Four months ago I purchased a book. It was the beginning of my search to deepen my understanding of feminism slightly separated from my Catholic identity. I will not reveal the name of the book at this time, partly because I am still trying to get through it and partly because I still am not sure how I feel about it. I am typically a fast reader and this book is a length that should have taken me only a few weeks to get through, but it is a difficult read for me. It isn’t in me to just stop reading a book. The only book I started and never finished was when I tried to make myself read The DaVinci Code. This particular book is supposed to have been a study of conservative feminists. I was initially excited to read it, but my excitement quickly faded as chapter after chapter the author seemed to have already concluded conservative values are completely contrary to feminism. I am still reading it, hoping to see it conclude differently than I am imagining, but I am not too proud to admit I have thrown it at the wall a few times. I can only bring myself to read a few pages at a time before I have to put it down, and then I spend the rest of the day mulling over it and mumbling to myself. What mostly concerns me about this book so far (there are many other concerns I will not mention at this time), is that it buys into mainstream feminism as being absolutely good, and views conservative religious beliefs as something that run in contrary to good: often that they are mutually exclusive schools of thought.
The number once influence in my life is my faith. Who I am as a mother, sister, wife, friend and woman centers on the fact that I am Catholic. My moral compass has been formed around my Catholic faith. I view the world with a Catholic lens always, and it is not an optional lens. An example of this is one of my favorite scenes from the TV series “30 Rock” (Yes, I know. 30 Rock.). Tracy and Jack are talking about guilt:
Tracy: Hey, did you hear the good news, J. D.? l'm lrish-Catholic now, like you, Regis, and the Pope.
Jack: Oh, no, you're not. The Church already has enough lawsuits.
Tracy: See, l can screw up now and then just go to confession. No longer do l have to throw my parties in international waters.
Jack: That's not how it works, Tracy. Even though there is the whole confession thing, that's no free pass. . . because there is a crushing guilt that comes with being a Catholic. Whether things are good or bad or you're simply eating tacos in the park, there is always the crushing guilt.
Tracy: l don't think l want that. l'm out.
Jack: Somehow, l feel oddly guilty about that.
While I use the term jokingly, Catholic guilt is a powerful thing. Once you know something, you cannot “un-know” it. For example I am a terrible liar. Terrible. I am not even good at those little white lies we tell each other every day like saying “Oh, that is a cute shirt!” when it really isn’t and you are just clamoring for something nice to say. I am also not so great at exaggerating. Sometimes to make a point with my husband, I will say something like “I told you at least ten times…” for emphasis but then I immediately start to feel the guilt and quickly revise my statement, adding “Ok, maybe only twice.” I know lying is wrong, and even if the lie doesn’t hurt anyone I am a big giant ball of guilt until I fess up. Catholicism is not something that can simply be set aside, hence the guilt. It is not just a title, and being Catholic does not just manifest itself in guilt.
Throughout the discussion I posted a few days ago on the Authentically Free At Last series was the concept of being in the world but not of the world. Christians are called to live in the world and to be a part of the world, but in the end we do not answer to it. Our obligations extend past a political point of view or a feminist point of view. Who we are is molded by our faith and trust in God first and foremost. If these views are contrary to natural law, they are contrary to our faith.
I cannot view feminism and Catholicism as conflicting view points when Catholicism encompasses feminism. Natural law and objective truth nullify some of the positions radical feminism promotes. When these positions are weeded out, there is nothing contrary left between feminism and Catholicism.
Now that this is off of my chest, maybe I can finish that book...
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