What do you get if you cross six Catholic bishops with five “Christian feminists”? The answer: economic ignorance and cultural lunacy. In what has to qualify as the meeting from Purgatory, the bishops and the feminists met for eight and a half years. As a committee of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB), they conferred with each other and traveled around the country to “dialogue” with 75,000 feminists. The result, released last June, is “Called To Be One in Christ Jesus: A Pastoral Response to the Concerns of Women for Church and Society.”
Two previous drafts of this document were rejected by the majority of American bishops. The third, which was first considered last June and was scheduled to be voted on in revised form last month, deserves to meet the same fate, because it’s still the gospel according to NOW. “We denounce sexism as a moral and social evil,” says the document, which also condemns “machismo,” “insensitivity,” and male “lack of interest.” But what exactly is “sexism”? Not acting immorally, unjustly, or uncharitably toward women; that has always been a sin. It is rather the political iniquity of seeing men and women as different. Surely we are not called to be identical in Christ, but to these bishops and their feminist comrades, ACLU offenses are the real ones.
Women, the authors tell us with horror, “earn approximately 65 cents for every dollar paid to men.” This must be corrected through government-mandated “equality.” As even a liberal bishop should be able to see, the Creator made each of us different. There is no equality in the talents we receive from Cod or the use we make of them. In fact, it is our radical inequality that makes the economy possible. If we were identical, there would be no division of labor.
Egalitarianism, as usual, quickly gets silly. Are we really supposed to think it an injustice that poorly educated women tend to work in what the document decries as “low-paying industries”? But aren’t we all equal in God’s eyes? What blasphemous nonsense. St. John is not equal to Judas, and Mother Teresa is not equal to Mao, to God, or to us. And from an economic standpoint, the bum is not equal to the businessman. The attempt to make him so only destroys society, as we see under socialism.
Yes—as the documents tell us again and again—women as a class earn less than men as a class. But women work fewer hours than men and average fewer continuous years on a job than men. Mothers take time off to raise their children. If they go back to work, they have less experience than men who stayed on the job. Mothers also work much less overtime than fathers and take off far more days (to care for sick children, among other duties). This is all praiseworthy, but it has economic consequences.
The income difference between men and women is market based. If it weren’t, as economist Thomas Sowell points out, entrepreneurs would form all-women firms to outcompete overpaid male firms. On the other hand, as the document never mentions, women who never marry earn more than 90 percent of what men earn in the same occupations.
The “Pastoral Response,” however, wants all women to be treated for economic purposes as if they were childless and husbandless. It advocates more government intervention in the economy to bring this about, even hinting that men should be forced to take an equal role in housekeeping. (I can see it now: the Federal Vacuuming Police.)
At the risk of shocking moderns: only women are equipped physically, psychologically, and spiritually to bear and raise children. (That seems a truism and it is, but no form of truth is popular today.) Because of this, women do not have the same drive for power as men, or therefore the same role in the division of labor. As sociologist Steven Goldberg has shown, men have dominated the highpaying, high-prestige positions in every society in history. To the extent that women come to dominate a formerly male profession—medicine in Russia, for example—it loses status.
But isn’t there a moral obligation, economics or no economies, to pay working women a “living wage”? No, for as Father Luis de Molina and other Scholastics showed so many centuries ago, the just wage is the market wage, whether or not it provides the standard of living the employee wants. “If you do not want to serve for that salary, leave!” he wrote. Added the Franciscan priest Villalobos, “it is against reason and justice” to try to make someone hire you at a wage he does not want to pay. Higher incomes can come only from increased capital accumulation. If the authors of this document want to raise the general standard of living, they should support the free market and oppose capital-eroding government intervention. Needless to say, they take exactly the wrong position.
It is admirable, we are also told, for married women to work “to enhance their personal growth,” but not if they are “compelled to work solely because of economic necessity.” I have news for the bishops: ever since Adam and Eve were tossed out of the Garden of Eden, the vast majority of us have had to work because of economic necessity. It is certainly true that society is better off, not to speak of children, if married women do not work outside the home. But heavier and heavier taxes on families since World War II have forced American wives into the workplace. Subversion of paternal authority and family independence have contributed to this trend as well. So naturally, the report wants egalitarian marriage and an economically omnipotent state. After all, in the bad old days, “women were seen as subordinate to the headship of their husbands.” Now we realize that “a couple is called to be subordinate to one another.” Huh?
Scripture and 19 centuries of Christian tradition tell us that the husband is head of the family as Christ is head of the church. This doesn’t mean dictatorship. Husbands are senior partners in the family as wives are senior partners in the household. As elsewhere, equality in this realm is a recipe for disaster. The authors also tut-tut the modern divorce rate, without mentioning that it stems in part from the breakdown of male authority in the family and the concomitant increase in female adultery, feminist-approved and usually work-related. To combat divorce, by the way, the report proposes a vigorous national program of . . . seminars.
Hispanic women, we are told, are double victims, for they “are not encouraged to learn English.” That’s correct, thanks in part to the bureaucrats of the NCCB, who ardently support multilingualism (except for Latin). Hispanics should be encouraged to learn English. Some first steps, not mentioned in this document, would be to pull down every Spanish street sign in Miami, to abolish public-school instruction in Spanish, and to burn all foreign-language ballots. And speaking of language, the report wants the Bible and the liturgy to be rewritten with “inclusive” language so they can get the feminist’s nonhousekeeping seal of approval. Be ready for “Our Parent, Who Art in Heaven.”
To make sure that no green shoots penetrate the concrete, the report calls for enforcement committees in every diocese to stamp out “sexism” and screening panels to prevent nonfeminists from being ordained. Any young man who agrees with St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and every other orthodox Christian teacher on this issue must be barred from the priesthood.
The report, however, isn’t all bad: it criticizes abortion, in passing, and opposes female priests, with clenched teeth. But why should normal Catholics pay any attention to a document that urges them to give lesbians “special consideration” because they have been “belittled and demeaned”? Belittled and demeaned? They should try being a white, middle-aged, middle-class Catholic heterosexual male.
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