In Saturday’s Washington Post, religion columnist Lisa Miller brought her usual radical feminism to the table insisting Mary be “heard” as the Vatican insisted that American nuns and sisters actually act like they belong to the Catholic Church.
But this line stood out: “For more than a thousand years, women like Mary have entered religious life hoping to find a safe place where they might receive an education and protection from the oppression of marriage and the dangers of child-bearing.” The oppression of marriage?
Miller seems to be arguing that being a nun used to be the way an independent woman of learning escaped the clutches of overbearing husbands, only to now be dominated by overbearing bishops. It’s as if Miller paid no attention to the obedience and devotion of nuns and sisters to church teaching before “Women’s Lib” kicked in the late Sixties. Miller claimed Mary as a feminist icon:
When I see that a department of the Vatican, in Rome, has rebuked a group of American nuns for “radical feminism” and for speaking out of turn and has called in a man — a superior — to set things right, I think about Mary. When I see American bishops wanting to make rules about sexuality and contraception for ordinary people, I think about Mary.
A woman is at the very center of the Christian story, yet that story has been told and controlled for millennia by men.
This is a bizarre analogy, because, as even Miller admits, Mary was submissive to the Lord’s wishes. Jesus was not contracepted. Mary did not demand to be named one of the first bishops or seek any feminist victory. She proclaimed she was a “handmaid of the Lord.”
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It can certainly be argued that Catholic tradition has raised Mary to a highly esteemed status, where as the Bible proclaims, all will call her blessed. That does not make her Gloria Steinem:
Nearly 40 years ago, in “Alone of All Her Sex,” Marina Warner presciently argued that Mary undergirds all of the church’s contemporary dissonances on gender and sex: The view “that natural law ordains that women must bear and suffer underpins the church’s continuing indefensible ban on contraception; a dualistic distaste for the material world reinforces the ideal of virginity; and an undiminished certainty that women are subordinate to men continues to make the priesthood of women unacceptable.”
Miller performed this routine before on the cover of Newsweek.