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Life Arts    H4'ed 9/7/14

Cardinal Mueller and Pope Francis Are Hopeless Misogynists

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) September 7, 2014: In the Roman Catholic Church, Vatican official have denounced what they refer to as radical feminism. But two official church dogmas proclaimed respectively in 1854 and 1950 involving Mary, the mother of the historical Jesus, strike me as expressing the spirit of radical feminism, albeit on a symbolic level: The Immaculate Conception (1854) and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven (1950). So why aren't Vatican officials today keeping up with the spirit of radical feminism of these two official church dogmas about Mary?

Pope Pius IX interpreted the Christ myth in Ineffabilis Deus (1854) to declare the Immaculate Conception to be official church dogma. For two studies of the feminine spirit in the mundane world in American culture in the 19th and early 20th centuries, see Ann Douglas' book The Feminization of American Culture (1977) and Wolfgang Mieder's book "All Men and Women Are Created Equal": Elizabeth Cady Stanton's and Susan B. Anthony's Proverbial Rhetoric Promoting Women's Rights (2014).

Subsequently Pope Pius XII interpreted the Christ myth in Munificentissmus Deus (1950) to declare the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven to be official church dogma. Even though C. G. Jung, M.D. (1875-1961), himself a Swiss Reform Protestant with a pronounced anti-Catholic bent, he thought that the official declaration of this dogma about Mary was one of the most extraordinary events in his lifetime. But certain other Protestants at the time reacted negatively to Pope Pius XII's new dogma -- at times, vociferously.

In response to Protestant anti-Catholic objections to the new dogma, Walter J. Ong, S.J. (1912-2003), published his article "The Lady and the Issue" in The Month (December 1951, pages 358-370). Ong countered Protestant anti-Catholic views by engaging in a spirited anti-Protestant critique. His article was reprinted in full or part in at least four other periodicals, including translations into German and French. Then Ong himself reprinted it in full in his book In the Human Grain: Further Explorations in Contemporary Culture (1967, pages 188-202). But his combative anti-Protestant critique did not fit in well in 1967 with the more irenic spirit that the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) had inaugurated in the Roman Catholic Church.

I interpret the 1854 and the 1950 proclamations regarding Mary as showing symbolically the rise of the feminine spirit in the consciousness of Western culture. As Jung understood, it's important to keep an eye on such symbolism.

I characterize these two official dogmas as radical feminism because they surpass the views of Mary held by non-Catholic Christians (so they are radical) and they focus on honoring an earthly woman (so they represent the spirit of feminism).

Even though I interpret these two official dogmas as showing symbolically the rise of the spirit of the feminine in Western consciousness, I am well aware that we should also attend to the mundane world of actual women and men.

The denunciation of supposedly radical feminism by Vatican officials shows that radical feminism is OK in interpreting the Christ myth, but not OK in the mundane world. It's OK with Vatican officials to honor the memory of one woman who has been deceased for about 2,000 years. But Vatican officials cling to the idea that Eve was created by God from Adam's rib, as Pope Francis jokingly pointed out to a woman journalist who interviewed him. The story of the creation of Eve from Adam's rib presumably shows that Adam came first -- in short, Eve was not his equal, just his companion and helper. As a result of this biblical story, talk about the possible equality of women with men is supposedly radical feminism.

As a result of their denunciation of supposed radical feminism, many people have characterized Vatican officials as male chauvinists -- in short, misogynists.

But recently Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, the head of the official thought police in the Vatican, declared in a public statement published in L'Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, that he and his Vatican buddies are not misogynists. In Italian, he then said, "Non vogliamo mangiare una donna al giorno" -- which can be rendered in English as "We don't eat a woman a day."

Americans are familiar with the saying that eating an apple a day keeps the doctor away. As everybody knows, Eve famously ate a forbidden apple and then tempted Adam also to eat an apple.

But what about eating a woman a day? Cardinal Mueller implies that misogynists do eat a woman a day, figuratively speaking of course, but he and his buddies in the Vatican don't. For the sake of discussion, let's play along with him and say that misogynists do eat a woman a day, figuratively speaking of course.

But should women be relieved that Cardinal Mueller and his buddies in the Vatican don't eat a woman a day, figuratively speaking?

Of course Cardinal Mueller and other Vatican officials usually do eat a man a day in the ritualized symbolic cannibalism of Holy Communion in the Mass. Perhaps the Roman Catholic Church should add a form of symbolic cannibalism of Mary to the Mass -- perhaps by adding milk and honey to be ingested at Mass in memory of Mary before ingesting the bread and wine in memory of the mythic Christ. But symbolic cannibalism aside, there is still the mundane world of actual women and men.

Next, I want to turn to Ong's work. Broadly speaking what Jung refers to as the unconscious can be aligned with Eros; ego-consciousness, with Logos. Ong has focused much of his work on Logos and the history of ego-consciousness. See, for example, Ong book The Presence of the Word: Some Prolegomena for Cultural and Religious History (1967), the expanded version of his 1964 Terry Lectures at YaleUniversity, and his book Interfaces of the Word: Studies in the Evolution of Consciousness and Culture (1977).

Drawing on a broad range of scholarship, Ong devotes a lot of attention to discussing primary oral cultures, and residual forms of primary oral cultures in ancient and medieval times. In primary oral cultures, what Jung refers to as ego-consciousness had not yet fully emerged. In addition, in primary oral cultures, what Jung refers to as Eros was alive and well -- for better or worse. Eros tends to give rise to cyclic patterns of thought -- what Ong refers to as cyclicism. However, with the emergence and development of ego-consciousness characterized by Logos, Eros tended to be consigned to the emerging and growing unconscious. Under the influence of the Judeo-Christian tradition of thought in Western culture, cyclic thought in time gave way to linear thought -- and eventually to evolutionary thought, thanks in no small part to Darwin.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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