A Catholic feminist’s opinion

Wlodzimierz Redzioch talks to Lucetta Scaraffia, professor of modern history at the La Sapienza University in Rome and the co-author of the book ‘Wojna z chrzescijanstwem. ONZ i Unia Europejska jako nowa ideologia’ [Contro il cristianesimo, L’Onu e l’Ue come nuova ideologia].

Wlodzimierz Redzioch: - 8 March is associated with the women’s fight for emancipation and feminist movements. However, some do not realise that many women’s organisations have Catholic roots. Could you tell us something more about this issue?

Professor Lucetta Scaraffia: - The Catholic environments were involved in the fight for woman’s dignity, her right to study and the acknowledgement of her educational role as early as in the 19th century. In those times the men of the bourgeoisie background departed from religion and that’s why it was the mothers that transmitted religious tradition. Therefore, the Church supported the educational aspiration of women and acknowledged their roles in that field much earlier than the secular society. At the turn of the 19th and the 20th centuries Catholic feminist movements caring for female workers were created and the movements tried to limit the socialists’ influence on the working class. The movements helped women fight for pay raise and better working conditions and at the same time they were faithful to religious values.

- The best-known feminism, since it was commonly promoted, is the one that originated in the 1960-70s as the consequence of the sexual revolution in the USA and the student revolution in Europe in 1968. First of all, it is characterised by a hostile attitude towards men (men are seen as enemies; this feminism replaced the class struggle with the sex fight), aversion towards the institution of marriage (marriage is shown as a form of woman’s slavery) and rejection of maternity (pregnancy that deforms woman’s body is seen as almost a curse and children are obstacles to self-fulfilment). What was the influence of this radical feminism on the life of Western societies?

- Feminism brought about a specific emancipation of women who were to take over male roles, i.e. transforming women into men. Women got emancipated at the cost of leaving their specific features and roles, including the rejection of maternity (the sudden decrease in birth rate can be ascribed to these attitudes). As far as the attitudes towards men are concerned one could see the development of relationships based on competition and not on complementarity (which characterise people who play different roles).

- Why was feminism, which was to defend women’s rights, transformed with time into libertinism that justified sexual dissolution, marital infidelity and homosexual behaviour?

- Feminism promoted free safe sex for all people. Because of that women, thanks to contraceptives, which spread towards the late 1960s, could behave as men. From that moment sexual life, which was dependent on procreation to some extent, was freed from that factor, which led to the fact that women and men could have completely ‘free’ sexual life. This fact was taken as an increase in women’s freedom and a way to achieve happiness as if its key was sexual freedom. The problem is that assuming ‘male’ sexual attitudes does not ensure women’s happiness since they have different requirements: they need emotional relationships and by assuming male attitudes they risk leaving such relationships. In a word, there is the risk that women can have intensive sexual lives but at the same time they can suffer from emotional loneliness, which is a great burden for them.

- The big issue of abortion divided the feminist movement and caused its departure from the Catholic environments...

- Catholic women rebelled against the idea saying that abortion should be acknowledged as a fundamental human right, which the feminist movements demanded since for them ‘female citizenship’ was based on the right to abortion.

- The present radical feminism has a new ideology, which is connected with the concept of gender. But actually they want a new anthropological vision of man in which the biological, corporal (sex) differences are not essential and should be replaced by the expression ‘gender’, which is to define the psycho-sexual personality that has been learnt after birth. This new ideology promotes sexual variety where the choice of ‘gender’ depends on personal likings and whims. Why does the Church see gender ideology as a big danger to society?

- Because gender ideology is one of the most false ideologies that have originated recently. In the name of equality (equality was also a communists’ motto), in the name of Utopia the ideology claims that we will be happy when we are equal. To make us believe that we all are equal the ideology resorts to the attempt to invalidate the natural biological differences between women and men. Therefore, it claims that every person should have the right to choose to be a male or a female, or both. This wrongly understood equality should ensure people’s happiness. It is obvious that gender ideology has nothing to do with the reality of nature and human life. It is dangerous because it rejects reality and as all such ideologies it can become one big deception.

- How have the followers of gender ideology, being a decisive minority in women’s organisations, managed to assume some important posts in the UN structures, governments and non-governmental organisations, at universities, in the media, thanks to which they can have a big influence on politics and the activities of various bodies and organisations?

- I would like to add that radical feminists see gender ideology as some way to solve their problem, which is to invalidate the female dissimilarity. Like the homosexuals they see it as a way to invalidate the homosexual dissimilarity. They seem to think that using this method they can reach equality in an easy way, which will ensure their personal happiness and peace in social life. Seeking happiness they resort to Utopia, which is to invalidate all differences. The problem is that the followers of gender ideology create dangerous groups of power in international organisations, exerting a big influence on politics, especially on educational and cultural politics. International organisations, especially the European Union, give big funds to spread gender ideology. Any project that has the term ‘gender’ was granted funds. It was a wonderful way to promote this ideology. And since most people that use the term ‘gender’ do not realise what is the ideology about the propaganda has been spread in an unconscious way.

- It means that we should make people sensitive to the overuse of this term since the very use of this term leads to approving this dangerous ideology hidden behind this term...

- When people use the term ‘gender’ explaining that now ‘all people do this’ one should tell them that using this term is an ideological movement. It is not a more modern and elegant way to define the difference between males and females and it is not a synonym of the term ‘sex’. Therefore, one should explain people that if someone decides to use this word he identifies himself in some way with the ideology, which uses this term.

- We have spoken a lot about radical feminism but there is also a Catholic feminism. What are its characteristics?

- Internationally, contemporary Catholic feminism is sensitive to women’s exploitation under the pretext of respecting the so-called reproductive rights (in fact ‘reproductive rights’ are used to unable women bear children and they include abortion). Catholic feminists oppose spreading worldwide an evil model of emancipation with the ideal of woman having no children and family. This model of emancipation, forced on countries that need economic help, has been badly seen in the Third World countries. Therefore, Catholic feminists try to help local women fight against this false emancipation. Additionally, Catholic activists are sensitive to all bioethical problems that are connected with the dynamic development of science and technology as well as with fertilisation, the manipulation of embryos, etc.

- Who are the most outstanding representatives of contemporary Catholic feminism?

- Janne Haaland Matlary from Norway, Josephine Quintavalle from Great Britain, and Mary Ann Glendon from the USA in the field of law (she was the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See recently).

"Niedziela" 14/2008

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl