Feminism, Part II

News: Commentary
by Hunter Bradford  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  August 5, 2021   

Inverted hierarchy

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Read Part I of this series.

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Adam and Eve

Feminism seeks to get rid of the divinely established hierarchy willed by God from the beginning of creation. You can trace feminism's genesis as a movement back to the 19th century with the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, but it's actually nothing new. In fact, it goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.

In the Garden, the Devil poses a question to Eve, not Adam, already attempting to subvert Adam’s authority. As Satan does this, Adam is standing close by Eve, but neglecting his role and responsibility as head, allowing his bride to eat the forbidden fruit against the command of God, without protecting her against the vile Serpent. He stood by idly as the hierarchy in the family was inverted.

Before the fall of man, Adam and Eve are in the state of original justice — meaning the state in which all of creation is in perfect harmony. God gave them both dominion over the rest of creation, but Adam also has authority over Eve, which is manifested by Adam naming her. The ability to name another creation is a sign of authority that the namer has over the named creature, like parents towards their children, for example. Scripture states:

Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man" (Genesis 2:18–23).

Authority over Eve, or headship of her, does not mean that Adam should dominate or be domineering towards her — far from it. His authority over Eve should look like Jesus' authority over and headship of the Church. Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, yet He wears a crown of thorns. He's a humble servant, the King of humility, yet still head. Jesus does not dominate the Church. He does not order Her around as His slave, but instead loves Her and gives Himself completely and undivided to Her. Likewise, the headship of Adam over Eve does not equate to domination. St. Paul commands husbands to be manly:

As Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for Her, that He might sanctify Her, having cleansed Her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that She might be holy and without blemish. Even so, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies (Ephesians 5:25-28).

Right before the above passage, St. Paul orders wives, "Be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, His body, and is Himself its Savior. As the Church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands" (Ephesians 5:22–24).

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The hierarchy between husband and wife is established directly by God. Pay close attention to the Pauline analogy. The Church does not have authority over Christ. The Church obeys and surrenders to Christ, not the other way around. Yes, Christ does show great humility and love towards the Church, but not obedience or submission to Her. With this understanding, Christ is head of the Church, so is man head of woman. He is head of her, not some of the time, not even most of the time, but "in everything."

In his encyclical on Christian marriage, Casti Connubii, Pope Pius XI elaborated on these words of St. Paul, remarking:

Domestic society being confirmed, therefore, by this bond of love, there should flourish in it that "order of love," as St. Augustine calls it. This order includes both the primacy of the husband with regard to the wife and children, the ready subjection of the wife and her willing obedience, which the Apostle commends in these words: "Let women be subject to their husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ is the head of the Church."

Within this structure, it must be affirmed that men and women, of course, are equal in dignity. But what does this mean? We throw that term "dignity" around, and I think some of us don't understand it. Tim and Dave Gordon, Thomistic philosophers and theologians, in their book Rules for Retrogrades, might help us here:

As a term of art, dignity stands for the proposition that all human beings — every man and every woman alike — enjoy rights in the eyes of God on account of their immortal souls. Yet dignity does not accrue from merit or usefulness. On the other hand, sexual roles (roles pertaining to the sexes) and talents have quite a lot to do with merit when we consider the functioning of the efficient household economy: Men were built to do some things and women were built to do others.

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Eighth Station of the Cross:
Jesus meets the weeping women

In other words: apart from dignity, men and women are not equal. Men are superior at being men, and women are superior at being women. Each and every one of us is alive because of the beautiful difference and complementarity between man and woman. The male and female bodies fit together, quite literally. The woman's body is designed for receptivity and nurturing sacrifice. Femininity is oriented inward; masculinity is oriented outward. Our bodily design speaks to the spheres of influence and natural realms in which we are meant to operate.

Men, in general, tend to be bigger, stronger and faster than women. Women, in general, tend to be more gentle, more relational — and, I'd argue, more often than not, even more faithful to the Lord than men. At the eighth station of the Cross, Jesus meets the weeping women of Jerusalem, not the weeping men. We aren't yet done with Scripture though.

Ephesians isn't the only Scripture passage in which the Word of God reveals a hierarchy between husband and wife. In his letter to Titus, St. Paul exhorts him to "train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, chaste, domestic, kind and submissive to their husbands, that the Word of God may not be discredited (emphasis added)" (Titus 2:4–5).

Wives would not have to be submissive to their husbands if men were not head of them, if there were not a hierarchy. St. Paul even claims that a wife not submissive to her husband would "discredit" the Word of God. In other words, an unyielding wife creates scandal and fails to witness to the gospel. In addition to St. Paul, our first pope, St. Peter, writes:

Likewise you wives, be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, when they see your reverent and chaste behavior. Let not yours be the outward adorning with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and wearing of robes, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. So once the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves and were submissive to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord. And you are now her children if you do right and let nothing terrify you. Likewise you husbands, live considerately with your wives, bestowing honor on the woman as the weaker sex, since you are joint heirs of the grace of life, in order that your prayers may not be hindered (1 Peter 3:1–7).

We now see St. Paul and St. Peter, on several different occasions, exhorting wives to be submissive to their husbands. St. Peter even uses Sarah's obedience to Abraham, her "lord," as an example. 

However, as Pope Pius XI teaches in Casti Connubii, this subjection of women to men does not eradicate the God-given dignity of the human person:

This subjection, however, does not deny or take away the liberty which fully belongs to the woman both in view of her dignity as a human person, and in view of her most noble office as wife and mother and companion; nor does it bid her obey her husband's every request if not in harmony with right reason or with the dignity due to wife; nor, in fine, does it imply that the wife should be put on a level with those persons who in law are called minors, to whom it is not customary to allow free exercise of their rights on account of their lack of mature judgment, or of their ignorance of human affairs. But it forbids that exaggerated liberty which cares not for the good of the family; it forbids that in this body which is the family, the heart be separated from the head to the great detriment of the whole body and the proximate danger of ruin. For if the man is the head, the woman is the heart, and as he occupies the chief place in ruling, so she may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love.

We ought to meditate on these beautiful words from Pope Pius XI. The wife's subjection to her husband does not translate to her ceasing to be his companion, nor any lack of human dignity. Husband and wife should be like best friends, communicating often and readily sacrificing for one another. Feminism, however, seeks the abolition of the hierarchy of husband as head. The husband is the head, and the wife is the heart. From the beginning, Holy Mother Church has recognized a divinely established hierarchy between husband and wife. With its devilish aim of erasing the divinely sanctioned hierarchy, feminism is in direct conflict with both Sacred Scripture and perennial magisterial teaching.

Husband and wife should be like best friends, communicating often and readily sacrificing for one another.

The Early Church received and later faithfully handed on this beautiful teaching. One of the greatest doctors of the Church, St. Augustine, taught in Against the Manichaeans, "For the man is the head of the woman in perfect order when Christ, who is the Wisdom of God, is the head of the man." In His perfect wisdom, God wills the headship of husband over wife. Furthermore, St. John Chrysostom, one of the great Eastern Fathers, preached:

Then after saying, "The husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is of the Church," he further adds, "and He is the Saviour of the body." For indeed the head is the saving health of the body. He had already laid down beforehand for man and wife, the ground and provision of their love, assigning to each their proper place, to the one that of authority and forethought, to the other that of submission. As then "the Church," that is, both husbands and wives, "is subject unto Christ, so also ye wives submit yourselves to your husbands, as unto God." For she is the body, not to dictate to the head, but to submit herself and obey.

The hierarchy of man and woman is likened to the hierarchy of the intellect and the will. The intellect perceives the good and the will follows in accordance. The intellect ought not follow the will, but the other way around. In like manner, unless the husband commands the wife to sin, she ought to obey him and subject herself to him.

Feminists hate God's hierarchy, but they love working outside of the home. We'll talk about this in Part III.

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