fetus from the fallopian tube. The fetus will almost certainly die, but the mother's life will almost certainly be saved. (There may be a theoretical possibility that the fetus could reattach to the uterus, or that the fetus could live outside the womb - at 22 weeks, this second is a very real possibility). Another option is to wait until the fetus is old enough to have a greater chance to survive, and only then remove the fetus from the fallopian tube. A third option is to try to move the baby to the uterus.

            Random internet comment:

            actually my friend found out she was having an ectopic they gave her some medication then the baby fell into the uterus, but she chose to have an abortion anyways [because of disabilities]

            In the first of these options, it looks like an abortion, and the outcome is in all probability the same, but it's not an abortion if every effort is made to save the life of the fetus. In the second option, there is a higher chance the child will live, but there is also a higher chance that the mother will die of a burst fallopian tube. The third option might be an improvement on the first option in some situations; I don't know how often the fetus would be able to re-implant, or how many physicians would consider this feasible.

            Among these options, I do not believe that a Catholic physician would decide this for the mother. All options would be and should be presented as moral. If the mother wanted to increase the chance of saving the child's life, she could prefer the third option, or the second option, at some risk to herself. Or she could choose the first option, which would be more risk to the baby (maybe a certain risk), but it would increase the chance of her survival. The important thing is that in all three cases, the physician and mother are trying to save both lives. Even if the mother chooses the first option (removal), the physician would make every effort to give the fetus a chance of survival.

            Compare this to an abortion, where the abortionist always intends the death of the child. We see this very explicitly in the Gosnell trials, where he was convicted of intentionally killing 3 newborns who were accidentally born alive during his abortion procedures.

          • Mike A

            If you prioritize these two goods differently, then please correct my statement for the record.

            I believe your entire framing of the question is inaccurate. First, there's no 'child' at stake; even if we accept your premise that a fetus is a human life deserving of protection, it's biologically not a child, and you should stop using incorrect terminology.

            Second, I don't believe the relevant moral issue is balancing the life of the mother against the life of the fetus. I believe the relevant moral issue is the right to bodily integrity. Similarly, when I'm trying to decide if it's moral for someone to mug me, the question at stake isn't balancing my need for money against theirs, it's my right to physical safety.

            Third, I don't believe a mother has the right to kill a fetus inside her; I believe she has the right to remove it from her body, and death may or may not be an unavoidable side effect.

            Fourth, Gosnell is entirely irrelevant to this issue. "This one abortion doctor committed medical malpractice" is not an argument against abortion any more than "Ceausescu banned contraception and abortion" is an argument for those things.

            Fifth, there's no such thing as an 'abortionist.' Stop making up words.

          • Susan

            The act of a practicing abortionist is not an act of desperation because it is intentional, premeditated, and routine

            Fair enough. It is intentional (they have made a choice based on all the options), it is premeditated (of course) and it is routine (they are medical professionals. What they do in a medical capacity is mostly routine.)

            That is so much better than "habit intentionally acquired." Much clearer.

            So, Henry Morgentaler made an intentional, premeditated choice to carry out what he considered his moral obligation as a doctor. As so many have at great cost to their reputations and to their lives.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Morgentaler

            I realize you were addressing the culpability issue but the "habit intentionally acquired" makes it sound like a porn addiction instead of a painstakingly arrived at moral decision to which they committed themselves, in very difficult circumstances. .

            Which in Morgentaler's case, it certainly was.

          • David Nickol

            Of course, if procuring an abortion is an act of desperation, then an abortionist is a person who helps desperate women. I realize that on the local level, there are many pro-lifers who try to lend emotional and material support to women with unintended pregnancies. But there are still over a million abortions a year. That is a lot of desperate women who, pro-lifers claim, are in such difficult situations that if they procure abortions, they are victims. So what does the pro-life movement want to do? Make it as difficult as they can, and hopefully impossible, for women to procure abortions. Then what do the million-plus desperate women do? Pro-lifers are overwhelmingly politically conservatives who are opposed to government programs to help women with unwanted pregnancies. I always quote the Declaration on Procured Abortion, which says, in part:

            23. On the contrary, it is the task of law to pursue a reform of society and of conditions of life in all milieux, starting with the most deprived, so that always and everywhere it may be possible to give every child coming into this world a welcome worthy of a person. Help for families and for unmarried mothers, assured grants for children, a statute for illegitimate children and reasonable arrangements for adoption - a whole positive policy must be put into force so that there will always be a concrete, honorable and possible alternative to abortion.

            Is this what Catholic pro-life politicians promise? If pro-lifers of either political party were to honestly try to enact "a whole positive policy" that would guarantee there would "always be a concrete, honorable and possible alternative to abortion," I would find some significant restrictions on abortion thinkable. But even Catholic pro-life politicians (overwhelmingly Republican) do not think "it is the task of law to pursue a reform of society and of conditions of life in all milieux, starting with the most deprived." Try to imagine a pro-life Republican trying to get the party's nomination to run for president by campaigning for "a reform of society and of conditions of life in all milieux, starting with the most deprived."

            It would make sense to me to work on making sure that women did not become pregnant in the first place unless they wanted a baby, but the Catholic Church opposes contraception. It would make sense to do what the Catholic Church says in the Declaration on Procured Abortion to try to guarantee that women who do have unplanned pregnancies always have a way to carry the baby to term. Once significant success was achieved on that front, then would come the time to start thinking of restrictions on abortion. But no, pro-lifers who maintain that women who seek abortions are desperate and seek abortions because they don't know where else to turn want to make sure they don't even have abortionists to turn to. Or is there a Catholic plan to help these million-plus desperate women deal with their situations without abortions?

          • Michael Murray

            What about all the women who aren't being forced into an abortion ? We seem to be assuming there aren't any of these ?

          • Susan

            What about all the women who aren't being forced into an abortion ? We seem to be assuming there aren't any of these ?

            Better to focus on the women as victims scenario. Women and babies are victims and doctors and politicians (and anti-life types) are culprits.

            You can't have a culprit without victims.

          • Mike A

            Women chose to have sex? Not always, and your church excommunicates people who save the lives of nine-year-old rape victims by giving them abortions.

          • Geena Safire

            Consent to driving a car is not consent to getting hit by another car, even though that is a known risk. Consent to walking down the street at night is not consent to getting raped, even though it is a known risk. Consent to eating at a restaurant is not consent to food poisoning, even though that is a known risk. Consent to an action is not consent to accept the consequences of a potential risk, even if known.

      • Amber Goldsmith

        "2. Abortion is not about what a woman can or cannot do with her body. Obviously in any progressive society a woman should have, and generally has, the choice to do whatever she wants with a tuft of hair or an appendix, and certainly with her own body as long as the act does not harm others. But does she have the right to tamper with or kill a distinct person within her?"

        Why, then, do most doctors and physicians refuse to perform a tubal ligation or remove the uterus of a young woman who does not want to have children? That, in itself, it based on the sexist, misogynistic, and patronizing view that the woman might "change her mind" (even though most don't).

        From the Slate article on the issue: Often, these women complained of being referred from physician to physician, only to receive a version of, “You’ll change your mind” or, “You’ll regret this later in life.” While some were ultimately successful in their tube-tying quest, others simply gave up, settling for a partner’s vasectomy or contraception. All expressed anger at the resistance they encountered in getting what they assumed to be an uncontroversial and wholly elective—even socially responsible—procedure.

        The Church does not condone contraception, and many doctors and physicians often refuse to sterilize a woman (even if the woman requests it and wants it) until "after she has had children". That, to me, is horribly sexist to begin with.

        Performing a tubal ligation, or removing the uterus, would take away the need for contraception (and prevent abortion) completely.

    • Cui Pertinebit

      Have you ever tried to apply critical thinking to your own opinions? Have you ever stopped to think, "Since there's not a chapter and verse where Jesus says 'don't promote pedophilia,' but I nevertheless think He would approve of such a commandment, perhaps it would be irrational to demand a similar chapter and verse for other, equally clear elements of the Church's moral and practical tradition before entertaining the notion that they may be valid even without such an endorsement?" Or, "Since the Gospels, and especially that of Luke, often record a prominent position for women (even to the point of shaming men), and since Jesus Christ set Himself in opposition to all kinds of social injustices without much concern for contemporary custom, perhaps the fact that He chose only men to serve as Apostles amongst both the 12 and the 70, is a sign that Christian doctrine on the priesthood is rooted in something natural and just, rather than being an injustice which Jesus somehow omitted to address?" Or, "Why might it not be rational to compare a difference in skin color to a difference in gender?" Or, perhaps, "Is it possible that Church teaching on abortion involves a network of moral concerns, and that I therefore appear to be nearly incapable of thinking more than one thought at a time, whenever I exasperatedly assert that any opposition to abortion must be tantamount to misogyny or to denying 'choice' to women - as though 'choice' were a moral imperative without any consideration of what the 'choice' involves, or as though women were simply so precious that imagining them to be subject to Right and Wrong like other mortals was a grievous hate crime?" Or maybe, "Perhaps the attempt to reduce supernatural offices rooted in natural realities to a mere arena for exercising political and social power, is a bunch of Marxist claptrap that only a person wholly rooted in worldliness, and wholly alienated from piety, could embrace?"

      I try to always expose my own beliefs to critical thought, and to be the first and best accuser of my own thoughts. By sticking to rational thought that develops logically from first principles, I avoid giving others the impression that I have an emotional, infantile allegiance to identity politics - which deaden the mind and blacken the soul. I find that it helps one to avoid sounding like an unthinking automaton driven purely by the tingly sensations of progressive outrage that have been carefully cultivated by our clever handlers; so, naturally, when I read your post, it seemed to me like this idea might be able to make a great contribution to your own future relationship with reality, should you choose to have one.

      You know, you are allowed to think thoughts and to question those thoughts, and to discover principles and advance to conclusions while thinking those thoughts. There's no need to just feel like all the feelings you feel are so full of feeling that you can't help but feel that other people are really unfeeling for not being able to feel with so much feeling all the feelings that you have so feelingly felt that others should feel with so much feeling. Unless, of course, you are dependent upon regular doses of meagerly administered and very conditional affection, from a frigid, college-aged, feminist girlfriend. In that case, a "man's" gotta do what a "man's" gotta do! May your feminist apologies gain you all the thinly-veiled resentment and tepid romance you could possibly desire - up to and including a short and loveless marriage, that ends in a *bitter* divorce! But that's okay, because we all know that any choice a woman makes about *her* life (I mean, there couldn't possibly be anyone else affected by her behaviour, right?) is immune from criticism - including the choice to leave you with the consolation prize of your commitment to feminism, while she absconds with the heavy burden of your family and half your income in perpetuity (that is to say, those members of your family whose tiny, helpless, lacerated corpses she hasn't left in some random garbage can because PATRIARCHY just keeps on trying to keep her down).

      If only women ran the world, right? We could ditch all these power-hungry priests trying to tell people to honor their commitments and accept the consequences of their actions, and instead get down to the things that really promote womens' well-being - like the perpetual drudgery of a meaningless career in some service industry or another, offset by the exhiliration of unbridled promiscuity, the edgy thrills of rampant infanticide and the emotional roller-coaster of high-powered hormone cocktails that only *sometimes* cause sterility and cancer! Move over, men! The women have arrived!

      • Wow. This is the longest ad hominem straw man personal attack I've seen on Strange Notions in a long time -- including a wish that a fellow commenter have a short and miserable marriage! Slow, slow clap.

      • Michael Murray

        like the perpetual drudgery of a meaningless career in some service industry

        As distinct from the perpetual drudgery of being barefoot and pregnant in some slum.

        • Actually, Michael, I wonder if he realizes that the bit you quoted can best be interpreted as an attack on traditional male gender roles (as they consign men to the perpetual drudgery of a meaningless career in some service industry).

      • Susan

        Have you ever tried to apply critical thinking to your own opinions?

        Yes.

        Have you ever stopped to think, "Since there's not a chapter and verse where Jesus says 'don't promote pedophilia,' but I nevertheless think He would approve of such a commandment

        No. We only have stories about what this Jesus said. He didn't seem to think it was important to talk about pedophilia specifically in a time where it would have been important to bring it up.

        On what basis do you think he would approve of that? He took the time to curse fig trees and send herds of innocent swine over a cliff onto the rocks and into the waters below but never mentioned once that kids aren't for sex. It would have been a simple enough point to make. "Kids aren't for sex You will MESS them up."

        "Since the Gospels, and especially that of Luke, often record a prominent position for women (even to the point of shaming men),

        Please give us the quote. I'm not sure what use it is to shame men in order to give equality (not prominence) to women. Simple. Women are smart and useful and equally able to contribute. I don't want prominence or male shame. Too murky.

        and since Jesus Christ set Himself in opposition to all kinds of social injustices

        And to all kinds of social justice. See the parable of the vineyard, for instance. Define "social justice". Forgive me if I look at the stories about what this Jesus character said and find them inconsistent.

        Pretend for a minute that you haven't assumed these words are profound chatter from an incarnate deity. They're not so impressive. Also, where did these stories come from? Very important. Who wrote them?

        he fact that He chose only men to serve as Apostles amongst both the 12 and the 70, is a sign that Christian doctrine on the priesthood is rooted in something natural and just,

        The story says his apostles were men. No evidence that he was an incarnate deity. Just stories. How do stories about the choices of a guy translate into terms like "natural" and "just"? Two very distinct terms, neither of which you've defined or supported. Not to mention he also seemed inordinately fond of illiterate Jewish fishermen who lived a few thousand years ago.

        Why the fixation on dangly bits?

        I haven't even made it halfway through your unindented three paragraph first paragraph. (Understand that I'm not a perfect indenter myself so I'm not wagging my finger so much at that as at the content of your post. )

        Whatever you're trying to imply by the first round of questions is not clear.

        Are you suggesting that the stories about this guy are real stories about an actual incarnate deity who chose men as his spokespersons on Earth and we can count on their dangly bits as evidence that they can speak on behalf of the deity who revealed itself to the Jewish people up to the point where they didn't recognize their own deity's representative on Earth?

        Sorry. I'm already confused.

      • Mike A

        This comment made me laugh out loud at three separate points. Can you guess which ones?

      • Paul Boillot

        Unless, of course, you are dependent upon regular doses of meagerly administered and very conditional affection, from a frigid, college-aged, feminist girlfriend. In that case, a "man's" gotta do what a "man's" gotta do! May your feminist apologies gain you all the thinly-veiled resentment and tepid romance you could possibly desire - up to and including a short and loveless marriage, that ends in a *bitter* divorce!

        I'll have you know, sir or madam, that my frigid, feminist girlfriend only does out my dolop of affection on Thursdays...although she's not college-aged, anymore anyways, and that part confused me.

        What do you have against co-eds?

      • Mike A

        I'm starting to appreciate how different the standards are for atheists and Catholics on this site.

        • Susan

          I'm starting to appreciate how different the standards are for atheists and Catholics on this site.

          Yes. I'm grateful for the personal standards of many of the catholics here and of David Nichol (I can't tell if he's catholic or not, but he is well educated about the catholic church, about science and thinks carefully and addresses things as they come).

          "Snark" is a vague term and it doesn't seem to be applied very evenly.

          This is why I would prefer clear rules of argument and that we are all held to those.

          Easy for me to say. It's not my site. :-)

          • Michael Murray

            "Snark" is a vague term and it doesn't seem to be applied very evenly.

            I think Lewis Carroll explained it:

            "'But oh, beamish nephew, beware of the day,
            If your Snark be a Boojum! For then
            You will softly and suddenly vanish away,
            And never be met with again!'

            I guess Eepeist's snark was a boojum.

      • MichaelNewsham

        While the catholic Church may not be misogynist, it appears some posters are.

    • The Church doesn't adhere to sola scriptura, so asking for a proof text from the Bible is rather nonsensical.

      Re: abortion, please visit http://secularprolife.org. I'm sure the women at the forefront of that organization would be happy to respond to your claims that abortion is misogynistic. (BTW, as a baby's body is entirely distinct from that of his/her mother's, a woman is actually participating in the death of a different body in an abortion.)

      • David Nickol

        (BTW, as a baby's body is entirely distinct from that of his/her mother's, a woman is actually participating in the death of a different body in an abortion.)

        If abortion is made illegal, should women who procure abortions be held legally responsible for "participating in the death" of an innocent human being?

        • Let me answer with another question. Were women regularly prosecuted for obtaining abortions in any state where abortion was illegal prior to Roe v Wade?

          • Geena Safire

            David: If abortion is made illegal, should women who procure abortions be held legally responsible for "participating in the death" of an innocent human being?

            JoAnna: Let me answer with another question.

            Of course JoAnna would prefer to answer another question.

            This is because the Catholic Church is fully intending, if it gets abortion to be illegal, to push for murder convictions of women who have abortions.

            As a very clear example, women are today prosecuted in El Salvador, based on legislation that the Catholic Church heavily promoted.

            Every woman who experiences a miscarriage has her uterus forensically examined to determine whether or not she had an abortion. Just based on the examination -- although in most cases there is no evidence one way or the other -- the woman can be prosecuted and face up to 10 years in jail.

          • Actually, Geena, I am opposed to the legislation in El Salvador that you mention. Can you back up your statements -- that the Church supports prosecuting women who procure abortions -- with evidence?

            Also, see here: http://www.aul.org/2010/04/why-the-states-did-not-prosecute-women-for-abortion-before-roe-v-wade/

            and here: http://www.l4l.org/library/fetalrts.html

          • Geena Safire

            "According to the [human rights] analysis, the Roman Catholic Church and right-wing Catholic groups in countries like El Salvador… “exert direct influence on regulatory changes that limit the exercise of women’s rights, counter to international agreements.”

            'The Catholic Church’s role as a protector of social justice and human rights, and its impact on social issues changed… with the appointment of the new Archbishop of San Salvador. He is a member of the right-wing Opus Dei and has the support of the ruling class as well as close ties with right-wing nongovernmental organizations. This change has influenced the stance of both the Church and the government with regard to social issues that affect women in particular.'

            "In 1997, the Church and right-wing Catholic groups joined with others in a full-on campaign against abortion, mobilizing students from Catholic schools, campaigning through the media and using other means of pushing for the passage of the new penal code and the complete ban until it was passed."

          • Something a little more unbiased that rhrealitycheck, perhaps? A statement from the Vatican or the Church in El Salvador would be great. A quote from the archbishop in which he says, "I fully support prosecuting women who have abortions" would be ideal.

          • Geena Safire

            New
            York Times
            : The pope's appointment of Lacalle 11 years ago brought to the Archdiocese of San Salvador a different kind of religious leader. Lacalle, an outspoken member of the conservative Catholic group Opus
            Dei, redirected the country's church politics. Lacalle's predecessors were just as firmly opposed to abortion as he was. What he brought to the country's anti-abortion movement was a new determination to turn that opposition into state legislation and a belief that the church should play a public role in the process. In 1997, conservative legislators in the Assembly introduced a bill that would ban abortion in all circumstances. The archbishop campaigned actively for its passage.

            Diario El Mundo: El Arzobispo de San Salvador, José Luis Escobar Alas (foto) “Todo este país y toda Centroamérica, gracias a Dios, somos cristianos y no va ser fácil que nos impongan una legislatura, pasando por encima de nuestros derechos constitucionales o, mejor dicho, por encima de nuestra propia Constitución”, fueron las palabras del Arzobispo.

            Escobar Alas enfatizó que el país no cederá ante presiones internacionales de organismos cuya intromisión “prepotente” –calificó– responde al “dinero”. Instó a los salvadoreños a estar atentos para que se respeten las leyes, pues si bien “es cierto que somos un país pobre,
            pero libre y soberano, y digno, con principios cristianos”.

          • The archbishop campaigned for a bill that would ban abortion, natch. Doesn't mean he campaigned to have women who did abort imprisoned.

            A quote, please, where the archbishop (or the Vatican) supports imprisoning women who abort?

          • Geena Safire

            The law that the archbishop supported included prosecution for murder for women who have abortions. That's part of the law.

          • Can you provide an English translation of the text of the law?

          • Geena Safire

            Oh good grief, woman! I'm not your research department.

            Here's a link to Wikipedia's page on El Salvador and abortion. That should point you in the right direction.

          • You're making the claim. It's up to you to provide evidence.

            Also, Wiki as a source? Seriously?

          • Wikipedia is not an infallible source, but it's certainly respectable, especially now that it pushes authors to footnotes the article with references to original sources that people can follow up.

          • David Nickol

            I think Wikipedia is an highly reliable source, especially as a "first stop" in researching a question or issue. I suppose if I were a professor or a journal editor, I wouldn't accept papers that cited Wikipedia. But for discussions on this level, I consider it a perfectly respectable source.

          • For more information on wikipedia and reliability:
            http://library.blogs.delaware.gov/2013/05/05/is-wikipedia-a-reliable-source/

          • Geena Safire

            You asked for an English translation of the text of the law. That is not necessary evidence past what I have already provided you, and you know it. You already know that the Salvadorean law imprisons women for suspicion of having had an abortion -- 628 women are imprisoned in El Salvador serving sentences from 10 to 40 years.

            I've already provided sufficient evidence. If you were not convinced, a simple Google search would have provided you with ample information.

            El Salvador: Where women may be jailed for miscarrying


            Women Jailed for Miscarriages in El Salvador

            Women suspected of abortion in El Salvador face criminal charges, jail time

            Women in El Salvador are being sent to prison for miscarrying

            I gave you the Wiki link because you seemed to be interested in finding an actual text of the law, and I have less than zero interest in hunting it down for you, not because I thought you were asking for yet more evidence.

            I couldn't believe that you were still playing your stupid little game of more evidence, more evidence, more evidence, more evidence, Ha! See you don't have evidence for your claim! or Ha! She walked away! See, I proved she was wrong. No, she walked away because you have just proven that you are endlessly annoying. Stupid game, and I won't play it.

            Now, as I have already written elsewhere, I am done talking with you. Please do not reply to any of my posts.

          • "You already know that the Salvadorean law imprisons women for suspicion
            of having had an abortion -- 628 women are imprisoned in El Salvador
            serving sentences from 10 to 40 years."

            No, my question was whether or not the law banning abortion was the exact same law that dictated that women were to be imprisoned for procuring abortions, or if the latter was instead an amendment or a later addition or something. Can't really find a straight answer on that.

            If you don't want to respond to me, feel free not to do so.

          • Michael Murray

            Abortion was once legal in El Salvador under a narrow set of circumstances, but even these limited exceptions were removed in 1998. Under current Salvadoran law, anyone who performs an abortion with the woman’s consent, or a woman who self-induces or consents to someone else inducing her abortion, can be imprisoned for up to eight years.

            http://reproductiverights.org/en/press-room/salvadorian-woman-imprisoned-for-abortion-pardoned-and-freed

          • Geena Safire

            With regard to your link, it doesn't matter why states didn't prosecute women before Roe v Wade fifty years ago.

            What matters today is that in several states in the US now, women have been prosecuted for murder for fetal death.

            What matters today is that the Catholic Church is supporting legislation in many countries to have murder prosecutions for woman who have had abortions.

          • From the AUL article:

            "Are there any known cases of a woman being indicted or tried for having an abortion in the U.S.?

            No. Not since 1922. There are “only two cases in which a woman was charged in any State with participating in her own abortion: from Pennsylvania in 1911 and from Texas in 1922.

            There is no documented case since 1922 in which a woman was even charged in an abortion in the United States."

          • Geena Safire

            Outcry in America as pregnant women who lose babies face murder charges

            And again, as I wrote but you ignored,

            What matters today is that in several states in the US now, women have been prosecuted for murder for fetal death.

            What matters today is that the Catholic Church is supporting
            legislation in many countries to have murder prosecutions for woman who have had abortions.

          • So, you're not opposed to child abuse? That seems odd. I'm opposed child abuse, and I would classify people who force their children to ingest rat poison or cocaine, regardless if those children are in the womb or outside of it, as child abusers (and in both cases, the children were viable outside the womb). I think they should face consequences for their actions, whether those consequences are rehab, psychiatric confinement, jail time, or a combination of the three.

            "What matters today is that the Catholic Church is supporting legislation in many countries to have murder prosecutions for woman who have had abortions."

            The Catholic Church =/= people within the Catholic Church.

            Again, please provide a quote from the Vatican that states they support jailing women who abort. If you can't, then you can't say that "the Catholic Church" supports so and so, because it's inaccurate. The most you can say is that "some members of the Catholic Church support so and so."

          • Geena Safire

            First, you claimed that no one had been prosecuted since 1922. I provided proof. You immediately change the topic to a debate regarding abortion.

            Second, after I provided the increasingly detailed information you demanded, you change the topic to the tired refrain of "It's not the Catholic Church. It's just some people in the Catholic Church."

            The archbishop of El Salvador is not just some Catholic. He is the leader of the Catholic Church in El Salvador. He completely supported and actively campaigned for the law in El Salvador that includes murder prosecution for women who have abortions. Other archbishops in Latin America are supporting similar legislation, if it has not already been passed.

            I've had enough of your mischaracterizing, misquoting, lying, insulting and goading and here (and several other instances) your attempting to change the topic instead of acknowledging that what I said was true and engaging in convoluted, twisted verbiage to dispute what is completely obvious and evident.

            I am completely done with talking with you.

            But, hey, stay active in the pro-life movement because the pro-choice side will benefit from your behavior tremendously.

          • Huh? I thought we were talking about abortion, so how can I change to topic to it?

            Regardless, you seem to support child abuse as long as the child is unborn. That is unfortunate. I had hoped that we could find common ground in believing that it's wrong to force any child to ingest rat poison or cocaine, regardless of the age or location of the child.

            Re: the archbishop of El Salvador, if he does indeed support jailing women who obtain abortion, I vehemently disagree with him on that, and I believe he should not support it. I've searched the Vatican website and can't find any evidence that the universal Church agrees with him, or teaches that Catholics should hold that position. Quite the opposite, in fact. In the meantime, I do what I can to help women in crisis in my little corner of the world, and will raise my kids to do also.

            I have to be done talking to you as well. And I will stay active in the pro-life movement, thanks!

          • David Nickol

            Regardless, you seem to support child abuse as long as the child is unborn. That is unfortunate.

            This is a very low blow, and especially from someone who claims that abortion is the killing of an innocent person but that the pregnant women who procure and pay to have their unborn children killed are "victims."

            I think you and Geena are wise to stop your exchanges, and I am going to follow suit.

          • Mike A

            You're genuinely incapable of having an honest conversation in good faith, aren't you.

          • Mike A

            Regardless, you seem to support child abuse as long as the child is unborn.

            Are you familiar with the term 'noncentral fallacy?' I'm guessing not, but please, allow me to educate you: the noncentral fallacy states that "X is in a category whose archetypal member gives us a certain emotional reaction. Therefore, we should apply that emotional reaction to X, even though it is not a central category member."

            Or educate yourself: http://lesswrong.com/lw/e95/the_noncentral_fallacy_the_worst_argument_in_the/

          • David Nickol

            Were women regularly prosecuted for obtaining abortions in any state where abortion was illegal prior to Roe v Wade?

            No, they weren't. But anti-abortion laws did not classify abortion as murder. They were not based on the unborn having a "right to life." Under our legal tradition, abortion was never considered murder or any form of homicide, because an unborn child was never legally considered a person. But the whole argument of the Catholic right-to-life movement is based on the premise that an unborn child has the same moral standing as a newborn baby or an adult human being. Abortion law was never based on the Catholic teaching that a human life begins at conception.

            Now, let me ask my question again. Given the fact that you believe a mother who procures an abortion is murdering, or arranging the murder of, her own child, do you believe that if abortion is outlawed again, a woman should be held legally responsible for the death of her aborted child? If not charged with murder, could she be charged as an accomplice? Or if abortion laws are not homicide laws, could a woman who has an abortion be charged with some kind of offense and sentenced to community service? Or could a woman convicted of having an abortion be required to go through some kind of educational program? Could she be fined $100 and told that if she has another abortion, she will be fined $1000, and $10,000 for a third offense?

            My question is this: If abortion is made illegal, can a woman who procures an abortion be held legally responsible in any way at all? If you believe she is morally responsible for infanticide, should she bear any legal responsibility at all, no matter how small?

          • Please see here: http://www.aul.org/2010/04/why-the-states-did-not-prosecute-women-for-abortion-before-roe-v-wade/

            And here: http://www.l4l.org/library/fetalrts.html

            To two links above flesh out my answer, but in a nutshell: a woman is a second victim, and in most cases should not be prosecuted.

          • Paul Boillot

            I don't mean to jump into the middle of this; I just have a quick question.

            It seems that you think that the answer to the question you asked-in-reply is "no." Ie. You believe that women were *not regularly* prosecuted for obtaining abortions pre-R. v. W.

            So, my question is, am I right in assuming that your answer to D.N.'s question is

            "No, I don't think women who procure abortions should be held legally responsible for "participating in the death" of an innocent human being?"

            *Edit for accuracy*

      • David Nickol

        The Church doesn't adhere to sola scriptura, so asking for a proof text from the Bible is rather nonsensical.

        What source other than the Bible does the Church have for determining what Jesus did or did not do? Those who claim that based on what Jesus did, only men can be ordained, must definitely make their case based on the Bible.

        • Geena Safire

          Perhaps JoAnna can describe for us this difference between the Catholic church and many Protestant denominations in that, rather than sola scriptura, the Catholic church is guided by both Scripture and Tradition.

        • Jesus gave the Church authority to teach in His stead, and to bind and loose sins. He never said, "All the teachings must be supported by a specific verse in the Bible that states exactly what the doctrine does." By that criteria, no Christian church would be able to teach definitely that, say, rape is a sin, because there is no verse in the Bible that says, "Thou shalt not rape" or "Rape is sinful."

          It's similar to the doctrine of the Trinity. You won't find the word trinity anywhere in the Bible, but the concept definitely has Scriptural support, and thus it was formally defined later in the Church's history, some years after the resurrection and ascension of Christ.

          Furthermore, JPII does give Scriptural support against the ordination of women here: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/1994/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_19940522_ordinatio-sacerdotalis_en.html

          • David Nickol

            The issue, it seems to me, is whether there is scriptural support for male-only ordination. Now you are saying there is. When the Church says that it can't ordain women because Jesus selected only men for the priesthood, clearly the Church is relying on the Bible. Jesus may have given the Church teaching authority. But he did not give the Church the authority to teach that Jesus selected only men for the priesthood based on no evidence! Clearly, the Church (as you now acknowledge) cites scripture in claiming women cannot be ordained. Sola scriptura is not the issue here. If the Church claims Jesus did something or did not do something, the Church must rely on the Bible. Sola scriptura was a red herring. Some matters in the Church simply must have scriptural support if they are to be based on what Jesus did. The only record of what Jesus did is in the Bible.

          • There is Scriptural support - see the JPII document. What Mike was asking for was a proof text - a specific verse wherein Jesus said, "And lo, thou shalt not ordain women." Like the doctrine of the Trinity, there is no verse - but since Catholicism is not based on sola scriptura, there doesn't need to be. Jesus gave us first a Church, and then the Bible, not the other way around.

            "If the Church claims Jesus did something or did not do something, the Church must rely on the Bible."

            No, actually. The Church does not need to rely on the Bible ALONE. She also relies on Tradition, the teaching of the Church fathers, etc., as well as the authority given to Her by Jesus.

            Another example - by your logic the Church could not condemn cybercrime, since there is no specific Biblical prohibition against using a computer to steal someone's identity.

          • David Nickol

            DN: "If the Church claims Jesus did something or did not do something, the Church must rely on the Bible."
            JW: "No, actually. The Church does not need to rely on the Bible ALONE."

            Can you cite an example of something the Church claims Jesus did that is not found in the Bible?

            Another example - by your logic the Church could not condemn cybercrime . . .

            How does the condemnation of cybercrime depend on something that Jesus did? I am well aware the Church claims the authority to determine what is implicit in scripture though not stated explicitly and to rely on Tradition. The issue is what the Church relies on when it says Jesus did something. Again, can you give an example of something Jesus said or did (according to the Church) that is not in the Bible?

          • fredx2

            Thou shalt not steal - from the Old Testament

            I don't get your point. Clearly the bible shows that the 12 apostles were men. It IS in the bible.

          • Mike A

            Can you name them? Because the Bible can't even keep who they were straight- clearly, not a very reliable source.

          • Can you be sure that Mary Magdalene and Junia (Romans 16:7) weren't apostles?

          • David Nickol

            I don't get your point. Clearly the bible shows that the 12 apostles were men. It IS in the bible.

            I agree the Apostles were men. My point is that what launched the discussion was this, from Mike A:

            Can someone please point me to the line in the New Testament where Christ specified that "the proper recipient of the sacrament of holy orders is a baptized male?" I have a Bible right here, just need the chapter and verse.

            We then got several Catholic responses that the Church doesn't rely solely on the Bible, etc, etc.

            But as you have noted, the Church is relying on the Bible in the matter of male-only ordination. The Catholic responses the Catholic Church not believing in sola scriptura, using tradition in addition to the Bible, and so on, were irrelevant. The Church bases its argument that only males can be ordained on what Jesus did, and the source for what Jesus did is the Bible.

            The appropriate (and charitable) response to Mike A's question wasn't that the Catholic Church doesn't believe in sola scriptura. It was that in this case, the Church was basing its case not on what Jesus said, but on what he did. But that doesn't make the case any less scriptural.

            The point I tried to make all alone was precisely this—the Church's argument was based on what Jesus did. Therefore, it has to be based on the Bible. If we had been talking about the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, it would have been another story. That is not based on anything Jesus said or did. It is based on Tradition. But we were talking about a case based on what Jesus did. I issued the challenge to cite something Jesus said or did that was not Bible but that which the Church used in an argument. Clearly, the Catholic Church does not need to refer to the sayings or deeds of Jesus to make the case that stealing is wrong. The issue of stealing is irrelevant. If I may quote myself:

            The issue is what the Church relies on when it says Jesus did something. Again, can you give an example of something Jesus said or did (according to the Church) that is not in the Bible?

            I may be mistaken, but to the best of my knowledge, there are no words or deeds of Jesus claimed by the Church to come from Tradition rather than the Bible. So in spite of the fact that the Church does not believe in sola scriptura, if the Church wants to base something on what Jesus said or did, it must be in the Bible, because that is the Church's record of what Jesus said and did.

          • Paul Boillot

            "Clearly the bible shows that the 12 apostles were men. It IS in the bible."

            They were also Middle Eastern Jews.

            Does that mean the Church can't ordain Blacks, Asians, Whites, etc...?

          • ...refused to ordain women?

          • Lionel Nunez

            How we know Jesus fell three times as he carried the cross up to Golgotha. Not in the bible; but held as true. If you're willing to cut me some slack; then the assumption of the virgin Mary is something else held as true but not in the Bible.

          • Mike A

            So basically something people made up for no particular reason, then.

            Seriously, what's the alternative?

          • Michael Murray

            It was in Ben Hur wasn't it?

          • Mike A

            Oh, good call. My bad!

          • fredx2

            But the point is that "things Jesus did" is not the only source of authority. What the apostles said and did was important too. And some of the Old Testament is relevant. And then, in new cases (cybercrime) they must infer what the rule must be based on those sources.

          • David Nickol

            But the point is that "things Jesus did" is not the only source of authority.

            No, nor did I ever even hint that it was. What I was saying was that the Church based its case for male-only ordination on what Jesus did. What Jesus did is not the only source of authority. However, the Bible is the only source of what Jesus said and did.

            I should add that I have not read everything the Church has to say in the argument for male-only ordination. I am sure it is not quite so simple as, "Jesus 'ordained' only men, so the Church can ordain only men." But the primary argument the Church makes (unless I am profoundly mistaken) is that Jesus picked only men as "clergy" for his "church."

        • fredx2

          There is a distinction to be made here. "Based on the blble" can mean several things: (Not an exclusive list)
          1) Jesus specifically said it 2) Jesus did it 3) The Apostles said something 4) Something must of necessity be inferred from what Jesus said or did. 5) something must be inferred from what the apostles said or did
          Number 4 is based on the bible.
          Ordenatio Sacerdotalis is based on 2 and 4 and 5.

    • fredx2

      I notice that you asked for something Jesus said, rather than for something Jesus did. I suppose you asked it that way because you know the reason that the church restricts ordination to women. The reason is that Jesus only chose males as his disciples.

      • David Nickol

        The reason is that Jesus only chose males as his disciples.

        I would be careful to distinguish between apostles and disciples, although the Gospels (I think) sometimes refer to The Twelve or the Apostles as disciples. To me, disciple implies "follower," and it can be argued that some of the women close to Jesus were disciples.

        • fredx2

          Great point, I was loose with my language. I meant apostles.

    • Hegesippus

      The Bible does not record all that Jesus said. It only records what the authors decided was important at the time to pass on. Further, the Bible is not the only source, nor authority, for Christianity until the reformation. Tradition, handed on apostolically, has always been a source also, and existed before the NT texts.

      • David Nickol

        The Bible does not record all that Jesus said.

        I may be beating this to death, but it still seems unclear to some. It is certainly true that the Church relies on Tradition (with a capital T) in addition to the Bible. But in the matter of the ordination of women, the Catholic Church's argument is based on the fact that Jesus (and after his death, the Apostles) chose only men for certain key positions. It is therefore not at all unreasonable to say, "Demonstrate this to me using the Bible." It may have been unreasonable to ask for chapter and verse where Jesus said, "Only men can be priests . . . " But the proper response to such a question is not to say, "The Church doesn't adhere to sola scriptura, so asking for a proof text from the Bible is rather nonsensical." The proper response would be that while the Bible does indeed contain the answer, the Church looks at what Jesus himself did. In effect, the response to Mike A was, "What a dumb question." If the intention had been to actually answer and do so charitably, the response could have been, "That's a good question, because the answer is in the Bible. But it is not a matter of what Jesus said but of what he did."

        The Catholics who speak up to defend the Church on Strange Notions should remember that they will be viewed by "non-Catholics" as examples of the kind of people who are Catholic. When I went to Catholic school, we were taught that the most important thing to do to help spread Catholicism was to give good example.

  • Andre Boillot

    On the topic of divorce in ancient times, this piece gives only the most cursory, and seemingly inaccurate description: "in the ancient world accustomed to husbands who cheated and left at will". Even the briefest of glances at the search results re: 'divorce in ancient Greece' and 'divorce in ancient Rome' show a much more nuanced situation (hint: there were usually penalties for husbands that "cheated and left at will").

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_in_ancient_Rome#Divorce
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Greek_marriage_law#Divorce

    More specifically, it seems to me that Jewish traditions concerning divorce are misrepresented: "Mosaic law allowed a husband to leave his wife, but a wife could not leave her husband." It's my impression that while women could not directly initiate divorces, they were able to appeal to Rabbinic courts who would compel men to divorce them in cases where mistreatment was present. Additionally, men who initiated divorces where no fault was found with the wife were required to pay significant compensation for breaking the marriage contract.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_views_on_marriage#Divorce
    http://www.jewfaq.org/divorce.htm

    I'm not suggesting that women were far better off under these various ancient divorce laws, but I feel like the author is trying to paint their situation as being bleaker than it may have been, while failing to mention any negative effects that prohibiting divorce may have had on women.

    I'm not sure this piece addresses the issue of why women should be barred from ordination any better than the answer I got from one of my pastors growing up (I quote this verbatim): "If you can't pee like Jesus, you can't be like Jesus". That was the last time I asked that question.

    Lastly, I'm not particularly impressed with the following rationale:

    Some theologians have even speculated that one reason for the reservation of priestly orders to males could be that men are typically worse people than women. Most murderers, rapists, thieves, and scoundrels of the highest order are men.

    I don't suppose that men having traditionally had significantly more power and freedom than their female counterparts has anything to do with their ability to engage in more shenanigans? Perhaps what's keeping women from equaling the depravity of men is down to lack of opportunity.

    • nowornever

      Yeah, I don't get why people seem to believe if they're writing a religiously-themed article they're excused from doing the barest anthropological or historical research. Remember this? https://strangenotions.com/why-arent-you-naked/

  • nowornever

    I think you're also misunderstanding what makes an institution misogynist. It's not necessary that it propose, in theory, that women are inferior to men, if it fights tooth and nail to enact policies that hurt them. Perhaps the Catholic Churchs theology isn't misogynistic, but its actions are.

    I mean, really, an institution made up entirely of men, using force* to prevent women from using birth control? That's misogyny.

    *and yes, when you try to direct the coercive power of the state to prevent people from doing something, you are using force

    • Mike

      Does the Catholic Church have a new policy to make birth control illegal that I don't know about?

      • Andre Boillot

        Mike,

        I'm pretty sure the IRS rules for an institution to qualify for religious tax exemption prohibit that institution from directly lobbying for or against legislation, or other such direct attempts to influence politics. However, do you doubt the Church doesn't use all the indirect influence it has to make birth control, if not illegal, more difficult/costly to obtain - to say nothing of it's pronouncements on the morality of using BC?

        • nowornever

          Though unfortunately, those rules aren't all that well-enforced- consider the Prop 8 fight in California, where the Catholic Church spent a great deal of money and energy attempting to influence politics.

        • Mike

          Hi Andre,
          Of all the people here, I think I wind up with conversations with you most often so far. I've enjoyed them, I think you challenge me, and although we probably disagree on many things I feel treated well by you (and I hope vice versa).

          I've not seen a campaign ad sponsored by the church saying birth control should be illegal. I've heard why abortion should be illegal, and comprehensive immigration should be undertaken legislatively, but not birth control. So far you seem to be more knowledgeable (or at least have better links to attach) about several topics so I'm open to evidence to the contrary.

          Given how wide spread birth control is used, if the church is indeed lobbying they aren't getting their money's worth, and I think the money could be used for other purposes. Now, I'm not a woman, and I therefore don't know all the particulars, but I think one can buy many types of birth control from a pharmacy for under $10. Neither of those seem difficult or costly to me.

          While many people may disagree with the church on birth control (my own view is probably in between the two extremes) I just don't know of any examples (in the US, where I live) where the church has tried to criminalize it.

          • Andre Boillot

            Hi Mike,

            Flattery will get you nowhere! Though, seriously, thank you and let me say I find our discussions to be refreshing break from the norm.

            "I've not seen a campaign ad sponsored by the church saying birth control should be illegal."

            > I'm not sure the Church could 'sponsor' any such campaign without risking it's tax exempt status, even if it wanted to. We also need to consider what the term 'birth control' is meant to encompass. Obviously, if we mean only those methods which merely prevent fertilization, I don't think the Church would make efforts to criminalize, even if given free-reign.

            "Given how wide spread birth control is used, if the church is indeed lobbying they aren't getting their money's worth, and I think the money could be used for other purposes."

            > Sure, but we're talking efforts, not results. Also, the current stat of affairs isn't necessarily a good indication of how effective the Church has been in the past, right?

            "Now, I'm not a woman, and I therefore don't know all the particulars, but I think one can buy many types of birth control from a pharmacy for under $10. Neither of those seem difficult or costly to me."

            > Ah, then I suggest ye consult a lady :)

            Nice talking again Mike, enjoy the weekend!

          • Mike

            Hi Andre,

            See look we agree the church wouldn't (at least in our opinions) try to criminalize birth control that only prevents fertilization/implantation.

            You're right about past efforts vs. current ones, but in the US I don't see that the church has ever really tried to make birth control hard to get. I mean I'm a cradle Catholic and in my three decades on the Earth I've heard a lot from the pulpit. I've heard about immigration, card check, abortion, euthanasia, the iraq war, unions rights, teachers, health care access, poverty, homelessness, etc; but I have never ever in my life heard from the pulpit anything about birth control of "waiting until marriage". It seems like something everyone likes to hit the church on, but I don't know if the Church really does a good job explaining the theology behind it's stance, or actively bring it up (at least at the level of the clergy).

            Have a good weekend too.

          • Mike A

            Frankly, I don't think anyone actually believes the theology that explains why condoms aren't OK, but it's OK for infertile couples have sex, is coherent.

          • Geena Safire

            In brief, Mike, it's symbolic I could explain it in excruciating detail but, I promise you, it still wouldn't make any sense to you.

          • Mike A

            As far as i can tell, the people arguing for coherence don't actually believe it's true- though they may believe that they believe it's true.

            The way you can distinguish belief from belief-in-belief is whether people are afraid of testing their conclusions. The inevitable conversation goes like this:

            Sal: So what are the criteria for whether a form of BC is OK?

            Chris: The criteria is X.

            Sal: But practice A meets those criteria, but is still banned by the RCC.

            Chris: Oh, well, the criteria is X and Y.

            Sal: But practice B doesn't meet those criteria, but the RCC says it's OK.

            Chris: Right, the criteria are actually X Y and Z.

            And this cycle can continue for literally dozens of repetitions. What this tells me is that Chris (or the people who argue the RCC's stance is coherent) don't actually genuinely believe they have a consistent stance to defend, but rather that they're starting with the desire to prove the current doctrine is right, and then working backwards through whatever mental contortions are necessary to do so.

            Of course, that's not to say they don't believe they believe it; this happens all the time. Worth reading: http://lesswrong.com/lw/i4/belief_in_belief/

          • Hi Mike A,
            I can say with confidence that many do believe. It turns out to be solidly coherent. But I can also say that, without familiarity with the Catholic understanding of marriage and sex, your statement seems fully reasonable!

            So, please force yourself to stay awake and read my attempt to skim the surface of Catholic teaching on Marriage and Sex...

            Marriage is sacramental, self-sacrificing, lifelong, and ordered toward new life. Sex is both procreative and unitive. Procreative, of course, means that it must be open to life, whether or not new life is created. Being willing to give oneself entirely over to a shared life of parenthood with one's spouse is a clear manifestation of the self-sacrificing nature of sex and marriage.

            Many of us know the pleasurable component of sex, which is both physically and emotionally powerful, and can be supremely unitive. But that unitive quality can degrade when the act is reduced prophylactically to temporary sexual gratification. It may still be powerful by nature, but it does not match the experience of the marital act which may forever change one's life by bringing a new, hoped for, child into the world. And prophylactic sex can become selfish, and even tend toward outright exploitation, which injures or destroys the unitive quality.

            Now to the part about infertility! :)

            One problem with suggesting that, in order to be consistent, the Church should consider infertility to be a sex disqualifier analogous to prophylactic use, is that infertility is very often a transient, unpredictable condition. The world is filled with couples who believed they couldn't get pregnant for years, only to eventually and unexpectedly conceive much later on. If the mere belief of infertility sufficed to prohibit sex, couples might not conceive the child they ultimately were capable of bringing into the world.

            On the other hand, when the state of infertility is fairly certain, such as when a woman is medically prevented from pregnancy (perhaps due to hormone therapy for medical reasons without prophylactic intent) it might be recommended (e.g. from a spiritual advisor) that the couple refrain from the act while the treatment lasts, in order to avoid confusing their motivations. (Mike A, that last part should sort of show you that the Catholic Church doesn't view your statement as altogether illogical - it's got the feel of common sense to it, there is just a much deeper picture to be painted when it comes to this topic. And I certainly don't do it justice...)

            Anyway...
            After menopause, when pregnancy is rare (but not impossible), married couples are still very free to have sex as long as they are open to life. And they thus benefit from the unitive power of sex, as well as the graces that Catholics believe are bestowed upon marriages which have been properly configured to God's will.

            Whew. I'm done.

          • Mike A

            To make sure I understand your position before I reply, is it fair to summarize it as "sex is OK (and I'm using OK throughout to stand in for morally just/theologically acceptable/etc.- hopefully this is fine) when the couple having sex is open to the possibility of conceiving a child as a result?"

            I'd like to try to either define, or alternatively not use, words like 'unitive,' or 'ordered' that clearly have a deeper metaphorical/theological meaning than the common-language use. When words like that get used, a ton of concepts get pulled into the conversation that makes it very hard to clearly tease apart the issue at hand.

            So, what I'd like to do- if you're really willing to have this conversation with me, which I genuinely appreciate- is to try to put together, in plain language, a statement which clearly describes the conditions under which sex is OK. And to be totally above board with you, I'm then going to test the various Catholic dogmas against that statement, to see if it works.

            My hypothesis is that no such statement is possible, but I genuinely am interested in testing it.

          • I would love to have the conversation. But I'm afraid you'll be disappointed if you're hoping for a representative statement consisting of only a sentence or two. Just as the real world of human relationships and sex and marriage is complex, the Church's teaching on this topic is expansive and nuanced.

            Of course, you could create some sort of simplified statement and test dogmas against it, but in the end, it would accomplish little and probably not satisfy you.

            Here's a link to an article on the U.S. Bishop's website that can serve as your "statement". Of course, it's not two sentences. But it is much more authoritative than my chicken scratches above. And it provides a better understanding of words like unitive and procreative, which you'll want for your experiment.

            http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/natural-family-planning/catholic-teaching/upload/Unitive-and-Proc-Nature-of-Interc.pdf

          • Mike A

            That's a fair point. On reflection, I actually believe a statement of any length would work to test the hypothesis, so long as it was expressed in clear language that could be objectively evaluated.

            For example, the link you provided says things like this: "since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious," which, at face value, contradict Catholic teaching on NFP. Since presumably no contradiction exists, the terms 'frustration of natural power' and so on clearly have non-obvious meanings.

            Basically, the problem is that statements "The conjugal love of man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity" allow for too many outcomes; I could interpret that sentence to allow for NFP or not, allow for sex with a woman who was already pregnant or not, allow for infertile couples to have sex or not, and so on.

            One thing I absolutely believe is that if a proposition can't be expressed without resorting to words that you can't define clearly, you don't have a proposition at all.

          • Geena Safire

            which, at face value, contradict Catholic teaching on NFP.

            Here's the reasoning.

            It is not OK to     have sex     and avoid trying to get pregnant.

            It is     OK     to not have sex to avoid trying to get pregnant.

          • fredx2

            But you forget. The document you are dealing with is the bishops trying to present a teaching, presumably for fairly ordinary people. The document was not meant to withstand any and all challenges. It is not for rigorous theological/logical testing, which is what you seem to want.. For that, you will have to go elsewhere, perhaps to some theological treatise

            And remember this - the purpose of any policy should be to ensure the best family life. Not to provide for the most sex, or the easiest life, or to avoid inconsistencies. Sometimes inconseistencies are necessary in the real wolrld.

            As to the difference between NFP and birth control - this is pretty good.

            http://www.priestsforlife.org/articles/nfpdifferences.html

          • David Nickol

            One of the problems I see with the Church's teachings on sex and marriage is that the approach is so technical that almost nobody understands it. (And, of course, almost no Catholics follow it, either, but that is another matter.) I am trying to think of something other than sex that a married couple might do once, twice, or three times a week that would require advanced study in Catholic moral theology to get right.

            While on the one hand I wouldn't say that instinct or gut feelings are sufficient for making moral decisions, I think it is very rare that people are called upon to make decisions about matters as intensely intimate and personal as sex based on technical arguments that even the majority of the experts (Papal Commission on Birth Control) didn't find intellectually convincing. On the matter of "artificial" birth control for married couples, it really boils down to, "The pope said you can't do it."

          • Mike A

            I agree mostly, but I also am not sure 'technical' is quite the right word; I think it resorts to ill-defined terminology in an attempt to avoid getting pinned down. I generally believe that if you can't restate a proposition in words that don't have special meanings, your proposition is likely nonsensical. In this case, I don't believe the RCC is capable of explaining it's positions on BC without hiding behind purposefully obfuscatory language.

          • fredx2

            No, the problem is that much of church teaching was expressed in classical philosophical language, which drives me to distraction for the very reason you mention - it uses terms that can mean many things. But this is the same in Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, etc. The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that the seminaries teach their students this dense language, and then they come out talking that way and no one understands them. People think they are just blowing smoke. But they are not. This stuff has a very deep, very beautiful set of ideas that undergird it. It's just that the church is awful at explaining it. I remember a church group that read JP II's Theology of the Body. They had to read one page per week,. That's as fast as they could go. But at the end of the class, they basically agreed that this was magnificent, and why wasn't the church teaching this stuff in Englsh?

          • Mike A

            Can you explain it in English? Because all I hear so far is "they're right but they can't tell you why and neither can anyone else."

          • fredx2

            I am not sure which part of It I could explain. There are so many parts.
            But for starters, the basic idea is this: Sex is about more than having sex. Sex is a critical part of what makes marriages work. So if you mess with it -you run the risk of endangering your marriage, or at least making your marriage less satisfying than it could be.
            It starts off with the understanding of what a marriage is. For people today, marriage is simply an arrangement to live together. It holds no promises, it exists only for as long as the couple agrees.
            The church believes that marriage should be something much more. It should be forever. It should be about giving everything of yourself to the other. Selfishness should never play any part. Marriage itself should make you a better and greater person.
            The way I think of it is this: If you have sex with your wife, and use a condom, what are you doing? just having fun. If you are having sex with your wife and are not using a condom, you are saying to her that if this results in a baby, I am willing to stay here and help you raise it and provide for it and go to work every day to support it. I know that that is a possible outcome and because I really love you, I am willing to take that risk . That is the statement that the non-contraceptor says every time they have sex.
            When the person using contraception has sex, that statement is impossible. It is just saying, let's have fun for the moment. Regardless of whether they are devoted or not, the sex act itself cannot say anything deep.
            Furthermore, and this is just a suspicion of mine based on my own observations - what if the sex act were truly what bonds married people together chemically and psychologically? What if that is the mechanism that evolution has chosen to keep pairs together until their children are grown?. In Other species, the female comes into heat and then ignores the male the rest of the time. If you use a condom or otherwise interfere with that chemical mechanism, does it lead to a frustration of that bonding mechanism? That would explain a lot.

          • Mike A

            When the person using contraception has sex, that statement is impossible.

            Really. You're asserting it's impossible to say "let's try to avoid having a baby, but if we do, I'll love and support you?"

            Because if you really believe that, you believe NFP is wrong as well.

            If you use a condom or otherwise interfere with that chemical mechanism,

            Please explain the biological mechanism by which wearing a condom affects the endorphins generated by an orgasm? Hint: there isn't one, and what you wrote is empirically nonsense.

          • fredx2

            I agree. The church talks about it in classical philosophical language. It does this al ot, and most people today find this unbelievably dense.

          • Michael Murray

            It may still be powerful by nature, but it does not match the experience of the marital act which may forever change one's life by bringing a new, hoped for, child into the world.

            I always find this kind of talk amusing. You might want to talk to people who are having trouble conceiving and start having intercourse to timetable. It's not a wonderful experience just a bit of a slog. I can identify with this as we weren't having fertility problems but it just happened my wife had an ultrasound and came home with the news, at the end of a busy day for me, that we had to have sex tonight. Not the most profound of experiences but it worked.

          • Hi Michael, in all your amusement you misrepresented the context! :)

            This wasn't about wonderful experience vs. slog, it was about the unitive nature of sex. Pleasure can be unitive. And self-sacrificing openness to new life is unitive. Is it conceivable that on those nights the union between you and your wife strengthened? Even if it felt at the time like a slog? And if the slog led to a child, it was unitive whether you realize it or not! :)

            But I do understand your point. I also have good friends as well as close family members who have dealt with infertility. It's painful, and sexual pleasure is often furthest from the mind.

            In any event, you and I have had our disagreements, but it sounds like your situation worked out for the best, so congratulations!

          • Mike A

            Please define unitive.

          • Causing or strengthening a union.

          • And I will get back to your post below - at some point! I've already frittered away too much of my week on this blog. Sigh. :(

          • And to the moderators: By "frittered away" I of course mean, "made excellent use of". ;)

          • Mike A

            By that definition, almost any act two people can do together is potentially unitive, and sex can be unitive or very non-unitive, depending on how it goes.

            I'm not saying that's the wrong definition, to be clear- just making sure that the above doesn't suggest a need to narrow the definition of unitive.

          • I agree.

          • Mike A

            Great, just wanted to make sure I clearly understood you. Thanks!

          • fredx2

            I would describe it this way:
            "Bringing together, causing a permanent union that brings happiness to both partners."

            Remember the church taught this centuries ago. Just now they are finding that sex has a chemical effect that creates a very strong psychological bond.

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks Dave H. He's 22 now.

            I guess my wider point is that as a 56 year old male, raised as a Catholic, when I look at the Catholic Church's teachings on morality nothing in them resonates with me. So you might say I'm an atheist big deal. But there are other teachings on suffering, poverty, capitalist excesses where i see the Church address what to me are real problems whether or not I agree with the solutions. When I read the teachings on sex I feel like I glimpsing into an alternative reality.

          • It's hard to find a big issue where the Catholic Church doesn't have a teaching. Nosy! :)

            I have, more than once, failed to see the rationale of the Church's position on a moral issue until I disregarded it. And I've done a lot of disregarding in my lifetime! :(

            Sometimes I didn't realize the hefty price I paid until much later in life (I'm not as old as you, but not too far off either).

            Nothing new here, but it's worth reiterating that the wisdom of the Church plays out over lifetimes, and across generations. In the coming decades we'll have a giant body of evidence emerging from the choices made by today's generations regarding the big culture war issues, including contraception, family size, marriage and divorce. I believe the Church's positions will be proven out.

          • fredx2

            Not quite sure what you meant, because its OK for fertile couples to have sex also.
            You have to understand that a lot of very smart people helped develop that theology. John Paul II is a large part of it, and he developed it after counseling couples for years and years before he became Pope.
            That being said, it is awfully dense and it is written in philosophical language that is tough to follow.
            Suffice it to say that condoms are bad because they remove something essential from the marriage. If you want a true, real good marriage, certain things have to be there. A marriage without those things will be diminished in some way. In short, it will be harder to stay together without those elements. And, we have seen since the rise of contraception that divorces have skyrocketed, Marital fidelity is less. Children are bruised from having divorced parents. Don't want to get not the whole thing, but suffice it to say that the church is often right, even if it can't explain very well why they are right.

          • If you want a true, real good marriage, certain things have to be there. A marriage without those things will be diminished in some way.

            Please specify what these things are that are present in an infertile marriage but not a contracepting marriage.

          • suffice it to say that the church is often right, even if it can't explain very well why they are right.

            I'm afraid that on this board, at least, that will never, ever suffice. :)

          • Geena Safire

            fredx2, are you saying that you believe the policy is correct because "a lot of very smart people helped to develop that thology" and they say "[condoms] remove something essential from the marriage [and] it will be harder to stay together without those elements" even though "it is awfully dense and it is written in philosophical language that is tough to follow"?

            Essentially: "They are smart and they said it's bad and I'll do it even though I can't understand what they are saying." (Not to mention that the folks who wrote it are lifetime celibates and about 1/3-1/2 have a homosexual orientation.)

            Wow! I wouldn't regulate my sex life with that kind of explanation.

          • Michael Murray

            Suffice it to say that condoms are bad because they remove something essential from the marriage.

            Sorry worrying about how you can afford to feed the next child is essential for a marriage is it ?

            And, we have seen since the rise of contraception that divorces have skyrocketed, Marital fidelity is less.

            The divorce rate rose when laws changed and it became easier to get.

          • Geena Safire

            I agree with Michael Murray that the situations you mention were not in any way the consequence of access to contraception.

            Marital fidelity is about at the same level as it was before, as is the abortion rate. Depending on how the divorce is handled, children can come though it fine, especially if they know other kids with divorced parents -- it was mainly a trauma when the child was the only one with divorced parents.

            As Michael Murray says, the divorce rate went up because, with the rule changes, a wife could divorce an awful husband who just didn't beat her without ruining life for her and her children. Also, women joining the work force and having economic independence also gave her more equality in marriage and, when not, the ability to dump the jerk. Also, in 1920, women got the right to vote and influence laws to benefit both sexes instead of just men.

            (It was jut a little over a hundred years ago that, in most states, a woman could get a divorce from her husband if he beat her, but could not have him prosecuted for assault nor sue him for compensation for her injuries because, legally, they were considered the same person -- "one flesh." That was one of the first laws to fall in womens' long march.)

            Also, just because it may be more difficult to get divorced if you have seven children, that doesn't mean that it is either good to have seven children nor good to stay married because you have gotten yourself into a situation no good options.

          • Geena Safire

            I think one can buy many types of birth control from a pharmacy for under $10.

            You're a bit behind the times, Mike. If a woman is lucky, she may be able to use a low cost BC bill for about $10-20 per month, but each woman is different, so it could be $50 per month or higher. Plus the doctor visit (and perhaps several follow-up visits in order to adjust the prescription).. For folks with lower incomes, these are expensive, if you only earn about $1,000 per month and especially if you already have one or more children. $35-100 for a 3-month birth control shot, plus the quarterly doctor visit. A patch is $15-80 per month. The implant costs $400-800 but lasts for three years.

            Studies have shown that the implant, especially, and the shot, have terrific "use" effectiveness, because the woman doesn't have to remember every day, but price has been a barrier.

          • Mike

            Hi Geena,

            Thank you for the response and information.

            Even so, I don't think that the Church is trying to criminalize it, or restrict access to it. People have the opportunity to purchase it. The church says its wrong, but it isn't trying to make it illegal. I think the worst one could say about the Church is they don't want to be the one's paying for it (A legal question better left for one with a legal background not a scientific one)

          • Geena Safire

            You'll want to check out my other reply to you here. It took me a while to write it up. The mandate issue is just the tip of the iceberg.

          • Danny Getchell

            Which is why I like the idea of making birth control available over the counter. If the Church is really upset only about having to pay for BC through its employees' insurance coverage, they would agree.

          • David Nickol

            Which is why I like the idea of making birth control available over the counter.

            I am not quite sure how a shot or an implant can be made available over the counter. Also, the Catholic Church argues for the right for Catholic pharmacists not to fill prescriptions for contraceptives. (Although based on the small handful of legal disputes over pharmacists refusing to dispense the pill, quite obviously most Catholic pharmacists don't take it upon themselves to decide which prescriptions they will fill and which they won't.) I think you might find that at least some Catholic pharmacists might be less willing to dispense the pill (or other forms of birth control) if it were not a matter of filling a doctor's prescription.

            It is a common assertion of at least some Catholic pro-lifers that the pill is harmful to women's health. It seems unlikely to me that they would support making it available over the counter. And of course there are women who definitely should not take the pill. If it were over the counter, those women might very well not consult a doctor and not know the pill was a bad choice for them.

          • Geena Safire

            There is a wide range of different combinations and strengths of pills from which doctors can choose for each woman, and with different directions. Some low-dose pills, for example, must be taken very close to 24 hours apart. As David notes, some women have a higher risk of side effects with the pill which, again, should be medically evaluated, since they may be candidates for a low-dose pill or one with a different hormonal combination. It doesn't seem, to me that the pill is conducive to becoming an OTC product.

            Also, as David noted, the patch, the shot, and especially the three-month implant have been shown to have a significantly higher "use" effectiveness than oral contraception, and these, as David notes, are not amenable to access outside of a medical facility.

          • Geena Safire

            I agree that this would be ideal, Danny, except that deciding which hormones in which combination and at what dosage is what a doctor or other medical professional needs to do for each woman, her weight, whether she smokes, other medications she is taking, etc. Also, that prescription may change several times over the first year depending on the experience of the woman. Also, one can't get a shot or implant OTC.

          • Geena Safire

            I just don't know of any examples (in the US, where I live) where the church has tried to criminalize it.

            The church isn't overtly trying to criminalize birth control in the U.S. - yet. But consider this: The church considers the birth control pill (and any such chemical method) and the IUD and the morning-after pill to be abortifacients (on the theory that, in a tiny percentage of cases, they might act to deter implantation). So the church's likely next step, if it is successful in getting abortion outlawed, is to try to have these methods declared to be abortion methods and thus illegal.

            In addition, the church is trying everything in its power to decrease the availability of effective sex education, especially for young people. It offers no sex education in its schools. In cities where school districts rent buildings owned by the church, the church forbids sex education to be taught in those buildings so the students have to go to another building for sex education class.

            The Church is also pretty much rabidly foaming at the mouth about putting Planned Parenthood out of business. This is partly because of the abortion issue. But it is also because Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of sex education in the country, and because it provides low-cost doctor's visits and birth control, and because it is large enough to act as an effective public voice against the policies of the church.

            It might be of interest to mention that Catholic women in the U.S. use (and have used) birth control of the same kinds and at nearly the same rates as other women, and only about 2% of Catholic women are using natural family planning.

            The church's so-called 'pregnancy crisis centers' blatantly lie to women regarding their options, the actual nature of abortion, the effort of pregnancy, the likelihood of miscarriage, and so, so much more. Their programs to 'support women through their pregnancy' are often thinly veiled adoption mills in which women are strongly encouraged to give up the child. Also, once a baby is born, the woman is dropped from all support programs like a hot potato.

            At Catholic hospitals -- and the church now owns about 15% of this country's hospitals, and is often the only hospital in many areas:
            * Doctors** are not allowed to prescribe birth control nor provide any information about it.
            * Doctors are not allowed to perform sterilizations even if the doctor knows that a future pregnancy will be fatal for the woman.
            * Doctors are not allowed to use the morning-after pill in the ER in the case of rape.*
            * Doctors are not allowed to terminate a pregnancy that will assuredly kill both the mother and child, nor give the woman information about the option of termination elsewhere. (An Arizona Catholic hospital director authorized a termination in such a situation, and the church immediately excommunicated the director, a nun, and removed the hospital from the Catholic chain it had been a part of.)
            * Doctors are not allowed to give a patient birth control pills which she has been prescribed while she is in the hospital for an injury, surgery, or any other reason, so unless the family smuggles them in, the woman has to get restarted on the pill again and use alternative (and likely less effective) birth control method for about six weeks.
            * Doctors are not allowed to give a woman undergoing a miscarriage any information that terminating the doomed pregnancy could avoid the woman going into septic shock and dying, like Savita in Ireland -- or even information that going to another non-Catholic hospital would allow the woman to have the miscarriage completed before the fetus actually succumbs. (There are several active US court cases against Catholic hospitals for exactly this behavior.)
            * Doctors are not allowed to terminate an ectopic pregnancy except by the "indirect" route of removing the entire fallopian tube (which severely impairs her future fertility). Why? Because then "morally" the abortion is an unfortunate "side effect" of the tube removal.
            But it's not just reproductive health limits. There are several other restrictions of which I will mention only one.
            * Doctors are not allowed to let a late-stage terminally ill patient choose to stop eating or drinking in order to hasten death, nor to give the patient or their family any advice or information regarding their rights and options regarding such end-of-life options outside of the Catholic hospital.

            The church is continually buying up more hospitals, trying its best to become "too big to fail" so that the government will have to accede to the church's policies. This is even though ~65% of the hospitals' revenue comes directly from the government (Medicare, Medicaid, charity allowance, etc.) and they are allowed to operate as tax-exempt non-profits. The church wants its hospitals to get to make the rules about the kind of health care that it doesn't consider to be "health care." It does not consider pregnancy or fertility issues of any kind, for example, to be a medical condition, so it believes it shouldn't be bound by any government regulations regarding health care for these situations.

            I don't think I need to say much about the church's virulent opposition to the Affordable Care Act contraceptive mandate.

            You better believe that my Advance Directive specifies that I am never to be taken to or kept in a Catholic hospital. Many women I know have done the same.

            Proof? Yeah, for all of this, I've got it up the wazoo. But this article is about the general misogyny of the church, so I'll wait for SN to have an article about birth control to discuss that topic further.

            * (The church in Germany was doing the same thing until recently, with a few high profile rape cases. The German government pretty much told the church to give rape victims access to the morning after pill or get out
            of the hospital business, and the church buckled.)

            ** ("Doctors" also includes nurses and all other medical and administrative hospital staff.)

            In summary, Mike, the church is doing everything it possibly can to limit women's access to contraception and to information about reproductive health and to options regarding troubled or doomed pregnancies.

            The only reason it's not openly working now to make contraception illegal, IMHO, is because it knows the backlash it would suffer.

            (No, seriously, Geena, tell us how you really feel. Don't sugar coat it, now.)

          • Mike

            Hi Geena,

            I'm glad you got that off your chest. I hope it made you feel a little better (meant to be playful).

            You mention a lot of stuff and I think maybe later at the appropriate article (as you mentioned) we could have a conversation about it.

            Can I mention one thing, and ask a genuine question. I think you're right about the sex ed. I think the church is afraid of the topic and should address it in a better way. It is a natural thing and we shouldn't be afraid of discussing uncomfortable things. I don't think the Church should echo what is said in society, that is to say not compete with contemporary society. The Church should always strive to offer something that can't be accessed elsewhere, or else it isn't the bride of Christ. I know many here might disagree on principle since they aren't theists, but its my mindset. Anyway, back on topic, the church should present what it teaches about intimacy besides 3 months before a couple gets married (aka pre cana).

            Now for the question. I've been under the impression that if a woman's life is in jeopardy (with no chance to save the child, but a chance to save the mother) that it is permissible, like the fallopian pregnancy you discussed. I don't know if there are other examples, but I would think as long as you are trying to preserve life, the act might be just. The Church might not like it, but I would think there is some mitigation from the decision being made under duress. Is this incorrect? Also if someone with a theological background could weigh in?

          • Geena Safire

            I've been under the impression that if a woman's life is in jeopardy (with no chance to save the child, but a chance to save the mother) that it is permissible, like the fallopian pregnancy you discussed.

            You are far from the only one under this false impression. The church teaches that an evil can never be done even in order for a good to result.

            The woman -- and her family -- must accept death from her pregnancy as a "broken kind of gift from God."

            Even if the woman is not pregnant and medical tests show that, if she gets pregnant, the pregnancy will kill her, she is still not allowed to use contraception nor to get a sterilization. "Broken gift"

            There is also no exception even for the most massively deformed fetuses. "Broken gift."

            Even if the fetus is completely nonviable (e.g., missing a brain or heart), The pregnancy must be continued until at least until 26 weeks (minimal viability), in which case the church allows the theologically-sound fiction concept of "inducing labor for the mother's health," "Broken gift."

            (The ectopic exception took years of theological wrangling to work through and find a... well, the church wouldn't call it a loophole.)

            Don't let any woman you love near a Catholic hospital if she is pregnant. Unless she is into "broken gifts."

            ------------------------------------------------------

            Here's just a bit of the Wikipedia article on Sister Margaret McBride:

            McBride was an administrator and member of the ethics committee at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, which is owned by Catholic Healthcare West(Dignity Health).

            On 27 November 2009, the committee was consulted on the case of a 27-year-old woman who was eleven weeks pregnant with her fifth child and suffering from pulmonary hypertension. Her doctors stated that the woman's chance of dying if the pregnancy was allowed to continue was "close to 100 percent".

            McBride joined the ethics committee in approving the decision to terminate the pregnancy through an induced
            abortion. The abortion took place and the mother survived.

            Afterwards, the abortion came to the attention of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix. Olmsted spoke to McBride privately and she confirmed her participation in the procurement of the
            abortion. Olmsted informed her that in allowing the abortion, she had incurred a latae sententiae,
            or automatic, excommunication. McBride was subsequently reassigned from her post as vice president of mission integration at the hospital.

          • Mike A

            Yeah, the McBride case- along with telling people with AIDS not to use condoms, and the conspiracy to cover up all the child rapes- is pretty good evidence that whatever the Church values, the lives and welfare of everyday people aren't on the list.

            Oh, let's not forget this: http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1883598,00.html

          • Geena Safire

            Mike, I understand about your passion on this subject. But SN cannot survive if we atheists just whack the Catholics over the head about all their, um, differing decisions and their consequences in every article.

            I'm not saying I'm an angel at this myself, and I'm not a moderator here, but I might tenderly request that you restrain your enthusiasm regarding these other topics until an appropriate article is posted.

            Isn't there enough to discuss regarding women in the church?

          • Mike A

            Fair enough; I edited my post to stay more on topic.

          • Mike

            Hi Geena,

            Thank you for the info, its certainly something to think about. My one thought is that it seems like many of these decisions would be made under considerable duress and God (assuming God exists and is merciful) would be forgiving, I have family in Phoneix, and I've read a little bit (mostly I'm aware of) about the actions of the bishop. Now, I'm not a theologian, or a member of the clergy, but I don't like what he did in such a public way.

            I've enjoyed typing back and forth with you, and hopefully you have as well.

          • Geena Safire

            My one thought is that it seems like many of these decisions would be made under considerable duress and God (assuming God exists and is merciful) would be forgiving,

            I appreciate your feedback and your gentle, clear style and your willingness to consider other points of view, Mike. I hope I have been able to be as respectful of your positions

            However, my main issue, actually, is not the church being eventually forgiving. My main issue is that those involved were not just parochially but also financially punished for saving a woman's life in a situation which had about 100% chance of killing her if the pregnancy continued -- a situation for which nobody should even feel guilty about anything.

          • You're wrong, and there no Catholic teaching that says anyone's death is a "broken gift." It is always a tragedy.

            Direct abortion is never necessary to save the life of a woman. In the case of ectopic pregnancies and etc, indirect abortion is permissible under the principle of double effect.

            Re: the case of Margaret McBride, did you know that there is a doctor in Wisconsin that has a 100% success rate in treating pregnancy-induced hypertension? She was never consulted so far as it is known.

            You're ignoring many of the facts of the case to make it fit your skewed narrative, such as the ones included in this article: https://www.osv.com/TheChurch/Mary/Article/TabId/660/ArtMID/13700/ArticleID/8871/Sisters-abortion-approval-draws-automatic-excommunication.aspx

            Seriously, when you lie about stuff like this, it really undermines your credibility.

          • Geena Safire

            First, the Catholic teaching is that all of creation is a broken gift.

            Second, this "broken gift" phrase is often used by Catholic ministers and theologians to "explain" how Catholics are to accept the tragedies we experience in life, including tragedies that could have been completely avoided except for Catholic teaching.

            Third, regarding the necessity of "direct" abortion to save the life of a woman is a theological fiction, a Catholic word game which I will not play.

            Fourth, regarding the necessity of abortion to save the life of a woman, that should be an issue to be addressed by doctors and not by theologians. The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists is clear on the matter:

            "[A]bortions are necessary in a number of circumstances to save the life of a woman or to preserve her health. Unfortunately, pregnancy is not a risk-free life event, particularly for many women with chronic medical conditions. Despite all of our medical advances, more than 600 women die each year from pregnancy and childbirth-related reasons right here in the US. In fact, many more women would die each year if they did not have access to abortion to protect their health or to save their lives."

            Fifth, you note a single doctor in a single city who claims to have been able to successfully treat preeclampsia in a certain unspecified number of women in her area -- a claim that has not been independently validated by outside experts, using treatments that are not stated -- and who claims that she has not yet experienced a case that has not responded to her treatment and thus suffered seizure, stroke, multiple organ failure or death of the mother and/or baby, the frequent consequences of preeclampsia. Further, it is known that, in many cases if identified early and treated conventionally and, when necessary, early labor is induced after fetal viability is reached, preeclampsia usually does not proceed to HLLP or eclampsia. So her claim may mean exactly nothing. In addition, even if untreated, preeclampsia does not always lead to HLLP or eclampsia, although it does in a significant number of patients. This doctor's claim may only be that her clients are willing to accept a higher significant risk of death in order to maintain their pregnancy and none of them so far have lost the odds.

            Finally, as to your assertion: "when you lie about stuff like this," please specify the exact statements I have made that you consider to be lies, and what about them you consider to be dishonest.

          • David Nickol

            Direct abortion is never necessary to save the life of a woman. In the case of ectopic pregnancies and etc, indirect abortion is permissible under the principle of double effect.

            There are two ways of interpreting this. One is that an abortion to save the life of the mother is not a "direct" abortion because there is no intention to kill the fetus. Some Catholic moral theologians hold this view. The ethicists in the Phoenix abortion case did not claim this as a justifying factor, although they could have. They had another rationale (that the target of the surgery was not the fetus, but the placenta), which is at least as convincing (in my opinion) as the standard Catholic rationale for a salpingectomy in the case of ectopic pregnancy.

            The other way of interpreting it, which is the way I am assuming you meant it, is that a woman with a life-threatening pregnancy can always be saved without directly harming the fetus she is carrying. "Directly" in this case means, basically, "touching." For example, the removal of a pregnant woman's cancerous uterus can be accomplished without touching the embryo.
            I believe it is false medical information to claim that a direct abortion (in this second sense) is never necessary to save a pregnant woman's life. The need for life-saving abortions is rare, especially compared to the huge number of abortions performed in the United States. But I believe it is simply untrue to claim that an abortion is never necessary to save a pregnant woman's life.

          • An indirect abortion is a treatment in which the goal is not to kill the child but to cure the underlying pathology that is causing the health issue. The death of the child is an unintended, if foreseen, side effect. Of course, the optimal treatment is one that can try to save both the mother and the child, but in some very rare instances, that isn't possible.

            My statement that direct abortion is never necessary to save a woman's life is absolutely true, and many medical professionals agree.

            DUBLIN DECLARATION ON MATERNAL HEALTHCARE

            “As experienced practitioners and researchers in obstetrics and gynaecology, we affirm that direct abortion – the purposeful destruction of the unborn child – is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman.

            We uphold that there is a fundamental difference between abortion, and necessary medical treatments that are carried out to save the life of the mother, even if such treatment results in the loss of life of her unborn child.

            We confirm that the prohibition of abortion does not affect, in any way, the availability of optimal care to pregnant women.”

            http://www.dublindeclaration.com/

          • David Nickol

            My statement that direct abortion is never necessary to save a woman's life is absolutely true, and many medical professionals agree.

            If your statement is "absolutely true," why don't all medical professionals agree? Why do you accept as "absolutely true" a statement on a web site, no many how many people have signed it, rather than a statement from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology? What are your qualifications to decide whether the signatories of the Dublin Declaration or the physicians of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology are right?

            Are you saying that there never was or will be a situation in which abortion is necessary to save a woman's life? How in the world can you know the "absolute truth" in a matter where experts disagree?

          • Because many medical professionals are more interested in shielding themselves from lawsuits than treating an unborn child as an actual patient and not a lump of tissue to be discarded.

            It's related to how many OB/GYNs don't practice evidence-based medicine when it comes to childbirth, and frequently recommend unnecessary interventions, inductions, and/or caesarians, or refuse to recognize the validity of studies that demonstrate how homebirths are actually as safe as hospital births.

            Or how slow the medical profession was to recognize the success of the non-invasive Ponseti method in treating clubfoot. Dr. Ignacio Ponseti practiced well into his 90s, and struggled most of his professional career to change the standard treatment of clubfoot. Et cetera.

            Please research the Dublin Declaration. Do you disagree with the experts who stated it? On what basis do you say that their professional opinion is invalid?

            What about the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists? What is your basis for disputing their professional opinion? http://www.aaplog.org/position-and-papers/abortion-to-save-the-life-of-the-mother/

            Or former Surgeon General of the United States, C. Everett Koop? http://www.pathlights.com/abortion/abort08.htm

          • Geena Safire

            David, this Dublin Declaration is just deceptive word play.

            An action that results in the termination of the pregnancy which is done to save the life of the woman is, by their definition, not a direct abortion.

            Therefore, tautologically, a direct abortion is always, by their definition, one that is done not to save the life of the woman.

            The other deception is their hiding their definition of how likely it must be that the woman will die without the termination in order to consider an action "necessary to save the life of the mother."

          • No, it's not deceptive wordplay, it's a very important theological, philosophical, and practical distinction. The principle of double effect exists in secular philosophy as well: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/double-effect/

            Your second paragraph is incorrect. If an unborn child is directly attacked in order to save the life of the woman, it is a direct abortion. Action matters as much as intent.

            Example: Methrotrexate to treat an ectopic pregnancy directly attacks the unborn child, so it is a direct abortion.

            An operation to remove a fallopian tube does not directly attack the unborn child (the action is on the tube, not the baby) even though the baby tragically dies as an unintended if foreseen result of the tube removal.

          • Geena Safire
          • Michael Murray

            Yes, yes I know. I should really get back to yoga this year.

          • picklefactory

            Wow, those crossfitters sure are getting limber.

          • Lionel Nunez

            I'll back you up on this one; your detractors need to understand that just because if

          • Andrew G.

            Try this experiment.

            Look through the official Church responses - from bishops, Church bioethicists, etc. - in response to the Savita Halappanavar case and the Means case.

            See if you can find one single response that indicates that the Church would have permitted either patient to receive the established medical standard of care - which is to induce delivery or otherwise end the pregnancy immediately, once it is clear that membranes are infected.

            When I looked, all I could find is responses like:

            "Our guidelines allow the mother to receive treatment even if it indirectly risks the fetus' life" -- ignoring the fact that the standard of care in these cases is to intentionally end the pregnancy before viability, something explicitly forbidden by those guidelines

            "Under Irish law the hospital could have ended the pregnancy based on the risk to the mother" - sidestepping the question of whether the Church would approve such a thing.

            These responses are not adequate; they are obvious deflections away from the awkward facts.

          • fredx2

            NFP

          • Geena Safire

            Ummm.... I'll take an S, Pat.

            Oh, this isn't Wheel of Fortune?

            Then I think I'm going to need a verb, fredx2.

          • David Nickol

            Regarding NFP, one usually hears from the enthusiasts. A few years ago, Brett Salkeld of Vox Nova wrote a post (with some good links) called When Natural Family Planning Gets Tough. There's no doubt that NFP works quite well for some people, especially when the wife has a very regular cycle and her body gives very clear readings for the various tests used to detect fertile and infertile periods. On the other hand, if the woman's cycle is irregular, NFP can be very difficult. I remember reading an account (I think by Brett Salkeld himself) of their being stretches of literally months when he and his wife did not get a fully reliable indication of an infertile period.

            NFP can be a breeze for some couples, but for others it can be very, very difficult. I reading about people's experiences, it seems generally it is Catholics for whom it works well who speak out, and they give glowing testimonials. Those Catholics who have a terrible time and abandon NFP (in my limited experience) are disinclined to talk about it.

          • Michael Murray

            Excellent point about the hospital system. In Australia we have an extensive public hospital system but various Catholic "charities" are slowing taking over much of the private system with the effect you describe on fertility related treatment.

          • "The church's so-called 'pregnancy crisis centers' blatantly lie to women regarding their options, the actual nature of abortion, the effort of pregnancy, the likelihood of miscarriage, and so, so much more."

            This is a lie (ah, irony). Please provide evidence to back up your assertion that every single CPC in the nation blatantly lies to women. Do the employees of some CPCs do so? Probably, and that's very wrong of them to do (especially given that we have science and the truth on our side). But I can assure you that Planned Parenthood and other abortion facilities lie to women as well: http://www.liveaction.org/

          • Geena Safire

            First, as I said above, I'll save the longer discussion, and proof, for a future SN article for which the topic is abortion. In this comment, I was replying to another commenter's question regarding the Catholic Church and its activities regarding birth control.

            Second, I didn't say "every single CPC in the nation." So you are lying by misquoting me Apparently, this is part of your modus operandi.

            Third, I wrote about Planned Parenthood, not about "Planned Parenthood and other abortion facilities." Thus your link has nothing to do with what I posted. Again, you misquote me. Apparently, this is part of your modus operandi.

            Fourth, a discussion as to whether you "have science and the truth on our side" will again have to wait for a future SN article for which the topic is abortion.

          • You said, "The church's so-called 'crisis pregnancy centers' blatantly lie to women regarding their options, the actual nature of abortion, the effort of pregnancy, the likelihood of miscarriage, and so, so much more."

            You did not say "some" CPCs or even "most" CPCs so one can only assume that you mean all of them. Are you retracting or amending your statement?

          • Geena Safire

            If I say, "Men are taller than women," do you assume that I am saying that every man is taller than every woman?

            Also note that you did not apologize for misquoting me.

            However, I stand by my statement that CPCs, in general, lie to women. However, as I have told you now at least three times: when there is an SN article regarding abortion, I'll engage with you regarding the information CPCs provide to women. This is not the place.

            Really, JoAnna, if you're not able to cope with talking with atheists without misquoting and lying and calling bull and getting frustrated... ...you might need to find another hobby than SN. Get some rest. Come back tomorrow. Or not.

          • Can't provide evidence so you're deflecting. Gotcha.

          • Geena Safire

            Talk to Brandon about getting an SN article on birth control or abortion and you'll see. Hey, you could even write the article yourself if your jimmies are so rustled.

            I've stated, repeatedly, why I'm not providing sources here, which is because it is not appropriate here. I've stated the conditions under which I'll provide sources. And yet you are still goading me.

            If you want to call that deflecting, you are free to do so. I can't control how you use the English language. I'll just add mischaracterizing and goading to misquoting and lying on my list of JoAnna's bad habits.

          • As a Catholic woman active in the pro-life movement, I can confidently say that this is not true:

            "In summary, Mike, the church is doing everything it possibly can to limit women's access to contraception and to information about reproductive health and to options regarding troubled or doomed pregnancies"

            Ever hear of NaPro technology?

          • Geena Safire

            First, I wasn't talking about infertility and I wasn't talking about disease; I was talking primarily about birth control.

            So I suppose, to be more specific, I should have said "birth control" instead of the broader term "reproductive health."

            Second, though, you completely deflected what I wrote to discuss two tiny, nearly irrelevant concepts. Only two percent of Catholic women even practice natural family planning, so likely a similar percentage would have any issue with conventional medical treatment for reproductive health. So who, exactly, is being deceptive in this conversation.

            Third, since you mentioned it: Mainstream medicine doesn't offer NaPro because it is notoriously ineffective compared to the other options they can offer and takes a great deal more time and effort. However, AFAIK, most physicians will refer any intensely Catholic clients to NaPro practitioners if they request it. Where is any lying here?

            Fourth, with respect to various conditions that can be treated simply, effectively, and inexpensively with hormone therapy rather than invasive surgery, most women would choose the former. Again, AFAIK, if an intensely Catholic client expresses an objection to hormone therapy, most physicians will provide other options or, if they feel it would not be in the best interest of their client, would recommend that she consult another specialist. Where is any lying here?

            Fifth, you provide exactly zero refutation to the actual points that I wrote about in my comment.

            Finally, I didn't say that the Catholic Church was lying to women about reproductive health. I said the church "is doing everything it possibly can to limit women's access to
            contraception and to information about reproductive health and to
            options regarding troubled or doomed pregnancies." Again you misquote me -- even when you include the quote in your comment from which you misquote. I guess lying is part of your modus operandi.

          • NaPro is notoriously ineffective?? Whaaa...? That's simply untrue. http://www.naprotechnology.com/infertility.htm

            I did not lie or misquote you. Please show me how and where the Catholic Church is preventing access to anything in terms of contraception. You've provided no evidence.

            Please show me how and where the Catholic Church is trying to limit women's access to information about troubled or doomed pregnancies. Etc.

            You've made wild claims but have provided zero evidence. Who is lying, exactly?

          • Geena Safire

            I'll let you read through our comment threads again, though I suggest you do so when you have had a chance to relax and calm down. Maybe tomorrow Then we can resume our discussion.

          • Actually, I am calm. Frustrated, but calm. And I'd love to continue the discussion as long as you can cite sources for your claims, but so far you've been unable to do so (and you keep citing long-debunked claims, such as that "only 2% of Catholic women use NFP" statistic). I've no interest in carrying on a discussion with someone who makes wild claims but refuses to provide any factual evidence with which to back them up.

          • David Nickol

            and you keep citing long-debunked claims, such as that "only 2% of Catholic women use NFP" statistic)

            Do you have any information that the rate is significantly higher? I have never seen an estimate higher than 5%, and usually it is around 3%. If you can cite a reliable source that the 2% figure is "long debunked," that is, that the percentage is significantly higher, you will have substantiated one (and so far, I think, only one) of your charges against Geena Safire.

          • Actually, I've also debunked her claim that NaPro Techology is "notoriously ineffective," so it's at least two.

            To my knowledge, there has not yet been an in-depth study on how many women actually use NFP, or how many faithful Catholic women use NFP. So while I wish I could cite you statistics, I can't. That being said, the study that Geena keeps citing is inherently flawed. They only surveyed a very narrow subset of women - women ages 15-44 who weren't pregnant or postpartum, etc. (If you have a large circle of faithful Catholic women friends, as I do, you'd know that many of us are either pregnant or postpartum at any given time!) They did not attempt to ascertain if the women were culturally Catholic or actually faithfully Catholic (women who are in the Church for social/cultural women as oppose to those who believe in and faithfully adhere to the tenets of their faith). There are, in fact, numerous flaws with that study, which are detailed here: http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2012/02/how_to_lie_with_statistics_exa_1.html

            But you know what? It really doesn't matter. 100% of Catholics sin in one way or the other, and the Church isn't about to repeal sin.

          • Geena Safire

            JoAnna, you have not debunked my claim regarding NaPro Technology. You have linked to the NaPro web site which is quoting its own "results." That's hardly debunking. Are there any independent studies of NaPro that include every woman that has begun using the procedure? So that's not "1."

            With respect to thestudy on Religion and Contraceptive Use, I provided, in a separate comment, details and quotes from your own WaPo link to back up what I wrote. So that's not "2."

            But since that didn't level of detail seem to satisfy you, I'll provide even more information here.

            The data used by the report authors was taken from the 2006–2008 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), which was designed and administered by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). That is to say, although this report was published by the Guttmacher Institute, the survey itself was performed by a government organization under the Centers for Disease Control
            (CDC) and was conducted completely independently of Guttmacher. You can find information regarding the full data set from which this report was taken here.

            Regarding who was surveyed: Since the study was regarding birth control use, it makes sense to interview women who are likely to be those who might be
            in a position to consider birth control
            because they (a) could become pregnant and (b) do not currently intend to become pregnant.

            This would include:
            * Women in their childbearing years, 15-44
            * Women who are sexually active within the last three months
            This would exclude:
            * Women who are attempting/intending to become pregnant
            * Women who are postpartum
            * Women who are pregnant

            This seems like a completely relevant population to survey regarding birth control.

            You might have some issue with this population selection, but that opinion does not mean the study is flawed. A flawed study would be one in which the surveyed group is not representative of the population it is intended to represent, or if they did not survey a sufficient number of people in each group, or if questions were worded deceptively or in a confusing way, or that reports results that do not match the actual data or the significance
            level of the findings. Someone not liking who they surveyed or what questions they didn't ask does not make a study flawed.

            Your link to the article regarding concerns with the study doesn't like the same things about the study that you don't like, but it doesn't note any flaws with the study itself. There are some errors in how the media is reporting on some of the data, but that is not a flaw in the study either.

            Of the 7,356 women interviewed in person, about 25% self-identified as Catholic, or about eighteen hundred women. This is statistically much larger than the number needed to yield significant results.

            As with essentially all surveys, it allowed the women to self-identify with respect to their religion. On page 4, the report provides a brief summary of the information regarding the distribution of women by religion.

            The survey asked often the women attended services and how important their religion was to them. Of the Catholic women, regarding attending services: weekly 30%, monthly 30%, less than once a month 30%, or never 11%.

            Of the Catholic women, 46% indicated that religion is very important to their daily life.

            Of the unmarried Catholic women 20-24, 89% have been sexually active.

            Of the Catholic women, 2% said they used natural family planning, which is the same for those who attend services weekly or monthly. However, 3% of married Catholic
            women report practicing natural family planning.

            Apart from that, the total percentage of Catholic women who use other birth control methods very closely matches that of all women (as you can see in the table on page 8): Sterilization 34% v 33%, Pill/Hormonal 35% v 31%, IUD 5% v 5%, Condom 15% v 14%, Other 4% v 5%, No method 11% v 11%.

            You may not be happy that the survey did not ask the Catholic women more detailed questions regarding their degree of faithfulness. But that also does not make the study flawed.

            JoAnna, you can easily extract from these results the information that you seem to want. Only 11% of unmarried women age 20-24 are "faithful Catholic women" because the rest have had premarital sex. Of all the married Catholic women, only 14% are "faithful Catholic women" because the rest are using an artificial contraceptive method – 11% use no method and 3% use natural
            family planning.

          • Geena Safire

            I had posted this yesterday, but it disappeared, so I am reposting. Darn Disqus!

            JoAnna, you have not debunked my claim regarding NaPro Technology. You have linked to the NaPro web site which is quoting its own "results." That's hardly debunking. Are there any independent studies of NaPro that include every woman that has begun using the procedure? So that's not "1."

            With respect to thestudy on Religion and Contraceptive Use, I provided, in a separate comment, details and quotes from your own WaPo link to back up what I wrote. So that's not "2." You're still at zero.

            But since that level of detail didn't seem to satisfy you, I'll provide even more information here.

            The data used by the report authors was taken from the 2006–2008 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), which was designed and administered by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). That is to say, although this brief report was published by the Guttmacher Institute, the survey itself was performed by a government organization under the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and was conducted completely independently of Guttmacher. You can find
            information regarding the full data set from which this report was taken here.

            Regarding who was surveyed: Since the study was regarding birth control use, it makes sense to interview women who are likely to be those who might be in a position to consider birth control because they (a) could become pregnant and (b) do not currently intend to become pregnant.
            This would include:
            * Women in their childbearing years, 15-44
            * Women who are sexually active within the last three months
            This would exclude:
            * Women who are attempting/intending to become pregnant
            * Women who are postpartum
            * Women who are pregnant

            This seems like a completely relevant population to survey regarding birth control.

            You might have some issue with this population selection, but that opinion does not mean the study is flawed. A flawed study would be one in which the surveyed group is not representative of the population it is intended to represent, or if they did not survey a sufficient number of people in each group, or if questions were worded deceptively or in a confusing way, or that reports results that do not match the actual data or the significance level of the findings.

            Your link to the article regarding concerns with the study doesn't like the same things about the study that you don't like, but it doesn't note any flaws with the study itself. There are some errors in how the media is reporting on some of the data, but that is not a flaw in the study either.

            Of the 7,356 women interviewed in person, about 25% self-identified as Catholic, or about eighteen hundred women. This is statistically much larger than the number needed to yield significant results.

            As with essentially all surveys, it allowed the women to self-identify with respect to their religion. On page 4, the report provides a brief summary of the information regarding the distribution of women by religion.

            The survey asked often the women attended services and how important their religion was to them. Of the Catholic women, regarding attending services: weekly 30%, monthly 30%, less than once a month 30%, or never 11%.

            Of the Catholic women, 46% indicated that religion is very important to their daily life.

            Of the unmarried Catholic women 20-24, 89% have been sexually active at least once.

            Of the Catholic women, 2% said they used natural family planning, which is the same for those who attend services weekly or monthly. However, 3% of married Catholic
            women report practicing natural family planning.

            Apart from that, the total percentage of Catholic women who use other birth control methods very closely matches that of all women (as you can see in the table on page 8): Sterilization 34% v 33%, Pill/Hormonal 35% v 31%, IUD 5% v 5%, Condom 15% v 14%, Other 4% v 5%, No method 11% v 11%.

            You may not be happy that the survey did not ask the Catholic women more detailed questions regarding their faithfulness. But that also does not make the study flawed.

            JoAnna, you can easily extract from these results the information that you seem to want. Only 11% of unmarried women age 20-24 are candidates to be "faithful Catholic women" because the rest have had premarital sex. Of all the married Catholic women, only 14% are candidates for "faithful Catholic women" because the rest are using an artificial contraceptive method – 11% use no method and 3% use natural family planning.

          • Geena Safire

            JoAnna, please wait until tomorrow when you are less "frustrated," then, so you can stop lying.

            I have not been "been unable to [cite sources for my claims]."

            I have already said at least two times - including once to you directly - that I will wait to do so until there is an SN article specifically on birth control. As I also said, I was mainly replying to a comment by another commenter. I am trying to follow SN guidelines not to pull a discussion off the topic of the article.

          • Michael Murray

            Please show me how and where the Catholic Church is preventing access to anything in terms of contraception

            I gave two examples here

            https://strangenotions.com/does-the-catholic-church-hate-women/#comment-1206729234

          • 1. I don't see how that demonstrates that the Church is preventing access to contraception.

            2. See #1. Ireland's government =/= the Catholic Church.

          • Michael Murray

            So is our disagreement over the word "preventing" as distinct from the phrase "using it's considerable influence to encourage governments to prevent " ? Because I don't see that as being a difference that amounts to anything.

          • David Nickol

            OB/GYNS also throw the Pill at women suffering from conditions such as
            endometreosis or PCOS, rather than trying to cure or treat the
            underlying conditions.

            "The Pill," if not used for contraceptive purposes, is not condemned by the Catholic Church. The Church has never said there is anything intrinsically evil about pills containing estrogen and/or progestin. They are two naturally occurring hormones (although they are now synthesized for pills), and as far as I know, the Church has never condemned a hormone. Whether these hormones are always used wisely is another issue, but doctors who prescribe them to treat various medical conditions rather than to be used as contraceptives are doing nothing wrong in the eyes of the Church.

          • The thing is, they DON'T TREAT medical conditions. They may help mask the symptoms, but the birth control pill does not treat nor cure conditions such as endometreosis or PCOS. Actually, it may exacerbate the problems because the women will use the pill to mask the symptoms for years on end, and by the time they seek treatment for these conditions (when they are ready to start a family), the conditions have gotten worse.

          • David Nickol

            The thing is, they DON'T TREAT medical conditions. They may help mask the symptoms, but the birth control pill does not treat nor cure conditions such as endometreosis or PCOS.

            Whether you are right or wrong medically, the whole issue would seem to be irrelevant to this discussion. If the Pill is not being used for contraception, the Church has no objection to it. Whether or not doctors are misusing the Pill to treat conditions for which it is not a good (or the best) medical treatment has absolutely nothing to do with Catholicism or contraception.

            I wonder if what is not going on here is a kind of irrational animus against estrogen and progestin pills because they are generally used as contraceptives. It doesn't seem to be enough that the Church condemns them as immoral. Catholic opponents of contraception also want to "prove" that they are unsafe, too, when used as contraceptives, and that they are ineffective and harmful when used in any other way. We see this same kind of irrational animus against condoms. Not only are they morally forbidden. Catholic opponents of contraception make claims that they don't work, they don't prevent the transmission of AIDS, and in fact the paradoxically increase the spread of AIDS. I think it is wise to keep moral and medical issues separate. If the Pill isn't the best treatment for endometriosis (the correct spelling) or PCOS, that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Catholic opposition to contraception. It's just irrelevant. Of course, you could be arguing that it is the medical profession, not the Catholic Church, that "hates women." Then it might be relevant.

          • Slocum Moe

            I was pleased that the author was able to refrain from calling women baby murderers.

          • Mike

            Thanks? I like to think that even if many people on this site disagree we can be civil to one another. I mean the point of this exchange is to understand one another's point of view. I we just yell past one another it doesn't help advance the conversation, and everyone just gets upset.

          • MichaelNewsham

            I think you have to differentiate between what the Church can do and what it would like to do. The Church did oppose liberalization of birth control laws; it lost in most developed countries.

            The most significant opponent to birth control was the Catholic
            Church, which mobilized opposition in many venues during the 1920s.[100] Catholics persuaded the Syracuse city council to ban Sanger from giving a speech in 1924; the National Catholic Welfare Conference lobbied against birth control; the Knights of Columbus
            boycotted hotels that hosted birth control events; the Catholic police
            commissioner of Albany prevented Sanger from speaking there; the
            Catholic mayor of Boston, James Curley, blocked Sanger from speaking in public; and several newsreel companies, succumbing to pressure from Catholics, refused to cover stories related to birth control.[101]
            The ABCL turned some of the boycotted speaking events to their
            advantage by inviting the press, and the resultant news coverage often
            generated public sympathy for their cause.[102]
            However, Catholic lobbying was particularly effective in the
            legislative arena, where their arguments – that contraception was
            unnatural, harmful, and indecent – impeded several initiatives,
            including an attempt in 1924 by Mary Dennett to overturn federal
            anti-contraception laws.[103]

            In places where it has political power it is still fighting:

            The Philippine Congress passed legislation on Monday to help the country’s poorest women gain access to birth control. Each chamber of the national legislature passed its own version of the measure, and minor differences between the two must be reconciled before the measure goes to President Benigno S. Aquino III for his signature.

            The measure had been stalled for more than a decade because of determined opposition from the church in this overwhelmingly Catholic country.

            Birth control is legal and widely available in the Philippines
            for people who can afford it, particularly those living in cities. But condoms, birth control pills and other forms of contraception are sometimes kept out of community health centers and clinics by local government and Catholic Church officials.

            But, you will say,it is legal- yes, passed over fierce opposition from the Church.

          • Michael Murray

            I think one can buy many types of birth control from a pharmacy for under $10.

            As someone who lived through the change from the days when buying condoms meant asking the pharmacist to bring you some from the back of the shop to the current easy availability (at least in Australia) I can assure you that this change had nothing to do with the Catholic Church softening it's position and everything to do with combating HIV/AIDS.

            Anyone else remember the ice-cream scene in "Summer of '42" or am I just getting old ?

      • Michael Murray
    • Well, men aren't supposed to use contraception either, so...

      I find it incredibly misogynistic, not to mention condescending, of you to suggest that I, as a woman, have to subvert and suppress my own healthy fertility in order to be "equal" to men. I'm happily married, a mother of 5, and I work full-time in my field. Please explain how I am somehow a lesser woman in your eyes because I don't use contraception.

      By the way, it is my free choice to not use contraception. I refuse to put carcinogens in my body, or use foreign devices that could perforate my uterus, or put a barrier between myself and my husband, or mutilate perfectly healthy organs, just because men want me to be an object to be used and discarded instead of a human person to be loved and cherished.

      • JoAnaa, that's a straw man argument. Mike wasn't saying that woman who doesn't use contraception is a lesser woman. He didn't say that at all. He's saying that men forbidding women from choosing whether to use birth control gives women a lesser status

        • Bull. Women can freely choose to use contraception. The Church doesn't take away our free will. All of the women I know who don't use contraception do so as a FREE CHOICE, because they recognize the wisdom of the Church's teachings and have decided that it's logical and reasonable. I used contraception for two years prior to my conversion and I would never go back.

          And saying that women have a "lesser status" if they don't use contraception is some of the most misogynistic crap I've ever heard. I don't use contraception and I work full-time (outside the home) as an editor for an international global information company (over 6,000 employees worldwide). How do I have a "lesser status" than anyone else?

          • Women can freely choose to use contraception. The Church doesn't take away our free will.

            The Church has at times tried to make or keep contraception illegal.

            And saying that women have a "lesser status" if they don't use contraception is some of the most misogynistic crap I've ever heard.

            Has anyone here said that women who choose not to use contraception have a "lesser status"? If so, can you identify and quote them for me?

          • "The Church has at times tried to make or keep contraception illegal."

            Sorry, how does that equate to taking away a woman's free will?

            Uh, you did, when paraphrasing Mike? "He didn't say that at all. He's saying that men forbidding women from choosing whether to use birth control gives women a lesser status."

          • I think you should review what's been said. These two statements are not the same at all:

            1. "Men forbidding women from choosing whether to use birth control gives women a lesser status."

            2. "Women who choose not to use contraception have a "lesser status,"

            Those are radically different statements. The issue here is not about whether a woman does or does not use contraception. The issue is whether the choice is up to her. Mike and I are saying statement #1. No one here is saying #2.

            Meanwhile, trying to make contraception illegal is certainly an attempt to prevent women from being able to "freely choose to use contraception." (Emphasis added)

          • First of all, you're claiming that the Church does not give women a choice, which is false. A woman can definitely choose to use contraception. She can also choose to engage in adultery, or steal, or do any manner of things. What she cannot choose is what is and is not sinful. That decision belongs to Jesus and, by extension, the Church (He gave them the power to bind and loose sins).

            Secondly, the Church is not trying to make contraception illegal. Has it in the past? Sure it has, just like She also advocates making murdering and stealing illegal. If you're referring to the HHS Mandate, then you're presenting a red herring. The Church is protesting the HHS mandate because it is the way the government is attempting to force Catholics (such as the Little Sisters of the Poor) to violate their religious beliefs by participating in sin (by paying for the contraception of others). That is not trying to make contraception illegal - that is merely trying to preserve religious liberty.

          • Also, I find it incredibly misogynistic that you're assuming women don't think or speak for themselves in regard to Church teaching ("Men forbidding women from choosing...") Please go here: http://womenspeakforthemselves.com/

            Most women (unlike you, I don't presume to speak for all of them, but I'm using my personal experience of the women I know) freely choose to be Catholic. We freely choose not to use contraception, even in difficult circumstances. We freely choose to be faithful to the Truth. Please don't demean our choice by implying that we are forced into it.

          • Please don't demean our choice by implying that we are forced into it.

            I can't continue with this. At no point have I demeaned anyone for choosing not to use birth control. I have argued that the male Church hierarchy has in the past tried to make or keep birth control illegal, and that is the very definition of trying to take a woman's choice out of the equation. The question is not what you choose but whether you have the legal right to choose.

            I believe that's the fourth time I've said this, and I have no reason to think it'll register any better than it did the first three times, but I figured I'd give it one last shot.

          • You're arguing two different things, then - whether women should be allowed to USE contraception or whether women should be allowed to HAVE ACCESS TO contraception. They are two entirely different things.

            The Church can and should advocate to make illegal that which she believes is harmful to society (murder, stealing, etc) - hence Her attempts in the past to lobby for keeping or making contraception illegal. Are women demeaned because they don't have the choice to kill their husbands if they are in unhappy marriages? Should we abolish murder so women have the choice whether or not to kill their husbands? To the Church, that's the logic you're using.

            And if you'd read Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI, you'll see that all of the predictions he made about the perils of the widespread use of contraception have come to pass.

            But at the moment, the Church is not trying to make contraception illegal, so your argument is nonsensical.

          • Mike A

            I'm afraid that based on what you've written here, I have no choice but to believe you're either incapable of or unwilling to have an honest discussion. Therefore, while I appreciate and agree with Rob's responses, I'm not going to engage you.

          • Why do you say that? I understand that it's not necessarily your belief that not using birth control gives women a lesser status - I was taking issue with Rob's paraphrase, not your comments.

            I just take issue with his apparent belief that I have a "lesser status" somehow because I choose to be a Catholic woman, and as part of being a Catholic woman I choose not to use contraception. I don't think that gives me a lesser status anywhere.

          • I understand that it's not necessarily your belief that not using birth control gives women a lesser status - I was taking issue with Rob's paraphrase, not your comments.

            Oh, come on! You began this whole subthread by saying to Mike (before I said anything on the subject):

            Please explain how I am somehow a lesser woman in your eyes because I don't use contraception.

            As for this:

            I just take issue with his apparent belief that I have a "lesser status" somehow because I choose to be a Catholic woman, and as part of being a Catholic woman I choose not to use contraception.

            I have never indicated that anywhere, I've made it clear that: "The issue here is not about whether a woman does or does not use contraception. The issue is whether the choice is up to her."

            I understand why Mike doubts your ability to have an honest discussion. You won't stop lying about what I said, so I'll have to stop engaging you.

          • Yes, I worded that poorly - I'm trying to make supper and entertain children while I write this, so I'm a bit distracted. :) Mike's statements seem to imply that I was a lesser woman because I didn't use contraception, but your paraphrase said that women have a lesser status. I take exception to both although I acknowledge Mike may not have meant what I inferred.

            I'm not lying about anything. That is how you're coming across to me.

          • I'm a sucker for a smiley face, and for multitasking parents, and for rescuing the good will in the conversation, so I'll pull back on my last harsh comment and just say this: There's a difference between a person choosing not to something that they have a legal right to do, and a person not being granted the legal right to make that choice.

            Think of it this way. I am not an accountant. I don't think that choice gives me lesser status. However, if the government told me I was not allowed to become an accountant, if it took on the power to make that decision for me, then yes, I would have lesser status than if I had the power to make that exact same decision for myself.

            I completely respect your choice not to use birth control. And I'm happy that the law has left that choice up to you. There's nothing demeaning or lesser about that.

            What I object to is when that the law takes away the legal freedom of that choice. If you look at the history of the thread, that's the situation both Mike and I have been talking about. Neither Mike nor I have cast any aspersions -- explicit or implied -- on you or any other woman who has chosen not to use birth control.

    • fredx2

      Mike, you presume that all women agree that Catholic policies "hurt them". A substantial number of women would disagree. I think you will find that more and more women have more and more questions about abortion - and contraception. You press the position of some women, not all.

      And, obviously, those policies are aimed at protecting very young human beings. They are not aimed at "hurting" women. It is only by taking the stance that the fetus is a complete nothing that you can ignore its interests. I submit that all reasonable people can agree we are involved in balancing two sets of interests.

      As to force - So I am using force when I engage in politics? Everyone who engages in politics is using force? After all that is what legislatures do - create laws with the force of law behind them. The bishops have done nothing more than honestly enter into the public square, as all citizens are able to do.

      • Mike A

        Mike, you presume that all women agree that Catholic policies "hurt them".

        I'll engage with the rest of your post after you show me where I said this, because I don't want to waste time talking to someone who makes things up.

        • Mike A

          Welp, guess that settles that.

          • Geena Safire

            Yes, folks, it's another round of "making stuff up FOR JESUS ™ ."

            (Is this snarky or is it nicer than calling him a liar?)

  • Alden Smith

    If the Church hated women, you think women would not be in it? At mass this week I saw more women then men.

    • Mike A

      Just so I'm clear, is your argument that the degree to which an organization is misogynistic is inversely related to the female/male ratio of its members?

      • Mike A

        Not that I particularly care, but I'm curious to know why this was downvoted, if the reason isn't simply that I'm an atheist.

        • Geena Safire

          My guess? It's not what you said, Mike. It's the way you said it. There's a line between being clever and nasty.

          Also, it seems like it's acceptable in these parts to express disapproval about a policy or an article, but not to lash out at a fellow commenter in an insulting or snarky way. It's in the SN guidelines.

          • Mike A

            Hang on a sec! I don't see anything nasty or ad hominem in what I wrote- I consider it good commenting practice to make sure I understand someones argument before I respond to it, and I thought (though maybe I was wrong) that what I asked was a reasonable interpretation of Alden's post.

            Seriously, I'm actually *stunned* that anyone could read nastiness, insults, or snark, or for that matter an attempt at cleverness into that post. Asking "is this your argument," and then trying to summarize someone's post, is 'lashing out' now?

          • Paul Boillot

            Yeah. Win some lose some? Downvotes are anonymous, so there's no way of knowing.

            In one of these threads I've got a comment that's got like...nine? downvotes. And it was, to my mind, a researched and reasonable post!

            Ah well.

        • Michael Murray

          I wouldn't worry about it. Have a look at some of Genna's posts above which have a down vote. It could just be someone passing by. It's hard to conclude anything except Geena is right the benchmark for non-snarkiness (for atheists) is high. I've probably just failed to reach it again :-)

    • Geena Safire

      Hmmm... Let's see now: Be an active and faithful member of this church which discriminates against me ... or burn in hell fire for all eternity. Tough choice!

      • Mike A

        Is it Catholic doctrine that non-faithful Catholics burn in hell? I ask because I've always been under the impression that Catholicism, unlike fundamentalist Protestantism, wasn't all that invested in categorizing who burns and who doesn't- but that could just be a blind spot in my religious education.

        • Ben Posin

          Based on what I've seen, the Catholic Church takes care not to make claims regarding whether any particular person orr hypothetical person is going to Hell--it strikes me as something of a hedging, defense measure meant to minimize how horrible the doctrine of Hell appears. I've seen it used when people ask how they a Catholic could be happy knowing their atheist relatives are in Hell.

      • I'm a Catholic woman, and what's more I'm an adult convert to the Church (I was Lutheran until age 22). I don't feel discriminated against in the slightest. In fact, I would argue that the complete opposite is true. Have you ever read JPII's Letter to Woman? Or Mulieris Dignitatem? I can't see how anyone could read either of those and still claim that the Church discriminates against women.

        • Geena Safire

          Yet again, JoAnna, you misunderstand the conversation here.

          Alden asked why women would stay active in a church that discriminates against them (which is how I interpreted Alden's church hating women phrase).

          Therefore, Alden was discussing women who felt that they were being discriminated against (hated by the church). Why? Because women who don't feel discriminated against would have no reason to feel any conflict regarding staying in the pews.

          Therefore, it is only the former who would be asking themselves the hypothetical question that I asked.

          Therefore, your comment is irrelevant.

    • I don't say that it hates women, just that it excludes them from leadership roles.

      • That's bull, and this is why: http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2013/03/08/are-women-already-running-the-catholic-church

        Popes, cardinals, bishops, priests aren't leaders. They're servants. That's why one of the titles of the Pope is "The Servant of the Servants of God."

        One of the highest ranking authority figures in the Church - higher even than the Pope - is a woman. Ever heard of the Blessed Mother?

        • Andre Boillot

          Yes, I heard she caused quite a stir with her choice of new cardinals to appoint, as well as her dismissing several key Vatican Bank figures.

          • Perhaps She did. Have you asked Her?

          • Andre Boillot

            JoAnna, just to be clear, your question is: have I asked the Virgin Mary if it was she - and not Pope Francis - that is in charge of appointing cardinals and Vatican officials?

            Serious question: I know much is written about her, but I'm struggling to remember many instances where she is quoted herself.

        • From the Catholic Encyclopedia

          "Bishop is the title of an ecclesiastical dignitary who possesses the fullness of the priesthood to rule a diocese as its chief pastor, in due submission to theprimacy of the pope."

          Emphasis added.

          • Do you know what a pastor is? Perhaps you should look up that definition as well.

          • First off, whatever the definition of pastor, the power to "rule a diocese" gives leadership. You should realize that calling them "servants" doesn't mean they're not "leaders."

            As for looking up pastor, here you go: "This term denotes a priest who has he cure of souls (cura animarum), that is, who is bound in virtue of his office to promote the spiritual welfare of the faithful by preaching, administering the sacraments, and exercising certain powers of external government, e.g., the right of supervision, giving precepts, imposing light corrections — powers rather paternal in their nature, and differing from those of a bishop, which are legislative, judicial, and coactive."

            Emphasis added. Yeah, pastors and bishops are leaders.

          • Sure they are. So are tons of women in the church. The director of religious ed at my parish is a woman, for example. So how can you say that women aren't allowed to hold leadership positions?

            The job of a leader is not to amass and wield power. The job of a leader - especially in the context of the Church - is to do whatever he can to serve the faithful in their various vocations.

          • I didn't say women aren't allowed to hold leadership positions. That was someone else.

            I was responding to your statement that, "Popes, cardinals, bishops, priests aren't leaders." However, we now seem to agree that they are.

        • David Nickol

          Imagine the Blessed Mother herself defending the Church by saying, "That's bull!" If Catholics want the respect of those who do not call themselves Catholic, one thing they might do is refrain from being vulgar (and silly) when defending the Church.

          Popes, cardinals, bishops, priests aren't leaders. They're servants.

          Nonsense. Popes, cardinals, and bishops are leaders of the Church and men of power not merely in the Church but often outside the Church. Cardinals are called "princes of the Church." And of course there were times in the history of Christianity when the pope and bishops wielded enormous political and secular power. A similar claim can be made that the president, vice president, cabinet, and members of the House, Senate, and Supreme Court are "servants." Yeah, right. Look at the typical residence of a high-level Church official and you will usually find they don't live in anything resembling "servants' quarters."

          One of the highest ranking authority figures in the Church - higher even
          than the Pope - is a woman. Ever heard of the Blessed Mother?

          Exactly what is her position in "the Church"? What control does she have over church governance and canon law? What authority does she have over the pope, bishops, or cardinals?

          It is often important to specify, when saying, "The Church does this or that," what exactly is meant by "the Church." I think in this discussion it is clearly the "Church visible" (which for atheists is the only Church there is), and Mary is most definitely not an "authority figure" in the Church visible.

          I cannot imagine many women who feel they have not been treated fairly by the Church—and I think the OP makes a good case that women have been slighted—is surely not going to be mollified by someone claiming that the Church treats women well because look how much it exalts the Virgin Mary!

        • JoAnna, are you really saying that there is no hierarchy in the Catholic faith? For example, a group of nuns could gather and decide that they can take the sacrament? Tell the Pope his statements that atheists may be saved is wrong? There is power to declare excommunicate in the church, you suggest anyone can do this? There certainly are non-hierarchical denominations of Christianity these have no need for titles like Bishop, Pope and Cardinal.

          • oh good heavens, NO! Quite the opposite. There is a hierarchy, and thank goodness for it. But the hierarchy exists to serve the people, not the other way around.

          • Right, and the hierarchy in the US government exists to serve the people as well, this does not mean there is no difference in power between a bureaucrat and the president.

          • In a Church context, I would say there's more of a difference in responsibility as opposed to a difference in power.

          • Mike A

            So the Pope doesn't have more power to effect real-world change than a random layperson?

            Please.

          • Never said that. Nice strawman, though.

          • Mike A

            OK, so you agree that the Catholic church intentionally keeps women out of its most powerful positions.

            Thank you. Christ, it took a long time to get to this point.

          • Distinction without a difference. There simply are positions with more power in your church. Certain individuals have authority and the most authority is open to men only.

      • Mike

        I suppose it depends on how one views leadership roles. I always think that the people in the pews are equally important to the one sitting on the altar. I mean I'm a married man, they exclude me from some of the leadership roles too.

        I once argued with the head of a religious studies department at the biggest Catholic University in the US. I asserted that many in the Church would *like* to ordain women, but have no authority to do so. In the gospel Jesus chastised the religious authorities of his day on many things, which he (assuming he is the son of God) had the authority to change. Maybe many are correct that Jesus didn't intend to only have male priests, but it would take his second coming for the church to change it, because the church doesn't have the authority to change what was given by Jesus. He didn't like the Church's teaching any more than I did, but agreed with the logic.

        Furthermore, I think that women play the BIGGEST leadership role within the church (the body of Christ). I can only speak for myself in saying that my mother was the main parent who raised me in the faith (at least early on), and many people I have talked to have told me likewise. From where I sit women perform one of the most vital functions in the church, only women can give birth to future generations, and for many raising them in the faith. Women are more likely to attend mass regularly, assist in their parish, and teach the faith. I guess everyone has a different view, but when people say "the church" they usually mean the hierarchy, but I think about the people in the pews, who go to work, go to school, work a regular job, etc.

        I'm not meaning to demean the clergy, but they can only lead the church that was given to them.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          Mike,

          Let me start by saying that I wholeheartedly agree with what you are saying about the de facto leadership of women in the Church. Generalizing to issues of leadership in other organizations, I think anyone who has spent a few years in the working world knows that org charts are not usually the best place to look if you are trying to figure out how things actually work. Position on the org chart and influence / authority are usually loosely correlated at best. On the other hand ... wouldn't you concede that there is a real issue to be addressed? Any good organization at least attempts to reflect true leadership in its formal structures.

          • Mike

            Hi Jim,

            I think this is our first exchange (I'm kind of new here). Thank you for the response.

            I'll agree with part of your assertion that the church should attempt to reflect its membership better in formal leadership structures, and disagree with others. It might be a slight rant, so please bear with me. I've told this to every member of the Catholic hierarchy who will give me the time of day until I'm blue in the face, but I don't seem to get anywhere.

            I think that it is interesting that priests are trained in theology, counseling, philosophy, etc. If I were a priest I would imagine celebrating the sacraments would be the highlight, along with visiting the sick and ministering to their parishioners. However, from many priests I've talked to (esp in small dioceses) they spend a lot of time dealing with finances, and the business aspects of the church. With the declining number of priests I would think that parishes would figure out which aspects need to be handled by a priest, and which don't. In addition the rectories that priests reside in are mostly empty (they were built when each parish had 5-6 priests not 1 or 2), have poor insulation, etc. I would have priests from different parishes live together at a central location, and they would commute to their parishes. The day to day running of each parish would be done my a lay person. In fact I think a pastor does not have to be a priest. I don't know what the canon law says but I know several parishes in my home diocese are run by nuns (but a lay person could do it as well). I don't think all decisions need to be made by a priest. Those decisions that need to be made by a priest should, but those that don't should be open to lay people whenever possible.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Hi Mike. Nice to 'meet' you.

            Just to clarify, I am not necessarily advocating for women in the priesthood. On this issue it is very hard for me to distinguish male power plays from legitimate tradition, but at the end of the day I am willing to assent to JPII's pronouncement.

            The issue that I struggle with is: within the constraint of an all-male priesthood, how will we get to a point where women's voices are more directly represented in the articulation of Church doctrine? I know women play a huge role, both formal and informal, in Catholic education (I don't know many men in my parish would dare mess with the woman who runs or religious ed. program, for instance), but it seems to me we will always be impoverished until we have a direct role for women in the Magisterium. Hopefully there is still a way for that to happen even if women are never ordained?

            I support all of your points about increased lay involvement in the administrative and operational aspects of Church life. We are blessed with a great lay-clergy dynamic at our parish, and it does have the effect that lay people (more often than not, women) become more significant authors of our tradition. I think it needs to go further than that at some point though.

        • David Nickol

          Maybe many are correct that Jesus didn't intend to only have male priests, but it would take his second coming for the church to change it, because the church doesn't have the authority to change what was given by Jesus.

          Is it not Catholic dogma that Jesus gave the Church the power to "bind and loose" (Matt 16:19)?

          "I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

          Jesus said, unequivocally, that divorce was forbidden, and "what God has joined together, no human being must separate." Yet the early Church made two exceptions—the Pauline Privilege and the Petrine Privilege.

          Early in my career in publishing, I had a boss who told me that years prior to that, when she had worked in another company, they had thought very highly of her and given her glowing performance reviews. One form the praise took was saying, "We'd love to promote you, but you're a woman." I don't think it makes the people who believe women should be ordained feel any better to be told that many in the Church would love to ordain women, but they can't.

          • Mike

            Hi David,

            First let me address your last point. I know there is much pain over the Church's teaching on this, especially among women who feel called to be part of the clergy. Whether or not this is actually sexist, the mere perception can lead to pain, which in my humble opinion we should acknowledge, we should not try to diminish the pain, or hand wave it away.

            You raise a good point. We could use some seminary students to answer the questions raised here. What I say next is not meant to be insulting, but I wouldn't imagine you are the first person to raise this issue.

            My limited understanding is that there is something called the deposit of faith, which no one besides Christ can change. The deposit of faith was open until the last of the 12 apostles died, which would allow the two exceptions you brought up to to be valid. One of the items in the deposit of faith is the sacraments, which can't be changed from their current form. Now as I've said I'm not a theologian, or a pope so I don't think I could convince you to take my word on what the church can and can't change, and whether the Pope could change this particular teaching or not. However, I'd assert that the Pope would know his authority (and he had many theologians helping him to help him). I think although we might disagree on many things, we could agree that the Pope should know what the Pope can do. So don't take my word for it that the church can't change it, take JPII's word. He wrote a letter in the 90's (encyclical? I don't know what it was formally) saying the Church has no authority to ordain women.

        • Either there is a hierarchy or there is not. If you are willing to say that in terms of Catholicism there are no organizational, employment, social, legislative, theological, power or authority of any kind between a pope and a nun, fine. This would be the structure of a number of protestant religions and Islam. Would you really be willing to say that?

          • Mike

            I never said there isn't a hierarchy. You said the church excludes women from leadership roles. I responded that there are many kinds of leadership roles. Your point of view is that the Pope, bishops, priests are the most important, and I'm asserting that parents (mothers in particular) do the most (in the aggregate) to sustain and pass on the faith.

  • Slocum Moe

    Why would anybody think that an organization with a leadership that is all male, unelected and unanswerable to its membership has a problem with women. The problem is that women do not know their place.

    • I know my place. it's right by the side of Jesus Christ and His Church. If you have a problem with that, take it up with Him.

      • Mike A

        I think you're confused about the readership of this site. Appeals to invisible, supernatural agents won't be persuasive to atheists.

        • That was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek. Apparently it failed.

      • Slocum Moe

        The Catholic Church was adamant in it's opposition to women's suffrage as it was to every advance in women's rights. Most women were not in favor of it when it was enacted, also not unusual. The first successful political effort enlisting feminine voter support was a constitutional amendment prohibiting the consumption of alcohol, which proved a very bad idea.

        None of this proved that women's suffrage was a bad idea, JoAnna. A super annuated, all male, arbitrarily appointed, Catholic leadership, operating with no checks, balances or input from the laity is a bad idea. That women are completely isolated from the process is loathsome.

        Standing with Jesus is a noble thing but are you sure his church is all it needs to be?

        • I am confident that the Catholic Church has never taught error as doctrine in terms if faith and morals.

          No, the Church is not all she needs to be because it is comprised of fallible human beings. But She is protected from teaching error by the power of the Holy Spirit. No other denomination can claim that distinction (although many try).

          Can you cite a source proving that the Magisterium of the Church taught, as a de fide doctrine, that women's suffrage was sinful, then later reversed that position?

          • David Nickol

            Can you cite a source proving that the Magisterium of the Church taught, as a de fide doctrine, that women's suffrage was sinful, then later reversed that position?

            Surely you are not claiming that only infallible pronouncements by the Church count. The Catholic opposition to contraception has not been infallibly declared (although I have seen occasional claims that Humanae Vitae should be considered infallible).

            It is simply wrong to claim or imply that if a teaching of the Church is not infallible (i.e., dogma), it doesn't count as a teaching of the Church.

          • Good thing I didn't make that claim, then, isn't it? I just want proof that it was ever a teaching of the universal Church, period.

          • David Nickol

            Do you know what de fide means? "DE FIDE is the highest level of theological/doctrinal truth. They are INFALLIBLE statements by their very nature, like the Holy Trinity, The
            Real Presence, etc.

            You said,

            Can you cite a source proving that the Magisterium of the Church taught, as a de fide doctrine, that women's suffrage was sinful, then later reversed that position?

            Slocum Moe had said,

            The Catholic Church was adamant in it's opposition to women's suffrage as it was to every advance in women's rights.

            Your clear implication is that if it was not the case that "the Magisterium of the Church taught, as a de fide doctrine," that women shouldn't have the right to vote, then Slocum Moe was wrong.

            I would say that Slocum Moe's statement was quite debatable. Saying "the Catholic Church" said or did something is often very vague. But I think it is going way too far to try to maintain that anything that is not taught by the magisterium is not taught by the Church.

            I think it is quite fair to say that there was a great deal of opposition to women's suffrage from within the Church based on the Catholic understanding of the roles of men and women. Did the Catholic Church officially adopt a worldwide position that women should not vote? No. Does that mean it is inaccurate to say "the Catholic Church was adamant in its opposition to women's suffrage"? Not necessarily, depending on what you mean by "the Catholic Church." Did the Catholic Church teach that unbaptized babies went to Limbo? Until quite recently, I would say it certainly did. Was it defined infallibly? No. Was it even an "official" teaching? Not really. But certainly everyone my age or older was taught it in Catholic school, and it had been taught for most of the history of the Church.

          • The fact is that neither the (alleged) sinfullness of women's suffrage or the hypothesis of Limbo were ever taught as doctrine by the universal church, despite what you learned in Catholic school.

          • Mike A

            Before the council of Trent, your church taught that infants who died unbaptized went to hell. Your church has also absolutely taught that Limbo is a real place at various points.

            Please do your research and stop making things up.

          • Geena Safire

            She's just playing word games, Mike. She doesn't really want to explain how her church works, she just wants to make sure that she is right -- and as annoying as possible to atheists.

            Yes, the church taught it. But, no, the church didn't teach it as doctrine.

            The church has things that a Catholic must believe, and things a Catholic may believe.

            The church officially stopped teaching about Limbo in 2007, because as the solid theologian he was, Ratzinger realized there was absolutely no scriptural support whatsoever for this idea.

            However, it was optional to believe in the idea or not before then, and it is optional to believe in the idea or not after then.

          • Michael Murray
          • Paul Boillot

            No other denomination can claim that distinction (although many try).

            As-written, this is nonsensical: if they "try", then they are claiming it.

            I think you mean "No other denomination can truly claim," or something to that effect.

          • Yes, that is more accurate.

          • Slocum Moe

            The church never reversed it's position. They aren't opposed to arranged marriage. They do not believe women should necessarily have the right to own property, have their own money or work outside of the home. They place no value on women's education or suffrage. They do not believe women should have control of their own reproductive function. The age of consent for women in the Vatican is 12 years old and interestingly, does not require that the woman even personally consent, only her father.

            As an aside, they still maintain that out homosexuality should be punished by imprisonment and even death penalty. They were turning in Gays for indefinite terms of imprisonment in Spain as late as the 1970s. Many never emerged alive.

            The church does not endorse the participation of the general populace in civil administration. Divine right, absolute monarchy is their preferred form of government.

            Residents of the papal states were serfs, tied to the land and in absolute thrall to their feudal lord, the pope, until dissolved by the Italian government in the late 19th century, by force of arms. Up until that time the pope maintained a papal executioner and kept him very busy. Usually decapitation but in special cases, much more lengthly and painful deaths were provided.

          • Mike A

            One minor quibble- the Vatican raised the age of consent from 12 to 18 last year, after a number of scandals that you may recall.

  • In a word: No.

    • Andre Boillot

      "Tip: This is the sort of article that many people are capable of writing and that, ideally, should come from a woman. It helps ensure perspective and believability."

      I thought of raising a similar point...

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Noah,

      I was hoping a Catholic with more historical knowledge than I have might respond to your question, but since that hasn't happened yet, let me step into the breach.

      Is it clearly the case the Catholics were far from leading the charge for dignified treatment of women? I think I'd be willing to stipulate that the RC church hierarchy was behind the curve on this issue throughout most of the last century. But what about the longer view? Feminism seems to have its roots in the West, which is to say, the Christian West. Is that just coincidence? 1000 years ago, was there another woman on earth with the clout of St. Hildegard?

      I'm not much of a historical scholar, so these are real questions, not rhetorical ones.

      I think you are right on this point: misguided attitudes toward women have arisen from an over-reliance on tradition and authority. On the other hand, I see tradition and authority as two of the essential routes for getting in touch with the reality of Jesus, a reality which, ironically, then subverts tradition and authority. It seems to me that one needs tradition and authority in order to fight tradition and authority.

      • Hi Jim,

        Is it clearly the case the Catholics were far from leading the charge for dignified treatment of women?

        There are some nuances, but it seems to me that the answer is Yes. Wikipedia's history of feminism emphasizes the role of secular Enlightenment in raising the question of treatment of women but has no mention of religious leadership on the matter. The Catholic Church has been very wary of novelty, presumably due to its history of harrowing ideological conflict. This article from the old Catholic Encyclopedia gives its author's view of women's suffrage. For instance, he claims that "Where family rights and duties and womanly dignity are not violated in other fields of action, the Church opposes no barrier to woman's progress. As a rule, however, the opinions of the majority of Catholics seem to hold the political activity of women in disfavour," and he goes on to list Catholic persons and organization in favor and opposed. In general, more Catholic states and countries were slower to adopt women's suffrage.

        But what about the longer view? Feminism seems to have its roots in the West, which is to say, the Christian West. Is that just coincidence? 1000 years ago, was there another woman on earth with the clout of St. Hildegard?

        There had always been the occasional woman who powered her way through social obstacles to reach fame, fortune, wisdom, and political might. It doesn't appear to me that St. Hildegard, or the Christian West generally, had noteable direct effect on women's dignity. I will grant that there was a civilizing effect that occurred in Renaissance Christendom that enabled the secular trends of the Enlightenment to flower, and I will grant that that civilizating effect, beyond the technological and political developments of the time, likely may be attributable in part to Christian doctrine being relatively humane versus most religions. In short: Christianity maybe lead indirectly to women's rights, but that appears to me to be an artifact of it tolerating dissent, rather than a "home-grown" idea.

        It seems to me that one needs tradition and authority in order to fight tradition and authority.

        Could you expand on this thought, please?

        • AugustineThomas

          You're trusting a secularist source to tell you that secularism is responsible for all goodness? Please get off Wikipedia!

          Serious scholars are quite clear that Christians initiated the suffrage movement and the abolition movement.
          (By the way, are you under the impression that secret proto-atheists caused the Enlightenment? Erasmus, the devout Catholic, is most directly responsible for secularism and humanism and thus the Enlightenment.)

          • Hi AT,
            Neither Wikipedia nor the old Catholic Encyclopedia are secularist sources. Moreover, even if they were, dismissing them on that account would be the genetic fallacy.

            Can you give some examples of the scholars you are referring to regarding the women's suffrage movement? Let's leave slavery abolition and the Enlightenment for another discussion.

    • AugustineThomas

      Hmm. Are you sure? Catholic women didn't help lead the charge to suffrage? Catholic women didn't participate in and even initiate all of the important movements since Christ came?
      You need to actually read the history before you go and make ignorant, false comments like this one.

      • Hi AT,
        Welcome to SN if you're new here. We need more Catholics to step up and balance out the conversation here. I don't object to the use of a rhetorical questions in the right place, but this isn't the right place. Rhetorical questions like these give the illusion of making a point and putting the other person in the conversation on the defensive, yet they don't actually assert anything. They're just gussied up versions of a raised-eyebrow "Oh really?".

        FWIW, when I wrote the comment, I did spend about a half hour googling and reading various sources to make sure I hadn't accidentally missed something in the history. Given the quality of historical materials on the Internet these days, that's long enough to be pretty confident, but not long enough to be sure. So if you have some important references to the Church leading the charge for women's equality, then please share. That would be worth knowing and giving credit to the Church for if it were true.

        Indirectly, you did bring up a deeper point that I had missed earlier. When there is talk accusing the Church of various historical misdeeds, Catholics usually correctly point out that the misdeeds were done by Catholic persons, but were never taught or promoted by the Catholic Church in any official way. The point there is that it's a logical mistake to equate Catholics with Catholicism, so the accusation against Catholicism is weak. Now by the same token, you and I were mistaken to focus on the actions of Catholic women and Catholics in general regarding their coming so late to the women's equality party. A stronger point is to recognize that the Catholic Church in its official teachings and authoritative opinions was far behind the times in supporting women's social equality. (It's not clear that they support that even now!)

  • David Nickol

    No, the Catholic Church does not hate women. However, it is at least as far behind the times as it was when the entry Woman was written for the Catholic Encyclopedia written about a century ago. This is one of my favorite passages, and there are many just as quotable:

    The second branch of the woman question, which of necessity follows directly after that of gaining a livelihood, is that of a suitable education. The Catholic Church places here no barriers that have not already been established by nature. Fénelon expresses this necessary limitation thus: "The learning of women like that of men must be limited to the study of those things which belong to their calling; The difference in their activities must also give a different direction to their studies." The entrance of women as students in the universities, which has of late years spread in all countries, is to be judged according to these principles. Far from obstructing such a course in itself, Catholics encourage it. This has led in Germany to the founding of the "Hildegardisverein" for the aid of Catholic women students of higher branches of learning. Moreover, nature also shows here her undeniable regulating power. There is no need to fear the overcrowding of the academic professions by women.

    In the medical calling, which next to teaching is the first to be considered in discussing the professions of women, there are at the present time in Germany about 100 women to 30,000 men. For the studious woman as for others who earn a livelihood the academic calling is only a temporary position. The sexes can never be on an equality as regards studies pursued at a university.

    Yes, it was a hundred years ago, but remember that was still nearly two millennia after Christianity allegedly began preaching the equality of women. And yes, Thomas Aquinas was a man of his time, but his time was over a thousand years after Christianity allegedly preached the equality of women.

  • David Nickol

    Is Scripture Misogynistic?

    I would say misogynistic is the wrong word, but it reflects the nature of the societies in which it was written, which were much more patriarchal than those in the countries of the developed world today, especially the United States. Good for Christopher Kaczor the extent that he acknowledges this, but unfortunately we have the following:

    But what should be made of subordination passages in Scripture, such
    as "Let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands" (Eph. 5:24)? This appears to contradict the idea that Christianity views the sexes as equal. Pope John Paul II's answer was:

    "The author knows that this way of speaking, so
    profoundly rooted in the customs and religious traditions of the time,
    is to be understood and carried out in a new way: as a "mutual
    subjection out of reverence for Christ"."

    Was this not basically what Michele Bachmann said about being "submissive" to her husband? How many people actually bought it? Here is what the Catholic Encyclopedia said a century ago, and as I understand it, this basically holds true today, only it is much more carefully phrased:

    If the two sexes are designed by nature for a homogeneous organic co-operation, then the leading position or a social pre-eminence must necessarily fall to one of them. Man is called by the Creator to this position of leader, as is shown by his entire bodily and intellectual make-up. On the other hand, as the result of this, a certain social subordination in respect to man which in no way injures her personal independence is assigned to woman, as soon as she enters into union with him. Consequently nothing is to be urged on this point of equality of position or of equality of rights and privileges. To deduce from this the inferiority of woman or her degradation to a "second-rate human being" contradicts logic just as much as would the attempt to regard the citizen as an inferior being because he is subordinate to the officials of the state.

    It should be emphasized here that man owes his authoritative pre-eminence in society not to personal achievements but to the appointment of the Creator according to the world of the Apostle: "The man . . . is the image and glory of god; but the woman is the glory of the man" (1 Corinthians 11:7). The Apostle in this reference to the creation of the first human pair presupposes the image of God in the woman. As this likeness manifests itself exteriorly in man's supremacy over creation (Genesis 1:26), and as man as the born leader of the family first exercised this supremacy, he is called directly God's image in this capacity. Woman takes part in this supremacy only indirectly under the guidance of the man and as his helpmeet.

    I do not want to go deeply into the issue of the ordination of women, but I think the beliefs in the above excerpt have not significantly changed. It seems to many a lame argument to say that women cannot be ordained because Jesus chose only men for "priest-like" positions. But it is somewhat more understandable when the underlying beliefs about the differences between the sexes are brought to light. Men are leaders, husbands, and fathers, while women are followers who obey. "Woman takes part in this supremacy [of men] only indirectly under the guidance of the man and as his helpmeet." Of course women can't be priests!

  • MichaelNewsham

    No, the Catholic Church does not hate women.

    But then, most white people in apartheid-era South Africa or the segregation-era South did not hate black people.

    They could be treated with a friendly, even affectionate, manner, given a certain level of respect and dignity, and were certainly useful in doing the crappy work white people didn't want to do.

    As long as they knew their place

    (Fill in the blanks- "People of the Book" under traditional Muslim rule; lower castes in India etc.)

    • Paul Boillot

      Didn't the Mormon Church finally remove the doctrine of color-inferiority last year?

      • AugustineThomas

        Isn't Planned Parenthood inspired by Margaret Sanger who said it was to get rid of "inferior" (read black) babies to make room for the "superior" (read white) babies???

  • The Catholic Church is a hierarchical organization. The roles or priests, bishops Cardinals and popes all do have different powers in the organization. (It is frankly absurd that these roles were somehow reserved for men because men sin more. We would then expect those higher up in the hierarchy to be the worst sinners.)

    Women are deprived of access to any official role in the hierarchy and this is prima facie direct discrimination on the basis of sex. This could be justified if there is a bona fide reason why women should not hold these roles. The only reason suggested here is that it is that Christ said so. We have no idea why and can think of no reason why women cannot receive the sacrament. Nowhere is it explained why Jesus treats men and women differently. Is it because he thought women were not worthy of receiving it? Do you think Jesus thinks they are worthy but still cannot? That they bear children? What does that have to do with it? Is it because they sin less? Do Catholics really believe there is a real difference in how much men and women sin sin? That our souls are different? Why can't we be told?

    Excuses like "it is tradition", "it was our founder's wish" do not justify discrimination. We have developed human rights and equality laws to try and rectify the desperately sexist histories of our cultures. The only organizations that get a pass on this are religions. We don't give them a pass because they are not sexist, but because at this time some believe it would cause more harm than good. I disagree.

    • MichaelNewsham

      If you have an organisation that has black people as members, but says that black people cannot be in the most important leadership roles because of the biological fact of the color of their skin, that organisation is racist,no matter how many black people are members.

      So the Catholic Church is sexist- end of story. If it had a parallel organisation of equal power, composed only of women, that had an equal say in doctrine, organisation and appointments, then you might make "the separate but equal" argument, but there isn't- the Church itself makes it very clear that power is in the hands of the hierarchy, not the laity or any other group, including the Ladies' Auxiliaries.

  • gwen saul

    well, it's telling that this article is written by a Catholic man, just like the articles dealing with homosexuality are written by heterosexual people, the majority of articles about atheism are written by theists and the infamous article on why mankind wears clothes was written not by an Anthropologist but an English major with no background, education or experience with Anthropology whatsoever. SN really does an incredible job of speaking for people.

    • Andre Boillot

      "just like the articles dealing with homosexuality are written by heterosexual people"

      To be fair, I don't think this is correct. The only article I know that deals specifically with homosexuality was: https://strangenotions.com/catholic-gay/ - written by a gay man. The only other article which is tagged under 'homosexuality' related to whether Catholic schools should be able to discriminate, and was not exclusively focused on homosexual issues.

      • gwen saul

        I was thinking of the Fulwiler article, but I stand corrected.

        • picklefactory

          Was she the author of the "oh no, gay people in the park" article? It rings a bell, but Google cannot seem to find it for me and I am not sure.

          EDIT: not saying that article was on SN -- obviously it was published somewhere else.

  • It's ironic that all these commenters who are saying that the authors perspective isn't valid because he's a man aren't actually faithful Catholic women themselves, so by their own criteria they shouldn't express their opinions,

    Well, I am a faithful Catholic woman. I'm a convert to the Church, having converted from the ELCA at age 22. I'm also a mother of five and a professional editor (I currently work full-time in my field). And I can say that the author is SPOT ON. I am not discriminated against as a woman by anyone in the Church, and I never have been. Those of you who claim that women are discriminated against because they can't hold "leadership positions" have no idea what you're talking about. Priests, bishops, cardinals, popes, etc. aren't leaders. They're servants. That's why the title of the Pope is "The Servant of the Servants of God." Women DO lead in the church. More proof of this is here: http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2013/03/08/are-women-already-running-the-catholic-church

    Frankly, I'm quite insulted by all of the commenters who are saying that I'm discriminated against because I "can't" use contraception. Actually, I have free will, so I could if I wanted to (do you think the Church takes away our free will?). But I FREELY CHOOSE not to, because I see the wisdom of the Church's teachings. I used contraception for two years, prior to my conversion, so I know that lifestyle. I wouldn't go back for anything.

    I shouldn't need to subvert or suppress my healthy fertility to make myself an object to be used and discarded, and all of you who are claiming I do are the misogynistic ones. I prefer to be loved and cherished with my healthy fertility intact (and I am, thanks be to God). I don't need to ingest carcinogens, get a foreign object implanted in my body that could perorate my uterus or migrate to other organs, put a barrier between myself and my husband, or mutilate my organs to be a healthy, happy, fulfilled woman - nor do I need or want the ability to murder unborn children. (If you're in favor of abortion, you support taking away the right to life for millions of unborn girls - that seems pretty misogynistic to me.)

    I'm writing this with my 3-month-old son nursing at my breast. He has a congenital birth defect so no doubt all the so called "women's rights advocates" would have wanted me to abort him in order to be a fulfilled woman. But he is a happy, joyful baby with an excellent prognosis, and we named him Peter in thanksgiving for the wise men who have sat in the chair of Peter and guided the Church - namely popes JPII, Benedict, and Francis. If I'd stayed Lutheran, he might not exist, because as Lutherans my husband and I bought into the "children are burdens, not blessings" mindset. The Church and her teachings showed us that children are gifts to be cherished, not burdens to be loathed and discarded, and thankfully we listened.

    So those of you who want to save me from the Church - don't bother. I made that choice with my eyes wide open over a decade ago and I have never for an instant regretted it.

    • Maybe you should write an article about women in the Catholic Church. I think people would be more receptive to such an article written by you than one written by Christopher Kaczor. I certainly would be interested in reading a more fully formed version of what you have to say on the matter.

      • I wish I had the time, I really do, but with five kids and working full-time... it's difficult. And frankly, it seems rather pointless given that the article above is excellent and yet the commenters are just presenting the same myths, lies, and half-truths that have been around for decades without bothering to find out the truth. Sigh. Still, I might take a crack at it one of these days.

      • AugustineThomas

        It's not Mr. Kaczor's fault that you guys are incapable of rational thought and thus think that a woman will be more right by virtue of her biology.

        • Hi AT,
          If you want to stick around at SN, you'll need to get rid of this comment before the mods see it. I'm a fan of a lenient moderation policy and a growing Catholic-atheist discussion community, so I hope you do. :)

        • I don't think that a woman is more likely to be right by virtue of her biology. That's why I didn't say that.

          What I do think is that I'd prefer an article about women in the Church to be written by a woman. It's a preference. I think such an article would be better received.

    • Geena Safire

      JoAnna, you truly do have the passion and intensity of an adult convert. I am glad for you that you have found a church and a lifestyle that nurtures your needs and your ability to lovingly meet the needs of others.

      It's ironic that all these commenters who are saying that the authors
      perspective isn't valid because he's a man aren't actually faithful
      Catholic women themselves, so by their own criteria they shouldn't
      express their opinions,

      I don't think they said his perspective wasn't valid, but rather that a woman's perspective might have been more valuable or relevant. I agree with Paul's suggestion that you consider writing an article for Strange Notions regarding the value you have found in the church particularly related to your life and experiences as a woman.

      I'm quite insulted by all of the commenters who are saying that I'm discriminated against because I "can't" use contraception.

      I don't think any commenter said that Catholic women are discriminated against because the church disapproves of artificial contraception. I think one noted that the church is working politically against birth control for all women, not just Catholic women.

      Since only 2% of Catholic women (sexually active and of reproductive age who are not pregnant or seeking to become pregnant) are using natural family planning, it is pretty clear that the Catholic church is not making Catholic women not use artificial contraception.

      If the Church's teaching is congruent with your worldview or you believe its teaching has enhanced it, more power to you.

      • I'm Catholic because Catholicism is true.

        "I think one noted that the church is working politically against birth control for all women, not just Catholic women."

        This is untrue. Are you referring to the HHS mandate? If so, that has nothing to do with working against birth control for all women. It has to do with not forcing Catholics and non-Catholics who oppose birth control to violate their beliefs by government fiat. A woman of any religion or no religion is free to access contraception -- she just can't force Catholics or opposed non-Catholics to pay for it.

        Re: the 2% statistic you keep trotting out - it's actually untrue, and I explain why in my blog post here: http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/2012/02/i-am-98-percent.html

        It was also debunked here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/the-claim-that-98-percent-of-catholic-women-use-contraception-a-media-foul/2012/02/16/gIQAkPeqIR_blog.html

        Please stop using it.

        • Geena Safire

          I'm glad that you are following a path which represents truth to you.

          I wasn't saying that person's comment was right, JoAnna. That wasn't why I mentioned it. I was just using that comment to note that the comments here weren't saying (as you wrote) that you are "discriminated against [by the church] because you 'can't' use contraception." That's all I meant to indicate. That's why I also wrote: "I don't think any commenter [here] said that Catholic women are discriminated against because the church disapproves of artificial contraception." It may be that other people somewhere else are saying that. But not here.

          With regard to the birth control statistic:

          The 2% statistic, as I stated it, is correct per the >7000 women survey -- and the Washington Post article you link to confirms it.

          Regarding Current Contraceptive Use among Catholic Women with the listed characteristics:
          "The data listed in the Guttmacher report, meanwhile, referred to current contraceptive use among “sexually active women who are not pregnant, post-partum or trying to get pregnant.” That is a smaller universe of women, and it shows that 68 percent of Catholic women used what are termed “highly effective methods:” 32 percent sterilization; 31 percent pill; five percent IUD. Again, only two percent currently used natural family planning."

          Regarding Catholic Women (with the same listed characteristics) regarding which Contraceptive Methods They had Ever Used:
          "[O]nly two percent had said they had used only natural family planning."

          That survey asked these women (as I stated: sexually active and of reproductive age who are not pregnant or seeking to become pregnant, plus post-partum women). in one part of the survey, about which method they had ever used and. in another part of the survey. which method they were currently using.

          I also agree with your blog post that 98% refers to Catholic women who have ever used contraception other than natural family planning. I have never stated that statistic otherwise.

          That survey also reports on the current contraceptive usage among women. IIRC, the non-natural-family-planning contraceptive use was about 70% for non-Catholic women and about 67% for Catholic women. The difference is not especially significant. And, as noted above, only 2% of Catholic women (in the category described) are currently using natural family planning.

        • Danny Getchell

          JoAnna -

          If birth control were to be available over the counter, then in no way would anyone be forced to "pay for it" other than the direct purchaser. That's the solution I endorse. Do you agree??

          • No. I think a simpler solution would be to have everyone pay for their own contraception, regardless of how they obtain it (OTC or otherwise). I don't understand how contraception is simeltaneously none of the Church's business yet also Her financial responsibility.

          • David Nickol

            I don't understand how contraception is simeltaneously none of the Church's business yet also Her financial responsibility.

            Religious organizations, under the "contraceptive mandate" of Obamacare, are not expected or required to pay the cost of employees' contraceptives, either directly or through insurance premiums. As the regulations now stand, the issue is not one of religious organizations being required to pay costs they do not want to pay.

          • David Nickol

            One further point. Whether Catholics like it or not, contraception is firmly established as being medical care (and medical care which medical insurance pays for). The argument that pregnancy is "not a disease" and consequently preventing contraception is not "medicine" might possibly have been relevant in the 1960s, when the pill was introduced. But over a half century later, it is ludicrous to try to maintain that contraception isn't medical care.

          • It's also ludicrous to try and maintain that abortion doesn't kill a human being, and yet that misinformation persists as well.

            Contraception is not medical care (with the distinction that hormonal therapy used to treat the symptoms of certain disorders -- e.g. POCS or endometriosis -- was usually covered by the Church's offered insurance plans).

          • Mike A

            When you say 'contraception is not medical care' what definition of medical care are you using?

          • Geena Safire

            The Catholic Church doesn't consider birth control to be health care because it doesn't consider fertility or pregnancy to be diseases.

          • Mike A

            I don't consider fertility or pregnancy to be diseases, but I'm also curious if you're saying you think 'health care' should be defined as only having to do with diseases.

          • Geena Safire

            I'm not sure what the Catholic Church considers considers that. It's not my definition, after all.

          • Mike A

            Sorry, that wasn't intended for you but I was unclear.

          • Michael Murray

            So why do they provide maternity care in hospitals ?

            http://matermothers.org.au/hospitals/mater-mothers-hospital

          • AugustineThomas

            There are plenty of studies which show that after condoms proliferate in a community, the rates of teen STDs and unwanted pregnancies INCREASE.
            There is absolutely NO EVIDENCE that contraception prevents any societal ill. The head of the Harvard Public Health Project, reiterating Pope Benedict XVI, said as much.

          • Ben Posin

            This is the kind of statement that you really shouldn't make without an example or two. Care to share?

          • AugustineThomas

            Furthermore, what of all the studies that link contraceptives to several forms of the most deadly cancers in women?

          • If the frequency with which a contraceptive pharmaceutical causes cancer is too high, then it'll get banned. The FDA operates on a case-by-case basis, though, so a decision about one contraceptive pharmaceutical won't affect the others.

          • Michael Murray

            I think it raises risk of some forms of cancer and reduces risk of others.

          • David Nickol

            Can you point out anything from the site you linked to that contradicts what I said? The issue is not one of premiums paid by religious organizations paying for contraceptives or going for premiums that pay for contraceptive coverage. To put it another way, under the current rules, the costs are borne or paid for by someone other than the religious organization providing insurance.

          • (14) What is the “accommodation” that some religious organizations receive under the final rule?

            Instead of truly exempting non-profit religious organizations, the final rule merely offers them an “accommodation.” Under this, an objecting organization will notify its insurer or plan administrator, which will make payments to employees for the mandated contraceptive services. The rule insists these payments are not “benefits” and are separate from the organization’s health plan. Nonetheless, the accommodation means that employees are guaranteed payments for
            objectionable services, specifically because they are covered under the organization’s plan. Furthermore, the accommodation requires a self-insured organization to “designate” its plan administrator as an agent who will make or arrange for payments for the mandated services. This “accommodation” fails to solve the moral problem created by the mandate for many religious organizations.

            http://www.becketfund.org/faq/#f14

          • AugustineThomas

            Tell that to the innocent nuns Obama is harassing!

            Are they also, being religious, not capable of their own thought, because your secularist opinions supersede their beliefs?

          • David Nickol

            Are they also, being religious, not capable of their own thought, because your secularist opinions supersede their beliefs?

            You did not address the facts. I did not say religious groups are not being required to do things they do not want to do. I said they are not required to pay costs they do not want to pay. The issue is no longer one of being required to pay, but required to cooperate, with someone other than the religious organization bearing the cost.

            It is ridiculous to say that Obama is harassing nuns. The contraceptive mandate is, it seems to me, a borderline case in which the state may be encroaching on First Amendment rights to religious freedom or may not be. Why anyone would doubt that the Supreme Court, with six Catholic justices, would not decide this matter fairly mystifies me, and of course it will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.

            I am not saying that the Court will be biased because it has a Catholic majority. I am saying it will not be biased against Catholics. What the court will decide I don't know, but I have confidence its decision will be reasonable.

          • AugustineThomas

            "..I have confidence its decision will be reasonable."
            Well lets all pray for that miracle!

          • David Nickol

            because your secularist opinions supersede their beliefs?

            This is a secular country, by the way, and laws must have a secular purpose. We have religious freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, but that does not make the United States anything other than a secular country. Anyone who makes other than a secular decision on this matter will be violating the constitution. Governmental decisions in this country are supposed to be secular. Secular is not a dirty word.

          • AugustineThomas

            What most people call secularism nowadays is hedonism.
            The Christians (including Desist heretics) who built this country proclaimed the separation of CHURCH and state.
            Why didn't they have anything to say about the separation of freethinkers' club and state?
            You guys have a lot of fantasies about what things were like in 1776!!

    • Hartic

      Groupies exist everywhere!

    • JoAnna, you are expressing a passionate and heartfelt position that the state of affairs is not discriminatory. But your feelings are not shared by everyone in your faith. In any event, no one is telling you that you should feel discriminated against or oppressed.

      • Yet they are arguing that I AM discriminated against and oppressed by virtue of being a Catholic woman. As a Catholic woman, one who entered the Church as an adult convert, I wholly disagree.

        • Whether you feel it or not your opinion is not the only one that matters. Even if you are in the majority, that is not how human rights are evaluated. They look to protect minority rights. No one would force you to be priest, but for those women who want that opportunity, your saying you are fine with it is of little value. As I noted above, the existence of women's movements against the vote, and women who believed their place was in the home and should never work, doesn't mean that rules preventing them for these important decisions were okay.

          • AugustineThomas

            So Catholics shouldn't get to decide how Catholics should act? We have to wait for godless secularists to tell us what's permissible?

          • Catholics can do whatever they want, but in a civil society we limit the behavior that we agree as harmful. For example, in years past we would have allowed Catholics to torture confessions from people. We have prohibited this and do not care what the Bible says about it. We have agreed that excluding women from employment or promotion in ANY organization is harmful and have prohibited this too. We have also agreed to give religions a pass on this and I am saying this is unjustified. Many Catholics agree with me.

        • Sample1

          Hi JoAnna Wahlund,

          I don't know if you know many atheists personally, but if you are interested in my faith-free perspective of your comment it would be this:

          I see your claim of not being oppressed as being similar in style to those women of some Mormon sects who defend polygamy as a virtue.

          Mike, faith-free

          • And what, Mike, would you accept as proof to the contrary?

            I have to say that I find your assertion that I am only Catholic because I am brainwashed to be both laughable and insulting, given my conversion story.

          • Sample1

            JoAnna Wahlund,

            Are you saying you can't even sympathize with my Mormon-virtue comparison?

            I don't know you personally, I was just offering an observation as a person who is faith-free. I think we all live in our own "information bubbles" so to some extent we all also share the challenge of rooting out facts from conjectures. In that sense there may be areas where you excel--I simply don't know--but I assure you, JoAnna, I intended no personal insult and apologize for saying something that might have upset you.

            Mike, faith-free

          • I don't see it as a valid comparison. Catholic women aren't forced into the faith and kept as virtual prisoners in remote tracts of land where the police are corrupt men intent on keeping them so, nor are we virtually forbidden contact with the outside world. So, again, what proof would be sufficient to refute your assertion?

          • Sample1

            I'm not looking for a proof to refute anything. Humans, while often easily patterned with the aid of psychological expertise, still can remain unique in their own behavior as to find some motives difficult to pin down.

            Mike, faith-free

          • In other words... you simply have faith that your assertion is true, but no actual proof?

            Interesting.

          • Sample1

            I stand by my observation. We simply are at an impasse. These things happen.

            Mike, faith-free

          • Why make assertions when you can't provide evidence to support them? It's illogical. Given the faith you have in this belief, it might be wise to rethink your signature.

          • Sample1

            Why make assertions when you can't provide evidence to support them?

            That is a fantastic question and I thank you for it.

            I am willing to concede that if my initial observation nullifies any potential value for you it's something I will just have to suffer.

            I'll just say it's a subjective feeling I have. Perhaps you've never experienced it. If that means you win, I'm ok with that.

            Mike, faith-free

          • I'm not interested in "winning," I'm interested in Truth. If you have subjective feelings that are grounded in myth and misinterpretation instead of logic and reason, you may want to reexamine them.

          • Sample1

            If you could prove my subjective feeling to be wrong, have at it. I don't see how that is possible though. You would have to be me since you have not had the experiences I've had.

            Perhaps you have the burden of proof to prove my observation wrong?

            Mike, faith-free

          • Susan

            If you could prove my subjective feeling to be wrong

            I'm not sure you've made an assertion Mike or that you're necessarily working purely from a subjective feeling.
            I thought your original point was a simple one, not an assertion.

            How would we tell the difference between those who arediscriminated against and claim not to feel that way and those who arediscriminated against and claim not to feel that way?

            (No JoAnna. I'm not asserting that you are brain-washed. Which you did without blinking, by the way, on the subject of mormon women in polygamous marriages. The fact that there are communities that behave exactly in the way you describe doesn't mean that all mormon women who or who ever have been in polygamous marriages are in them only because they've been subject to these conditions.)

          • Sample1

            The fact that there are communities that behave exactly in the way you describe doesn't mean that all mormon women who are or whoever have been in polygamous marriages are in them only because they've been subject to these conditions.

            (Jumping in) Good point because I don't necessarily think polygamy, per se, is something that would illicit negative moral judgment by me.

            How would we tell the difference between those who are discriminated against and claim not to feel that way and those...

            Yes, I think this is another excellent point I hadn't even thought of. I am having a hard time thinking generally how to do this but perhaps if we draw a box around a single scenario it can help. :-j

            Mike, provisionally faith-free tonight.

          • Re-read what I said. I said YOU should reexamine your own beliefs.

            That being said, is it fair to take your experiences and assume they are the norm? For example, if I formed the subjective opinion that all atheists were rude because of the few I encounter in blog comboxes (not you, this is a hypothetical), would that be a fair and logical assessment?

          • Sample1

            is it fair to take your experiences and assume they are the norm?

            I can't answer that. It could be or might not be. I address this further in answering your second point:

            if I formed the subjective opinion that all atheists were rude because of the few I encounter in blog com boxes

            A bit of false equivalence here. I can only offer an observation from me for you to consider. I claim that's all I've done. It would be a mistake to imply I was representing all atheists or that you were representative of all women of faith.

            Mike, faith-free again.

    • Paul Boillot

      It seems to me that there's a difference between the existence of discrimination, and the acknowledgement of discrimination.

      "I am not discriminated against as a woman by anyone in the Church, and I never have been."

      I happen to believe that in many fundamentalist Islamic communities, women are discriminated against. I believe that even though I am aware that you could find many women who would claim that it was false. The fact that you, as an individual woman don't feel discriminated against is interesting as a datum, but it is in no way a conclusive answer to the question.

      You could be part of a subset of Catholic women who really are not discriminated against, while others are. You could be unaware of the existence of potential gender-based inequality. You could be aware of the existence of potential gender-based inequality, but not mind. You could be aware, and uncomfortable with it, but in denial; suppressing that awareness in an effort to conform.

      Institutionalized prisoners, stockholm syndrome, domestic abuse victims, 'uncle Tom' slaves, women from self-evidently misogynistic cultures (FGM, Burqas, etc)...all examples of humans who have been culturally conditioned to accept discrimination.

      The fact that you don't feel discriminated against, while interesting, sheds little light on the question of whether you are or not in actuality. Additionally, this type of argumentation "Catholic women aren't discriminated against because I'm a Catholic woman and I don't feel discriminated against" fails with a single counterfactual; what do you think the odds are of us finding a single example of a Catholic woman who does, or has, feel discriminated against?

      • Susan

        what do you think the odds are of us finding a single example of a Catholic woman who does, or has, feel discriminated against?

        I'm not sure what it means to feel discriminated against. I will say that being a little girl brought up exposed to catholic authoritative figures is different than being a little boy. I got to hear about the curse of Eve, for instance and so did the boys. (I can't tell you how much that screwsup an eleven-year-old who is vomiting from menstrual cramps. Sorry to drag that in but nothing makes that experience worse than the idea that you somehow deserve it for being a girl.)

        I know I will get an earful about that not being official catholic dogma but it is the weight of the church behind them that gives those voices power. Most catholics I know can't tell the difference and it's not like the voices of the church are intervening, insisting that the voices representing them don't fill the heads of the laity with poison.

        Anyway, the church certainly practices "discrimination" in the sense that it uses reproductive parts as a means of sorting out people who can be priests, bishops, cardinals and popes from those who can't.

        That much seems obvious.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          That sounds pretty bad.

          I've got a mom and two aunts who are angry at the Church because of similar stories. I believe all the stories, and I don't blame them for not wanting to come back. I wish they would though. Whether or not they ever do come back, the Church needs those institutional memories.

          I wish I understood better how our real living tradition got so off track on some of this stuff. I can't shake my optimism that the tradition contains its own corrective, but I can appreciate how my optimism is at odds with a lot of the experiences of real people.

        • AugustineThomas

          So is God discriminating against me because I can't have children?
          The priest and thus the bishops, cardinals and popes are acting "in persona Christi". I think your beef is with God that he has an only-begotten son instead of a daughter.
          By the way, why do so many Catholics seize onto the words of one idiot and then mess up their whole lives over it by leaving the Church??
          Please come back! (There are a lot of heretics here now, if that's what makes you feel comfortable. One big happy dysfunctional family that isn't near as dysfunctional as the secularist "community".)

          • Susan

            I think your beef is with God that he has an only-begotten son instead of a daughter

            Now, where did I type that?

            why do so many Catholics seize onto the words of one idiot and then mess up their whole lives over it by leaving the Church??

            You'd have to give me examples of the "so many". I have never met one person who left the RCC solely on the words of some idiot. There are idiots everywhere.

            Also, leaving did not mess my life up in the least.

          • AugustineThomas

            Well you may have avoided that fate or you may be the exception to the rule, but it's a scientific fact that those who regularly attend church are far healthier in every way than those who don't.

          • That's an interesting point. There is indeed some interesting science behind it. See these nice two blog posts summarizing the findings of ~60 studies: first post, second post.

            The short version: the health benefits are found in healthy women without graduate-level education who attend church. Attendance at church (but not belief, prayer, etc.) and other social events appear to help decrease their blood pressure, with all-around good consequences for that group's health.

          • AugustineThomas

            You're absolutely lying. Every study which has tested church-attenders against non-church attenders has shown the same results, whether or not they tested women or men, poor people or rich people, black people or white people.

          • Susan

            You're absolutely lying.

            Noah has linked to two discussions examining studies on this subject.

            Which studies are you referring to?

          • Except, of course, the ~60 studies mentioned above.

          • Sample1

            it's a scientific fact that those who regularly attend church are far healthier in every way than those who don't.

            And Seventh Day Adventists are on record for having the longest health-spans or lifespans. Should I presume it's better to be a SDA than a Catholic?

            I'm just pointing out that if healthiness is important to you, science shows SDA would be a better fit than Catholicism for that goal.

            Gonna convert? :-j

            Mike

          • AugustineThomas

            I think you're confusing science with leftism (a common occurrence).
            So we're supposed to trust "Mike, faith-free" over the Stanford professor and eminent expert in his field?

          • Sample1

            I think you're confusing science with leftism (a common occurrence).

            This is incoherent. Please elaborate.

            So we're supposed to trust "Mike, faith-free" over the Stanford professor and eminent expert in his field?

            I called for skepticism and laid out the reasons why. You are free to ignore me but if you do so because you would rather uncritically accept authority, then that is unfortunate in my opinion.

            Mike, faith-free

          • David Nickol

            it's a scientific fact that those who regularly attend church are far healthier in every way than those who don't.

            Certainly studies show that people who attend church regularly are, on average, healthier by a number of measures than people who don't. However, to say that they are "far healthier in every way" is an extravagant and undocumented (and false) claim. And of course the health benefits go not just to Catholics, but to those who belong to "false religions" as well. In one Gallup poll that measured both health and "well-being," very religious Jews, Mormons, and Muslims all scored above very religious Catholics, although the differences were not dramatic.

          • AugustineThomas

            "A recent New York Times column by Stanford anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann says that the reason isn't entirely clear why church attendance "boosts the immune system and decreases blood pressure. It may add as much as two to three years to your life.""

      • AugustineThomas

        So you're comparing a culture that stones women to death to the culture that gave women the vote?

        Your thesis is seriously that this woman, who may well be more educated than you, is too stupid to know what she really wants or even what she really is?
        And we're the misogynists???

        Please, go on, can you tell her more about what she actually believes?

    • It's ironic that all these commenters who are saying that the authors perspective isn't valid because he's a man ...

      Hi JoAnna,

      I'm curious who "all these commenters" are that you are objecting to. I searched the page for a while but was unable to find a single commenter who said such a thing; if there are some that I missed, please bring them to my attention.

      I point this out because the first step in having a fruitful conversation is to listen to what people are actually saying, not what you expect them to say. Let's try to keep that principle in mind and not make up straw men (or straw women :) against which to argue.

      • From what I've been told, several people who originally commented on this lost have been banned, and their comments deleted. Originally, the first three or so comments involved criticizing the author because of his gender.

        • Lost = post

        • Thanks for clarifying. Having too many deleted posts leaves confusing gaps. :-P

  • I don't think that the Catholic Church hates women, and people are free to believe what they like about gender roles. That said, I much prefer what the Episcopalian Church teaches about women. I think it's closer to the heart of Jesus.

  • Geena Safire

    The priesthood is misconstrued in terms of domination, power, and
    exultation; it is properly understood in terms of service, love, and
    sacrifice,

    That sounds reasonable. So let's have the male-only priests do the service, love and sacrifice jobs of the church...

    ...and let women join equally the ranks of the church hierarchy that exercise power, make the rules, manage the finances, select seminarians, assign priests to parishes and other functions, interpret Scripture and Tradition, decide on promotions to bishop and cardinal, vote for the pope, and impose discipline.

  • Geena Safire

    Some theologians have even speculated that one reason for the
    reservation of priestly orders to males could be that men are typically
    worse people than women.

    Ri-i-i-i-i-i-i-ight. So let me see if I understand this: Men are constitutionally incapable of managing themselves due to their gender...

    ...so let's have them be exclusively the ones who we put in the positions of power and authority in the organization that is intended to be exemplars and teachers of morality and self-control.

    That's the exact same logic that conservative Jewish and Islamic denominations confine women to an out-of-view area at the back of the house of worship, or even forbid them from going to the house of worship at all, and forbid them to become rabbis or imams...

    ...because men are the gender that is constitutionally more challenged in being devout and obedient to God, so they have a greater need to be at the house of worship, and to be ministers.

    That's also the exact same logic that leads to women being required to wear more modest attire, whether hijab, niqab, or burka...

    ...because men are constitutionally unable to manage or control their sex drive.

    Let's constrain and limit the women because of the incompetence or weakness of the men!

    That is such a condescending and insulting concept that any man should be embarrassed for even thinking it and deeply ashamed for ever saying it out loud, or for repeating that others have said it except if combined with expressions of revulsion and apologies to the women this idea has harmed.

    Also, remember that whenever men have decided that, in contrast, it is women who are the weaker sex and more likely to sin...

    ...it is the women who are forbidden to take on positions of authority or to have power over their bodies, money, children, education, or employment.

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    Can anyone with a decent knowledge of second temple Judaism tell me if the following two assumptions are true?

    1. Priestesses were unknown in Jewish culture, up to and including the time of Jesus.

    2. The Jewish culture that Jesus arose from, in spite of not having priestesses, treated women better than most other cultures of the time, including those cultures that did have priestesses.

    Neither of these points are decisive for the debate about Catholic female priesthood, but they do inform my view on this issue, which is currently equivocal. I currently assume these points based only on hearsay. Who knows the answers?

    • David Nickol

      The priesthood in Judaism was strictly male. I don't know if it is possible to answer your second question. I know I can't.

      I am not sure what you're trying to get at, but I think it is important to point out that the Christian priesthood was in no way a continuation of the Jewish priesthood. When "the Jesus movement" was still within Judaism, there were no Jewish-Christian priests. Jewish-Christians went to the Temple just like other Jews (until it was destroyed, obviously). And as "the Jesus movement" became more and more a Gentile phenomenon, it was not the case that Christians thought they had to have Christian priests because there were now no Jewish priests.

      This is not to say that Christians don't see a "theological" continuity between the Jewish priesthood and the Christian priesthood. What I am saying is that as Christianity developed, the role of the Jewish priest (which was largely a matter of animal sacrifices at the Temple) was not carried over into Christianity. The first paragraph in the chapter on Holy Orders in Doors to the Sacred: A Historical Introduction to Sacraments in the Catholic Church begins:

      The earliest Christian community contained a variety of ministers, but priesthood was not one of them. The only priesthood that Jesus and his immediate followers apparently recognized was the ministry of the Jewish temple priests. Nevertheless, before the end of the first century, Christian writers likened Jesus' death on the cross to a priestly sacrifice, and by the middle of the third century those who presided over eucharistic worship were beginning to be perceived as priestly ministers. . . .

    • My understanding is that priestesses were common in other religions but not in Judaism. So Jesus could have instituted a priesthood that included females without really being that counter-cultural.

      I also understand that priestesses often led to sexualized liturgies and temple prostitution. That it was not a good thing for women but rather another way for men to abuse women through religion.

      • David Nickol

        So Jesus could have instituted a priesthood that included females without really being that counter-cultural.

        If it makes sense at all to say that Jesus instituted a priesthood (and of course Catholics would claim that it does), it would have to be in the sense that he laid the groundwork out of which a priesthood emerged. Judaism had priests, and Jesus did not appoint from his followers men to perform the priestly functions of Jewish priests. Jesus did not define a priesthood. I am sure Catholics would claim he foresaw the priesthood as he was laying the groundwork out of which it emerged, but if Jesus had said to any of his followers, "I want you to be priests in the movement I am founding," it would have made no sense to them.

      • Andre Boillot

        Well, thankfully, we've been spared the scourge of sexy mass and inevitable priestitution.

  • Ben Posin

    C'mon. Putting any policy issues aside, you're not going to get a lot of traction trying to convince non-Catholics that it's a good, reasonable, or fair that women can't get ordained and be priests, bishops, cardinals, or popes. You can lay the blame on Jesus' doorstep if you want, as Dr. Kaczor does, but that just makes me think that Jesus was either (a) a product of his time, or, given his supposed eternalness, more likely saying what people were ready to hear then, and he hopefully would have come around on the equality of women were he walking around here today (b) Jesus that has a problem with women, which he should really try to get over; or (c) the people following Jesus got it wrong, and it's about time we threw out that bit.

    • The trouble is that you don't include in your list the reason the church actually gives. That is that men and women are really different. That the different anatomy is not the whole story. That they are really different. Not better or worse but different.

      • David Nickol

        That is that men and women are really different. That the different
        anatomy is not the whole story. That they are really different. Not
        better or worse but different.

        And the trouble with this is that I have never found anyone who maintains that men and women are different (and complementary) to say exactly how. The best people can do is say things like men tend to be more interested in objects and women tend to be more interested in people. Or men tend to be more mathematical and women tend to be more verbal. Or men tend to be more aggressive and women tend to be more nurturing.

        If you want to discriminate justly, it seems to me you must identify characteristics that all men have and no woman has, and characteristics that all women have and no men have. And, of course, they must be relevant in the area in which the discrimination takes place.

        Of course men in general and women in general are different. And there are obvious physical and physiological differences that may be relevant in certain situations. But I don't think the Church so much means that men and women are different. I think the Church means something like, "God intended men and women to have different roles." It is not that some women couldn't perform all the functions a male priest better than most male priests. It's not about performance. It's that women aren't supposed to be priests. They are supposed to be mothers and helpmeets. So it is kind of begging the question. Women can't be priests because they are different. And how are they different? Well, for one thing, they can't be priests. And why not? Because they are not supposed to be priests, because God made men for some things and women for some things, and he didn't make women to be priests.

        • Geena Safire

          The are different because of sex and the church's entire convoluted intricate theology about sex between a man and woman representing the relationship between God and his church, and because the purpose of sex is for procreation therefore sex must always be open to life and always end with PiV because that is the only way that is open to life, etc.

          If they give in on women priests, then it opens up that whole can of worms about marriage equality and birth control and a whole host of other issues.

          Remember, Aquinas believed that rape is a lesser sexual sin than masturbation because, with the former, it has the complementary PiV deposition.

        • Lionel Nunez

          If you have to ask how men and women are different from each other; you'll never know.

          • David Nickol

            If you have to ask how men and women are different from each other; you'll never know.

            That, of course, is a non-answer, and one that could be construed as offensive.

            I addressed here at some length what I believed the Catholic understanding to be, drawing from the online Catholic Encyclopedia entry Woman. Unfortunately, the message was deleted. I have no desire to spend time and effort in further discussion of the issue here only to come back later and find more of my messages deleted.

      • Ben Posin

        Well...lay it on me. What quality does a woman lack that makes her unfit to be a priest, bishop, cardinal, pope, etc?

        • Duh. Testosterone. That's obvious and requires no further explanation except that you should shut up.

        • A priest, bishop, and pope must act in the person of Christ on earth. A woman cannot do that. Gender is too foundational an aspect of the human person to be ignored in that role.

          She can be a cardinal. That role does not by definition require someone to act in the person of Christ. Traditionally Cardinals are bishops. Pope Francis has said he won't change that tradition to include women. Still it could be done.

          • Ben Posin

            Whoops, thought I'd replied to this. Randy, this isn't much of an answer. Why can't a woman act in the person of Christ? Jesus had a lot of characteristics: he apparently was male, he was Jewish, he presumably had dark hair and dark eyes, he was a carpenter, he was circumcised, and so forth. Most priests are not ethnically Jewish, many don't have dark hair or dark eyes, a large portion were never carpenters, etc. I won't speculate as to what portion are circumcised. So what is it about maleness that matters? What quality do women lack?

          • You missed the part about gender being foundational. It goes back to the creation account. We see gender at the very beginning. We don't see race or ethnicity or class or hair color. We know none of those things about Adam and Eve. Gender is part of the essence of who we are.

            "What quality do women lack?"

            Gender is not reducible to a list of qualities.

            Beyond that sacraments are matters of obedience. We do what God asks and He provides the sacramental grace. Arguing with God in this way assumes ordination is about quality. Neither men nor women are qualified to be a priest. God gives us a way to ordain men out of sheer grace. He does not do so with women. We just accept the gift we are given.

          • Ben Posin

            Randy,

            A lot of that reads like a non sequitur. Your use of "foundational" seems to just mean that the human race has always had both men and women. You don't explain why that matter.

            Anyway, your real answer doesn't seem to be that it's foundational, or that there's any meaningful difference between men and women in the qualities one would need to be a good priest. Instead, you are now saying that God has chosen to grace men with the priesthood, despite the fact that they are in no way more inherently worthy of it then women.

            Which is fine, but it just gets us back to where I started: that you are laying the blame for this decision on Jesus' doorstep. It's not one that speaks well to me of Jesus, and, as I said above, I'd like to think that it's either something his followers' garbled, or that it was one of those moral development/evolution of man things that Catholics love to throw around at the old testament, and that if we asked Jesus today he'd say "of course women can be priests! enough with this outdated, unfair, unreasonable restriction."

          • The trouble is that changes Jesus. We no longer worship the historical Jesus but something from our imagination. We can do that with everything? Every time something gets hard we can just change the faith and imagine Jesus would agree. Where would it leave us? After a while Jesus ends up looking a lot like us. That makes the lordship of Jesus a bit of a farce, does it not?

            If we don't trust Jesus and obey Jesus when we disagree with Him then we don't do it in any meaningful way. Trust that He would not let His followers garble His word. Trust that He knows the essence of manhood and womanhood better than we do. Trust that even when our culture is so so sure He has it wrong that He actually has it right.

          • Ben Posin

            That's fine as far as it goes. I'm telling you what I would like to believe about Jesus, to the extent that for the sake of these discussions I assume there is a Jesus. Not what a Catholic faithful to the words of the New Testament should believe. Though I'll note again that Catholics seem to have no qualms with the idea that morality has moved past the commands people were ready for in old testament times, so I wonder if the door is at all open to additional revelations and reversals...

            I'm also wondering if, per your comment about grace, we have actually reached a point of agreement: that men have no innate quality or faculty that makes them more qualified than women to be Catholic priests--that both genders are equally unworthy to take on the personage of Jesus, but that Catholic doctrine/historical Jesus has nontheless decided to grace only men with this position of authority. Do we agree on that?

          • Catholics do believe revelation has developed from new Testament times. We don't believe in "additional revelations and reversals." That is that new understanding will come from a growth in understanding of the revelation of Jesus. There won't be something truly new. Reversals won't happen, if something has been definitively taught, as the all-male priesthood has, then it will not change. Still we are not in Soa Scriptora mode where we are limited to the words of scripture. The church can definitively clarify an article of the faith that was not clear before.

            About grace? Yes, I would say that both men and women lack the ability to act in persona Christi. Still it is more fitting that men receive this grace because of the nature of men. So God does not just give this command willy-nilly. There is a reason for it. I don't claim to fully understand it. I see some reasons.

          • David Nickol

            Still it is more fitting that men receive this grace because of the nature of men. So God does not just give this command willy-nilly. There is a reason for it. I don't claim to fully understand it. I see some reasons.

            Could you mention some of the reasons you do see? To the best of my knowledge, no one in these discussions has ever gone beyond saying that men and woman are different (which is of course true, but does not rule out the possibility of discrimination by gender in any number of areas) and that Jesus chose only men to be priests. Therefore, only men can be priests. If we could somehow get a more complete statement of this position, it would be helpful.

          • Ben Posin

            Randy,
            I think we've come full circle, because we're back to the idea that there's something about men that makes them more fit to be priests, but you haven't yet been able to articulate at all what that is! I'm not trying to be snide, the closest you have come to trying to give an answer is to say that gender is "foundational" because Adam and Eve had genders...but on its face this has nothing to do with the priesthood. So despite your denial, as far as we know right now this command was given "willy-nilly." I get that you have faith that God doesn't act in that way, but on this subject you (or any Catholic?) don't seem to have any information.

      • Andre Boillot

        "The trouble is that you don't include in your list the reason the church actually gives."

        I'm not sure the OP lists this either, perhaps you could do so?

        "This scares women because if you concede different then how do you arrive at equal?"

        Care to unpack this statement?

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        I would grant this much Randy: our bodies are part of our identity. My objective physical gender is a fundamental aspect of my body, and therefore of my identity. That is part of my cursory understanding of the theology of the body: gender is objective data that indicates who we are at a fundamental level.

        But it's not the only data!

        I have one daughter who is full of sugar and spice and everything nice, and seems destined to be the loving mother of a large family. I have another daughter who was born with an incinerating stare and savage competitiveness. Start telling that second daughter how men and women are different and you will get a swift and sharp little elbow to your eye socket.

        Somehow, both daughters need a way to affirm their objective female identity, but I am very hesitant to say what exactly that means.

        • David Nickol

          As I remarked in a comment (one that was deleted, so I will tread carefully this time) it seems to me that in order to discriminate "justly" against a class of human beings, it must be established that every member of the class has the undesired characteristic or lacks the desired characteristic. So, for example, although on average men have greater upper body strength than women, there are many women who have greater upper body strength than many men. Consequently, although you would probably find more men than women in a job that requires upper body strength (say a job in which the employee loads and unloads packages from trucks), if would be unjust discrimination to deny such a job to a very strong woman.

          When it comes to the priesthood, therefore, it would seem to me that to justly limit the priesthood to men only, there must be characteristics that all men have that no women have, or at least that some men have that no women have.

          In discussing male-female complementarity and marriage, it seems to me that the concept implies that there are characteristics that all men have and that no women have, and there are also characteristics that all women have and no men have. If it is maintained that what makes makes a male-female pair complementary is their reproductive systems, then that's that. But if it is more than that (as it seems to be), I have never been able to get someone to explain why men and women are complementary in the absolute sense (all men have what all women lack and vice versa) rather than in a statistical sense (men tend to have certain characteristics women lack and women tend to have characteristics men lack).

          • Mike

            Hi David,

            I don't know if there is a good answer to your line of questioning, but allow me to share the *best* response I've heard. Catholics believe something very different from other Christian denominations, namely that a priest takes on the "person of Christ". In some mystical way priests participate in a direct and real way in Christ's personhood. Since Christ was a man he only called men to be priests, because there is something unique about being a man (like you said above).

            For the record, I fully acknowledge that this response may not be satisfactory for many (or the vast majority) of people, but its a response I've heard from a member of the clergy that hasn't been repeated here.

        • But this is a caricature of Theology of the Body. There are many ways to live out manhood and womanhood. That does not make men and women the same.

          What Theology of the Body says is that you gender is made visible in your body but it points to a deeper reality. That does not mean embracing a gender stereo-type. It does mean there is a true image of woman to be embraced.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I think you are reading me wrong Randy. This:

            "What Theology of the Body says is that you gender is made visible in your body but it points to a deeper reality. That does not mean embracing a gender stereo-type. It does mean there is a true image of woman to be embraced.",

            seems to be very similar to my characterization of Theology of the Body. I meant to be supportive and complimentary of TOB, insofar as I understand it. How can my description be a caricature when it is so similar to what you wrote?

            This: "There are many ways to live out manhood and womanhood", was essentially my point. For that reason, it is very unclear to me whether certain roles should be the exclusive domain of one gender.

          • David Nickol

            It does mean there is a true image of woman to be embraced.

            Could you explain what the true image of woman and the true image of man are? Hasn't Catholic though changed rather significantly since the Woman entry was written a hundred years ago for the Catholic Encyclopedia? Would it be rash to predict that a similar entry reflecting Catholic thought today might look just as dated a hundred years from now?

          • Catholic thought can develop and change. When a given development gets endorsed by the magisterium then it becomes less likely to change. When it is taught infallibly then it will never change.

            A lot of the modern thinking about women comes from Pope John Paul II or from St Edith Stein who was canonized by him. So this teaching can continue to develop and become deeper. It is highly unlikely to be completely repudiated. The Holy Spirit is leading the church to understand a feminine genius. Yes, modern feminism has influenced that thinking. Some things from feminism were embraced and some were rejected. The Theology of the Body continues to be a very interesting source of new ideas.

            Someone once said the hardest dogma to embrace is the next one. Once you give your obedience to the church you have no control over what she will teach next. That is what serving God means. Trust His word. There are no guarantees but on the subject of woman you can see a vision emerging. I doubt that changes a lot.

  • Mike A

    Yeah, so what I mostly see here Catholics arguing here is that the Catholic Church isn't sexist, it's Jesus who was sexist and they're just doing what he told them too.

    I can only laugh at the people who claim to know the genders of the apostles, but don't even know their names.

  • donttouchme

    1 Peter 3 is clearer on who is subject to whom in a marriage. The problem is Christianity doesn't comport with feminism. It just doesn't. The ideas contained in this article are driving men away from the Church. When men leave, they statistically take the next generation with them. So, ironically, attempts like this to prove the Church has feminist cred destroys it for men and women both. It's also disingenuous and misandristic to suppose that eph. 5 indicates men are fundamentally less loving than women. It's actually stupid, too, since the reason Christianity exists is men. Women didn't build it and didn't sustain it. Men did. Women should be grateful, not angry and making demands.

    • Hi donttouchme,
      If you're a sincere men's rights activist or other person coming at this from the "right" (so to speak), it would be better to edit your post and link to the relevant statistics, because pretty much everyone here, mainstream Catholics and atheists alike, is going to be unreceptive to the arguments without strong evidence and polite wording. Know your audience, y'know.

      If you're an atheist pretending to be a reactionary as mockery ... please don't.

      • Michael Murray

        donttouchme's other posts on Disqus are consistent with that one.

        • donttouchme

          Everything I've said is true. I prefer to run with it rather than dig up links to every truism.

          • Aw, don't just run away and hide. Come out and play. See if you can back up some of your claims. :)

          • donttouchme

            Hide from what, Miss Manners? Your etiquette critiques? Feel free to refute or challenge some of my claims if it's of interest to you.

      • donttouchme

        Consider including new content in your comments, instead of only critiquing others' comments. That said, I don't hang out here enough for it to matter.

  • stravu9

    what about the difference between how retired nuns are treated as opposed to how retired priests are cared for?
    care to comment?
    If the Roman Catholic Church excludes women, there are many more evolved faiths that do not.
    And, perhaps a few women in the mix could have kept a better eye on those pervert parrish priests .