Ipsane Res Loquitur?

My atheist buddy Peter (who long-time readers might remember as Theomorph) has provided a lot of food for thought recently. I’d like to know what my theist readers think of his ruminations.

Atheism & Charity

From Sam Harris‘ new book, Letter to a Christian Nation, page 46:

“Countries with high levels of atheism are also the most charitable both in terms of the percentage of their wealth they devote to social welfare programs and the percentage they give in aid to the developing world…”

…Why is the United States alone among the developed Western nations both in its religion and its violent crime rates? Why do the so-called ‘red states,’ where Christianity is more popular, have higher violent crime rates? Why are the percentages of atheists in prison so low? Just something to think about.

Classed with Fables

Thomas Jefferson once wrote,

The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.

What if it were today?

I’m reminded of something C.S. Lewis wrote.

“If I met the idea of sacrifice in a Pagan story I didn’t mind it at all: again if I met the idea of a god sacrificing himself to himself I liked it very much and was mysteriously moved by it. Again, that the idea of the dying and reviving god similarly moved me provided I met it anywhere except in the Gospels. The reason was that in the Pagan stories I was prepared to feel the myth as profound and suggestive of meanings beyond my grasp even though I could not say in cold prose what it meant. Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened. One must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God’s myth where the others are men’s myths; i.e. the Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the minds of the poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call ‘real things’ namely, the actual incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection.” – C.S.Lewis letter to Arthur Greeves, October 18, 1931

Perhaps it’s not directly relevant, but it came to mind and I wanted to share it anyhow.

Catholic Sexism

The discussion in the comments after a previous entry leads [me to] pose this question to Funky Dung (or anyone else who has an answer):

How can you justify completely excluding from the priesthood a class of persons for which there is no other reasonable, objective definition outside of biological sex, but claim that such exclusion is not sexist?

Be obscurely theological if you need to be, as I am confident in my ability to sort out the subtleties as they are presented to me.

Until now, the only argument (presented in the comments at the link above) has been that there is some ontological difference between men and women that makes the former eligible for the priesthood and excludes the latter. Is it mere coincidence that this alleged “ontological” difference is one hundred percent coextensive with the biological sex difference? If you plan to suggest as much, be forewarned that you will have a serious credibility problem to overcome.

Thoughts?

Comments 51

  1. Rob wrote:

    Correlations with Christianity:

    I suspect this is ice cream and drowning rates. They correlate. It doesn’t mean it’s causitive. Prisoners have a great incentive to get religion. What effect that has on them has more to do with their incarcerated status. Karla Faye Tucker should not have been executed. She also never should have been let out of prison. Structured environments do wonders for some people. Becoming a Christian doesn’t seem to cause the immediate growth of missing brain structures. Sociopaths become Christian sociopaths. It’s an improvement, but I still ouldn’t turn my back on them.

    Thomas Jefferson:

    I’m a hard scientist. That’s why I have so little trouble accepting the virgin birth. As miracles go, it’s perhaps one of the most trivial in the New Testament, performance-wise. We can do it today. The idea that a God, capable of creating the universe, could do such a miracle is, to me, like a programmer for World of Warcraft hacking the program and making a character pregnant. Ain’t no big thing. The question is not “How can someone believe in a virgin birth?” but rather “Is there a God and what level of power does He/She/It have?” If you don’t believe in any gods or extra-terrestrials screwing with humans, the answer is that the virgin birth is impossible. But if there are powerful outside agents…the virgin birth should not be any more unlikely than anything else that agent/agents might do.

    C.S. Lewis:

    Jesus requires a response. Obi Wan Kenobi getting whacked by Darth Vader doesn’t.

    Sexism:

    You can’t justify it. It’s a horrible example of prejudice overcoming the Holy Spirit. That women cannot be priests makes no more sense than uncircumcised Greeks not being permitted to become priests because Jesus only chose circumcised Jewish men for his disciples and Jesus Himself was a circumcised Jew. Hence, no goyim can possibly represent Jesus to the faithful. And, actually, He had female disciples and there were female apostles. Apostle outranks just about anyone but a Pope (and as a Protestant, I’d even argue that).

    I’ve seen the Holy Spirit work through female ministers of the Sacraments. I don’t tend to argue with the Holy Spirit’s choices. Some folks do. It doesn’t strike me as terribly bright.

    Posted 10 Oct 2006 at 12:43 pm
  2. Laudemus wrote:

    “Until now, the only argument (presented in the comments at the link above) has been that there is some ontological difference between men and women that makes the former eligible for the priesthood and excludes the latter. Is it mere coincidence that this alleged ‘ontological’ difference is one hundred percent coextensive with the biological sex difference?”

    Well, it should also be pointed out that not all men are eligible for the priesthood. Some are excluded for various reasons. A schizophrenic man, for instance, is unlikely to be found eligible for ordination — despite his maleness. And if you want to argue the sex/gender difference, a biological male who sees himself as belonging to the female gender (i.e., a transsexual/transgendered person) is also highly unlikely to be found eligible for ordination, despite his biological maleness. Peter correctly points out that 100% of women are excluded from the priesthood, but there is something beyond biological sex difference that makes one eligible for the priesthood — because not all men are eligible, either.

    FWIW, which probably isn’t much.

    Posted 10 Oct 2006 at 3:26 pm
  3. Rob wrote:

    What’s the standard for maleness in the Catholic church?

    If someone is outwardly female but genetically male, can that person be ordained?

    If someone is outwardly male but genetically female, can that person be ordained?

    What happens when someone is both genetically female and male (chimerism)?

    What about someone who has two X chromosomes but one of the X chromosomes has the male factor gene on it?

    If someone has had a severe trauma and lost all primary sexual characteristics, would such a person be eligible for the priesthood?

    All of these things occur naturally, BTW.

    Posted 10 Oct 2006 at 4:57 pm
  4. Funky Dung wrote:

    What’s the standard for maleness in the Catholic church?

    I don’t know for certain, but I can make an educated guess.

    If someone is outwardly female but genetically male, can that person be ordained?

    No. If maleness is indeed required for the sacrament of holy orders, then someone appearing to be female would be cause for scandal. Also, if the person’s hormone production is such that the person self-identifies as female, then genetics are moot.

    If someone is outwardly male but genetically female, can that person be ordained?

    No. Such a person is a female with a defect, not a male.

    What happens when someone is both genetically female and male (chimerism) [, can that person be ordained]?

    No. Such a person is neither male nor female.

    What about someone who has two X chromosomes but one of the X chromosomes has the male factor gene on it?

    No. Such a person is a female with a defect, not a male.

    If someone has had a severe trauma and lost all primary sexual characteristics, would such a person be eligible for the priesthood?

    This one has me stumped.

    If maleness is required for the sacrament of holy orders, then only those who are genotypically and phenotypically male would be appropriate candidates.

    Posted 10 Oct 2006 at 5:36 pm
  5. Rob wrote:

    FD:

    The Catholic church has almost certainly ordained women that appear outwardly male. There was no test for it for most of human history…

    If Joan of Arc did indeed have androgen insensitivity syndrome, then there’s a tremendous amount of irony that she was burned at the stake by the church for wearing men’s clothing.

    Almost all males are probably chimeric: somewhere in your body, there are cells that have either lost the Y chromosome or come from a line where one cell line got both X, the other both Y, and then died. So then no one can be ordained in the Catholic church. Biology can be so annoying.

    The person with two X chromosomes, one with the male factor, is male, capable of reproduction. Such person is not female, is not defective. It’s a human variant, like genes for finger length. As the X-modified chromosome is far more robust than the Y chromosome, chances are the human population will tend more and more toward these modified X males, while those with just the XY chromosome pair die out from genetic defects.

    As for the trauma, if a child is born male but the penis is under an inch long at birth, for most of the 20th century (and probably still in some parts of the U.S.) the penis would be amputated and reconstructive surgery to make the child into female initiated. We are now finding out that these people almost uniformly see themselves as male. So would you say that a sin committed against such children by the parents and physicians would disqualify them from the priesthood?

    These are only the simple, common intersexual conditions. As I’ve said before, I can tie in knots (citing examples) any definition of male and female you try to come up with. As a biologist, I can’t do it. The most I can say is that there is a sliding scale of male/female attributes, probably multidimensional rather than linear, and one can identify common ranges for certain values. Most people do not fall in all the common ranges for their sex on one or more axes.

    And then we get into the effects of pollution…

    After a while, the whole “male/female” thing appears arbitrary and, honestly, silly.

    It could be worse. We’ve had betta splendins individuals that we’ve bred as both male and female. Many fish can change sex when necessary due to population numbers. Imagine the mess if humans could do that.

    Posted 10 Oct 2006 at 6:27 pm
  6. Fred K wrote:

    The ordination of men is a sacrament, a sign. Catholicism uses signs according to what Jesus did. Jesus consecrated bread as His body, so we consecrate bread. Are bread and wine ontologically better food than rice cakes and corn licker? Perhaps.

    God became man at a particular place during a particular time. Catholicism’s attachment to the particular details of Jesus’s life is part and parcel with Catholicism’s faith in the Incarnation.

    The Church is not mainly dependent upon genetic maleness: evident maleness from birth would be sufficient. Consult your local canon lawyer.

    Posted 10 Oct 2006 at 6:58 pm
  7. Fred K wrote:

    as to the charity correlation, I would like to see how charity is defined. Certainly, Christian individuals charity at high levels. They’re also likely to resist attempts at social engineering (in the first world and in the third world). If European social programs are the definition of charity, then count me out.

    Posted 10 Oct 2006 at 7:07 pm
  8. Fred K wrote:

    The cynicism toward the fact of gender has had a detrimental effect on those 20th century men born with small genitals. Any medieval doctor worth his salt would have recognized these children as male, but they fell prey to the axe of gender relativism.

    Posted 10 Oct 2006 at 7:10 pm
  9. John wrote:

    The united states is certainly far more violent than European countries. We still execute people, and denegrate pacifism. These are examples of sheer barbarism.

    Further, we can see that the states with the largest populations of self proclaimed conservative christians are also the states with the highest illegitimacy rates and divorce rates.

    But let’s look at a simpler, broader trend. Our country has launched an unprovoked war of aggression that has cost thousands of american lives and tens, if not hundreds of thousands of civilian lives; and the Christian movements in the country didn’t give a rats ass. Now we find out that a Congressman was sending dirty emails to pages, and suddenly care. What Foley did was unquestionably despicable, but really, it’s small potatoes compared to what his party has done. But for all their griping about the mainstream media being obsessed with sex, the Christian right is more focused on it than a horny high school student.

    Christianity as a philosophy and theology is a noble and glorious faith. As a cultural entity it does nothing but provide a basis for the self righteousness to justify evil. If the past two decades have shown us anything, it is that Christianity as a cultural movement is utterly bankrupt.

    Posted 10 Oct 2006 at 7:45 pm
  10. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Good to see my friend Fred K piping up (assuming it’s the Fred K that I think it is)…

    A couple of quick-n-dirty thoughts

    Sexist — Peter seems to use the term as though it is bad thing. (Kinda like employing the word “Fundamentalist”… boo! argument over) Biology (so far… and, I think, rightly) forbids one class of people (viz. women) from being fathers. Why should biology be utterly decoupled from the Greater Reality that Christians believe lie underneath it? And if the quarrel is a matter of whether there is such a Great Reality, well then, that really is a different question isn’t it? And of course to question the validity the male only priesthood because one doesn’t accept the assumptions of those who promulgate it is… well… not at all questioning the validity of the all-male priesthood, but something else entirely.

    And then, yeah, on atheism correlated with “charitable giving”… by what measure? High taxes? High-levels of wealth redistribution is equated with “charitable giving”?? Show me an atheist that contributes 10% or more of his gross income to charitable causes (beyond any and all taxes), and I’ll show you a very rich atheist… One like my local, friendly NYC liberals who mostly try to fund ideology (e.g., to keep brown-to-black population growth to a minimum, cause god knows rich white people know how to keep sex strictly infecund) Yet such giving levels are commonplace (tho’ not nearly enough so) among Christians, even of very (and I mean VERY) modest means. And what is meant by “high levels of atheism? 15% of the population? 20%?? Geez… then that really doesn’t explain much, does it?

    Posted 10 Oct 2006 at 8:51 pm
  11. Rob wrote:

    Fred,

    It’s not gender relativism, it’s gender absolutism that these children fall prey to, and it goes back far before the 20th century.

    Women with clitorises too large or who enjoyed sex had them amputated in the United States until amazingly recently. Clitorectomies were used as a cure for female masturbation.

    The problem, Fred, is there simply is no good definition of “male.” Given human anatomy and Godel’s Incompleteness theorem, it’s almost certainly impossible to categorically decide in every case if the statement “This individual is male” is true or false.

    Posted 10 Oct 2006 at 8:51 pm
  12. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Rob,

    All I can say is thank God I’m not a protestant. I’m certain that the rare corner cases can be handled by the prudential judgement of the powers that be. Everybody knows what a male is. Attempting to insert (quite artificially) science/positive knowledge as some supreme final adjucator over what everyone at all times everywhere already knows is ludicrous… and alas typically protestant.

    Posted 10 Oct 2006 at 9:07 pm
  13. gbm3 wrote:

    I have an un-PC question to ask:

    If a man is required to be in persona Christi, why can’t protestant ministers be women?

    Think about it, as a protestant minister (for the most part; few exceptions), they do not technically have valid Holy Orders in the Catholic sense. Therefore, since they do not per se perform transubstantiation, they do not have to be men.

    However, on the converse, Catholic priests (and those in schism) must be men to perform transubstantiation in proper terms (namely under union with the Chair of Peter or schism).

    Comments? Please seriously consider this. I’ve had this thought as a serious one for a while.

    Posted 10 Oct 2006 at 9:50 pm
  14. Fred K wrote:

    Yes, Steve – It’s I.

    There’s something to be said for “seeing the form,” the ability to see the shape of things. This summer, for example, I looked up and saw constellations, a knack I never had as a kid. And ancient people evidently had this knack also because they tended to see the same constellations – with different names.

    What a curious enigma modern man is. He can analyze the infinitesimal and the cosmic, but can no longer see what is: constellations, gender, etc.

    Posted 10 Oct 2006 at 10:16 pm
  15. Rob wrote:

    Steve,

    You only think you know. By ignoring more information, you think you know what you are talking about. My point is, you don’t.

    No one’s answered:

    Why don’t priests have to be Jewish?

    Posted 10 Oct 2006 at 11:15 pm
  16. Mark La Roi wrote:

    “Countries with high levels of atheism are also the most charitable both in terms of the percentage of their wealth they devote to social welfare programs and the percentage they give in aid to the developing world…”
    ~Money given to developing countries is being proven to actually hurt the people it’s supposed to help because of the many crooked leaders so that fact probably isn’t something to be glad of.

    “…Why is the United States alone among the developed Western nations both in its religion and its violent crime rates? Why do the so-called ‘red states,’ where Christianity is more popular, have higher violent crime rates? Why are the percentages of atheists in prison so low? Just something to think about.”
    ~Alone? How?
    Red states, Blue states…show statistics and how they were arrived at please.
    Atheists in prison? When Bubba is breathing down your neck you suddenly find someone to believe in. Like the old adage “there are no atheists in foxholes.”

    “Thomas Jefferson once wrote,
    The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.
    What if it were today?”

    ~People have been doing that since the time of Christ’s walk on this Earth. They said that His miracles were made up even though, so it ain’t about today, it’s been going on since the beginning. :)

    “How can you justify completely excluding from the priesthood a class of persons for which there is no other reasonable, objective definition outside of biological sex, but claim that such exclusion is not sexist? Be obscurely theological if you need to be, as I am confident in my ability to sort out the subtleties as they are presented to me. Until now, the only argument (presented in the comments at the link above) has been that there is some ontological difference between men and women that makes the former eligible for the priesthood and excludes the latter. Is it mere coincidence that this alleged “ontological” difference is one hundred percent coextensive with the biological sex difference? If you plan to suggest as much, be forewarned that you will have a serious credibility problem to overcome.”

    I’m not Catholic, but I’l tell you why Scripture precludes women serving as pastors. It’s quite simple actually. Men and women were created with different giftings to fill different roles. Scripture is abundantly clear in revealing that women and men are equal in worth. This whole sexism argument is a construction of modern feminism which wants to eliminate gender roles, completely in denial of the fact that not only do they exist, they exist for a reason.

    Women should not be pastors any more than men should be stay at home parents. Neither role is the natural one.

    Good questions!

    Posted 10 Oct 2006 at 11:52 pm
  17. Jerry wrote:

    “If someone has had a severe trauma and lost all primary sexual characteristics, would such a person be eligible for the priesthood?”

    Rob, have you seen such cases? I imagine that such a person may not be in much shape to celebrate a liturgy or run a parish anyway.

    However, let’s say person X could. Well, unless person X fell into one of the categories that Funky already dealt with, person X probably had a well-defined gender beforehand. Neurological development is somewhat sex-specific, so even if genitalia and secondary sex traits like breasts were annihilate (say by burns), internally, one would have an equilibrium that accorded to one sex or another.

    I think you and Funky may also be talking past each other. Funky and I have both met many good Christian women, better Christians than ourselves, I’d dare say. The Catechism states that the Church is limited to the sacraments, but God isn’t (will get the actual quote later. Gotta go to work). God’s grace works every day in us, and the long history of women starting religious movements &c., oftentimes when the men running the Church are majorly screwing up, is but one example.

    Yes, sexism has plagued the Church, and nowadays, along with a far-better educated laity than we’ve even seen in history, we can see the collaboration (rather than competition or repression) between the sexes in a more fruitful way. The priesthood is but one function of the church… (And no, if I had it my way, I would intuitively had let women do it, too, but this is how it is, and once I got off of my latent clericalism, it became less of an issue for me…)

    The Church limits priests, who are the ordinary ministers of most sacraments, to males not because we think men are somehow inherently better, but because the Apostles were all male. Sure, we could say that Jesus was just working according to the social norms, but once people play that relativism game, where we can impose our own societal norms on Jesus, where do we stop?

    Posted 11 Oct 2006 at 8:15 am
  18. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Well Rob all I can say is that I have had 6 children… and upon having any one of them I did not exclaim in joyous surprise, “Whew, that thing really is a penis, and I really am a man.” And the fact that most parents also don’t have this experience is rather suggestive, I think, that men and women are by and large capable of identifying each other… such that babies continue to get made in substantial (if not always sufficient) numbers.

    The attempt to bring in rare corner cases regarding sex as some sort of argument for the ultimate “arbitrariness” of male-only ordination is reflective of a mind incapable of living with ambiguity. The absolutisms of 1) sex being purely biologically construed (and therefore occasionally ambiguous); and 2) sex being entirely socially constructed (and therefore malleable according to the will of a person or his psychiatrist) must both be rejected in favor of common sense and common experience.

    Gbm, many (if not most) protestant sects DO have women presbyters/bishops. Those that don’t (yet… and it is a shrinking number) rely almost solely on a strict literal reading of Paul’s pastoral epistles. There really isn’t much more than that underneath it, which is probably one of the reasons that such groups are becoming more rare. You’re right, since they are not valid ordinations, nor does any **real** sacramental power pass through their hands, there really is no theological reason for protestants not to have women pastors. When I was a protestant, which really wan’t that long ago, I opposed women’s ordination not so much because of the strict reading ground listed above, but more because men (good ones at least) will not freely follow a woman, and thus women pastors spell the death of any church (any church consisting of anything other than pious old women at any rate), which is to say I opposed it for sociological reasons, which are still very good reasons.

    Posted 11 Oct 2006 at 8:19 am
  19. Funky Dung wrote:

    Imagine a solid black circle drawn on white paper. Now, rub the outside edge of the circle so that it is blurred a bit. What you see is a black circle with fuzzy edges on a white background.

    Is there still a circle on the paper? Have the paper and the circle, the white and black regions, ceased to be distinct?

    No, of course not. There are always statistical outliers that make borders between distinct groups fuzzy. That doesn’t make the distiction invalid or without use or prupose.

    Just because there are fuzzy regions between full maleness and full femaleness, doesn’t mean that “male” and “female” lose meaning.

    Posted 11 Oct 2006 at 9:21 am
  20. Rob wrote:

    Jerry,

    Avulsion of the male sexual organs, whether by physicians or by accident, is amazingly common, and indeed people usually survive. The gentleman who was playing catch with the lit M80 died, but that’s mostly because of fragments of finger bones perforating his intestines in numerous places. The loss of the penis, testes, and prostate was survivable. The man whose penis and testicles fell off from tissue necrosis was, as you say, not in a condition to funciton. But pretty much everyone else I ever saw with this sort of trauma was expected to make a full recovery — or were trying to get reconstructive surgery to repair what their parents had done. Granted, the one male who lost his penis during the bris and was raised as a female did marry one of my friends and they’re doing quite well. Given that one of her older brothers is gay, the accident may have been a lucky coincidence. Most people reassigned sex at birth don’t take like that.

    Abnormalities in sexual differentiation occur in 1 out of 500 births. Severe examples are about 1 in 5,000. You don’t know about it because for most people, it is a deep family secret that isn’t talked about. And, with genetic testing, we’re finding out that the problem is far more widespread than believed.

    If sampled from the proper place on your body, a genetic test would reveal that you are XX. In other words, this problem extends to you. Finding that place would be a matter of chance.

    FD,

    In cases where we find that a definition does not work, the problem is that the definition is arbitrary, an attempt to fit human preconceptions onto the data. Pluto, wave/particle duality come to mind. The answer is either a) recognize that the definitions are arbitrary (i.e. Pluto) or b) find a new mathematical formalism (i.e. quantum mechanics, where an electron can be both a wave and a particle.

    As I said, I find the whole distinction arbitrary and, given what I have seen in the Church, destructive to human beings and against the workings of the Holy Spirit.

    Steve,

    “I opposed women’s ordination not so much because of the strict reading ground listed above, but more because men (good ones at least) will not freely follow a woman, and thus women pastors spell the death of any church (any church consisting of anything other than pious old women at any rate), which is to say I opposed it for sociological reasons, which are still very good reasons.”

    Then you would also support preventing the ordination of blacks and unJudiazed Greeks. Doesn’t anyone read the book of Acts? Really, unlike one Catholic I know, it’s not like the book of Second Opinions or the book of Hesitations.

    If a man won’t willingly follow a female leader, it is because there is something defective with that man.

    And that, I believe, is the real problem I see in the sexism inherent in the Catholic church (and many Protestant organizations). It’s a symptom of something pathological and destructive.

    I’ve witnessed the damage it causes. It’s sin permitted to run rampant that has chased many away from God. Better a millstone…

    Posted 11 Oct 2006 at 10:35 am
  21. Funky Dung wrote:

    I think it’s imperative at this point to make it clear that I am uncertain about this issue. I personally have no qualms with female priests, assuming of course that they could validly confect the Eucharist. I have not been convinced by the common arguments against female priests (the most prominent one being what I just stated above). I accept the male-only priesthood as an article of faith.

    On a side note, most of the folks I’ve seen clamoring for women priests are not doing so out of a rightly ordered sense of justice and equality. They tend to be the type of feminist that thinks that women must be like men in order to be equal to them. For them, the dignity and worth of women is not in their humanity and what makes that different from men, but in androgeny. I think any feminism that must make women act and appear like men is no real feminism and far more insulting and degrading to women than anything the Church has ever done.

    BTW, regardless of my feelings about male-only clergy, I still don’t believe that men and women having different roles in society is ipso facto sexist.

    Posted 11 Oct 2006 at 11:57 am
  22. John wrote:

    Not sure when you put it in Funky, but I really like the comments splitting into ten a page, makes it much more manageable to read.

    Posted 11 Oct 2006 at 1:06 pm
  23. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Rob, let me first state that theological reasons trump sociological reasons. There are **NO** theological objections to ordaining blacks and non-Judaized Greeks. There **ARE** for women. But as a protestant, such well-developed reasons were not available to me. I was content to live with a strict reading of Paul (who of course we didn’t read strictly on other topics, e.g., headcoverings), and a sociological argument that men don’t (and they don’t… look at the demographics of such churches) willingly follow women, because these comport with my visceral reaction that there is just something icky with women pastors, and the gelded creeps who think it natural to follow them.

    Forty years of new shibboleths, proferred by our enwhitened betters, do not undo 2 million years of human/primate evolution. Patriarchy got us to the dance. We best dance with him.

    But having said that… I’ll take a tiny bit of the bait: there probably are good, valid sociological reasons not to install a “culturally black” presbyter in a “white” suburbanite parish, just as there are reasons not to install a “culturally white” presbyter in a predominantly black or hispanic parish.

    Now, having said that, I can also think of good sociological reasons to install a culturally black presbyter in white suburbanite parish, preferably a former AME pastor convert: this hypothetical presbyter would be able to preach MUCH better, wouldn’t give a rats ass about <prissy>inclusivity<\prissy&gt, political correctness, or any of the other bullshit that our typcially white, gelded priests typically go on and on about.

    Posted 11 Oct 2006 at 11:44 pm
  24. John wrote:

    Steve, even though you say “gelded” instead of “fag” which is what you really mean, you still sound like a jackass.

    Also, “just something icky” is a pretty queer sounding statement. You might be protesting a tad much there.

    Posted 11 Oct 2006 at 11:56 pm
  25. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    No John… I mean gelded, men who’ve been stripped of their masculinity, in this case willingly to appear to themselves and others as being nice. It may come as shocking news but many priests in the RCC are embarrassed by the Church’s teaching on ordination. If left to fester (which it almost always is), this pathology degenerates into self-loathing, a devaluation of typically masculine traits, an embarrassment of being male. Ergo “gelding”… and not “fag” which connotes mere confusion over holes… a pathology not quite so deadly.

    And sounding like a jackass to you I would take to be high praise. Thanks!!

    Posted 12 Oct 2006 at 1:55 am
  26. John wrote:

    Well all I’m saying is that someone who feels compelled to someone a castrati because he is willing to be led by a woman invites a lot of a questions about himself. Your efforts to convince yourself of your masculinity may have the contrary effect on other readers.

    Coincidentally, I and a great many of the men I know have all the outward appearances of being nice without surrendering any great share of our masculinity.

    Posted 12 Oct 2006 at 12:29 pm
  27. Funky Dung wrote:

    I gotta admit, Steve, that I don’t see how being willing to be lead by a woman makes a man gelding. You’re gonna have to explain how that’s not a sexist statement.

    Posted 12 Oct 2006 at 12:37 pm
  28. Rebecca wrote:

    Mark’s comment: Women should not be pastors any more than men should be stay at home parents. Neither role is the natural one.

    In which millions of years of human evolution is skewed viewed through the tiniest blip of human culture and called “natural.”

    Interesting reading, gentlemen.

    Posted 12 Oct 2006 at 12:50 pm
  29. Funky Dung wrote:

    Since evolution has been brought up, I have a naive question to ask. Do the females in most animal species rear the children? How about in most primate species? I’m just curious, because the answer to those questions, particularly the latter, may determine just how skewed Mark’s view is.

    Posted 12 Oct 2006 at 1:02 pm
  30. Funky Dung wrote:

    After doing some reading, I’m now wondering if Harris’ use of charity statistics is indicative of an ecological fallacy.

    Posted 12 Oct 2006 at 1:10 pm
  31. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Eric, I won’t claim that my view is not sexist. It may very well be, depending on one’s definition of sexist. And if the attribution of sexist ends the argument for someone, well then that’s argument by labelling, which isn’t very convincing… at least to me. “Sexist” is a meaningless boogeyword to me. Like “fundamentalist” or “liberal” or “fascist”, or “intolerant” or “religious right”. State what part of my claim is evil, deficient, ignorant, or whatever, and then we’ll have something to talk about.

    With regards to this particular claim, viz., that “men don’t willingly follow women”, okay “in most cases, most men don’t willingly follow most women” (better?), is more an observation of an historical, sociological, and biological fact, than a moral argument.

    Posted 12 Oct 2006 at 2:19 pm
  32. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    And John, if you met me in person too you would marvel about how nice I indeed am, and meanwhile you would never catch me loathing masculinity and the need, yes the absolute necessity, of it in certain situations (foremost in the raising of young men), and you would never catch me agonizing and apologetic that “women ought to have more power in the Church” (because in fact they already DO have almost all the power, save for the tiniest bit of eucharistic hocus pocus, a pinky in the dike as it were). But because of my erudite charm, you would never walk away thinking, that dude is a sexist, and (therefore by kneejerk and brainless application of absurd equivalency) a bigot and a misognyist, unless you had gained that impression via the wonders of the internet.

    Posted 12 Oct 2006 at 8:42 pm
  33. John wrote:

    Steve,
    “men who’ve been stripped of their masculinity, in this case willingly to appear to themselves and others as being nice.” You set up being masculine and appearing nice as being mutually incompatable.

    As for your personal niceness, you seem to advocate the subjugation of women to men. And that’s just not very nice. And while I may not immediately have figured that out in person, it stands solely to mark that people are much more honest in a medium that provides effective anonymity.

    Also, as goes to ,”Like “fundamentalist” or “liberal” or “fascist”, or “intolerant” or “religious right”. ”
    both liberal and fascist have very well defined meanings. Also that you would group Liberalism in with those other categories. Four destructive influences and one movement that strove to vanquish thousands of years of barbarism and has created a world where, for the first time in history, there are whole nations in which most of the population does not know hunger.

    Eric,
    While I see how looking to the animal kingdom for a guide in seeing the role of women in raising children, I think it’s ultimately a fruitless path. For one, we’re fairly narrowly concerned with the issue of human offspring raising, and there’s always a great diversity amongst species. Even if the women raise the children in the vast majority of species, that wouldn’t give us any real evidence that we’re not just an exception.
    Also, child rearing is a profoundly different process for humans. Most animals just have to look after their young till their big enough to do it for themselves. Human raising is overwhelmingly a matter of higher functions which only we possess. While keeping the kid alive is no doubt important I think we’re more concerned with education and imparting values when we discuss child rearing (clearly with the exception of not lactating, a man is fit to keep a child alive, and that’s a shortcoming that’s easily remedied in these times).

    Posted 12 Oct 2006 at 10:29 pm
  34. Rebecca wrote:

    FD,
    I’m not an expert on “most animal species” and my knowledge is limited to a few college biology classes and books I’ve read. Based on that, my response is that there are many animal species where the female does not raise the next generation.

    However, I was not talking about (and neither was Mark, if I understand his comment correctly) most animal species. The comment was about human evolution. So, while your question might be “naive”, in my opinion, it seems a bit irrelevant.

    Posted 13 Oct 2006 at 1:50 am
  35. Funky Dung wrote:

    I was not talking about (and neither was Mark, if I understand his comment correctly) most animal species. The comment was about human evolution.

    Human evolution didn’t happen in a vaccum. That is, we evolved from something. Rebecca, you accused Mark of viewing human evolution through a tiny blip of culture. I think one could argue that by excluding pre-human species, you are the one extrapolating from a blip. Let’s look at just human evolution, though. In the thousands of years that homo sapiens has been around, has it been the norm for males to provide for the family while the female raises the children? I supect it has.

    Now, I’m not saying that we should reduce this discussion to evolutionary biology. I’m just pointing out that when Mark and others speak of what’s natural, they have the history of the species and its predecessors backing them up. If you want to dismantle their arguments, accusing them of viewing a blip and calling it natural isn’t the way to go, especially if you are going to refer to human evolution. The real blip here is the span of time that women have not been the primary caretakers of the children.

    You’re the one extrapolating from a blip. If you wish to convince Mark, et al., you’ll have to show that the particular blip you’re looking at, i.e., the post-feminist West, is the right blip, rather than the longer blip Mark sees.

    Posted 13 Oct 2006 at 7:34 am
  36. John wrote:

    Pre-agricultural homosapiens did break down labor with men hunting and women gathering and tending children. But it’s not so cut and dry as to say that the men were providing since the women’s gathering provide the bulk of their caloric intake. (this is what anthropoligists who have studied artifacts and extrapolated from existing pre-agrarian socities; take it for what you will).

    And even if we ignore that ambiguity, there’s fuzziness in talking abuot what is “natural”. Yes pre-agricultural societies have men hunt and women gather and care for the children, but a strong argument can be made that that is simply the most economical division of labor.
    Once people started serious agriculture men started playing a greater role in what is effectively just high efficiency gathering.

    The idea of a woman staying at home and caring for the children while the man goes out and earns a living is largely a product of the nineteenth century upperclass. Nobody else could afford to live on one income. It was a sign of social prestige that your wife wouldn’t have to work.

    That said my mother stayed home to raise us, and I think my brothers and I all benefitted from that (which is not to say that my father did not do his fair share once he was home from work). But the way they decided that mom would stay at home and dad would work was that dad has a master’s in chemical engineering so could make more money. So it was a better division of labour to have him work for wage and mom stay home.

    Posted 13 Oct 2006 at 2:36 pm
  37. Stuff wrote:

    Wow! Lots of stuff to think about.

    Firstly, I’d like to address, as a female Catholic mother with higher earning potential than my dear husband can ever hope to have, the issue of stay-at-home parenthood. Parenthood is not merely an issue of wages. We tried having Dad at home with the kids while I worked full-time and it was a less-than ideal situation. I’m not here to diss stay-at-home-dads – my husband is a wonderful father. But not enough educated adults realize what all three of my children knew before they were born and screamed in many ways loud and clear ever since: dad is not mom. I, too, was miserable spending so much time away from the precious babies formed inside my own tummy.

    This evidence, while experiential and probably useless to scientists like Rob, is more than enough to convince me of the obvious, not arbitrary, existence of difference between the sexes. But I think there’s adequate assurances in the Bible, too, of God’s intention to distinguish between men and women; Genesis very simply states “male and female he created them.”

    But this all seems to be straying a bit from the discussion of the Catholic Church being sexist in an evil and oppressive way due to the male-only priesthood. As stated somewhere above, this position assumes that priests are more “powerful” than women and have more opportunity for “success” or “promotion” in the hierarchy, which presupposes that the Church operates like any other man-made organization. To me, none of that has anything to do with whether I will get to heaven and is very worldly and petty. Jesus came as one of the lowly, not one of the powerful, and his priests are called in a special way to follow in His footsteps. This is not to say that abuses in the Church have not skewed the way this vocation is often carried out.

    I’m not a theologian, and so not in a good position to defend this Church teaching, but I would direct honest seekers to the late Pope John Paul II. In his Theology of the Body, at least, he makes very clear the necessity of a male-only priesthood based on the words of Scripture. I don’t have time right now to try to summarize his theses, but they are definitely worth checking out.

    I’d also like to point out that the Catholic Church seems to recognize more than any other Christian denomination just how pro-female God is. Believing in the Immaculate Conception of Mary (this refers not to Jesus entering her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit, but of her own conception free from the stain of original sin) means that we think that the very masterpiece, the absolute most perfect example of God’s creation (remembering Jesus was not created but begotten) is a woman. We also recognize that this means she is higher on the heavenly totem pole, you might say, than any other saint or holy person in history. Seen in this light, the priesthood seems like small potatoes to me.

    Posted 15 Oct 2006 at 6:09 pm
  38. edey wrote:

    i haven’t been keeping up with the discussion, but the topic of stuff’s comment brought to mind this quotation:

    “You see the Church recognises things so profoundly that in some way you can say she has always recognised the special dignity granted to women. You cannot be a Christian and not recognise the privilege that it is to be a woman, because the most perfect of all creatures, the only creature born without original sin, is a woman and therefore once again you understand the extraordinary privilege of being one and having this image of the Holy Virgin, who was both Virgin and Mother and the two go beautifully together.”-alice von hildebrand

    Posted 15 Oct 2006 at 9:53 pm
  39. John wrote:

    Stuff
    I didn’t mean to over-emphasize earning power, that was just the specific thing that motivated my parents. I just meant to say that the question of who stays at home with the children, or for that matter if anyone stays home full time, is a situational one. Economics certainly has a large role to play in that, but its not the only one.

    As to the question of the Church giving women a special place through Mary, it also says that all sin in the world is Eve’s fault, so I feel like this is, at best, a wash.

    Posted 16 Oct 2006 at 11:58 am
  40. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    John remarks:

    As to the question of the Church giving women a special place through Mary, it also says that all sin in the world is Eve’s fault, so I feel like this is, at best, a wash.

    That’s the Bible–Comic Book Version. In the NT, and thus in Christian theology, it is “in Adam, all die”. Not Eve. And thus Christ for us is the New Adam. St. Paul (that bad ol’ patrichalist) points out, in authoritative commentary, that Eve was merely deceived. The deadliness of (the) sin came through Adam. If Adam had not sinned, i.e., gone along with his wife and then tried to blame her when he got “caught”, but had instead “protected her” from the whiles of the “serpent”, it seems likely that the human race would not be fallen today. Sorry ladies, but the First Woman couldn’t even sin right… which is to say, sin mortally. That took a man. Hooray, men!

    Mary is the first and highest Christian. She is what we all aspire to be, and will, by increasing cooperation with God’s grace, shall eventually be. She is a type of the Church, which is, in part, why we refer to the Church as “She”. In fact, in comparison to God, we are all feminine, i.e., “the beloved” being pursued, wooed by “the lover”, “receptive” to his “penetration”, that which St. Paul called “a great mystery, but I speak of Christ and his Church.”

    Posted 16 Oct 2006 at 6:39 pm
  41. Mark La Roi wrote:

    Scripture gives references to the “natural way” of things, referring to the way God had intended them to be. This is where man and woman and humankind as a whole were uniquely equipped to serve God by fulfilling particular roles.

    Many people hate admit that men and women are even biologically different much less geared for specific roles.

    With some exceptions, Men are geared to be the warrior, provider, protector and leader. We mostly do not have the tender sensibilities in high enough degree to teach our children the more sensitive sides of life. We practice the turning off of emotion to accomplish goals, while women (and I’m speaking again generally) operate on an emotional level from an early age, and are able to teach others how to deal with emotion better than men.

    There are a lot of other examples of how life is worked out best through the natural roles, too many to describe here, but as you study Scripture you see cleary describe the primary functions of man and the primary functions of woman.

    Men and women are every bit equal in essence, nature and worth before God, but it is impossible to deny the existence of (and equipping for) gender roles when studying Scripture.

    THe Proverbs 31 woman is not manager of her home by coincidence. Neither is it coincidence that the qualifications of an Elder/pastor as given by Scripture a description of a man.

    The fight over the elimination of gender roles has been another cultural stab at the destruction of God’s order and sadly it’s blade has sunk deep into the Church. It has made many women feel less adequate unless they are performing the same actions as their male counterparts, and made many men resentful and distrustful of their sisters, thus denying them of the awesome roles God has reserved for them.

    Posted 16 Oct 2006 at 9:49 pm
  42. John wrote:

    Steve

    The only grounds to say that the sin was Adam’s not Eve’s is to say that as a woman she lacked the capacity to know better. God told both of them not to eat the apple.
    So that really doesn’t make it any better.

    Posted 16 Oct 2006 at 9:57 pm
  43. Stuff wrote:

    John,

    Actually, I don’t think the claim is that Eve didn’t know better, but that the first sin was actually Adam’s, not Eve’s. Adam was given charge of the garden and was to care for and protect everything in it. When most people read “serpent” they think of a snake, which isn’t all that threatening. But the actual translation is closer to “leviathan,” which is a beast more like a dragon, as I understand it. In any case, if Adam was doing his job tending the garden, he would have kept this beast out at the expense of his very life. Eve never should have been approached in the first place.

    But this all seems like splitting hairs and pointing fingers. Just as both Adam and Eve participated fully in the first sin, both Mary and Jesus participated in the redemption of the human race. By this I mean that Mary’s “fiat,” which only finds its true completion at the foot of the cross, was essential to Jesus’ mission.

    And again, the Catholic church has never denounced Eve (or Adam for that matter) in any way, but has accepted and embraced God’s plan for us (during the Easter Vigil we pray “o happy fault, o necessary sin of Adam”). And the Church recognizes that the complementarity between men and women is a vital part of this plan.

    But anyway, what does all this have to do with the priesthood? We can all hold up examples of less than perfect women. Men, too. Priests especially. Does being a priest get one closer to heaven? No. Is the Catholic Church oppressive because she doesn’t allow women in the priesthood? Not in my opinion.

    Posted 17 Oct 2006 at 5:53 pm
  44. Mark La Roi wrote:

    “By this I mean that Mary’s “fiat,” which only finds its true completion at the foot of the cross, was essential to Jesus’ mission.”

    How is that? What “fiat”?

    Posted 17 Oct 2006 at 11:04 pm
  45. Stuff wrote:

    Mary’s acceptance of Gabriel’s message: “behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy Word.”

    Posted 18 Oct 2006 at 11:10 am
  46. Jeremy Pierce wrote:

    I think the most common view today among complementarians about gender distinctions is not that mere biological sex differences justify different treatment. It’s that God declared a difference of intent at creation, and that’s what distinguishes men and women. Maybe God built some differences into our nature to reflect that intent, but the difference of treatment wouldn’t be based on such differences. It’s based on God’s declaration for men in marriage and in church leadership to reflect the initiatory leadership of the God the Father and women in marriage and with respect to church leadership to reflect the submission of the God the Son to God the Father. On one level all men reflect that submission to Christ and to whatever earthly leaders are over us as well. It’s just that the positions of authority are reserved for men, because God distinctively named men to be the ones to occupy those particular positions in order to demonstrate unity amidst diversity as in the Trinity.

    Posted 18 Oct 2006 at 3:20 pm
  47. William Meisheid wrote:

    As I scanned the comments it seems the first assumptions were challenged by only one person but never dealt with. Where did the numbers come from about nations and people–Christian and atheist?

    If I remember correctly, Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin, Kim, et al were/are atheist and I hardly believe their “countries” support the premise presented. It is rather the opposite.

    Posted 18 Oct 2006 at 3:47 pm
  48. Funky Dung wrote:

    If I remember correctly, Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin, Kim, et al were/are atheist and I hardly believe their “countries” support the premise presented. It is rather the opposite.

    I think similar arguments have been presented to Peter, and IIRC, his response was that Pol Pot, et al., relied on other irrational ideologies in the place of religion. In short, they set themselves and/or their philosophies (communism, Nazism, etc.) as gods, much like modern caesars. Thus, while they were atheists, they were not quite afideists; they were insufficiently rationalistic to be true atheists.

    How close am I, Peter?

    Posted 18 Oct 2006 at 3:59 pm
  49. Daniel Morgan wrote:

    Nice article. I am glad you are in dialogue with your friend. There needs to be more of it “across the aisle” of faith.

    Where did the numbers come from about nations and people—Christian and atheist?

    Try Zuckerman’s compilation, for one. Or my own look at things, and here.

    Posted 19 Oct 2006 at 12:47 pm
  50. BV wrote:

    “Until now, the only argument (presented in the comments at the link above) has been that there is some ontological difference between men and women that makes the former eligible for the priesthood and excludes the latter.”

    This statement seems illogical to me: as if ontology weren’t sufficient reason. Ontology, by definition, deals with “what is”–the “truth of being”. And if “what is” isn’t sufficient reason, I’m not sure what else to say.

    The flaw I see with some of the arguments in the comment thread is that they confuse biology for reality. Biology is not reality. This is not to say that biology is not real, but rather that it does not pronounce the whole of reality. Consequently, you cannot argue that one’s chromosomes or particular bodily features are what define them as male or female (else you’re left with the confusing mess so well described).

    I hope there’s no disagreement that men and women are different, and that maleness and femaleness are different. As Stuff said, the fact that He created them ‘male and female’ suggests that they aren’t the same (otherwise there wouldn’t be a distinction). We see echoes of this in the natural world, though they do not give us the answer, but merely help us to recognize the question.

    In understanding the difference between maleness and femaleness, I think meditating on our Lord and Lady can be a guide for us. This conversation has already started to tend in that direction. We can truly say that Jesus is male, and Mary is female. I might even go so far as to say that Jesus is what it means to be male, and Mary is what it means to be female.

    The Church recognizes that all are called to share in some way the priest, prophet, and king role of Christ. She also recognizes that in God’s design, the ministerial priesthood is connected to maleness, in imitation of her High Priest. It is not the Church which institutes this practice, but God, as can be seen in the person of Christ, in the Apostles he chose, in the revelation he has given the Church, and through the Spirit which has guided the Church.

    As Stuff has mentioned, this in no way degrades the role of women. It is wrong to argue that differences imply inequality. The Church is a family, and we necessarily each have different roles to live out to get this ark to heaven.

    Posted 19 Oct 2006 at 11:01 pm
  51. Mary wrote:

    The reason females are excluded from preisthood is that Jesus Christ, the founder of our religion, was a male.

    There is also reson for him to be a male. A major point of our faith, if not the major point, is that God sacrificed his only son to save us. In the time period where Jesus lived it was much worse to lose a son than to lose a daughter. That is becuase a son could help you when you were older, and would carry on your family name. A daughter, however, would only be married off to someone else. When a son died, it was a extremly sad event. If he was an only son, it was worse. That is sexist, but that is how it was back then.

    Not to mention, if you asked, you would find that most women don’t mind not being able to be ordained. I certainly don’t, if I want to devote my life to God I can become a nun. That is what they are there for. The few women that are upset mostly just want to become a preist becuase they think it will bring them power. This is wrong, becoming a preist is a life-changing, humbling expeirience. I do think that before you try to change the roles of women in the Church, you should ask them if they WANT change.

    Posted 20 Oct 2006 at 6:24 pm

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 3

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    Over at Ales Rarus, we get a post offering questions from an atheist buddy. Clearly the questions are intended to dispute Christianity. The claims: 1. “Countries with high levels of atheism are also the most charitable both in terms of the percentage of their wealth

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