Monday, September 19, 2005

From Pontifications
On the alleged oppression of women in the church
In the comments of ‘How to market a boutique church’ from an Anglo-Catholic who grew up in the good old days:
I have to remark that at least in the small-town church I grew up with, the day-to-day functioning of the church was pretty much under the total control of women, between the Altar Guild, the wives of the Vestrymen (who tended to be the same as the Altar Guild), and the Rector’s wife. None of these energetic and intelligent women seemed to feel particularly oppressed or excluded…
Recently my girlfriend saw Ida Lupino’s picturesque and entertaining early-1960s film The Trouble with Angels, capturing the look and lifestyle of proper nuns right before ‘the end of the world’, and I told her that Lupino was fascinated above all else with the kind of feminism (in a good sense) she saw in convent life: a largely self-contained all-female community.

(Those movies really didn’t say very much about the faith; they simply gave people a glimpse of the church’s culture and were a sign of Protestant America’s newfound good will to Roman Catholics.)

In a bad sense the feminisation of religion in popular culture has been with us for a long time. Writers as divers as Frs Patrick Arnold (a liberal Jesuit who suddenly gets a burst of common sense on this topic) and John Weldon Hardenbrook and Thomas Day have written about it: ‘religion is for girls and sissies’.

I dare say that things like the attempted ordination of women (and the quasi- version of that pushed by liberal RCs as far as they can get away with: now Mum doesn’t just decorate the altar; she gives out Communion!) have aggravated this problem — driving even more men away from the practice of religion — as well as that of clericalism (a problem to do with equating the clergy with power, not to be confused with the sacerdotalism of the Catholic faith).

Episcopalians often are smarter than Baptists and, even when they’re barking Broad, have better taste than many RCs. Of course they’re also dead wrong about a lot of things.

On the boutique approach, Stuart Koehl once wrote that when emptying city-centre mainline Protestant churches started to change to pander try to appeal to ‘the gay community’ they eventually became (part of) the gay community, that is, indistinguishable from it. (Something that none of my homosexual friends who take religion seriously, even the ones I don’t agree with, wants.)

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