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April 06, 2008

Good questions by Kaveny

AS usual, Cathy Kaveny raises some really good questions in her recent Commonweal article that was the subject of Rob's post and Richard M.'s comments.  I've just posted in the sidebar a link to  short article in UST Law's first alumni magazine, Catholic Feminism:  An Oxymoron or 'Deeper Truths?'  .(Can you believe we've been around long enough to have an alumni magazine?) In it, I explain that it was precisely Cathy's types of questions that have pulled me away from banking law scholarship the past few years.  I first read Mulieris Dignitatem just a few years ago, because of:

. . . my nagging desire to assess honestly whether my own career path – involving decades of juggling a career and raising my four children – was consonant with the Catholic Church’s notion of the vocation of motherhood.

My explorations of this issue have led me to the conclusion that there is, indeed, much in Church teachings to assuage my concerns, but also that more work needs to be done to address Cathy's type of questions.  I agree with Richard M. that there has been significant evolution in the Church's teachings since the 1912 encyclopedia; I go into this development in some detail in this article published in Catholic L. Rev last year.

But I do agree with Cathy that there is more work to be done in fleshing out the notion of complementarity.  That's one of the things I'm working on right now.  My favorite scholar on this to date is Sr. Prudence Allen.  She's done incredible work in two volumes of The Concept     of Woman tracing the philosophical roots of the concept of complementarity that plays such an important role in JPII's theology.  Quoting myself again, from that alumni magazine article, this is what I'm finding and exploring these days:

My search for an authentically Catholic feminist legal theory also has led me to philosophical theories of gender identity, particularly the theory of complementarity, which posits that men and women are fundamentally different, yet fundamentally equal. This theory has its roots in a Thomistic affirmation of the unity of body and soul; it was developed by a group of predominantly Catholic philosophers who rejected the Cartesian dualism underlying most post-Enlightenment philosophy – phenomenologists such as Dietrich and Alice von Hildebrand and St. Edith Stein, and personalists such as Jacques and Raissa Maritain, Emmanuel Mounier and Gabriel Marcel. These schools of thought can provide vocabulary, arguments and frameworks for a feminist legal theory that are consonant with my faith beliefs, but do not depend on tenets of faith for their logical integrity.

The more I study, the more I discover traces of agreement with some of the basic ideas underlying complementarity in the writings of philosophers who do not share my faith traditions, such as the Jewish philosopher Leon Kass and the socialist feminist Alison Jaggar.

Posted by Elizabeth Schiltz on April 6, 2008 at 08:22 PM in Schiltz, Elizabeth | Permalink

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