Dissecting a radical anti-Catholic feminist’s opinion piece

From the Guardian:

Vatican orthodoxy does not represent all American Catholics

Conservatives in the Catholic Church are pushing back against reformers, but progressives can find allies: it’s a broad church

Claire Sahlin

“Quit the church … Put women’s rights over bishops’ wrongs,” proclaim the large billboards recently erected in Times Square, St Louis, and Arlington, Texas. Cleverly printed in patriotic red, white, and blue, the provocative slogan urges American Roman Catholics to prioritize women’s equality over their loyalties to the institutional church.

In the Los Angeles Times of 4 July, a full-page advertisement similarly announces that “It’s Time to Quit the Catholic Church” and urges liberal and nominal Catholics to vote with their feet and “please, exit en masse.” In March, a similar ad also appeared in the New York Times, and in May, it appeared in USA Today and the Washington Post.

The controversial billboards and advertisements are directed against the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ recent “Fortnight for Freedom” and Catholic dioceses that are currently suing the US Department of Health and Human Services over its ruling that US women be offered birth control as part of their insurance plans. [Here is the trap.  The issue is mainly the government’s attempt to force the Church and other groups to do something that violates 1st Amendment freedom of religion.  It is not mainly about contraception.] This campaign to leave the Church appears on the heels of the Vatican crackdown against [Note the choice of words.  I don’t any longer have a problem with “crackdown”.  That is what it is.  But it is not “against” unless the LCWR makes it so.] the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an organization that represents most of America’s approximately 57,000 sisters. [and a subsidiarity of the Magisterium of Nuns… and here is another misrepresentation, for the LCWR doesn’t represent “sisters”, but rather the leaders of the communities of sisters.] In April, the group of sisters [leaders of sisters] was reprimanded for reportedly [in case, actually] supporting women’s ordination to the priesthood and the rights of homosexuals. [Another trap.  Watch for attempts to reframe what homosexual activists want as “rights”.  People don’t want to violate the “rights” of others.  Thus, the word is a manipulation when so placed in an article like this.] The nuns also were accused of not taking strong enough stances against abortion and euthanasia. [And, in fact, it is true: the LCWR hasn’t done anything in those matters.]

The billboards and newspaper ads are sponsored by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a watchdog group [Another trap: we are supposed to like “watchdog groups”.] founded in 1976 by Annie Nicol Gaylor and her daughter, Annie Laurie Gaylor, who is the Foundation’s current co-president and author of Women Without Superstition: No Gods, No Masters. The Foundation and its 18,500 members should be applauded [and thus endeth any pretense of objectivity] for promoting women’s rights to access contraception apart from religious interference. The group should also be commended for its nearly 35-year commitment to erecting a higher wall separating the church and the state: it seeks to end government funding for religious activities and works to halt illegal religious instruction in secular institutions.

Moreover, it isn’t hard to understand why many Americans are leaving the Roman Catholic Church and other conservative religious institutions. In fact, this decision is often a painful act of courage, and is quite laudable. As President Jimmy Carter stated when he left the Southern Baptist Convention:

“Male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world.”

Like other conservative religious institutions, the Roman Catholic Church not only forbids the use of contraception and seeks to outlaw access to abortion, but also denies women’s right to become priests and to preach from the pulpit. These restrictions, coupled with the condemnation of same-sex relationships, have naturally and rightfully led increasing numbers to abandon the church.

[So, we now know that the writer hates the Catholic Church.  But now we get to the point.] So, love it or leave it! But are these the only options? Must supporters of women’s equality leave the Roman Catholic Church and other conservative religious institutions, as the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s billboards advocate?

No excuses should be made for Christianity’s subjugation of women and violations of human rights. [At this point, if you are completely stupid, you have accepted the writer’s premise. But watch…] Yet, there are individuals and groups within Christianity who are working to change those things from within. Freethinkers and non-religious progressives need to acknowledge and respect the dedicated work of countless nuns, clergy, and Christian educators who labor for justice. [Not holiness… not salvation.. but “justice”.] This week, a group of bold nuns, who envision economic justice as God’s will, is concluding its nine-state bus tour to protest the budget proposal of Congressman Paul Ryan (Republican, Wisconsin) that would cut social services like Head Start, food stamps, and housing subsidies. Organizations like the Women’s Ordination Conference are denouncing the church’s sexism, while working for women’s right to become priests, deacons, and bishops in the Catholic Church. Catholics for Choice, as well as the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an association of diverse faith-based groups, are promoting reproductive justice and women’s sexual health.  [You get by now what sort of person the writer is.]

[What is it that the writer and these feminist nuns she is praising actually want?  We get into that here:] Too frequently, the power of religion has been used to alienate and oppress women, gays and lesbians, and the vulnerable. [Don’t for the vulnerable!] However, the power of religion can also be transformed into a vehicle for justice and used on behalf of human welfare. [Forget salvation.  It’s all about power.  The Church has nothing to do with salvation and God, but worldly pursuits, such as the catch all excuse “justice”.] At its best, religion inspires reverence for the sacredness of life, [The writer doesn’t know what religion is.  Religion is about giving God what is due to God.] evokes a sense of existential purpose, and motivates us to work for the good of other humans and the planet. [Nothing about God in there, is there.] As feminist philosopher Sheila Ruth declares in Take Back the Light: A Feminist Reclamation of Religion and Spirituality, “we must not allow the assumption that patriarchy‘s treatment of religion is the only possible treatment.” Christians who are dissatisfied with church leaders and rigid dogmas do have the option of quitting the church, [HERE IT IS] but they also have the option of working to transform the church and using the power of religion for the empowerment of others.  [Thus, stay in the Church and subvert it from within.]

If progressive organizations, be they atheist or religious, want to make progress in the struggle for women’s reproductive health [That is code language for abortion.] and to advance human and environmental welfare, [We have to “save the planet”. Thus we see the fusion of feminism and environmentalism into a new “religion” and their sacrament is abortion.] they need to forge alliances rather than alienating each other. Authentic and enduring social change is not derived from a rigid “either-you’re-for-us-or-against-us” mentality.

Religious institutions need to be held accountable for the injustices and abuses they perpetuate.  [You are supposed just to accept the premise behind this.] But “freethinking” organizations like the Freedom From Religion Foundation must join with religious organizations like the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Justice to promote women’s reproductive choices and access to reproductive services. [Do you think the writer would be in favor of partial-birth abortion?  I do.  I think the writer would be in favor of infanticide.  HEY!  If she can shove absurd premises at you, so can I.] Lasting change will only occur through collaborations and coalition-building: together, we are stronger than we could ever be alone.

Thus endeth the lesson.

Look where the article begins: “Vatican orthodoxy”.  Look where it ends: the “right” to abortion.

It starts with nod to objectivity and it ends with a bald feminist jeremiad.  Oooops, “jeremiad” is too patriarchal.  How ’bout “screed”?

Watch for more of this in different mainstream media sources.

I suspect few will actually persuaded by her “argument”.

In other words: Take care that the door doesn’t nail you in the backside when you leave.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Dogs and Fleas, Our Catholic Identity, The Drill, The future and our choices, The Last Acceptable Prejudice, Throwing a Nutty and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. wanda says:

    Ooooh, can I hold the doors open for them? Can I, huh? Can I? Oh please, let me hold the doors open!

  2. Burke says:

    Uncle Screwtape would be proud. You get the immoral to believe their immorality is a higher morality; & then they lecture the moral on how immoral they are to be moral. And so, of course, those of the ‘new morality’ must stay in the Church so that they can evangelize those who remain in the darkness of the ‘old morality.’ Their work can never be complete until there no one left to remind them that their ‘new morality’ is nothing other than what the ‘old morality’ calls a life of sin.

  3. Gail F says:

    That’s very disturbing — not just the article, which is bad enough, but the subject of the article. Look, I think Mormonism is nuts. But I am not going to put up billboards saying “Leave the LDS!” I think Islam is wrong. But I am not going to take full-page ads in major newspapers telling people to quit Islam. Trying to convert people to another religion you believe is true is NOT the same thing as just attacking their religion and urging/ordering them to quit. That’s appalling.

    Where do these people get off telling Catholics to quit being Catholics? Why is it their mission in life to destroy my Church? Why does anyone, anywhere, think this acceptable behavior? The threat to religious liberty goes on…

  4. PostCatholic says:

    I stopped giving money to the Freedom From Religion Foundation a while ago. I find their tactics often offensive and counter-productive.

    That said–I do think that lay Catholics on the progressive or liberal side should stop fighting a war they’ve clearly lost. If one sincerely, with an informed conscience, can’t accept Catholic teaching on sexual ethics, gender roles, etc. one should not keep hoping to “change things from within;” it isn’t going to happen. Take the hint.

  5. CatholicMD says:

    Is it bad that I think they should leave? It’s called being intellectually honest.

  6. yatzer says:

    I can’t figure out what their premises are, except for “faithful Catholic bad, everyone else good.”

  7. sophiamarie3 says:

    “This week, a group of bold nuns, who envision economic justice as God’s will”
    …Bold nuns? Economic justice as God’s will? Jesus, a meek and humble man and our God, never insisted on His followers acting out of boldness, but out of a simplicity derived from love and compassion. He did not use a booming voice to convey his message but parables and miracles of healing. Rather than fuming against economic iniquities, our God became man and embraced the poor in their suffering.
    I am a modern woman, an educated freethinker with strong and well-formed opinions. I am in love with God and have a great desire to spread the Truth! As a young and radical woman, I like to consider myself a true feminist! Well, this feminist has, in the silence of her heart, accepted God’s call to speak His Truth in a world that needs it so badly, as a Dominican Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.
    Please pray for me, that I will always be meek in the face of hatred and have the courage to always speak the Truth. Also, would you please consider helping me so that I can pay off my student loans and freely enter the convent on the feast of the great St. Augustine? http://www.psalm63ontheheart.wordpress.com

  8. Andy Lucy says:

    As we say in Western Kentucky, “Don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you! Y’all come back and visit now, ya hear?”

    Intellectual honesty should demand that these disaffected persons leave the Church that they can no longer abide. Maybe… hopefully… they will realize the error of their choices and return to Holy Mother Church, to understand and love Her for what She truly is. However, sadly, I believe their indoctrination into modernism/secularism has been so complete that they will be unable to humble themselves to that point. It both saddens me and angers me… that these people have been led away from the greatest gift God could have given His people: the Holy Catholic Church.

    St Michael the Archangel, pray for us; Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us.

  9. Sissy says:

    Echoing Catholic MD above, is it bad that I think our shepherds should acknowledge publicly that these dissenters left the Church ages ago? They have openly turned against the Church and Her teachings, and they aren’t shy about saying so. Wouldn’t it be better for all of us if those in authority just stated the truth about dissenters openly and “boldly” (since “boldness” is a quality these gals seem to admire). Surely at least some of these folks are being flagrant enough in their rebellion that the “bell, book, and candle” routine wouldn’t be unjust.

  10. Johnno says:

    This is part of the problem with the Church’s focus on only religious liberty in this fight.

    People who are so firmly convinced that contraceptives yadda yadda yadda are natural rights that they’d die on the street without, and that women are being beaten and chained in the basement because they’re not letting them pretend they are priests really don’t care about you trying to claim your ‘endangerment’ and ‘oppression’ of women should be protected as a religious right. This is what they seriously think! This is what those of them in government seriously think! This is what those of them in the courts these days seriously think! This is what those of them with the power to rewrite laws and the constitution seriously think! This is why Obama wants to change everything and redefine religious rights to simply ‘worship.’

    If you’re not also going to take the trouble to teach about why contraception is immoral and why feminists like these are absolutely nuts and, yes, KILLERS of Children, then you’re basically playing into their hands that all you’re concerned with is the ‘religious right to bring down the poor helpless abused women.’ You NEED to clarify precisely why you deserve this right and why they too must accept the Church’s moral teachings because it is they who are the witting and unwitting oppressors, subjugators, matriarchites, and supporters of eugenics and mass murder. They are this far gone… and they currently control all the pieces with the powers of money, vice, and loud-mouthery.

  11. jaykay says:

    The piece is written in the UK “Guardian” and as such it’s the same old, same old boilerplate one would expect from that quarter. They manufacture this stuff by the mile and cut if off by the yard, day after day, on all the right-on issues. Its readership is referred to as “Guardianistas”… NCR/Fishwrap types would probably feel quite at home there.

    Strangely enough, the comments forum below – normally not a place for the weak of stomach , especially when they feature anything on the Church – is amazingly mild about it all, at least on the first page (I didn’t risk it beyond that). Some examples:

    “Anybody who wants to quit can quit. Anybody who wants to join can join. My sense of the thing is that the vast majority are staying, maybe with a certain detachment relative to past levels of commitment.”

    “If you don’t think at the Catholic Church has the good oil, then to me the obvious thing to do is leave. Having left, you can join some other church which does have the good oil, or start your own. It worked for Luther, Calvin, Henry VIII, Charles Taze, Russell, Mary Baker Eddy, Joseph Smith, Judge Rutherford, L Ron Hubbard, &c, &c, &c.”

    And this truly spot-on comment addressed to the author herself:

    “That’s a woefully limited conception of religion, Claire. Religion claims that God both knows us and can be known by us. At its best, religion brings us into a living relationship with the Almighty God. Everything that you list is good and desirable, but it comes out of the power of that living relationship. True religion starts with God, not with us!”

  12. JohnE says:

    “At its best, religion inspires reverence for the sacredness of life, evokes a sense of existential purpose, and motivates us to work for the good of other humans and the planet.”

    So that’s supposed to explain the “right” to killing the unborn and the “right” to unhealthy unnatural disordered use of sexual organs? I can’t imagine even a pro-abortion, pro-gay-sex person finding her arguments intellectually satisfying. Emotionally satisfying maybe.

  13. contrarian says:

    I’m ashamed to think I used to think like this.

    Thinking back on my own case, I can say that there’s something very alluring about thinking of yourself as enlightened, and thinking of your ideological enemies as 1) unthinking and 2) fearful goons. It’s amazing how powerful this self-justification can be.

    First step: The Catholic Church is wrong for reasons x, y, and z. Since these reasons are manifest, clearly the Catholic is unthinking.
    Catholics: as for x, y, and z, you are wrong for these reasons…
    Second step: You only think this because you are (proceed with psychoanalysis).

    Notice also the use of moral framing and rhetoric as opposed to argument. “We stand for justice and rights and freedom and the environment and the poor.”
    Back when I was a liberal, that’s precisely how I used to talk.
    Of course, when I had to actually define how I thought about these things when talking with a conservative who knew what he was talking about, and show why in fact I did in fact stand for these concepts and the conservative didn’t, I got creamed.

    So I would proceed to step two.

    Problem is, step two isn’t falsifiable. But the power to persuade those set in their ways is just as strong as step one was before it was blown out of the water.

  14. Nice article by Claire the Loon! Should set it to music!

  15. Clinton says:

    It’s my experience that those folks who disagree with the Church on important doctrinal
    matters do indeed go elsewhere. However, those folks who disagree but are also on salary
    at the chancery, have a position on the theology faculty, or have their religious congregation
    paying the rent on the apartment they share with their ‘partner’— well, those sorts won’t
    be pried from the Church they despise until they are either carried out in a box or the perks end.

  16. Ralph says:

    My father has said many times to folks:

    Are you for women priests?
    See the Eucharistic celebration as a symbolic meal?
    Deny the authority of the Pope and the Magisteriam of the Church?
    Believe in abortion, contraception and euthanasia?

    Why do you want to change the Catholic Church? You already have a church home – the episicaple church. They believe in all of the above. Let the Catholics have their church.

    And Dad is a baptist!

  17. UncleBlobb says:

    It’s amazing how these people almost make me anxious for the extinction of Europe and Sharia law. Almost.

  18. The Cobbler says:

    I’m of mixed minds about this (except what Johnno said, which is the hammer hitting the head of the nail). On the one hand, the Church has a bad habit but an otherworldly virtue of bending over backwards not to push anybody away unnecessarily; her moral laws are clear cut largely so she can say boo to the fuzzy-wuzzies of scrupulousity, she’s willing to compromise on condemning only the bits or interpretations of ideas or apparitions that must be condemned and still let people hold to them in general (pretty sure I can produce a couple examples if need be but I don’t want to get off track now), and at least her current bishops seem to default to the assumption that poor confused seventies souls are better wrong and nominally in the Church than wrong and completely outside her. On the other, a large part of the reason excommunication ever existed was precisely because it can be worse for people to carry on evil inside the Church — sort of the Body of Christ’s way of saying, to quote Firefly (yes, that tingles my irony sensors), “Next time you stab me in the back have the guts to do it to my face.” Atheists such as the FFRF (which, while I’m mentioning them by acronym, at least has an honest name instead of meaning that but using terms like “freedom of religion”) telling Catholics to quit is tacky, but I wonder if we ought not be speaking the same conclusion albeit for completely the opposite reason; the answer, I suppose, given the history and theology of excommunication, is that that’s for the bishops to decide on.

  19. Gail F says:

    It appeared in the Guardian but she is a professor in Texas.

  20. drea916 says:

    If I didn’t have my Catholic faith/believe in God, I wouldn’t care about justice. I’d just be out to get mine. If I don’t believe in God, what do I care about women priests/gay rights/the poor? Forget them. This life is about experiencing as much pleasure as possible. I mean, think about how differently you would live your life if you didn’t believe in God. Non-believers have some sort of moral code because of the shared culture. Why are these folks (in the article) wasting their time?

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