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The underlying logic is one of power: women should have equal access and equal privileges. Against the "equality model", a "Catholic feminism" relies on very different principles. First, the ideal driving force for human work is service to others. This is supremely important because it means that the powerful positions in the world are not always those that are seen as such, a startling idea for most people. Second, women are not equal to men apart from the equality of their personhood. They are, as mentioned above, different from men in more ways than simple biology.

Mother and father are not replaceable or interchangeable; they are complementary. This means that the mother's work with children is of a very special importance, especially when they are small. The father's complementary position regarding children is also deeply important, but the mother is the key person for the very small child. In whatever way the spouses divide between them housework and taking care of their children, it remains true that this work is of the utmost importance not only to the children, but to society as well.

The service to others that parents show their children, and which the children in turn learn, is the reason the family comes first in the order of importance.

Power For: Feminism and Christ's Self-Giving

It is why the family is vitally important for the other spheres of life. It is within the family that one is loved unconditionally, perhaps only there. It is therefore within the family that love is taught. The service of politics, for example the word minister means servant , can only be "replicated" when one has learned to love in a self-giving way. Otherwise political service becomes the search for political power, as is so often the case.

The sharp difference between service and power illustrates the point of radical difference between a Catholic feminism and current feminist thought. The family is of key importance.

It is not an aggregation of individual preferences, but an organic unity, the fundamental and natural unit of society, as all the major human-rights documents affirm. Spouses have no right to have children, either individually or as a couple, but if they have children, these children in turn have the right to know and to be raised by their biological parents, as the Convention on the Rights of the Child states. Moreover, mother and child are entitled to special protection by the State, again according to the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The State is also obliged to support and privilege the family. The classic human-rights texts sum up much of what a Catholic feminism implies: the family is recognized for its pre-eminent worth to the State and society, and motherhood is emphasized in the same manner. The family is protected from State interference while being the object of special support from the State. Most importantly, the family is designated as the fundamental unit of society. Contemporary feminist policies are at best tolerant of the existence of the family, at worst they are at war with it.

But no feminist model exists — apart from the Catholic one — in which the family is the fundamental unit of society, coming first in the order of importance, before society and politics. As I have pointed out, the "balancing" of work life and family life at best puts these two spheres of life on the same level, thereby overlooking the pre-eminent importance of the family. But if it all depends on the family — good citizens, good employers, the very moral fibre of society and politics — this surely cannot be right. The appreciation of the key role of motherhood is only possible if the family is recognized as, literally speaking, the "fundamental unit" of society, as its building block.

But this is very far from the case in Western politics today.


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When the Norwegian Christian-Democrats suggested quantifying the cost of a 50 percent divorce rate in terms of the illnesses and other costs resulting from broken homes, they were immediately accused of discriminating against and scapegoating divorced people: were they any less important to the well-being of society than those who stay married? Could anyone say that their children were less happy and harmonious? Thus, the current neutrality of most Western States regarding the traditional family — their reticence to affirm that family is indeed what the United Nations declaration tells us it is — means that the family as a concept disappears more and more as a politically and legally relevant category.

A Catholic feminism, however, has as its core principle that the family is first in the order of personal and societal importance. Therefore, the work of having children and raising them is unequalled. Mothers come first in doing this work when the children are very small. Fathers have another but equally important role. Fortunately, in modern family and work life the role of fathers at home with children is taken more and more and more into account. Fathers today want be with their children to a far greater extent than what was traditionally the case.

Work hours need to be compatible with family life.

Christianity and New Feminist Religions

One cannot work late every evening and be a parent. Another assumption of a Catholic feminism relates to the power versus service concepts. This implies that work done well is not only done well in a professional sense, but also in an intentional sense. The "success" of work relates to its substance in the Christian ethical sense.

To serve others is nobler and more Christian than to serve one's own interests. In this respect, a Catholic feminism differs completely from current feminist thought. It is also clear that work-as-service makes work in the family something extremely valuable and important.

About Power For: Feminism and Christ's Self-Giving

Seen thus, work is more than just the tasks undertaken, it is also cooperation and association with others. With education, women are in all professions, and should be there. In this short article, I have only been able to touch on some points which give an outline of a different kind of "feminism", one based on Catholic anthropology.

It has often struck me that most current commentary and critique regarding the role of women in the Catholic Church commits the very same fallacy as the feminist critique of the family. When the analysis is based on power-assumptions, it is bound to go wrong.


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  8. The difficulty and the challenge for a Catholic is precisely in accepting and living out the demand for self-giving love, and to understand that this is the kind of power Our Lord spoke of and taught. This demand is naturally the same for both sexes, and sexual difference has no bearing on the need to understand this and live accordingly.

    Yet, as the Letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith makes clear, women are at a particular advantage in doing this, being privileged to give life through birth and to care for the completely helpless child. L'Osservatore Romano is the newspaper of the Holy See. Baltimore, MD Subscriptions: Fax: lormail catholicreview. Religious Catalogue. See of Peter. Daily Readings.

    Power For: Feminism and Christ's Self-Giving

    Prayer Requests. Current Issues. In many African countries, women suffer painful ritual genital mutilation. In various Muslim countries, women are denied education in order that they may be more easily exploited economically. Worldwide, women grow most of the food supply but have little say in how the food is distributed — and are themselves the last to be fed. This discrimination against women is an unconscious product of cultural conditioning and is often perpetrated by persons unaware of the nature of their sexist acts. But it is too simple to say that misogyny or anti-feminism or sexism is dislike or hatred of women.

    Rather, anti-feminism is any teaching or practice that denies political, economic, and social equality to women. All human beings of whatever race, class, age, or gender have a God-given right to life and thus to the basic necessities that preserve and enhance life. Discrimination against women can never be justified. The Bible also teaches that we have spiritual rights.

    Although many Christians prefer to ignore or avoid this global problem, sexism is a human-rights issue in both the earthly and spiritual realms. People of good will can no longer sweep this or any form of discrimination under the rug of cultural mores or legalistic traditions. As long as sexism remains, feminism must continue to fight misogynist acts. Thus, for the person seeking to promote justice for all human beings, the question is not whether to support feminism but rather what kind of feminism to support.

    Secular feminism can take many different forms and be guided by many different philosophies as its supporters seek to develop a society in which women are free to achieve their full potential. Secular feminism centers around competing for equal rights; biblical feminism centers around creating equal opportunities to serve.

    Biblical feminists, however, want to explore their convictions about equality of women based on biblical teachings, to implement their findings according to biblical guidelines, and to use biblical methods of conflict resolution. Therefore it will be within scriptural parameters that biblical feminists promote a climate in which women are free to act as equal human beings — and where Christian women can enter into their full inheritance as equal children of God.

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    Biblical feminists see feminism not only as a social-justice issue but also as an issue of religious freedom. To the goals of political, economic, and societal equality of the sexes, biblical feminists add religious equality. Biblical feminists advocate partnership, not competition; mutual submission, not dominion by one sex over the other; the priesthood of all believers, not a male hierarchy.

    For biblical feminists, only Christ is norm.

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    We believe that being rooted and grounded in Christ Col. However, in order for it to be some, some conceptual work needs to be done - amongst others to see that it is a "power for" rather than "power over" and "power with". That is Christ's kenosis is a power for, for example, resistance. It is not that self-giving, in other words, is the acceptance of oppression.

    It is a power in which agency is established through non A veyr interesting read, Mercedes attempts to show how kenosis is a relevant and even essential concept also for Christian feminists. It is a power in which agency is established through non-violence. I agree with some other reviewer here on goodreads that the chapter on sadism and masochism is a little odd.