Wednesday, 9 June 2010

More books!

My dear wife’s impulse purchase this week was of the book “English Catholic Heroines” edited by Joanna Bogle. (Mine was of the new “Antiphonale Romanum” from Solesmes, but more about that later.)

I was interested in this excerpt, written by Joanna Bogle, from the Introduction

Another issue raised by the topic of Catholic heroines is the whole matter of the role of women within the church. None of the heroines whose stories are told here - covering a great range of time from the Anglo-Saxon era to the present day - showed any signs of believing that women should be ordained as priests, nor did they assume that the Church denigrated the female sex or marginalized women and girls. On the contrary, they assumed - correctly - that Mother Church loves her daughters, takes pride in their achievements, and holds them up often as an example to men. There are more churches dedicated to women than to men, female saints have always been at the forefront of popular enthusiasm and devotion - from the early martyrs Agnes, Cecilia and Lucy through to Elizabeth of Hungary and Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena and beyond - and the roles of women in public life and in writing, teaching, and in the area of mystical and religious experience has always been central to the Catholic faith. I must take issue with the author of the section on Mary Ward when she writes that “Marginalization of women's experience within the church, based on the conviction that their access to God was of an entirely different order from that of men, led to a high degree of invisibility and inaudibility in spiritual and ecclesial matters. Women seeking to find a voice and a place in the public forum of the Church were not welcome...” This denies the centuries of female work and achievement, and the church’s honouring of this and upholding of it as exemplary. Mary Ward was not treated well, but many men have similarly endured injustices through church bureaucracy - think of John Henry Newman - and it is surely wrong to suggest that women were, or are, singled out for such treatment on the grounds of sex.

Living as we do in York, we are very aware of how some would assimilate anachronously some very modern concerns to the cause for Mary Ward’s canonization. A similar process appears to be happening with the cause for John Henry Newman. The strange thing is, especially with the latter, that such assimilations are clearly silly. It would seem that we have here examples of the anti-rational forces that are at work in the Church (and, of course, in the wider world); these are plays of pure power.

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