St. Basil the Great on the Dignity of Women

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“And God made human being according to his image.” “The [masc.] human being,” says the woman, “What does that have to do with me? The man came to be, for it does not say the [fem.] human being,” she says, “but by setting forth the [masc.] human being, it implies the masculine.” But that nobody may ignorantly ascribe the name of human only to the man, it adds, “Male and female he created them” [Gen. 1:27]. The woman also possesses creation according to the image of God, as indeed does the man. The natures are alike in honor, the virtues are equal, the struggles equal, the judgement alike. Let her not say, “I am weak.” The weakness is in the flesh, in the soul is the power. Since indeed that which is according to God’s image is of equal honor, let the virtue be of equal honor, the showing forth of good works. There is no excuse for one who wishes to allege that the body is weak. And why is it simply delicate? But through compassion it is vigorous in patient endurance and earnest in vigils. When has the nature of man been able to match the nature of woman in patiently passing through her own life? When has man been able to imitate the vigor of women in fastings, the love of toil in prayers, the abundance in tears, the readiness for good works?

I have seen a woman secretly committing good thefts, doing good works apart from her husband for the sake of her husband, for the sake of the household’s growth, for the sake of the children’s long life. She gives and hides it from her husband’s knowledge, distributing alms for his sake and concealing it from him. For since the Creator sees the things that are hidden, she does not make public her well-doing.

The good woman has that which is according to the image. Do not cling to the outer human being, it is molded [like clay]. The soul is placed within, under the coverings and the delicate body. Soul indeed is equal in honor to soul; in the coverings is the difference.

Therefore you have become like God through kindness, through the endurance of evil, through communion, through love for one another and love for brethren, being a hater of evil, dominating the passions of sin, that to you may belong the rule.

-St. Basil the Great, part 18, On the origin of humanity, discourse 1

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Edith Stein on the Woman’s Soul

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“Just so, woman’s soul is designed to be subordinate to man in obedience and support; it is also fashioned to be shelter in which other souls may unfold.”

“The soul of woman must therefore be expansive and open to all human beings; it must be quiet so that no small weak flame will be extinguished by stormy winds; warm so as to not benumb fragile buds; clear, so that no vermin will settle in dark corners and recesses; self-contained, so that no invasions from without can imperil the inner life; empty of itself, in order that extraneous life may have room in it; finally, mistress of itself and also of its body, so that the entire person is readily at the disposal of every call.”

-Edith Stein, Fundamental Principles of Women’s Education

Theology of the Body Thursday #29: Sex Work is a Human Right?

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I tend to follow what is happening with Amnesty International because I dedicated so many hours to the organization when I was in  high school and college. I ceased to be a dues-paying, card-carrying member when they added abortion to their list of “human rights,” but I will still send off a letter or an email from time to time when they ask me to if the cause is right. The founders of Amnesty International were active Catholic lay-people. They founded it to help free political prisoners. I’m sure they have been rolling in their graves for quite some time, no less so in recent days as sex work has recently been added to Amnesty’s ever growing list of “human rights.”

In his encyclical, Veritatis Splendor, St. John Paul II echoes Vatican II in listing prostitution right along side abortion and euthanasia as an intrinsic evil. I have often quoted John Paul II, saying the opposite of love is use. This is no less true when the used party agrees to the arrangement and is paid. Paid use is still use.

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Sociologists have long questioned how much actual free-will the prostitute has to agree to the arrangement. Many prostitutes are coerced into the business by pimps. Most of them prostitute themselves to pay for a drug habit or a pressing financial need like supporting their families.

Perhaps the most disgusting thing about this is, however, the reasoning Amnesty is using. They have cited the “right” of a disabled person to get a prostitute as one reason for the legalization of prostitution. How demeaning is that to disabled people? We know the disabled person can’t find love and, hey, they have “needs,” so, Amnesty argues, we need to legalize this profession that demeans women to really demean disabled people and their natural, human need for companionship. So, this in insulting on two levels:

  1. It implies that disabled people are inherently undesirable for companionship.
  2. It also implies that sex is the only way to fulfill the universal human need for intimacy.

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Amnesty International is ignoring the reality of women in prostitution as well as showing a serious lack of compassion and love for women and those who are dealing with disabilities.

Misreading St Paul on women…

Having trouble with St. Paul’s views on women? This writer will help clear some of those up.

“The truth is I was reading the passage with secular eyes. I was seeing child-bearing and motherhood, because of its obvious challenges and sacrifices, as something to be despised. Being a mother is hard because it demands the totality of the person, body and soul. The sacrifice a mother makes for a child goes beyond that of the father as she literally gives her body for the life of the child. She says to her unborn child ‘this is my body given for you’. After the child is born she says to the baby ‘take eat, this is my body’.”

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‘women will be saved through child-bearing, if they continue in faith and love and holiness and self-control.’ 1 Timothy 2:15 

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I remember studying that passage in my theology undergraduate class at university and prickling with anger. So, I thought to myself, men are saved by the cross and women are saved by having babies?!  I remarked wisely to my lecturer after the class that it was clear that the misogynistic attitudes of the age in which St Paul’s lived had not been purged away by his new faith. This was surely biological determinism painted onto the canvas of Christianity? She heartily agreed, however as soon as I had made the remarks I felt a voice somewhere in my heart protest. I knew I was missing something that would flip the whole passage around.

The truth is I was reading the passage with secular eyes. I was seeing…

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Theology of the Body Thursday #19: A Blow to the “Sexual Revolution”

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There is no such thing as a “sex drive.”

Let me repeat: There is no such thing as a “sex drive.”

A behavioral scientist, Emily Nagoski, who has done extensive research on women and sex dropped this bombshell a couple weeks ago. She explains that “a drive is a motivational system to deal with life-or-death issues.” Hunger is a drive, being too hot or too cold is a drive, sex can’t be a drive for two reasons: 1) Sex isn’t needed for the survival of the organism and 2) the desire for sex doesn’t always happen spontaneously.

She makes the argument that people who don’t experience “spontaneous desire” aren’t broken. She says that most men experience “spontaneous desire” while most women do not. Since, for far too long, men’s experiences have been seen as the norm, women who don’t experience it often think they need a pill to fix it.

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This taking the white male as the norm has been a huge problem in medical research that is slowly but surely getting fixed.

She calls for a reclaiming of what she calls “responsive desire.” It is the desire for sex triggered by arousal. She explains it thus:

But there is another way of experiencing desire which is also healthy and normal, called “responsive desire”, where your interest only emerges in response to arousal. So, your partner comes over and starts kissing your neck and you’re like, “oh, right, sex, that’s a good idea”. [Source]

While she acknowledges that “spontaneous desire” is fun, she explains that it is not necessary for pleasure or fulfillment. I think she could have learned that by asking anyone who has used NFP to postpone pregnancy, but anyway….

What does this have to do with the “sexual revolution”? It was only in the 1970s that people started to argue that we had a sex drive. A drive, in turn, quickly becomes a need and then a right. Now in 2015, it is taken for granted that sex is a right. I’ve had plenty of arguments with my peers about this. Now, we who argue that sex is not a right have another point to use.

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You can bet your bottom that I will be reviewing Nagoski’s book, Come as You Are. There will be plenty of points to ponder. Some will reaffirm my worldview, some will definitely challenge it. I’m so looking forward to this book.

Why I Filmed My Abortion? A Response: Part 3

This is part 3 of a 4 part series discussing a young woman who recorded her abortion and shared it with the world. To see the video and the first part of the response, go here. To see the second part of the response, go here. To see the third part of the response, you’re in the right place.

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“I knew that what I was going to do is right. It was right for me and no one else.”

This is the part that has pissed off the most people. Matt Walsh has a whole graphic post devoted to this quote. A commenter on the first part of my response questioned what has the world come to. Women who have had miscarriages express anger that this woman could kill something that she recognized as a life, while their own wombs failed them.

I have two ways to approach this. Personal and rational. Personal in that I have faced an unplanned pregnancy. I have had my youth robbed from me. I have had my career plans smashed. I was pushed into parenthood before I was ready. But that is all what they call pathos and I can do one better than that. I can help to dismantle the sacred bodily autonomy argument.

This argument is implicit in the quote above. The argument goes thus, “It’s my body, I can do whatever I want with it.”

There is one huge problem with this. When you are pregnant, it is no longer just your body. There is another human being inside of you and that person has a right to life as well. From the moment of conception, a separate being is formed. Yes, this being is completely dependent upon you, but that doesn’t make it any less of a human. An infant, an elderly person, or a terminally ill person isn’t any less of a person because they are completely dependent upon others for their care. What makes a unborn child any different?

Another problem I see with this is the assumption that you can do whatever you want with your body. Our bodies are not absolutely autonomous. Society and other people demand things of us all of the time. There are children who demand their parent’s time and attention. There are employers that require employees to work. There is the government that expects us to follow certain laws.

The aforementioned Matt Walsh explains it so much better than I can, so I’m just going to direct you to his blog post.

There is one more thing that is implicit in this quote and I can give her a little bit of credit for this one. I believe in this quote she is trying to make it clear that abortion was right for her, but it might not be right for someone else. This is a refreshing bit of consistency on her part and I hope that it translates into her work as an abortion councilor. She claims to be pro-choice and she does not want to influence any one else’s choice.

But it’s not like the pregnant woman is choosing between eggs or toast for breakfast. It’s not a morally neutral decision and therefore there is a right and a wrong answer that is universal. The Truth is not culturally-determined. The Truth doesn’t care one bit about your feelings. The Truth doesn’t care about convenience or comfort. It’s not even dependent on religion. The Truth is simply the Truth and it does not matter what anyone says or does to the contrary. This Truth is that every single person, every single life is to be respected, simply because it is a human life. Murder in all of its forms is abhorrent and it is particularly abhorrent when the life taken is completely and utterly innocent.

So, no, what she did wasn’t right. And she should have considered other people. Her actions involved many other people, aside from herself. Not only her child, but the women who will be encouraged to make the same decision. Not only her body, but women who will now open up about their stories and experience the healing that only comes with sharing your story. Not to mention, the unborn children of the women who will follow in her footsteps.

praytoendabortionJoin me for part 4 of this response where I discuss her comment, “I just want to share my story.” I promise the next one will be published more promptly.

This post was the product of a lot of thought and a lot of false starts. I just wasn’t sure how to proceed. Please let me know your thoughts.