In the 1970s, Steichen began working as a Catholic journalist, writing for her diocesan newspaper. She was also active in the pro-life movement, the Catholic League and religious education.Long an avid reader of Catholic publications, in the 1980s Steichen became increasingly concerned about the effect of feminism on American Catholicism.1
This book is a report on the subterranean phenomena of religious feminism as observed over more than a dozen years. My journalistic investigation began, roughly, in 1977, when Rosemary Ruether, in a keynote address to Minnesota’s International Women’s Year (IWY) meeting, identified feminist theology as a species of [Marxist] liberation theology.3
Feminism: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.4
The third wave [viz., in the 1990s] was much more inclusive of women and girls of color than the first or second waves had been. ... the third wave redefined women and girls as assertive, powerful ...5
Question: What is feminism and how does it operate in our society?
Donna Steichen: That’s a good place to start, because if you notice, feminism is rarely defined. In particular, the feminists don’t define it. It is to their advantage not to define it, because most people interpret it as meaning that you’re for women, or that you believe women have a right to be educated or are just as smart as men.But that’s not what it is about at all. Feminism is about overthrowing the structure of the family and society. It rose out of the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels [authors of The Communist Manifesto]. They saw that the family was at odds with their vision of society. Owning the factories is not enough; you can’t change society unless you get rid of the family. When you attack the family, you attack society itself, including its institutions, authority, and traditions, as well as the Ten Commandments and God.
When feminism is defined as a movement to establish the equality of women, it sounds plausible. But its fruits betray its real nature. Even at its least destructive, it is a tactical falsehood, like the Emperor’s new clothes. It attempts to establish equality between the sexes, which already exists in fact, by forcing everyone to pretend the sexes are identical.
In the family, it would substitute performance contracts and pre-nuptial divorce agreements for the loving donation of all one’s self and goods to a permanent common life.
In commerce, it is a divisive form of reverse discrimination.
In academia, as academics know, it is a cut-throat politics, unconcerned with fact or scholarly objectivity.
In its ultimate manifestation, in religious feminism, it is an anarchic madness.9
Religious feminism is the logical extension of secular feminism into the realm of the sacred. From the beginning its leaders have worked closely with secular and anti-Christian feminists.10
When asked what the feminist movement could hope to accomplish in the future, Betty Friedan told reporters, “I can’t tell you that now. You wouldn’t believe it anyway. It’s theological.”14
At most workshops, there seemed to be a deliberate attempt to draw participants into ritual activities. No one asked me to leave when I declined, but I began to suspect a concerted effort to enlist everyone present in the conspiracy against the “patriarchal” Church through group dynamics. All the rituals I witnessed, and most of the “language and imagery” discussed, were drawn from Starhawk’s15 books. Clearly, she had become a matriarch of feminist spirituality.16 ...By Sunday morning, the Mankato conference crowd had declined to about three hundred. While two other feminist services were held down a hallway, some 150 women gathered for the Wiccan rite described in the program as combining “both ancient matriarchal concepts and contemporary feminist issues”. The large room was unfurnished except for a table altar, decorated with corn and gourds, four unlighted candles, a conch shell and a small brass cauldron. Priestesses Patti Lather and Antiga said the service would be conducted in the “Dianic Wiccan tradition”. The women formed a loose circle and followed Antiga and Lather in a vigorous opening chant:We are strong and loving women;We will do what must be done,Changing, feeling, loving, growing,We will do what must be done.It was repeated, in accelerating tempo, half a dozen times. Next came a song in a quick folk-blues rhythm. The women sang eagerly, clapping in time, some singing the harmony:Woman am I, Spirit am I,I am the infinite within my soul;I have no beginning and I have no end,All this I am.17 ...Antiga called the large circle together again with a blast from her conch shell. The women stood with hands linked, eyes closed, while she led them in the hypnotic “centering meditation”, a “Tree of Life ritual largely taken from Starhawk’s Dreaming the Dark” and almost identical to the one used earlier in Joan Keller-Marcsh’s workshop.There were sighs and groans. ... Around the room, bodies obediently swung forward, heads hanging down, like a circle of rag dolls.She paused. “Open your eyes, and we’ll begin casting the circle of the east.”The circle of the east lay on the floor like spokes of a wheel, toes together. Crooning, the women rose slowly, waving their arms, then joined hands and moved in and out from the center, like children dancing around a maypole. They made windy, whistling sounds.“Welcome, spirit of the east”, said Antiga, lighting the first candle. “Blessed be.” “Blessed be”, the congregation responded.The circle of the south knelt with foreheads touching the floor, then rose and raised their arms. “Blessed fire”, they intoned. “Fire is transformation, is passion, is beauty, is eternity .... Come join our fire.”“Welcome, spirit of the south. Blessed be.” Antiga lit the second candle.“Blessed be”, the group replied.The circle of the west stood, alternately lifting their arms, then folding them in. “Hear me, Aphrodite. . . sunset. . . intuition. . . life giving. . . deep waters, dark waters”, they crooned, swaying.“Welcome, spirit of the west. Blessed be.” The third candle was lighted.“Blessed be.”The circle of the north knelt, foreheads pressed to the floor. As they began to sway from side to side, they lifted their heads and droned, “Oooom, oooora,” Rising, arms linked, they called out, “North star. Cold. Cold moon dying. Ice. Northern lights. Blackness. Nothingness.” They howled wordlessly. Then they knelt, pressed their heads to the floor again, raised them and, swaying, chanted over and over ....“Welcome, spirit of the north. Blessed be”, said Antiga.“Blessed be.” The last candle was lighted, the large circle reformed. ...Antiga moved the smoking cauldron to the center of the circle. Everyone was invited to “cast into the cauldron all that you want to let go of”. Voices called out, “Patriarchy!” “Anger!” “Fear!” “Oppression!” “Lack of time!” “Military mindset!” ...We are three witches from different places”, one of the trio said “I resent being classified with satanism!. . . Satanism has nothing whatever to do with women’s religion! Satanism is a perversion of the white male Catholic religion ...”“Freedom! Freedom!” Kneeling in a circle, the congregation shouted. They pounded on the floor. The shouts became screams, and then a rising roar.18
Feminism appears to be the bait, moral disintegration the hook and the occult the dark and treacherous sea into which the deluded are towed.22
The primary target of secular feminism was the traditional family. ... [Before the 1960s feminist revolution,] one can concede that some men demeaned women’s characteristic role. Every era has its own imperfections. But it was a far better society for women and children than the present chaotic one, and few women would not gladly trade their present state to restore it if they could. The feminists did not call on society to value women’s distinctive contributions properly but instead attempted the impossible task of opposing human nature, denying the differences everywhere revealed in experience. Feminists won the battle, and women lost. ...[One of the many evils of feminism is that it caused] an indignant masculine backlash against irrational feminist accusations, and litigation is emerging to erode further men’s protective instincts toward women.[In summary, Mrs. Steichen explains that] Catholic feminism incorporates all the errors of secular feminism and others more profound. Its major target is the religious belief that underlies the traditional family and society.23
Under the feminist assault, patriarchy has come to be regarded as odious, even by patriarchs [such as the Catholic Church’s hierarchy]. Feminists denounce it as atavistic,24 inherently inequitable, irredeemably oppressive. But they misunderstand the nature of women’s rights. Recovering those rights will require that patriarchy be reclaimed. Selfishness, like pride, is gender neutral. So patriarchy has sometimes been abused by sinners to justify their selfishness. But the present agonies of the family, of secular society and of the Church all result from failure to meet patriarchal responsibilities, understood and lived as St. Paul outlined them. ...The term patriarchy refers to the male-headed family form and social system expressed in Scripture and existing everywhere in human society. In the Church, it is a title referring to bishops who rank just below the Pope in jurisdiction, though Catholic feminists use the word to mean the male priesthood and the entire male hierarchy. In all cases, it is properly an office, not a declaration of qualitative superiority. ...Feminist mythology to the contrary, the Church did not inflict inequality on women. Catholicism in fact elevated women to a status they had never enjoyed in pre-Christian societies by venerating the Blessed Virgin Mary as the perfect model of human response to God, by consecrating marriage as a sacrament, by recognizing the family as the basic unit of society and by constantly teaching that [certain intimate] acts are the unique privilege of the married state.25
The Church teaches that creation exists to raise up souls to God. Woman’s natural vocation is irreplaceably at the heart of that purpose, where human nature is most plainly seen to be neither simply animal nor purely spiritual but a mysterious combination of both. ... In the “domestic Church” of the family, where the future Church is born, they are the ones most immediately responsible for the physical and spiritual formation of the new generation through the transmission of faith and culture. Their wisdom and generosity are essential in shaping the family as a holy and enduring center where each member is cherished not for what he does but because his immortal soul is of incalculable value. It is in the family that all mankind’s labor is transmuted by love into the human and the personal.Parenthood is a work of eternal significance in which both parents share, but by nature woman is the one most deeply engrossed. Her vocation is so much a part of herself that she becomes submerged in it; she is compelled by its demands always to be centered outside herself. Certainly, motherhood is a demanding work, and it sometimes brings anguish as well as joy. When a woman’s husband and children rise up and call her blessed, [Prov.31:28] she doubtless deserves their praise. Some who deserve it never receive it; there are heroines of holiness struggling at the brutally difficult task of raising and supporting their children alone. But even in the most painful circumstances, a mother usually finds that her baby awakens in her a previously unknown passion of protective love. To have a life work so absorbing that it makes us forget ourselves is a great human privilege.Fathers are called by that name because they reflect God’s capacity to generate life outside Himself, a high honor and an awesome responsibility. A father’s role is of great importance; many women have lately discovered from painful experience how vital it is to family stability and the healthy psychological and moral development of children. But normally he must be engaged elsewhere much of the time, dealing with the world, providing for his family’s material needs. Only a fortunate minority of men find a work significant in itself. For most, the knowledge that they are supporting their families is all that gives their labor meaning.Patriarchy, properly interpreted, means men meeting their vocational obligations. When a husband fulfills his responsibilities as St. Paul prescribes, his role is not one of domination but of service. As husband and father, he is to negotiate with the outside world, provide for and protect his family, guide and direct it in consultation with his wife. In normal human relationships, such consultation is broad ....26
Cunning, the serpent draws Eve into dialogue. She knows the limits God has set, but she listens as the deceiving voice lures her with a promise of autonomy—the promise that she can be her own God. When she yields, her disobedience separates her from God and from Adam. Contemporary Catholic feminists are part of a vivid, and ruinous, reenactment of that ancient tragedy. Their history strikingly recalls Eve’s susceptibility to false promises, her rebellion against legitimate authority and her presumptuous ambition to make herself “as God”. Women, it seems, are more prone than men to such fraudulent spiritual enthusiasms.27
Men, in contrast, seem especially tempted to irresponsibility. Adam chooses to evade the very duties of leadership that Eve covets. He is not deceived by the serpent, but he eats the forbidden fruit anyway. [1 Tim 2:13-14] Perhaps he cannot bear to be separated from his bride by her sin. Perhaps he is intimidated by the prospect of confronting her. In either case, the head of the first family disobeys his Creator and betrays his patriarchal obligations with his eyes open.We can see parallels to Adam’s sin in men who abdicate their legitimate authority and obligations in the family. Some use the slogans of feminism to seduce women into [impure] relationships outside of marriage, then coerce them to [kill innocent life]. Some deny their wives motherhood or deprive them of the right to live their maternal vocation with full attention, by driving them into the labor force. Some welcome any excuse to remain immature and carefree boys by shunting their responsibilities onto their wives.28
Thus, ought husbands also to love their wives as their own bodies. Who loveth his wife, loveth himself, for no one ever hated one’s own flesh (Eph. 5:28-29).
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it.” Ephesians 5:25. This means that, as Christ gave His Life for His Church, a husband should give/devote his life to his wife.
“Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” St. John’s Gospel, 15:31. Husbands should remember that their wives should be their best friends.A man who loves much does not “count the cost” and he sacrifices gladly everything for his friend (especially his wife and children). “If a man should give all the substance of his house for love, he shall despise it as nothing.” Canticle of Canticles, 8:7.
As ye would that others should treat you, so do ye likewise to them. ... So be compassionate as your Father also hath compassion. Judge ye not, and ye shall not be judged. Condemn ye not, and ye shall not be condemned. Forgive ye, and ye shall be forgiven. Give ye, and it shall be given unto you. They shall give into your bosom good measure, pressed down and shaken together and overflowing. For it shall be meted unto you again with the same measure wherewith ye have meted.