Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke is right.
Women are scary. Women are terrifying. They come into churches and bring cooties with them, and there is no ritual for casting out cooties. Demons, yes. Cooties, no. They come into boardrooms and take seats. They serve the altar — and they are good at it.
These are all alarming facts to consider.
His words on the Catholic Church’s man crisis have been attracting attention lately, from men’s rights advocates as well as others, and I think it’s worth pointing out exactly what is wrong about them. (Other than the fact that they came under the heading of a movement called “Emangelization.” If you are trying to use bad puns to keep women down, your movement is already off to a lousy start.)
He notes near the very beginning of the interview that “the radical feminism which has assaulted the Church and society since the 1960s has left men very marginalized.”
Yes. That is what has happened. When I look at men, the first word that springs to mind is “marginalized.” (The second word is “Cumberbatch.”) Men can barely hold every single Catholic priesthood and they are a mere 100 percent of presidents and 80 percent of Congress. They are struggling on the fringes, barely able to bring home their $1.29 on a woman’s dollar. They are forced to spend paternity leaves being creatively stifled and drinking. Their lot, in short, is not a happy one. “Marginalized” sums it up nicely.
Burke observed: “The Church becomes very feminized. Women are wonderful, of course. They respond very naturally to the invitation to be active in the Church. Apart from the priest, the sanctuary has become full of women. The activities in the parish and even the liturgy have been influenced by women and have become so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved.”
Well, sure. Women are wonderful. Only, if they’re involved, everything is RUINED. Other than that, they are great and it is wonderful that they are participating.
Burke noted: “The introduction of girl servers also led many boys to abandon altar service. Young boys don’t want to do things with girls. It’s just natural.”
That’s it, right there. That’s the whole objection. If you have girls, well, boys won’t want to do it. Girls are gross and icky. This whole interview has about the same intellectual content as the chant “Boys rule; girls drool.”
“The girls were also very good at altar service. So many boys drifted away over time. I want to emphasize that the practice of having exclusively boys as altar servers has nothing to do with inequality of women in the Church.”
No. Nothing. Sure.
“I think that this has contributed to a loss of priestly vocations. It requires a certain manly discipline to serve as an altar boy in service at the side of priest, and most priests have their first deep experiences of the liturgy as altar boys. If we are not training young men as altar boys, giving them an experience of serving God in the liturgy, we should not be surprised that vocations have fallen dramatically.”
Of course, if it were only possible for these girls who were very good at altar service to grow into women who could experience their own vocations — no, of course, that would be silly, because they are girls, ew.
But Burke saw hope. He observed:
“We can also see that our seminaries are beginning to attract many strong young men who desire to serve God as priests. The new crop of young men are manly and confident about their identity. This is a welcome development, for there was a period of time when men who were feminized and confused about their own sexual identity had entered the priesthood; sadly some of these disordered men sexually abused minors; a terrible tragedy for which the Church mourns.”
I’m sorry, I’m a little dazed from striking my head repeatedly and mightily on my desk. That’s what it was. It was the feminists who were behind this whole thing. We should have known. They were the puppetmasters (puppetmistresses?) all along. The worst part of radical feminism was when the feminists all rose in a single body and insisted that the Catholic Church become embroiled in pedophilia. It is a wonder that we still listened to feminists after that.
Look, it would be one thing if he were seriously making a case that men and women had complementary roles to play in the church. But he’s not. Every time something gets “feminized” it is ruined and made worse. Manly is good. Feminine is bad. It’s not serious.
This isn’t someone saying that men and women have different roles to play, which could be an interesting discussion. This is someone saying that women are worse. That women are lesser. That if they get their hands on a thing it is ruined and men cannot enjoy that thing and it might as well be ritually unclean.
If you spend this much hysterical energy keeping women out, that isn’t a sign that you feel confident in your Divine Right of Position. Quite the contrary.
These are the words of someone who is afraid.
These are the words of someone who is petrified of women, who thinks that any gain or advance made by a woman comes at the cost of a place for a man. That it is impossible that having women involved in a thing might be good for everyone. That “feminization” means “making worse and weaker.” That manliness and womanliness exist in opposition, not in tandem, and that gains for one can only be losses for the other.
Women are scary if you think, as he genuinely seems to, that this is a zero-sum game.
If you think that once women come into places and do things, there won’t be room for men to come into those places and do things any more, you are scared that the power you have is undeserved. Or you would not be so desperate to keep the door closed.
When you are used to having 100 percent of the things, whether those things are jobs or votes or the ownership of goods and chattels, the thought that someone else will get to have those things makes it seem like you have less. But you don’t. There’s more pie than that. All you lose is your monopoly on pie. And you gain people who could fill those empty vestments.
Admittedly, I’m Episcopalian — “Catholic Lite! All of the pageantry, none of the guilt,” as Robin Williams quipped — and as such I am accustomed to seeing women performing all the offices of the church. Rectors of churches, deacons, priests, bishops, altar servers, you name it, there’s a woman doing it. I was even an altar server myself. I think I was pretty okay, not great. Extinguish the left candle first!
Yes, we’ve had our problems. But I’m unsympathetic to the idea that, spiritually, there isn’t a larger pie than the cardinal is willing to admit. I’m not unsympathetic to some of the cardinal’s other arguments — the idea that parents play complementary roles in children’s development, for instance. But his idea of manliness, an “emangelization” that thumps its chest and says “Man good, woman bad,” that is so entirely and fundamentally dependent on keeping women down and out — this is no answer to anyone’s problems, in a church or outside it. This isn’t an appreciation of complementarity. This is a clubhouse with a boyish scrawl on the side that says “NO GIRLS ALLOWED.”