The pope actually mentioned women, for a second, sort of

E. J. Dionne, pleased with himself, tells us he’s not going to leave the Catholic church.

I’ve never been a fan of Dionne’s. He’s so centrist, so conventional, so smugly mainstream, so insistent on received wisdom.

So it figures that he would get all bristly at the idea that the Catholic church isn’t a wholly admirable institution.

He’s in a huff that FFRF ran that ad urging liberal Catholics to drop the ‘Catholics’ part.

Catholic liberals get used to these kinds of things. Secularists, who never liked Catholicism in the first place, want us to leave the church, but so do Catholic conservatives who want the church all to themselves.

I’m sorry to inform the FFRF that I am declining its invitation to quit. They may not see the Gospel as a liberating document, but I do, and I can’t ignore the good done in the name of Christ by the sisters, priests, brothers and lay people who have devoted their lives to the poor and the marginalized.

Oh shut up. Nobody’s asking you to ignore any good done, but paying attention to good done is not a reason for continuing to support an organization that also does immense harm, and attaches strings to even the good that it does.

And on women’s rights, I take as my guide that early feminist, Pope John XXIII. In Pacem in Terris, his encyclical issued in 1963, the same year Betty Friedan published “The Feminine Mystique,” Pope John spoke of women’s “natural dignity.”

“Far from being content with a purely passive role or allowing themselves to be regarded as a kind of instrument,” he wrote, “they are demanding both in domestic and in public life the rights and duties which belong to them as human persons.”

You want to go there? Ok. Let’s take a look at Pacem in Terris.

The bit that Dionne quotes is in a section titled “Characteristics of the Present Day.” It starts with working men, and then goes on to women. The next section is titled “Equality of Men.” It begins

Today, on the contrary the conviction is widespread that all men are equal in natural dignity; and so, on the doctrinal and theoretical level, at least, no form of approval is being given to racial discrimination. All this is of supreme significance for the formation of a human society animated by the principles We have mentioned above, for man’s awareness of his rights must inevitably lead him to the recognition of his duties. The possession of rights involves the duty of implementing those rights, for they are the expression of a man’s personal dignity. And the possession of rights also involves their recognition and respect by other people.

Notice anything? Men. A man’s personal dignity.

I’m not convinced that Pacem in Terris belongs on the shelf next to Friedan’s book.

For the rest of the piece he scolds the bishops a lot. Well quite – but why is that not a reason to vote by leaving? The bishops are the ones calling the shots, not the rebel nuns and the Washington Post columnists.


  1. Forbidden Snowflake says

    FFS, isn’t the “natural dignity” crap just code for “sticking women on a pedestal called Motherhood from which they will be forbidden to climb down under the pretense that any other application of their abilities and/or sexuality is an affront to their natural dignity“?

  2. sunny says

    “natural dignity”: All of us know that Mr. Pope has his own conception of what he considers natural. For example, it is natural for Mr. Pope and his minions to have dominion over the rest of humanity.

    Taking quotes out of context seems to be a standard technique among the apologists.

  3. Kevin says

    Natural dignity: “Get back into the kitchen and make me a sammich before I give you another black eye.”

  4. says

    The words “natural” and “dignity” when used separately tend to lead to very bad places when Catholic theologians are talking. Used together, they can’t possibly mean anything good.

  5. says

    I can’t ignore the good done in the name of Christ by the sisters, priests, brothers and lay people who have devoted their lives to the poor and the marginalized.

    And how does the Vatican heirarchy help this? They’re openly contempuous of the liberation theology movement that is responsible for most of these good deeds.

  6. Cormacolinde says

    In all honesty, the encyclical quoted probably used the latin “humanus” or “homo”, which is gender neutral and means “person” or “human being”, but it is often translated as “man”.

  7. julian says

    Well quite – but why is that not a reason to vote by leaving?

    It’s not like there’s no precedent for it.

  8. 'Tis Himself says

    The pope actually mentioned women

    That should be A pope. John XXIII was four popes ago.

  9. Felix says

    “Latissime e contrario ea opinio pervasit et obtinuit, omnes homines esse naturae dignitate inter se aequales. ”

    “Today, on the contrary the conviction is widespread that all men are equal in natural dignity”

    Does appear to be using the term homines which the interwebs tell me means ‘man, human, people’

  10. says

    Yes but he was the pope when he said it.

    Oh sure, Felix, all encyclicals are in Latin. But they’re also translated, and the translations are official too. It’s true that homen (hominis) means human not man in Latin (vir (viris) means man). But in that case the translation should have said human, not man, and it didn’t. It also included one bit where it said “a man,” and that really can’t be understood to mean “a woman.”

  11. Erp says

    Strictly speaking it was translated back in the mid 1960’s and the use of ‘man’/’men’ as including women was almost universal then (except when it meant only male homo sapiens and that was often hard to tell). It has anyway been mostly backwards since John XXIII.

  12. says

    I know – I find Isaiah Berlin unreadable for that reason. But even with that I don’t think “a man” ever meant “a woman.” Man=humans, yes, but a man=a woman, no.

  13. says

    Well, yes, “man” used to refer to the species. Just not recently.

    The meanings, or implications of “boy,” “girl,” and “man” have shifted over the last several hundred years. “Man” used to mean human; so you’d see a sentence like, “There were two men of London: a woman and her son.”* But it came more and more to mean males only, so that “fisherman,” which might once have been as generic as “farmer” or “pioneer,” now brings to mind only males. The whole mankind = man = men way of writing encourages us to think only of males. So we get blinkered communications such as, “The pioneers went west with their possessions, wives, and children” because the writer thinks of pioneers as men and forgets that women and children were pioneers, too. We have to include women again if we want girls to grow up using the full scope of their abilities.

    *Source, Words and Women by Casey Miller and Kate Swift

    See also A Handbook of Non-sexist Writing and its reviews.

    The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle described Ercongota, daughter of a seventh-century English king, as “a wonderful man.” No, she didn’t have a sex change. In her day, “man” was a true generic term meaning “person” or “human being.” Many older English writings do indeed use “man” in this sense. But, as this book explains, our language has changed, and this generic usage is no longer appropriate.

    I grew up on “man = humankind” rhetoric so I can adjust to it but I now notice that it’s exclusionary.

  14. Francisco Bacopa says

    Why gives a shit? It’s time to get the liberals out of the Catholic Church and fight. Pope Benny wants them out, so why don’t they just leave in their last act of obedience?

    Only hope for the future of the Catholic Church is if they give up all that weird stuff from Paul and make the Maronite vows the general rule. Closest Catholic church to me as a Maronite Arab church. They just started a third service on Sunday afternoon in English by a married ex-seminarian. Lots of white folks and a few Chicanos attend. The Eucharist is given by an ordained Arab Maronite, but the seminarian does everything else.

    I smell revolution. Funny thing is, Maronites are kind of stereotyped locally as running shady small businesses, mostly liquor stores and postal drops. The largest booze operation locally advertises on radio in old school local white and black accents that you’ll find a “friendly face” at their stores, Clearly a jab at the Maronites.

  15. Lyanna says

    Ms. Daisy Cutter: yes, that’s precisely who Dionne is. He’s one of the brigade of “liberal” Catholic men in their 60s who decried those mean extremist women who wanted contraception covered as part of healthcare.

    His type is truly revolting–he’s generally politically liberal, but he wants to genuflect towards social conservatives of the Catholic persuasion on “social issues” (read: issues that affect women and gay folks). He’s not antiabortion or anticontraception himself, but he thinks we should be super-nice to those who are and give them special privileges and exemptions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *