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June-July 2005

The Feminist Threat to the Church

~ Part V ~

PATRICIA PHILLIPS

 

This is the fifth in a series of occasional articles chronicling the activities of dissenting feminists in general, and the Catholic Women’s Network (CWN) in particular(1). Once again, it isn’t intended as an exhaustive study (although dealing with the dissenting feminist mindset is exhausting!!) but rather aims to give snapshots of recent developments.

Rebellion sanctioned
Readers familiar with this problem will not be surprised to learn that despite its open rebellion against Church teaching, CWN has once again been permitted in the official Catholic Directory for 2005. With the full approval of the Bishops’ Conference, the listing on page 685 under "Catholic Societies in England and Wales" reads:

"Catholic Women’s Network. A national network of women who believe that the gospel speaks about freedom from oppression and calls women to full participation in all aspects of life and the church as a matter of justice. While acknowledging and accepting the authentic teaching of the Church, Catholic Women’s Network aims to: empower women to grow and mature in their spiritual life; encourage and enable women to engage in theology; work towards the participation of women in every aspect of church life; create new ways of worship together. CWN is a member of the National Board of Catholic Women (NBCW)".

It would be more accurate to say that CWN controls the NBCW. But more of that later.

Duplicity and treason
This entry in the Directory highlights a fundamental dishonesty, since CWN openly endorses the campaign for the ordination of women. Indeed, it has made a declaration stating this on page 16 of the Autumn 2001 edition of its journal Network. Yet its entry in the Catholic Directory avoids any blatant revelation of dissent. Instead, it hides behind carefully chosen weasel words – phrases such as "working towards the participation of women in every aspect of church life". But the fact that CWN has endorsed the campaign for women’s ordination gives the lie to its claim that it "acknowledges" and "accepts" the "authentic teaching of the Church".

Clearly, CWN doesn’t agree with or support Church teaching, and its entry in the Directory shows that these women don’t even have the courage of their convictions. They continually lambast the "institutional Church" and "patriarchal oppression", but they think nothing of lying and colluding with their supposed oppressors in order to remain "approved" by them.

Not that the bishops actually do oppress these women. Au contraire. The bishops are part of the dissenting feminist problem, as they are fully aware of the true nature of CWN and all its dissenting activities, having been sent reams of hard evidence over the years. They simply choose to go along with the lie and are still pandering to the dissenting feminist agenda.

They, and the rest of us, will pay a heavy price for their treachery.

Interestingly, in the same section of approved Catholic societies, CWN’s sister organisation, the dissenting St Joan’s International Alliance (SJIA), uses the same old wheeze to remain in the Catholic Directory - claiming to ‘acknowledge’ and ‘accept’ the "authentic teaching of the Catholic Church" (p. 689). A quick look at a short history of SJIA on John Wijngaards’ Women Priests website(2), however, shows that its entry in the Directory is about as truthful as CWN’s.

Profoundly unnatural ‘loves’
CWN still continues to promote dissent in its journal Network and elsewhere.

The most recent issue of Network, dated February 2005 (issue No 82), carries an article attacking Church teaching on homosexuality by Celia Gardiner, who is a member of the Roman Catholic Caucus of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (RCC), a dissenting ‘gay’ outfit which works closely with CWN.

In the article Celia tells us:

"An analysis of what the institutional church actually says about homosexuality is totally chilling: essentially the doctrine is that homosexual people do not actually exist: we are just heterosexuals who engage in unnatural activities (as if our profound loves were the equivalent of biting our nails or some other nasty habit)...".

CWN has also teamed up with RCC to host a visit from the dissenting U.S. nun Sister Jeannine Gramick. A Catholic Herald article of March 11th 2005 had this to say about Sister Jeannine:

"An outspoken American nun banned by the Vatican from working with homosexuals has once again taken up the gay rights cause. Loreto Sister Jeannine Gramick agreed to be a keynote speaker at the Queer Film Festival in the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. She was censured by the Vatican in 1999 and ordered to cease all ministry to homosexuals after it was found that elements of her work were contrary to the teaching of the Church. But in addition to her appearance at the film festival, a 2004 documentary film about Sister Gramick’s encounters with the Vatican was shown at the event, even though she has also been told not to write or speak about the Church’s disciplining of her. In the film, called In Good Conscience, Sister Gramick contends that homosexuality is an "innate instinct" and that a "be, but don’t do" theology is unacceptable. The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual orientation is a disorder but not sinful, but that homosexual acts are always sinful. But Sister Gramick says in the film that "only God is absolute, and everything else can change, that no one has the right to say who may or may not receive the Eucharist; and that a person can reject Church teaching and still remain Catholic". She also argues that a person’s conscience is the ultimate authority, that prayer and religion are complicated by rules and rubrics and that the Catholic Church’s pronouncements on sexuality were "null and void" ... ".

Sister Jeannine came to London to attend the premier of her film at the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival on April 12th. CWN was part of an alliance of dissenting groups which co-sponsored an invitation-only reception on April 14th to honour her and the maker of her film, Barbara Rick. Other members of the alliance included: Roman Catholic Caucus of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, Called to be One, We Are Church UK, Quest, Catholic Women’s Ordination and Catholics for a Changing Church.(3) In other words, all the usual suspects.

If readers can work out how CWN squares the co-sponsoring of a reception in honour of a notorious Vatican-banned dissident, with its new-found "acknowledgement" and "acceptance" of the authentic teaching of the Church," then please drop me a line c/o CO.

Pro-abort partners
CWN still promotes the work of the pro-abortion group Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC). The latest issue of Network, issue No 82, contains information about CFFC found in Euro News, from the dissenting European Network - Church on the Move. It states:

"CWN, CCC, CWO, We Are Church (UK), St Joan’s and Living Word Trust are all members of the European Network (EN), together with groups from 12 other countries and links to USA and international groups. The issue published in November 2004 has some interesting material ... There is a report from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe – Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, Hearing on Women and Religions. Experts from the five largest religions on the European Continent were invited: Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Judaism and Orthodoxy. The delegate from the Holy See declined to attend this important meeting on the grounds of the presence of an NGO, Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC) which did not represent the views of the Holy See ... Euro-News gives the text of a presentation to the hearing by Elfriede Harth of CFFC on Catholicism and Women. She covered Catholic principles, teachings and traditions on abortion, contraception, condom use in the fight against AIDS, and divorce. In the final paragraph she says: It is important to take note of the words of the current Pope in his encyclical The Splendour of Truth: the authority of the church, when she pronounces on moral questions, in no way undermines the freedom of conscience of Christians… ".

One is always amazed at how these people can subvert the meaning of an entire document - in this case, undermining the entire body of Pope John Paul II’s teachings on moral issues - by taking one single quote out of context and fitting it to their own disorders!

Warped and deadly ideas
But then clarity regarding moral issues has never been a strong point for either CFFC or CWN.

Listed CWN member Tina Beattie recently had an article on abortion in the The Tablet (19/3/05), titled "Just another election issue?" This article elicited a furious response, posted by "Diogenes" on the Catholic World News website(4). He stated:

"The most contemptible article in a Catholic publication I’ve read in quite a while: Tablet contributor Tina Beattie is alarmed by the possibility that the UK might outlaw abortion:

"But the Church’s legitimate concern for the unborn child must not be given priority over concern for the millions of women in the world for whom pregnancy and motherhood are far from the romantic ideal that still prevails in the Church’s theology of marriage and family life. The number of women who die for every 100,000 live births varies from an average of 27 in developed countries to an average of 479 in less-developed nations. An African woman is 500 times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than a woman in Scandinavia. There are an estimated 20 million unsafe abortions each year and more than 70,000 abortion-related deaths, most of them in poor countries ... The full spectrum of beliefs about abortion is represented by MPs in all three political parties. Yet in the cynicism of political debate today, there is a real risk that the parties will chase votes by pandering to the demands of what they perceive as significant minorities, and this includes Catholic voters. It would be to our shame if we colluded in the ongoing degradation of politics by becoming complicit in such strategies."

Pandering to the demands of significant minorities? The degradation of politics? This is Beattie’s line: if members of parliament vote to restrict abortion because of the power of the Catholic-instructed electorate, they would in effect be acting as pimps, not simply acknowledging a change in opinion but degrading the dignity of their office, and it would be to the discredit to the Church if she encouraged political attention to her beliefs about the taking of innocent life. Beattie signals her own ethical convictions in her riff about "20 million unsafe abortions" (they’re all unsafe for the baby, Tina dear), and the same goes for her hand-wringing over "70,000 abortion-related deaths ...". It’s as if Nancy Reagan scored firearm manufacturers for the shoddy quality of revolvers employed in liquor store hold-ups: "Experts estimate handgun users suffered over 450 murder-related eye injuries due to defective chambering." We’ve rarely seen the progressive Catholic agenda stated so bluntly ... ".

Beattie also expresses the following alarming views in her article, not referred to in "Diogenes" response, above. The full article can be found on The Tablet webs[5]:

"When Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor commends Michael Howard’s support for a reduction of the legal time limit for abortions "on the way to a full abandonment of abortion", is he expressing a hope that all abortion will eventually become illegal, or does he believe that at some stage this becomes a question of morality rather than legality? This is important because strictly speaking the Church’s absolutist stand against all abortion means that it is inconsistent to enter into a debate about time limits. One would not, for example, agree to a debate in which we discussed whether it was better to kill a five-year-old child or a 10-year-old child. As soon as Catholics do enter into such a debate about abortion, they are tacitly conceding that there is a moral difference between early and late abortion, and we might rediscover some of the wisdom of the Catholic tradition to support that position. In 1869 Pope Pius IX abandoned the distinction between early and late abortion in Catholic moral teaching. Before that, early abortion was seen as a venial sin, while late abortion was seen as a mortal sin, tantamount to murder. To restore this distinction might allow the Church to maintain its moral position that abortion is always objectively wrong, while recognising that in early pregnancy it may be a matter for individual conscience, whereas late abortion becomes a matter of protecting human life by law."

Colluding in the Big Lie
In Australia, dissenting goddess-worshipper Dr Carol P Christ was recently scheduled to give a lecture at the Santa Sabina College in Sydney, run by the Dominican Sisters. The College was contacted by the Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney, Julian Porteous, who had been asked by Cardinal George Pell to inquire into the nature of the lecture being given. A statement released by the Bishop said: "following an enquiry from myself on behalf of the Archdiocese, the Dominican Sisters decided it would be inappropriate for a talk promoting Goddess worship and pagan spiritualities ... to be held in a Catholic venue."

Although the promotion of Carol P Christ’s work clearly presents problems for Church authorities in Australia, our hierarchy appear to have no such problem approving CWN, even though the work of Carol P Christ is regularly featured in its journal Network, most recently in issue 81, November 2004, where her book "She Who Changes: Re-imagining the Divine in the World" was given a largely favourable review.

The same issue of Network also contains a piece by Alexina Murphy. One of the founders of CWN, she commemorates the 20th anniversary of its founding in a piece titled "Dreams and Visions: 1984 to 2004 and beyond":

"From the beginning, we have tried to reach other women. Because it was our experience that had changed us, we wanted other women to reflect on their feelings and relationships, take a fresh look at the events and realities of daily life. Think of our involvement in the National Board of Catholic Women, of reaching out to other women’s groups such as the lesbian sisterhood and the victims of sexual abuse by clergy. Think of CWN’s support for the Movement for the Ordination of Women in the Anglican Church and now for CWO (Catholic Women’s Ordination) in the RC Church ... . After 20 years we are still here with a more or less viable administrative structure. We have Network. We have our liturgies, especially the Easter Week. We have seen the launching of Catholics for Women’s Ordination ten years ago already and now a world-wide movement. We have shared in BISFT (Britain and Ireland School of Feminist Theology) which just last month completed its seventh summer school. We have a set of values which have served us well, values of inclusiveness and empowerment, of democracy and consensus. We affirm life and refuse whatever is violent and destructive of our humanity and our environment. We respect relationship rooted in equality and mutuality. We have each other. We can relish the fun we have. We rejoice that She who is compassion and justice, the creator of all that is, is our mother, our sister, our daughter, our friend."

This is the kind of nauseating dissent to which our bishops are giving their official approval – the huge lie in which they are colluding. And in the same edition of Network we also find a scathing critique of the Vatican’s "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World" by dissident feminist ‘theologian’ Rosemary Radford Ruether.

I think enough has been written to lay CWN’s claim of "acknowledging and accepting the authentic teaching of the Church" to rest once and for all.

But perhaps Christian Order readers would like to write to:

Bishop Vincent Malone
17 West Oakhill Park
Liverpool, L13 4BN

who has been shown firm evidence of CWN’s dissent, yet still approved its entry into the Catholic Directory - and enquire how his conscience allows him to be party to such a monumental lie.

Lust for power
We now move on to the National Board of Catholic Women (NBCW). Although it is infiltrated and controlled by listed members and known supporters of CWN, it is usually more guarded in its expression of dissent.

The NBCW’s newspaper, Catholic Omnibus, continues to display a disproportionate input from CWN members and supporters. Legitimate aims, such as tackling poverty, prostitution and homelessness, are carefully blended with dissenting agendas, while the utterly ruthless and relentless mania for grabbing ‘leadership positions’ – so that dissenting feminists can impose their will upon the faithful with greater efficacy – is ever present.

This unseemly jostling for positions of power was also seen in a Catholic Herald article titled "Call for bishops to give women top posts" (13/8/04). The article contained comments on the aforementioned Vatican "Letter on Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World", and much lamenting from a known CWN supporter, namely Angela Perkins of the NBCW, over the fact that a recent position for the post of Assistant General Secretary to the Bishops’ Conference had been filled by a man. Ms Perkins said it was "a missed opportunity". Never mind that the man appointed may have been more suitable by virtue of his qualifications or a thousand other reasons. No - this was a "missed opportunity" because he wasn’t a woman – and more importantly from their point of view, a woman of the CWN / NBCW ilk.

NBCW President and known CWN supporter Dr Mary McHugh was quoted in The Catholic Herald (6/8/04) criticising the same Vatican Letter. While saying that there was "much to be appreciated" in the document, she also said that the NBCW "regretted what it termed ‘a misleading interpretation of feminism’ and said the Church had misplaced blame in attacking feminism for its tendency to emphasise strongly ‘conditions of subordination in order to give rise to antagonism’. She said: ‘One wonders why the writers did not take this opportunity to condemn the abuse of power and did not realise that this was an example of the abused being made to take the blame for the consequences of abuse’ ".

When feminists talk of an "abuse of power" they are often referring to the legitimate authority exercised by orthodox Catholic clergy who refuse to give into the erroneous views and practices that dissenters may wish to maintain or introduce. Naturally, the contempt of the feminists extends to any laity who support the clergy in the rightful exercise of their ministry. It seems we are all expected to capitulate to the feminists in everything, so they will no longer feel "abused".

The more feminists clamour for control of the Church, the more their overweening pride and self-importance spirals out of control.

Papal collaborator
Issue 33 of the NBCW’s Catholic Omnibus carries a glowing tribute to the previous Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Pablo Puente. It is peppered with some of his more dubious quotations, such as the following comment which he made in a talk given in Glasgow just before the Jubilee Year: "The coming century will finally be the moment to finish with old anti-feminist prejudices which are neither Christian nor human, but the fruit of mental distortions and of small minds".

One could hardly say it is ‘small-minded’ or a ‘fruit of mental distortion’ to challenge the errors which the dissenting feminists of the CWN promote and support, such as goddess worship, abortion, contraception, homosexuality and women priests!

Yet Archbishop Puente was apparently undisturbed by such things. In fact, he often appeared to be most imprudent in his dealings with dissenting feminists. He certainly gave them plenty of ammunition, which they used to their full advantage, so it is hardly surprising that they lamented his leaving.

Catholics wishing to remain faithful to the Magisterium have not been so distressed about his departure from these shores. He is, of course, merely emblematic of the ever more pressing need to clean out the corrupt and corrupting Vatican diplomatic corps; an Augean task yet one which Pope Benedict will neglect at this peril.

Exclusive agenda
The thinly-disguised lust for power continues unabated in issue 33 of Catholic Omnibus, which carries an advertisement for an Open Conference of the NBCW titled "Who Decides Now?". To be held on 9/10 April 2005 in Coventry, the guest speaker is Catherine Pepinster, editor of The Tablet, a journal intellectually frozen in the 60’s and now a virtual parody of its dissenting self.

The advert reads: "Over ten years ago the NBCW published a report, ‘Do Not Be Afraid’ on the responses of Roman Catholic women to the discussion paper, ‘Women-Status and Role Life and Mission’. This was followed by a diocesan based consultation document ‘Working Together’. Eight themes emerged as the key issues for women in the Church."
  1. The importance of good communications
  2. The under-use of gifts, talents and skills of women
  3. The power of the Parish Priest to enable or restrict the involvement of women
  4. The need to clarify the role of the ordained priesthood
  5. The exclusion of women from decision making
  6. The need for inclusive language
  7. The need for adult spiritual formation
  8. The need to relate the gospel to people’s everyday lives.

Of course, most of these issues are of no interest or concern to orthodox Catholics. They have been contrived for further action and discussion by those with a dissenting agenda. If you were to ask the top eight priorities of women who wish to be faithful to the Magisterium, there is no doubt that they would differ radically to the above eight. But of course, although the CWN/NBCW ‘elite’ harp on endlessly about "inclusivity", they are not inclusive of the views of those who oppose their agenda.

On the opposite page of the same issue of Catholic Omnibus, a section titled "Towards Dialogue" carries a picture of Cardinal Ratzinger alongside listed CWN member Verena Wright, together with a selection of mostly negative comments on the Vatican "Letter on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World". Most of the contributors are listed members or known supporters of CWN, such as Dr Mary McHugh, who stated: "At the invitation of the writers of this Letter, we will be delighted to continue the dialogue encouraged by the late Cardinal Hume, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Puente and look forward to making progress on the inclusion of women in the decision-making structures of the Church".

The "Who Decides Now?" theme has been carried into an article in Issue 34 of Catholic Omnibus, where the continuing obsession with claiming "leadership positions" in the Church is plain to see.

Feminist nightmare
If you want an example of what happens when dissenting feminists really start to wield power, then look no further than the Austrian Diocese of Linz (www.dioezese-linz.or.at). The following information came from Catholic news agency www.kath.net:-

"An Internet surfer looking for information on Catholic liturgy will find muddy waters when arriving at the Austrian Diocese of Linz´ official website. This surfer will find a "Liturgical Marketplace" with questionable contents which are now causing great concern among loyal Catholics.

The "marketplace" is supervised by Father Arno Jungreithmair and laypeople Erwin Haslinger, Maria Haslinger and Johann Stockhammer, one of its goals being "the exchange of liturgical impulses". "These impulses should support and encourage those engaged in liturgical activities and give them suggestions for their work. These impulses are meant to be relatively new - they haven´t been taken from published documents".

A special cause for concern can be found in the category "Models for Women´s Sermons".

In a "Sermon Help Notes" (issue 33/2004) lay Pastoral Assistant Alexandra Freinthaler writes: "God is mankind´s good shepherdess, her wisdom is larger than this world´s, nobody can take from her those whom she has adopted in love. God and me, we are one, in our love, in our devotion to love every person in this world. We are fire and flame for mankind, we follow and protect them on all their ways - be they straight or not".

In the "Final Prayer" Ms Freinthaler writes: "May the Holy Spirit (using here an artificial German word denoting the feminine form for Spirit - "Heilige Geistin", the translator), the one that wakes you up in the morning with a kiss and stands by you, through all your ups and downs, bless you".

Lay Pastoral Assistant Claudia Zethofer opened First Sunday of Lent´s Mass in 2002 with this "prayer": "We begin this service in the name of the divine Power who created all Beauty in this world. In the name of Jesus Christ who opened our eyes to the love that is in us and around us. In the name of the Holy Spirit - of the divine Ruakh. She unites us and keeps us together."

Another project irritates many Catholics. A newly edited "Women´s Lectionary" with alternative Bible readings, which has been tested in 20 parishes for a period of 3 years, was presented during an official study day sponsored by the Diocese. The pages with the "Women´s Sermons Notes" are managed by a committee called "Liturgical Reform from Women´s Perspective". This group is composed of members of the Diocesan Women´s Commission and offers workshops with titles such as "On Sisters, Female Disciples & The Like". Their goal is achieving "a gender-inclusive language in Liturgy" and "granting woman an appropriate place in the services (according to their role, including liturgical vestments)".

Behind these liturgical experiments is the official diocesan Women´s Commission and its stated goal of "making again women visible in Church ". Such projects bring this goal´s accomplishment nearer by reaching a factual equality of "rights" for women in the Church. The Commission´s Website states: "This institutional basis means a special challenge for the Church Hierarchy and the Women´s Commission because it expresses the wish for structural changes and ultimately the factual equality of men and women in the Church".

The website goes further: "We should not make the mistake of taking some positive changes, such as the creation of a Women´s Commission and the existence of an official Woman´s Representative in the Diocese, as a sign that structural injustices relating to gender issues have been solved".

As examples of this "injustice" the site mentions the exclusion of women from the offices of Deacon and Priest and the fact that conclusions taken from Feminist Theology are classified as irrelevant".

You think this nightmare couldn’t happen here? Well, take into consideration our spineless bishops, take another look at the NBCW’s eight "key issues" - and think again!

And so, what are we doing in this country to ensure that we won’t have to cope with the problems being endured by poor Catholics in the Diocese of Linz? Given the headway that dissenting feminists are making in ecclesiastical structures in this country, I am bewildered at the apparent inaction of so many Catholics whose response to the crisis in the Church in other areas has been far more robust. Why is this?

I have encountered a view – and I believe an extremely dangerous one – that these dissenting feminists are "yesterday’s women" - stuck in the 1970’s, on the way out and not worth worrying about.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Their views may be stuck in the 1970’s, but there is nothing dated about the headway they are making in gaining influence and power. Dissenting feminists – including listed CWN members – haven’t spent years taking degrees in Change Agent Skills and Strategies in order to end up arranging the flowers in their local parish. They mean business and we fail to take this threat seriously at our peril.

The NBCW is regularly bandying around the use of the sinister phrase "The Management of Change in the Church", and unless we become more vociferous in opposing feminist-engineering then, like Linz, we will have to suffer the nightmarish consequences.

Episcopal pressure point
The blame for most of this problem can be laid at the feet of our bishops, who have clearly lacked courage and wisdom in their dealings with dissenting feminists. After beseeching God in prayer, therefore, it is the bishops to whom we must apply most pressure in order to rectify the situation. It is one thing for them to dialogue with women who hold erroneous views on Catholic teaching on faith and morals in order to help them to return to full communion with the Church. It is quite another for them to cede "leadership positions" to women who have no intention of abandoning their dissent.

With the recent death of Pope John Paul II, the media naturally turned to our bishops for statements. As I was listening to some of the papal eulogies being given by members of the hierarchy, I couldn’t help thinking how hollow they rang. While full of praise for the pontificate of John Paul II, they have, by and large, downplayed or completely ignored most of his instructions and exhortations. Instead of empty words, perhaps a more fitting tribute to the Holy Father would be for the bishops to heed his words, including what he said in 1983, when His Holiness reminded bishops that they must:

"give proof of their pastoral ability and leadership by withdrawing all support from individuals and groups who in the name of progress, justice or compassion or any other alleged reason promote the ordination of women to the priesthood".

We will know that the bishops have finally opted for the exhortations of the late Holy Father over the lies of the feminists when they remove both the CWN and SJIA from the Catholic Directory and as constituent members of the NBCW.

It would certainly be a good, emphatic starting point. But don’t hold your breath.

St Joseph, Patron of the Church, pray for us.

 

 

FOOTNOTES

(1) For previous articles see CO, Jan 2002, Dec. 2002, Oct. 2003 and Oct. 2004.

(2) http://www.womenpriests.org/interact/pelzer.asp

(3) Information from www.ekklesia.co.uk "Controversial nun to receive welcome from UK Christians" 21/3/05.

(4) http://www.cwnews.com – Off The Record 21/3/05.

(5) http://www/thetablet.co.uk/cgi-bin/register.cgi/tablet-00993