THE ENEMY WITHIN:
Radical Feminism in the Christian Churches
Ed. Christine M. Kelly
(Family Publications, 1992, 135 pages, $7.50. Available from Freedom Publishing)
Reviewed by Catherine Sheehan
In her foreword to this excellent collection of essays, Professor Alice Von Hildebrand gives a perfect definition of feminism as it exists in modern-day society. She writes that 'feminism wages war on femininity, and unwittingly labours toward a total victory of men over women.' Here she is reiterating the often- quoted sentiment expressed by G.K. Chesterton that a feminist is 'one who dislikes the chief feminine characteristics' (What is Wrong with the World, p.197).
The nine essays in this collection document and critique the effects of radical feminism in the Christian churches. Some of the stories related are horrifying as they describe feminist liturgies, paganism, witches' covens, pro-abortion rhetoric and lesbianism, all occurring within 'Christian' communities.
Feminist ideology within the church demands a new 'women- centred' theology, which in effect means that the religion ceases to be Christian, and inevitably leads to the call for women priests. Feminism within the church and secular feminism have now become indistinguishable, and therefore equality with men is sought in the Church through imitation of men.
This proclaims the inferiority of the feminine and the superiority of the masculine, demonstrating the absurdity of feminism as a movement for women's rights and dignity.
In their essay titled 'The Bishops' Dilemma: Radical Feminism within the Catholic Church of England and Wales,' Christine Kelly and Valerie Riches outline the emergence and infiltration of feminism into the Church in the UK in the 1980s. They point out that most of the damage was done by a very small group of women running several organisations from the same address, giving the impression that they were a large body of Christian women.
'What seemed to be', they write, 'a string of spontaneously formed organisations nationwide, was, however, in reality, a network being run from a semi-detached house in Dulwich .... Anyone unaware of this tangled network could be forgiven for believing that a sizeable groundswell of radical feminist opinion existed throughout the Church. In fact such views were represented by a few highly active and so-called 'loyal-dissenters'.'
This network of organisations included St Joan's International Alliance and the Catholic Women's Network. Throughout this collection of essays the same names occur up time and again when referring to the main instigators within the feminist movement. The most prominent one is feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Reuther, who openly admitted she had more devotion to pagan female deities such as Isis, Athena and Artemis than to the Virgin Mary.
A 'woman-centred' theology as promoted by feminists leads to worship of creation rather than the creator. Worship of creation is essentially pagan and consequently many feminist liturgies involve New Age practices and even witchcraft.
'In Women's Rites: Feminist Liturgies and the Catholic Tradition,' Josephine Robinson describes some of these feminist liturgies in which 'human beings, not God, hold centre stage.' In Woman-Church a handbook of Rites for women's liturgies written by Rosemary Radford Reuther, there are liturgies such as 'Reclaiming Menstruation,' 'Liturgy of Healing for a Battered Wife,' 'Rite of Mind-Cleansing from the pollution of Sexism,' 'Coming Out Rite for a Lesbian' and 'Ritual of Moving from an Old House to New House.'
It is hard not to feel some pity and concern for these women who spend their time devising and practising these meaningless and often bizarre rituals. It should be noted that some of their 'liturgies' are invented in response to very real crimes against women such as domestic violence, as with the 'Liturgy of Healing for a Battered Wife.' This calls to mind the words of the late Pope John Paul II in Crossing the Threshold of Hope that feminism in liberal societies can be considered 'a reaction to the lack of respect accorded to each woman' (p.216).
In 'Isis and the Crisis of Morality', Cornelia Ferreira establishes an interesting connection between feminism and communism - which saw the corruption of women as one way to destroy the Catholic Church. It pursued this goal by removing women from the sphere of family and home life and integrating them into the paid workforce on equal terms with men. This end-result is one of the 'rights' that feminists have continued to agitate for women.
The Enemy Within provides an informative and fascinating overview of feminism within the Christian churches. The various authors come from a range of backgrounds, occupations, and Christian denominations and each provides unique insights into feminism within Christianity.
While much of the content is cause for great concern about the state of the Christian churches, the compilation finishes on a hopeful note. In the final essay titled 'Thanks for the Feminine,' John Saward indicates what might be the antidote to feminism both in the Christian churches and in secular society: gratitude for the feminine.
He writes 'Such wholehearted gratitude is urgently needed. The world's salvation depends upon it. For we live at a time when the grace of being a woman has never been more ungratefully spurned, not just by the unthinking sons of Adam, but also by the foolish daughters of Eve.' He goes on to assert that for Christians this gratitude should be exemplified by devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
It was only because of a woman and her 'yes' to God that the Incarnation took place and the human race was offered salvation. Because of her role in redemption she is the highest of all creatures, higher than all the saints and angels. Furthermore, Saward writes, because of Mary 'all womanhood is raised up to a nobility beyond compare.' For the Christian faithful at least, recognition of this fact should lead to greater respect for the dignity of all women.
Catherine Sheehan is a research officer with the Thomas More Centre.