Matt C. Abbott
October 28, 2009
(Sister) Donna Quinn's 'ungodly rage'
By Matt C. Abbott

In light of the recent story about notorious pro-abortion nun Donna Quinn's "moonlighting" as an abortion mill escort deathscort would be a more appropriate term, actually and in light of Rome's doctrinal investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, I offer the following lengthy excerpt of Catholic author Donna Steichen's book Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism.

Although published in 1991, much of Mrs. Steichen's excellent analysis of radical feminism's infiltration into the Church is still timely and thought-provoking. Thanks to Mrs. Steichen and Mark Brumley of Ignatius Press for allowing me to reprint this material (minus footnotes).

The more things "change," the more they stay the same, indeed.

    Chapter Seven: From the Catacombs

    Catholic feminism is sweeping across the American Church like a prairie fire from hell. Whether or not any given feminist intends to serve the Prince of Lies, every progression more clearly reveals the cause itself as a demonic assault on God, on his creation, on the Church and on the family. Its first victims are women. Men who subscribe to it show their disregard for the Faith. They also display contempt for women as women and an eagerness to escape masculine responsibility.

    To view the devastation all at once is almost overwhelming. The unvarnished reality is that the faithful remnant of believers is living in the catacombs of an American Church under the domination of revolutionaries within a decadent secular society. Where, we ask, are our shepherds? How could God let this happen? If the Church can fall into such disarray, is she after all the true Church? Is there hope for her restoration? How can we and our children survive as Catholics until order is restored?

    Where Are the Shepherds?

    The American Church is convulsed by a lack of courageous leadership. What can explain the episcopal impotence so widely apparent? Twinges of guilt for past condescension? Misplaced gallantry? Hope that feminism will subside unconfronted? Dread of public criticism by feminist partisans in the media? Are bishops overawed by assertive women with graduate degrees? Or, feeling helplessly swept along by a torrent they can neither understand nor control, do they choose to ignore blatant disorders in order to keep their burgeoning bureaucracies staffed? Any of those explanations would seem more humanly comprehensible than bias in favor of a revolution in which their own offices are prime targets. If I hope to appease the mutineers, they might well review the lesson of Mary Daly: appeasement feeds revolutionary rage and mf revolutionary arrogance.

    The North American bishops have shown in other circumstances that they are capable of brusqueness. However they justify it in their own consciences, during the past generation they have not only tolerated but enforced discrimination against the non-feminist majority of Catholic women, often poorly instructed but meaning to be faithful, trying to live their vocations against the stream of mounting feminist influence within the American Church. Orthodox laywomen, disturbed about aberrant liturgical practices, spiritual direction, catechetics and sex education, have been either ignored or reproved for divisiveness. Meanwhile, women involved in the most egregiously offensive Catholic feminist activities have been given approval, a respectful ear if they want one and promotion in the religious bureaucracy.

    The bishops do see the problems that result when children are left to raise themselves because their mothers are employed away from home. They see the injustice of women and children abandoned to poverty after divorce. Yet their proposals, in two drafts of the pastoral letter on women's concerns as well as in the letter on economics, have been focused on band-aid remedies like day care. They have not unambiguously enunciated the principles required for the healthy restoration of family life. Their most immediate pastoral duty in that regard is to remove the revolutionary vipers being cherished in the bosom of Catholic bureaucracy and to ensure that the Catholic Faith is taught in its purity and fullness. They are responsible before God for the spiritual welfare of their flocks; the souls of the faithful cannot be sacrificed to placate the unfaithful.

    If, in addition, the bishops are also determined to speak out on public policy matters, they could do more for the well-being of families by lobbying effectively for a family wage or for restoration of a dependent income tax exemption at the original 1948 level than by the measures proposed in all three pastoral letters. The family wage, traditionally favored in Catholic social teaching, would guarantee the family head of either sex an income sufficient to support a family decently. There is probably little prospect for achieving it today. Chances would be better for tax reform. If families could deduct approximately six thousand dollars per child rather than the current two thousand, parents with five children would pay no tax on the first thirty thousand dollars of income. Most problems of maternal neglect, latchkey children and day care would be solved at once because most mothers in the labor force could afford to stay at home.

    At even closer hand, surely the American bishops must see the terrible effects of feminism on the Church, yet they seem unwilling to recognize its nature. "One in Christ Jesus," their second draft letter to women, restates the Church's reasoning on male priesthood, abortion and contraception far more competently than the first. But in neither draft do the writers attempt to analyze the errors of feminism, and in the second, they actually praise it. They note the decline in vocations but suggest no explanation for it and even claim to find the "contemplative dimension" of post-conciliar renewal in women's orders "edifying," of all things. In other, more general public statements, too, bishops prominent in the NCCB speak so glowingly of conditions in the American Church as to bewilder the faithful. Everything would be rosy, their comments suggest, if it weren't for those few troublesome lay and clerical "fundamentalists" in the ranks.

    The bishops' behavior seems curiously self-destructive. If, as often claimed, their motive for doctrinal laxity has been an ecumenical hope that separated Christian churches could be reunited through broader theological "pluralism," they should by now have noticed that religion without doctrinal clarity produces only a unity of indifference. If their shift toward "social gospel" Christianity was motivated by a hope of attracting more converts or more young people, it should have expired years ago; far from attracting those groups, liberal Catholicism has repelled them, just as liberal Protestantism has. By the time the American bishops took to doctrinal liberalism, mainline Protestant churches were already emptying.

    Over the past twenty years, impressive denominational growth has been confined to the culturally despised "fundamentalist" churches that reject all explaining away of the meaning of Scripture or basic Christian doctrines. Historical-critical Scripture scholars notwithstanding, "modern man," Protestant and, regrettably, Catholic, continues to flock to them. The only visible Catholic vigor has been in small orthodox groups and institutions, the charismatic movement (which has bitterly disappointed revolutionaries by becoming increasingly orthodox and Marian) and the small but intense schismatic traditionalist groups. Genuine ecumenism, based not on indifference but on a common moral vision arising from faith, is found most strikingly in the pro-life movement, which continues to grow despite the tepidity of episcopal support, because even lay men and women uncertain about theological matters can see that killing babies is hideously wrong. Have the bishops hoped for the esteem of the secular world, which approves culturally assimilated Catholics? Or do they still not see women's activities as matters of real consequence? Only God knows. Whatever their motives, the genuine spiritual welfare of the faithful cannot have been one of them. The consequences of their passivity demonstrate how compelling the need is for legitimate episcopal authority.

    Why Did God Let This Happen?

    In an immediate sense, the present disorders are not God's doing. They follow from the encounter between religious revolutionaries who reject authority and ecclesiastical leaders who decline to exercise it. As we have seen, Catholic feminism, a critical part of the revolutionary force, is the unexpected fruit of bad theology and cultural dislocation in the closed society of women religious. Because those designated to guard the truth have allowed error to spread unchecked, it has grown and metastasized to its present catastrophic proportions.

    God let this happen only in the sense that he created man with free will. Although he knew that we would sin, he wanted those who chose to serve him to choose him freely. Sin is universal. Though we tend to expect better of clerics and religious professionals, we should not be surprised when anyone sins. Even God's first human children sinned in spite of their extraordinary gifts and their intimacy with him. Repudiation of the story of their Fall, a focus on the humanity of Jesus to the exclusion of his Divinity and his role as Divine Redeemer and the consequent denial of his Church's authority as divinely given, are the theoretical hinges of neo-modernism. The doctrine of original sin is especially pertinent today for the clarifying light it casts on feminist errors.

    In the beginning as today, rejection of authority was the central problem. The particular roles of Eve and Adam seem to indicate the temptations to which each sex is most inclined. Genesis reveals that God created both man and woman in his own image, sharing one human nature, equal in dignity, intended for each other in a complementary relationship in the unity of marriage. When Eve steps forth from God's hands, Adam rejoices in her equality, exclaiming, "She now is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh." They are delighted in each other, naked and innocent. Just as their human nature is made in the divine image, so their union in the faithful, fruitful, permanent covenant of marriage is an image of the inner life of the Blessed Trinity, loving and creative.

    Cunning, the serpent draws Eve into dialogue. She knows the limits God has set, but she listens as the deceiving voice lures her with a promise of autonomy the promise that she can be her own God. When she yields, her disobedience separates her from God and from Adam. Contemporary Catholic feminists are part of a vivid, and ruinous, re-enactment of that ancient tragedy. Their history strikingly recalls Eve's susceptibility to false promises, her rebellion against legitimate authority and her presumptuous ambition to make herself "as God." Women, it seems, are more prone than men to such fraudulent spiritual enthusiasms.

    Men, in contrast, seem especially tempted to irresponsibility. Adam chooses to evade the very duties of leadership that Eve covets. He is not deceived by the serpent, but he eats the forbidden fruit anyway. Perhaps he cannot bear to be separated from hit bride by her sin. Perhaps he is intimidated by the prospect of confronting her. In either case, the head of the first family disobeys his Creator and betrays his patriarchal obligations with his eyes open. We can see parallels to Adam's sin in men who abdicate their legitimate authority and obligations in the family. Some use the slogans of feminism to seduce women into sexual relationships outside of marriage, then coerce them to abort their babies. Some deny their wives motherhood or deprive them of the right to live their maternal vocation with full attention by driving them into the labor force. Some welcome any excuse to remain immature and carefree boys by shunting their responsibilities onto their wives.

    Many contemporary Catholic pastors and shepherds have similarly succumbed to the lure of irresponsibility. They have failed to teach with clarity and conviction, to defend the Church with courage or to protect their flocks from enemies internal or external, neo-modernist, feminist or atheist. Male support for women's ordination probably springs from the same root. Ultimately, feminists are less culpable than those in the hierarchy who permit them to desolate the American Church unopposed. It could not have happened if pastors and bishops had fulfilled their patriarchal obligations. Seeing them vacillate, one can understand at last how the collapse of St. John Fisher's episcopal brethren must have happened.

    If there were no grain of truth beneath the psychopathology of feminism, it would have attracted no adherents. That grain is the charge that there is division between men and women where there should be harmony. Feminists are right in tracing it back toGenesis, though they utterly misinterpret the Fall. The division began there; nothing in the Genesis account is more poignantly recognizable than the sinners' immediate denial of guilt: Adam blames Eve, and she blames the serpent. Since then no culture has perfectly overcome it. But feminist theologians like Rosemary Ruether distort the Church's teaching about original sin to make it seem a direct affront to women. Of birth and baptism, Ruether says:

      'The Christian Church teaches that birth is shameful, that from the sexual libido the corruption of the human race is passed from generation to generation. Only through the second birth of baptism ... is the filth of mother's birth remedied and the offspring of the women's womb made fit to be a child of God.'

    This is not the Catholic doctrine of original sin, as every Catholic child knew when Ruether was a child. One could just as well say that intellect and free will are consequences of sexual libido. The Church does not teach that sexual libido has anything to do with the transmission of original sin other than the biological fact that the act of sexual intercourse a positive moral good within marriage is the means by which human life, and thus human nature, is transmitted. All infants, born and unborn, are unique persons of eternal value and innocent of personal sin, even those conceived in actual sin: in fornication, adultery or even by rape. There is no "filth" in the mother's womb or her giving birth. Although feminists endlessly complain that the Church blames Eve for the Fall, it is in fact Adam whom Christian Tradition has held responsible for original sin and for its transmission.

    The effect of Adam's sin was the loss of something supernatural, something not intrinsic to human nature. It was sanctifying grace, God's gift to our first parents in their original innocence, which had raised them above what they were by nature to allow share in God's life as his children. When Adam and Eve turned away from his love in disobedience, they destroyed the supernatural life of grace in their own souls. And because Adam betrayed his patriarchal responsibility as head of the first family, Christians hold that it was he who deprived their posterity of the life of grace, leaving mankind in worse condition than if he had never had it. Not only was sanctifying grace no longer part of the human inheritance, as the Jones fortune would cease to be part of the Jones family inheritance if Grandpa Jones had gambled it away in Vegas, but the human family was left with a deficit it was incapable of ever making up incomparably worse than if Grandpa Jones had saddled his family with the national debt.

    In their original integrity, Adam and Eve also had other gifts that the Church calls preternatural: their intellects and passions were fully in harmony with their wills, and they were preserved from natural death. Those gifts, too, were lost to human nature by that first sin. Just as man's soul was no longer at one with God, so his soul and body were no longer at one with each other.

    Because he was both God and Man, Christ's saving death restored mankind's oneness with God. His sacrifice gives man the opportunity to regain supernatural grace in Baptism, which does not make him "fit to be" a child of God, as Ruether puts it, but in fact makes him a child of God, reborn in God's life. Bin the damage to human nature was permanent. Created in God's image, Adam and Eve were still good and still yearned for God, but their minds were darkened, their wills weakened and they were no longer exempt from death. Mankind is not what it was before the Fall, a truth so painfully evident in each of us, and in the world around us, that those who deny the doctrine of original sin never cease looking for something else to blame for our condition: the stars, or ignorance or patriarchy. That is why knowledge of the good is no guarantee of good behavior. Only by cooperation with God's grace can man even hope to overcome the disorder in his nature that inclines him toward personal sin. The sacraments are the means of grace Christ gives us, through his Bride, the Church, to heal and sustain us in the internal struggle that continues as long as we live.

    In the sacrament of Matrimony Christ restores the dignity of the spousal union. It is the clearest image of God's relationship with the Church; Sacred Scripture is full of marital imagery. Just as husband and wife cooperate in the procreation of a baby, so the Church as Bride receives, nurtures and returns life to God. And just as their distinct roles as husband and wife complement each other in marriage, so marriage and celibacy are complementary in the Church's life. Distinction of roles is the basis of relationship; the priestly role is distinct from but complementary to that of the laity. Priestly celibacy is another way to live the same consecration in charity, not with a human person but with God. And in celebrating Mass, every priest represents both Christ as Bridegroom and the Church as Bride.

    Seeing the human failings that follow from original sin but rejecting the doctrine, feminists have blamed them on patriarchy in all its forms, beginning with the Eternal Father. The bitterest irony of this latest battle between the sexes is that it was not men who declared it but feminists. The primary target of secular feminism was the traditional family. Looking back on the cultural expectations prevailing when the "sexual revolution" began, one can concede that some men demeaned women's characteristic role. Every era has its own imperfections. But it was a far better society for women and children than the present chaotic one, and few women would not gladly trade their present state to restore it if they could. The feminists did not call on society to value women's distinctive contributions properly but instead attempted the impossible task of opposing human nature, denying the differences everywhere revealed in experience. Feminists won the battle, and women lost.

    More than ever before in the Christian era, women now are expected to submit to sexual exploitation, contraception, abortion, pornography, divorce and permanent assignments in the labor force. Those determined to live as women have traditionally lived often feel they must apologize for, or at least explain, their eccentricity. Single mothers, discarded wives and their children make up the majority of the new poor in this country. A generation of latchkey children is growing up neglected, many of them emotionally and intellectually stunted victims of deficient mothering. At the same time, an indignant masculine backlash against irrational feminist accusations and litigation is emerging to erode further men's protective instincts toward women. Having seen its consequences, most women have abandoned organized feminism, but they still suffer its damaging effects in prevailing sexual permissiveness, employment expectations and marital instability. They are trying to raise their children in their spare time in a cult warped by perverted education, degraded media and widespread doctrinal and moral confusion.

    Catholic feminism incorporates all the errors of secular feminism and others more profound. Its major target is the religious belief that underlies the traditional family and society. It has led ever further from Christian belief into alienation, dissent, rejection of all authority and denial of the sacredness of human life. Feminist theologians maintain that God was mistaken in creating two sexes. Their attack on Church doctrine is aimed directly at the roots of human existence. Consistent in their inability to recognize in embryo the identity of the full-grown organism, they deny both the divine origin of the Church and the human personhood of the fetus. The reason for Catholic feminism's otherwise puzzling zeal for abortion is its inherently gnostic intent, arising from liberation theology, to build a "new man," isolated from the mediating institution of the family. So long as the family stands between the naked individual and the power of the state, Utopian totalitarianism cannot abolish all freedom. Since, as the Red Guard of the Catholic cultural revolution, feminists expect to be in control in the new order, they seek only what would benefit childless elitists in a collectivist Utopia. They are enemies of God, of life, of nature, of the normal.

    Under the feminist assault, patriarchy has come to be regarded as odious, even by patriarchs. Feminists denounce it as atavistic, inherently inequitable, irredeemably oppressive. But they misunderstand the nature of women's rights. Recovering those rights will require that patriarchy be reclaimed.

    Selfishness, like pride, is gender neutral. So patriarchy has sometimes been abused by sinners to justify their selfishness. But the present agonies of the family, of secular society and of the Church all result from failure to meet patriarchal responsibilities, understood and lived as St. Paul outlined them.5 The term patriarchy refers to the male-headed family form and social system expressed in Scripture and existing everywhere in human society. In the Church, it is a title referring to bishops who rank just below the Pope in jurisdiction, though Catholic feminists use the word to mean the male priesthood and the entire male hierarchy. In all cases, it is properly an office, not a declaration of qualitative superiority. As Lyman Stebbins liked to say, "St. Joseph was the least of the Holy Family, but its head."

    Feminist mythology to the contrary, the Church did not inflict inequality on women. Catholicism in fact elevated women to a status they had never enjoyed in pre-Christian societies by venerating the Blessed Virgin Mary as the perfect model of human response to God, by consecrating marriage as a sacrament, by recognizing the family as the basic unit of society and by constantly teaching that sexual acts are the unique privilege of the married state. No less a feminist than Sidney Callahan recognizes the protection such a morality provides for women:

      'While the ideal has never been universally obtained, a culturally dominant demand for monogamy, self-control, and emotionally bonded and committed sex works for women in every stage of their sexual life styles. When love, chastity, fidelity and commitment for better or worse are the ascendant cultural prerequisites for sexual functioning, young girls and women expect protection from rape and seduction, adult women justifiably demand male support in childrearing, and older women are more from abandonment as their biological attractions wane.'

    The Church teaches that creation exists to raise up souls to God. Woman's natural vocation is irreplaceably at the heart of that purpose, where human nature is most plainly seen to be neither simply animal nor purely spiritual but a mysterious combination of both. Mothers not only share in the procreation of new they also bring them into being within their own bodies. In the "domestic Church" of the family, where the future Church is born, they are the ones most immediately responsible for physical and spiritual formation of the new generation through the transmission of faith and culture. Their wisdom and generosity are essential in shaping the family as a holy and enduring center where each member is cherished not for what he does but because his immortal soul is of incalculable value. It is in the family all mankind's labor is transmuted by love into the human and the personal.

    Parenthood is a work of eternal significance in which both parents share, but by nature woman is the one most deeply engrossed. Her vocation is so much a part of herself that she becomes submerged in it; she is compelled by its demands always to be centered outside herself. Certainly motherhood is a demanding work, and it sometimes brings anguish as well as joy. When a woman's husband and children rise up and call her blessed, she doubtless deserves their praise. Some who deserve it never receive it; there are heroines of holiness struggling at the brutally difficult task of raising and supporting their children alone. But even in the most painful circumstances, a mother usually finds that her baby awakens in her a previously unknown passion of protective love. To have a life work so absorbing that it makes us forget ourselves is a great human privilege.

    Fathers are called by that name because they reflect God's capacity to generate life outside himself, a high honor and an awesome responsibility. A father's role is of great importance; many women have lately discovered from painful experience how vital it is to family stability and the healthy psychological and moral development of children. But normally he must be engaged elsewhere much of the time, dealing with the world, providing for his family's material needs. Only a fortunate minority of men find a work significant in itself. For most, the knowledge that they are supporting their families is all that gives their labor meaning.

    Patriarchy, properly interpreted, means men meeting their vocational obligations. When a husband fulfills his responsibility as St. Paul prescribes, his role is not one of domination but of service. As husband and father he is to negotiate with the outside world, provide for and protect his family, guide and direct it in consultation with his wife. In normal human relationships, such consultation is broad; Germaine Greer was turned away from rabid feminism when she discovered how broad it is in Third World villages. Sustained by her husband's loving care, a wife is freed to live her maternal vocation. She can accept a subordinate role in the chain of command as her part in their mutual subjection to Christ. Most women would be delighted with a restoration in the family in which duties were so divided that their husband's work could support them while they cared for children and home. When spouses give themselves to each other as a gift to create "the unity of the two," both can happily fulfill the destiny for which they were created, and the family can flourish.

    Both secular and religious feminists erred by adopting the faulty view that, as Lydwine Van Kersbergen put it, "identifies the human with the masculine." Their program was never designed for the common good but for those few women determined that biology should not control their lives. Feminism rages at that sex is destiny. In fact, sex is not destiny in the sense of destination: it does not determine whether we will go to heaven or hell. But it is integral to identity. Our bodies, female or male, are part of our indivisible unity as persons and thus determine to a considerable extent how we will attain our eternal destiny. Wherever it takes us, we will still be men and women.

    A family-centered perspective, with its exclusive emphasis the mother's domestic role, seems unfairly confining not only to feminists but also to a good many other women these days. Of course, there are women who do not marry. Of course, single career women deserve justice. Nothing whatever in the teachings of the Church suggests that their sex should limit their career ambitions. They are free to pursue any for which they have the requisite gifts, to be lawyers or astronauts, brain surgeons or theologians. Those who marry, however, are not choosing a career but a vocation. If they become mothers, their children remain their most sacred responsibility until they are grown. Marriage is a sacrament because it is the ordinary state of life; the Church always emphasizes the common good. A society formed on Christian principles will hold the intact family as the norm. It will not permit discrimination against marriage or childbearing, or legitimize illicit or perverse sexual behavior, to ensure that the unmarried feel equitably treated. The importance of the family to its own children, to the wider society and to the future of the species requires that it be given special consideration.

    Down the Christian centuries, other women have sacrificed the privileges of marriage and motherhood for lives of consecrated service as Brides of Christ. Pope John Paul II, in his 1988 letter on the role of women, Mulieris Dignitatem, restated the traditional view that even as consecrated virgins, they exercise in a spiritual way the maternity that is woman's natural vocation. That position, too, is rejected by feminists, including nuns, who see it as defining women by their relationship to others rather than as individuals. Whether or not women's religious communities will survive to debate the point is unclear. The minority of women's orders those orthodox communities represented in Consortium Perfectae Caritatis and the Institute on Religious Life still believe in consecration. They may continue to grow. But unless God sends some new St. Teresas to reform the major congregations in LCWR, they seem doomed to extinction.

    In any case, justice for women must begin with recognition of the absolute importance of their maternal vocation. Because the Enemy recognizes it, he strikes first at women. Where the role of wives and mothers is respected as noble, demanding and essential, where husbands, children and society honor and support it as it deserves, feminism loses most of its seductive allure. Because the division of roles in the family is natural and universal, hope remains for the restoration of the family. Few of those who abjure the place of patriarchy will survive as families. But until Catholic authorities again honor patriarchy in the Church as well, there is little prospect for restoring a mature priesthood.

    Is the Catholic Church Still the True Church?

    In this life, we will probably never fully understand why the present disorders occurred; that judgment is between God and the consciences of those responsible. Nevertheless, persecuted, betrayed and abused though she is, the Catholic Church is Christ's true Church. Her children fail as individuals we all fail in different ways but she remains our Holy Mother. Knowing by faith that the sins and failings of individual Catholics cannot change her nature, we must remain confident that God will look after her, since she is his Bride. However dark things may appear and they certainly do the future of the Church is in his hands. We can trust him, knowing he brings good out of evil. His will for us is to become saints in a time of internal persecution, when his Church's beauty is often obscured by men and women beside whom the money changers in the temple look comparatively innocent.

    But Christ's beauty and truth are still hers, and the supernatural graces he dispenses through her are still necessary for our salvation. To allow ourselves to be driven from her by anger and dismay at the sins of her abusers would render ironic tribute to Satan. As surely as Christians in earlier persecutions, we must pray for the conversion of those who abuse her while we remain steadfast in the Faith, defend the honor of the Church, avail ourselves of her sacraments, preserve and transmit her truth. We must also bring to our prayers and penitential acts for her, every day, all the fervor we would bring to prayers for our natural mother in a grave illness....

© Matt C. Abbott

 

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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He's been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.


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