Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Original Catholic Misogyny

There are some rather interesting discussions going on about NARAL's endorsement of Lincoln Chafee and the DailyKos' failure to take seriously choice. See feministing (and ensuing discussion) and Pandagon, for example.

Rather than consider those discussions further here, I want to continue this new theme of exploring what hard-nosed Catholics of fundamentalist Protestants think of women. Below I quoted a little excerpt from St. Aquinas. Now, let's take a look at Tertullian:

(1)Man, not woman, is the ‘image of God’.

De Cultu Feminarum, book 1, chap. 1. “You (woman) destroyed so easily God's image, man.”

On the Veiling of Virgins, chap. 10. “How, then, would God have failed to make any such concession to men more (than to women), whether on the ground of nearer intimacy, as being "His own image," or on the ground of harder toil? But if nothing (has been thus conceded) to the male, much less to the female.”

(2) Every woman carries the curse of Eve

De Cultu Feminarum, book 1, chap 1. (“Every woman should be ....) walking about as Eve mourning and repentant, in order that by every garb of penitence she might the more fully expiate that which she derives from Eve,-the ignominy, I mean, of the first sin, and the odium (attaching to her as the cause) of human perdition.
"In pains and in anxieties dost thou bear (children), woman; and toward thine husband (is) thy inclination, and he lords it over thee."
And do you not know that you are (each) an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too.
  • “You are the devil's gateway:
  • you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree:
  • you are the first deserter of the divine law:
  • you are she who persuaded him (Adam) whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack.
  • You destroyed so easily God's image, man.
  • On account of your desert-that is, death-even the Son of God had to die.”
“And do you think about adorning yourself over and above your tunics of skins?”

(3) A woman's head needs to be covered, but not with a crown

Concerning a Crown, chap. 14. “Much less may the Christian put the service of idolatry on his own head-nay, I might have said, upon Christ, since Christ is the Head of the Christian man-(for his head) is as free as even Christ is, under no obligation to wear a covering, not to say a band. But even the head which is bound to have the veil, I mean woman's, as already taken possession of by this very thing, is not open also to a crown. She has the burden of her own humility to bear. If she ought not to appear with her head uncovered on account of the angels, much more with a crown on it will she offend those (elders) who perhaps are then wearing crowns above. For what is a crown on the head of a woman, but beauty made seductive, but mark of utter wantonness,-a notable casting away of modesty, a setting temptation on fire?

(4)It is better for a man not to marry, because it is tainted with concupiscence

An Exhortation to Chastity, chap. 9. “The Lord Himself said,‘Whoever has seen a woman with a view to concupiscence has already violated her in his heart.’ But has he who has seen her with a view to marriage done so less or more? What if he have even married her?-which he would not do had he not desired her with a view to marriage, and seen her with a view to concupiscence; unless it is possible for a wife to be married whom you have not seen or desired. I grant it makes a wide difference whether a married man or an unmarried desire another woman. Every woman, (however), even to an unmarried man, is "another," so long as she belongs to some one else; nor yet is the means through which she becomes a married woman any other than that through which withal (she becomes) an adulteress. It is laws which seem to make the difference between marriage and fornication; through diversity of illicitness, not through the nature of the thing itself. Besides, what is the thing which takes place in all men and women to produce marriage and fornication? Commixture of the flesh, of course; the concupiscence whereof the Lord put on the same footing with fornication. "Then," says (some one), "are you by this time destroying first-that is, single-marriage too? "And (if so), yes not without reason; inasmuch as it, too, consists of that which is the essence of fornication. Accordingly, the best thing for a man is not to touch a woman; and accordingly the virgin's is the principal sanctity, because it is free from affinity with fornication.”

Tertullian and Women


Let's see some Originalists on these treatises of the Catholic Church. If you want to stand behind "original intent" as a method of interpreting law, then Canon law should force women to wear head covers and to stay far away from men, for fear of tempting them into impure fornication.

Anti-abortionists want to pretend they are concerned for the well-being of the mother. However, many of them come from a tradition which absolutely demonizes women and sees them as agents of the devil. These zealots are who feminists need to stand up to and expose their misogyny. I don't see what is complicated about that!