Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Cathy Kaveny and JP II and the New Feminism

Rob's post and Cathy Kaveny's article raise some good questions. I read through the Catholic Encyclopedia article very quickly and it sounds as if it was written in .... 1912. I surely wouldn't defend every statement in that entry. It should be noted that along with the questionable, sweeping statements in the 1912 Encyclopedia are also statements containing the (prophetic) comment that the negative impact of liberalized divorce laws would principally harm women. There are also other sound features to the 1912 entry, which Cathy notes.

I should say that it is difficult to write Encyclopedia entries. I have some experience with this, having co-edited the Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought (here). I wrote the entry on "feminism" for that Encyclopedia and I'd be happy to send a copy of that entry to anyone who asks.

There are some good questions raised though about the new feminism, and the conference Rob nicely mentioned (which is being organized by my colleague Jane Adolphe and Helen Alvare from CUA) will I'm sure explore these questions in depth.

I do think though that it makes more sense to explore the writings of recent Church documents such as Pope John Paul II's writings on the new feminism or the CDF's 2004 statement "On the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World" (here) then to focus on the questionable comments in the 1912 Encyclopedia entry. Those recent documents strongly defend the importance of the participation of women in public life.

Cathy's more important point though is about the anthropology the Pope uses. That view emphasizes the complementarity of men and women. I'd like to ask Cathy a question or two. Does she disagree with the view that "the genius of women" is needed in all areas of social life or is that phrase of Pope John Paul part of the paternalism to which she objects? Does she disagree with the CDF's view of human nature that celebrates "the importance and the meaning of sexual difference, as a reality deeply inscribed in man and woman"? If Cathy doesn't disagree with JP II or the CDF in these areas, then what is her concern?

Richard M.



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