Why is it that older people, formed in sound Catholic faith years longer than I, succumb to the culture of blame and endless rootless revisionism that feminism and similar intellectual fads wish to promote? Why is that I hear a mature married woman, once a daily Mass-goer, patronisingly dismiss the Pope in a way she would have abhorred years before, or a senior priest at Mass sneer at the Pope's letter for the year of the family, and proceed to defend every form of 'family' except that of husband, wife and children?
Why do older religious insinuate perversions of Scripture got up by homosexual lobby groups and 'priests for equality,' and their own ever changing likes and dislikes ('adaptations') into the liturgy? How did they develop these trains of thinking over the years?
I believe there is a spiritual pathology at work here.
The Gospel presents our life here as an ongoing switch-point between deception and truth: "Watch and pray," says the Lord, "so that you may not enter into temptation." The responsibility we have for the spiritual character of our thinking and choosing is all our life is worth, for our thoughts inform our feelings, and with them engender our attitudes which in turn determine our choices, and by these our life in Christ is either advanced or retarded.
Immersed as we are in the modern free-market of thought, we have great need of careful spiritual discernment, that is, a strong critical awareness based on faith and formed by authentic Church teaching and a serious life of prayer.
When we make choices of faith, it illumines our intellect for further receptivity to the truth. But if we make choices that play casual with faith, it dulls the capacity of our intellect to perceive the truth next time we have to choose; if we go on like this we may find ourselves edging gradually down the primrose path of the smiling, all too plausible Father of Lies, meanwhile vaunting our growing 'freedom.' I believe this downward spiral is a grave spiritual sickness and grieve when I see what look like signs of it, especially among women.
I remember once when I was young going to the Sacrament of Penance about a certain doctrine I had taken on board not in accord with Catholic faith. It came from persuasive reading matter, which implanted certain intellectual ideas leading to feelings of disgust with the Church, and so on, and so forth. But I woke up to the fact that I had colluded culpably with the spurious 'logic' of what I had read, i.e., made implicit choices along the way that led me into this spiritual/ intellectual bog. Confessing it did me the world of good, clearing up matters wonderfully.
Faith clarifies the intellect and makes for sharper discernment. A choice against Faith subtly warps it. St Augustine is referring to this dynamic when he says, credo ut intelligam – "I believe in order that I may understand." To engage in the sacred science of theology presupposes a disposition of faith, humility and prayer, and a deep sense of insertion into the Church.
To choose to shrug this off and then to assert your own independent ('creative') 'theology' is to compromise your capacity for the truth now, and perhaps, your eternity further on. Consider the Pope's letter about reserving priestly ordination to men alone. You ask yourself, how will I, a woman, respond in faith? This man, the Pope of Rome, speaks from the chair of Peter the Apostle, he is doing so in a very serious way, and he is teaching definitively. He speaks for the faith of the Church diachronically, i.e., the Church through the ages.
The word-games of some 'theologians' about what precise shade of infallibility this may or may not have, are unworthy of our intellect. They are pathetic. The question is: do I choose to be in this communion of faith or not? I want in, because I want Christ above everything else, and on his terms, not my own. So I choose yes. Yes, Lord I believe, I, a woman, assent to this teaching and I accept it whole-heartedly.
Now this affords a sense of freedom! Let me say that I, a woman, was delighted with Pope John Paul's letter and most grateful for it. I am very pleased to publicly declare myself among those brethren whom the Pope has indeed confirmed in the faith through his Petrine ministry (Lk 22:32).
Having accepted the known parameters of Church teaching, you are then in a position to reflect more deeply on the meaning of man and woman in the redemptive work of Christ. For the last work on this subject, the theological anthropology of man and woman, is far from having been said. Our Pope himself encourages further enquiry, but on the basis of faith, sound doctrine and unquenchable love of Christ and his Church.
This is an edited selection from a submission given at the Tamworth hearing of 'Participation of Women in the Catholic Church in Australia'. Anna Silvas is a doctoral student in the Department of Classics at the University of New England, Armidale.