Friday, October 1, 2010

If men and women are equal, do the angels really want women to wear a veil at Mass?


October 2nd, The Feast of the Guardian Angels
Of all the scriptural passages which speak of the angels, perhaps the most confusing and difficult for our own age is the place in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in which he advises that women must wear a veil while in Church. He reasons that the man need not wear a veil, since his head is Christ; but the head of the woman is the man, therefore she must veil her head as a sign of submission. St. Paul concludes his argument with the rather surprising statement that it is “because of the angels” that the women must wear the mantilla.
In this discussion, I will care little for “political correctness”, since this could obscure the truth. Obviously, when speaking in various circumstances, I would adapt the language to fit the people; but, when discussing doctrine in a theological forum, it is necessary to write unambiguously. St. Paul has always been a great defender of the true vocation of the woman, while the feminism of our day is her great enemy!
I will first offer St. Thomas Aquinas’ commentary on the passage; then I will consider what this reference to the angels really entails…


1 Corinthians 11:1-16 (Douay-Rheims version)
[1] Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ. [2] Now I praise you, brethren, that in all things you are mindful of me: and keep my ordinances as I have delivered them to you. [3] But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man [RSV: her husband]; and the head of Christ is God. [5] But every woman praying or prophesying with her head not covered, disgraceth her head: for it is all one as if she were shaven.
[6] For if a woman be not covered, let her be shorn. But if it be a shame to a woman to be shorn or made bald, let her cover her head. [7] The man indeed ought not to cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man. [8] For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man. [9] For the man was not created for the woman, but the woman for the man. [10] Therefore ought the woman to have a power [RSV: veil] over her head, because of the angels.
[11] But yet neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord. [12] For as the woman is of the man, so also is the man by the woman: but all things of God.

Christ is the head of all human beings
Verse 3a: The head of every man is Christ. Christ is the head of all men, that is of all human beings. St. Thomas affirms that this comparison (between Christ and the head of the body) is made in four respects:
1) Perfection: While the other members of the body have but one sense (of touch), all the senses flourish in the head (the head hears and feels and sees and smells and tastes). So too, in human beings only some graces are found, but in Christ the fullness of all grace is present.
2) Sublimity: The head is superior to all the members of the body, and so too Christ is superior to all human beings and also to the angels.
3) Power: As the head imparts sensation and movement to all the other members of the body, so too Christ gives all spiritual movement and sense to the Church.
4) Conformity of nature: As the head is of one nature with the other members of the body, so too Christ is of one nature with all human beings (for he truly became a man).

The equality of man and woman – the headship of man over woman
Verse 3b: and the head of the woman is her husband. As Christ is the head over all human beings, the man is the head over his wife. This is in four respects:
1) Perfection: St. Thomas considers that the man is more perfect than the woman in both body and soul. Man’s body is stronger and more hearty; his soul is calmer and less affected by passions.
2) Sublimity: Man is naturally superior to woman, as is testified by St. Paul in Ephesians 5:22, “Wives be subject to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of his wife.”
3) Power: Man governs over his wife – Genesis 3:16, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
4) Conformity of nature: Man and woman are alike in nature. They are equally human beings.

The image of God and the glory of God
Verse 7b: The man is the image and the glory of God. Here St. Paul affirms that the human being was made in the image of God.
Christ alone is the perfect image of God, but the human race is an imperfect and partial image of God. Thus, humanity is not only made according to the image (that is according to the Word), but is also the image (though imperfectly so). And human beings are the image of God principally in their rational soul, according to which they have intellect and will. Humanity is the image of God precisely because we are persons, capable of thought and free choice. In this respect man and woman are both the image of God, for both man and woman are rational. And though St. Thomas thinks that “reason is less vigorous in woman,” this need not distract us; for he clearly affirms that men and women are equally the image of God according to rationality.
Now man is called the glory of God; and this refers not only to male human beings, but to the entire human race. For humanity is not the glory of God according to that glory by which God is glorious in himself – in this respect God is man’s glory. Rather, humanity is the glory of God, inasmuch as God’s splendor shines upon humanity. In this respect, both men and woman are the glory of God equally, since both men and women receive the graces and the mercies of God.
Now male human beings are rightly said to be especially the image of God, in a secondary sense – for, as the whole human race (including Eve) came from Adam, and as the race is propagated through the active generative power of the man; so, by analogy, the whole of humanity has come from God. Thus, although man and woman are both equally the image of God, when considered absolutely; man is especially the image of God, when considered in relation to his generative faculties.

Not the image of man, but the glory of man
Verse 7c: but the woman is the glory of the man. Both men and women are the image of God; but men are the glory God immediately, while women are the glory of men.
In the 13th century, some had mistakenly thought that man alone was the image of God and that woman was the image of man. St. Thomas corrected this error – woman is not the image of man, but rather she is his glory. She, as much as the man, is the image of God; likewise, she is the glory of God. However, considered in their mutual relation, the woman is the glory of her man – on account of the natural subjection of women to men.
Recall that man is the glory of God as the recipient of his glory – God’s splendor shines upon humanity. In a similar way, it seems, woman is the glory of man – she receives his beneficent care and protection. Woman is the glory of man because, by the law of nature, she is meant to be nourished by him, loved by him, and uplifted by him. It is contrary to nature that a man should look to a woman to make him a man, yet the woman comes into her full glory only when her man is truly a man for her.
And what of those women who are not married? Have they no head? The unmarried woman who still looks for a husband is indeed without a head; for she is still in pursuit of her husband. However, the unmarried woman who has renounced married life and has consecrated herself to Christ (especially if she has consecrated herself through public vows), she now has Christ as her head. Indeed, she is raised to a new dignity in Christ, for he becomes her spouse! As St. Thomas himself says in relation to nuns: “From the very fact that they take a vow of virginity or widowhood with Christ as their spouse, they are promoted to the dignity of men, being freed from subject to men and joined to Christ himself.”

The angels and the mantilla
Verse 10: Therefore ought a woman to have a veil over her head, for the sake of the angels. After offering arguments based on the natural relation between a man and a woman, St. Paul invokes the angels as a final reason why a woman ought to cover her head when in the Church.
This passage can be understood in two ways. If the angels are considered to be heavenly angels, then St. Paul recalls how the angels visit us during the Mass and are most pleased by the reverence and honor which accompanies our worship. In this respect, both men and women ought to behave honorable; unto this end, it had been required that women wear a veil or mantilla – and this practice seems to be coming back.
On the other hand, the angels could be the priests of the Church. Out of reverence for the priest, the women ought to wear a veil; showing that the priest is their head and guide. Or another reason follows: Out of care for the priests’ safety, women wear a veil to hide their beauty lest the priest be distracted or excited by concupiscence.

Though not identical, man and woman are equal
Man and woman must be equal and of one shared nature, else man could never be the head of woman. The head must be of the same nature as the body, else it will be a monstrous abomination. Moreover, as the head depends upon the body (though the body more fundamentally depends upon the head; so too, the head depends upon his wife (though she more fundamentally depends upon him). There can be no living head without the body, nor body without the head; likewise a man without his wife is nothing, nor is the wife without her husband anything.
Considered individually and absolutely, both men and women are the image of God in equal proportions. However, when considered together in the mutual relation of husband and wife; it is the man who is the image of Christ, while the wife is the image of the Church. Both man and woman are the glory of God; but in their mutual relation, the wife is the glory of her husband.
An unmarried man who seeks a wife, is like a head without a body – incomplete. An unmarried woman who seeks a husband, is like a body without a head – incomplete. The head of the husband is Christ, while the head of the wife is her husband; though, considered individually and absolutely, both man and woman are made in the image of God and have Christ as their head.
The wife must be subject to her husband, and the husband must love his wife; and the two must be mutually subject one to the other. How great a gift is the Sacrament of Matrimony, by which Christ reveals to us how we must relate to his Sacred Heart!

26 comments:

Reginaldus said...

As I wrote this article, I found that it was impossible to discuss all the aspects of this difficult topic in a single blog post...
However, I cannot do anything more than this for the time being, since this blog is particularly focused on the theoretical side of dogmatic issues and not on their pastoral side (which is also very important, but not well suited to the internet).

I ask that all comments be given in a spirit of respect, especially for any readers who might be having a hard time reconciling with this scriptural teaching.

Peace to you all!

Richard Collins said...

Today women wear the veil as a sign of humility, something that is not available to men.
This is based upon the glory of a woman's hair and that, by covering it, the woman acknowledges the greater glory of Almighty God.
It is not submissive as such, just an act of humble piety.

therese rita said...

You know, I veil during Mass but this post completely misses the reason I do so. I do so out of reverence for what is happening there. Period. The veil is my way of recognizing that mystery in a tangible way. As always, God has rewarded my little effort at witnessing with abundant blessings which have included a greater focus and awareness and ability to pray during Mass, less distractions etc.

No doubt all you said in this post re: what Paul, Aquinas etc have written on the matter is true but, to my mind, not particularly helpful. More to the point of the 21st century mind might be JPII's analyses of man/woman relations in TOB & elsewhere. I.e., that an equally sound theological case can be made for veiling in order to imitate what the God of all creation has done whenever He has something of extreme value to give us: He hides it. This is what He's done in His creation & fashioning of women, the Eucharist, the Church, Blessed Mother etc etc.

Recognition of this fact in no way negates your post but enriches it and takes it out of the 'either-or' territory of 'either you're the head or the body' into the 'both-and' territory of 'we are one Body, one Body in Christ'.

Anonymous said...

Hm. I think this was written in response to some questions I posted in relation to your archangels post about the seeming contradiction between asserting that men and women are equal, but also men are superior.

I think you and I must not mean the same things by "equal". I wrote a long comment with several questions, but I've deleted it, as I'm not sure it's worth continuing this back and forth.

Suffice it to say that this post makes no sense to me - simply asserting that men are superior to women in every way, (more perfect, more stable, more like God, the superior party in reproduction, seemingly more rational etc., etc.) but also men and women are equal.

Well - what do you mean by "equal"? Basically, it seems you mean "of the same species." The one additional clue I can get is in your discussion of nuns.

In that respect, I can only be equal to a man, apparently, if I become a nun. --The only way a woman can "attain to the dignity of a man" is by becoming a nun. Hmm. Ok, if you say so.

So a man, no matter what a lout he may be, is by his nature of equal dignity with a nun who has sacrificed everything to follow Christ. And a mother who has worked herself to the bone raising her kids will never rise to this lofty dignity of such a lout?

I certainly agree "equal" does not mean "identical", but I do think it means "on the same level - one not superior to the other" in any absolute sense.

In this sense, I think it is clear that the Church teaches, if you have correctly conveyed the teaching, that men and women are simply not equal in dignity or in the ability to govern themselves, but rather men are superior to women and more like God.

Fair enough, if that is the case, I will accept it. What I can't understand is the insistence on pretending that this state of affairs is in any meaningful sense "equal." It isn't. God may love us equally, but he did not create us equally - he failed to give me a head that he gave to my brother.

Reginaldus said...

@Anonymous (single woman, Oct 2, 10:32pm),
I am sorry that I have not been able to convey the truth in a convincing or intelligible manner. I really have tried the best I can. I do hope that someone else will be of greater help to you.

I am a priest, my bishop is my superior. In our relationship, he is more like Christ; for he is my head. I owe obedience and submission to him (more obedience and submission than a wife to her husband). In our relationship, my bishop is of greater dignity, he is more perfect, he is more like God, and I must conform my rationality to his.
Nevertheless, there is an equality between me and my bishop -- I am a priest, and he is a priest; I am a human being, and he is a human being. Considered individually, I am just as much the image of God as he is. But in our relationship, he is the image of God and I am the image of God's servant.

Again, I am sorry that this hasn't been helpful to you...I hope that the great beauty of St. Paul's teaching on the sacrament of matrimony and the relation between man and woman will some day be revealed more clearly by one more talented than myself.

Reginaldus said...

Theresa Rita,
Thank you for your personal witness and for the additional reasons you give for the veil.
I completely agree with the idea of covering what is valuable...St. Augustine hints at this in his commentary on the passage...

I do not think that the Thomistic commentary is opposed to JP II's Theology of the Body. John Paul was a Thomist at heart, and I am quite convinced that St. Thomas' understanding of the relation between man and woman is the foundation for JP II's own thought.
Blessings to you in Christ!

Anonymous said...

thanks again for trying Reginaldu. It may just be another imperfection of womanhood that I cannot understand your analogies.

Sure, you took on a vocation that is subordinate to someone with another vocation. Similarly to a general and a soldier, and any other kind of hierarchy based on particular roles we play.

In the same way, the soldier might become a general, or a priest might become a bishop, and then be in the superior role. A servant could even conceivably become a king.

But the differences between men and women you have pointed to are not something you can choose or not choose, a vocation you can adopt voluntarily or reject or an inferior role that you can be promoted out of - they are of the nature of the persons involved and there is nothing anyone can do to change that.

In that sense, it sounds like what the church teaches is that God decided to give men all the fullness of perfections of what it means to be a human being, and for some reason, rather than giving those same perfections to women he just decided to have men make up for the woman's imperfections by being in charge of her.

But you are probably right, I am not getting closer to the truth of things and probably instead of continuing this dialogue I should just pray that God will find a way to set me straight some day.

I'll ask my guardian angel to get me this grace for me, (and hope I haven't offended him by not wearing a veil!).

Thanks again. Honestly, I do find the topic interesting, and I appreciate your giving me food for thought and prayer.

Reginaldus said...

@Anonymous (single woman, Oct 2, 2:23am),
In your humble submission to the doctrine of Christ and of his Church, I pray that you will be able accept this fundamental fact: man and woman are equal in their essential dignity; though, in their mutual relation as husband and wife, the husband is Christ and his bride is the Church.
From what you say, I believe that you have accepted it, even if you have not yet fully understood it.

Regarding the analogies: Remember that I gave the analogy of a child and parent (which is not something chosen, but is dependent upon nature); it is true that I also gave the analogy of a king and servant, a priest and bishop (which are less set and pre-determined).

God has certainly not "given men all the fullness of perfections"...as a woman, I am sure you know of the many perfections which women have more fully than men. However, it is true that in their mutual relation the man is head.

Rather than continuing the discussion, I simply want to encourage you in your pursuit of the truth and also say that I am inspired by your dedication to the Gospel and to the doctrine of the Church. You are yourself a good example of a perfection more often found in women than in men: Faith!

I pray that God may continue to bless you and to lead you into a closer union with his Sacred Heart. Please pray for me that I might be more gifted in handing on the faith to others.

Anonymous said...

And yet the child's parents are also someone else's child (and thus subordinate to his own parents), and the child will likely grow up and become parent to other children, and thus superior to them! So again, the analogy doesn't seem to hold, as none of this is true as to the relation of men and women.

From my own experience, I don't think there are "perfections" that women posses that men lack. I think women tend to have some qualities that make up for a lacking of them in men, and men have some qualities that make up for a lacking of them in women - in other words, that they each have about a 50-50 way of compensating for each other's weaknesses. And when a man and woman are well-matched, that their combination is somehow more than the sum of the parts. At least that's how it seems to me in my experience.

Thank you for your prayers. I need them. I was at confession today and made my confessor laugh at the things I worry about. Perhaps I think too much!

You will be in my prayers too.

I won't have access to my computer in the next few days, so this will be my last comment. So I give you the last word!

Reginaldus said...

As Anonymous (single woman) has given me the last word in our ongoing debate...I will only say that I hope we all can be as open to the truth of the Gospel and as obedient to our Holy Mother Church as she has shown herself to be!
The delight which the Lord takes in the humble and obedient heart is great indeed...and the obscurity of faith will one day give way to the clarity of vision...

Angela said...

Equal in dignity, different in form and function (is that what Fr Corapi says?).

Someone once told me when asked about her veiling, she replied 'I am beautiful indeed, but there is one much more beautiful, and for Him, I cover my beauty so as not to distract others.'

As women, we are beautiful, and we shouldn't feel bad about being 'subject to our husbands'. That doesn't make us any lesser in God's eyes. The husbands have to wear a crown, a crown of thorns for all their insults and problems in protecting and caring for his family. I personally do NOT want that crown.

I have veiled since Christmas of 2007, I had several men tell me then how beautiful it was (I was probably only one of 2 who veiled at the time). For the first time I forgot my veil this past Sunday. My daughter loaned me hers and she placed her shawl over her head. It is not easy, I am always readjusting my veil, a rectangular scarf-like veil, due to my little ones messing with it, hanging on me, etc.

I am not called to completely understand why I must veil (Mary didn't understand completely either). But passages from the bible lead me to do as I do. In fact, I began researching and considering veiling when a priest tried to dismiss St Paul's discussion as 'outdated' - since when have sections of the bible been classified as 'outdated'?

'Because of the angels' - I need all the help I can get, and if angels see things black and white, and I am not veiling and they no longer help me, then I'm on my own (yikes). Or they report I'm not submissive to my husband and therefore to God... Or is it the tempting of angels - I don't need that on my soul either...

I can say that since veiling, I have noticed more graces in my life, and a wonderful effect on my entire family, especially on my husband (who now prays several hours each and every day and attends daily mass!)

I think veiling is one of those experiences you can't understand or explain until you do so yourself. I am grateful that it was placed on my heart, it is a sacrifice I proudly wear.

Colleen Hammond said...

In addition to St. Paul (1 Cor 11:15), it was pointed out to me that everything that is holy, mysterious (in the divine sense), and sacred in our Catholic Faith is veiled. A baldacchino ‘veils’ the altar. The Tabernacle is veiled. The humeral veil a priest uses during Benediction. And Chalice veils laid over the holy vessels.

Women are, by their nature, the very vessels of life. And what better way to honor a woman’s cooperation with God in creating new souls for heaven than for her to be veiled as well?

I am humbled before God for being able to carry another soul within my body…and I am not ashamed to veil my head in His presence.

As G.K. Chesteron wrote, “No one staring at that frightful female privilege can quite believe in the equality of the sexes…” (What’s Wrong with the World).

What a distinct honor to wear a mantilla!!!

Ted K said...

I would like to comment briefly on this word "equality", because it has become problematic in these discussions. It appeared some time during the Enlightnement, perhaps from the mathematical notion of equality. Being such a late comer one wonders why it appeared at all in the history of civilisation. Yet in trying to use this word, one notices how difficult it is to define and delimit. Cleary no two people are equal, as there are always differences in these two people, some things being better and others being worse. So why use such a problematic term?
But it is precicley its ambiguity and vagueness that makes it valuable in political arguments. The word "equality" can refer to almost anything depending on who uses it, and it sounds good, suggesting the connotation of "fairness"; so it is of great use in political discourse. But by referrring to almost anything, it is virtually meaningless, or as Alasdair MacIntyre has suggested, it is a fictitious concept.
Before this word gained favour in political usage, it was the concept of justice that prevailed. When one reads the Holy Scriptures, or Thomas Aquinas, one does not find the word "equality" there, but rather "justice", which means giving to each his proper due. "Proper due" is no longer fashionable in this ultra individualistic society.

Reginaldus said...

@Ted K,
While I agree with the main thrust of your post, a few things should be noted.

1) "Equality" is used extensively by St. Thomas Aquinas. Not, however, in regard to creatures, but in regard to the Divine Persons.
2) "Equality" among creatures, is not really the product of the Enlightenment (though that is the immediate ancestor). Rather, Origen had long ago argued for an essential equality between all creatures before the Fall (which was determined to be a spiritual fall among spirits, resulting in the inequality of the created physical world). Even before Origen, others too had held something like this.

That being said, you are quite right that there is no simple equality between any two human beings.
However, they are equal insofar as they are both human (equally), for being human does not admit of more or less. In this sense, men and women are equal.

Ted K said...

Thank you Reginaldus, for pointing out the theological use of the term "aequalitas" by those authors. But even for Origen when we talk about this fallen world, that term would be difficult to use because the spiritual creatures are now different according to the use of their will. The term may be perfectly applicable too to the heavely realm of the Divine Trinity, but again, there is a difficulty in extending it to this world because there is no simple equality between human beings. If we are to use this term we must specify the things that are said to be the same or equal, which is easier said than done.
But if human nature does not admit of degrees, then what is the point of speaking in terms of equality of human nature in the first place? To say that men and women are human beings is a tautology. Moreover, people may all have a human nature, but, then, there are differences as to how that human nature is in act. Here we run into the Platonic dilemma of sameness and difference which he tried to explain through "participation" such as the participation in the Idea of Man. For Aristotle, there was substance and accident, so although human beings have the same essence, they also give that essence additional individual qualities so that real human beings are each different by virtue of these. Again, using the term "equality" here seems to add confusion rather than clarification. To say that men and women, or just two people, are equal is meaningless if not false unless one specifies exactly what it is that one thinks is the same or equal and not speak in terms of tautologies.
Today, equality is very closely related to, if not actually derived from, the concept of "rights" which itself is a fictitious concept. This is a whole other issue, but let me just say that in the moral sphere, and that includes politics, it is better to speak in terms of justice which recognises that all human beings are different, rather than try to apply some problematic and misleading concept of "equality" to the issues. No one is born equal so that to claim that everyone is equal under the eyes of God is really to claim that God acts with perfect Justice.

Reginaldus said...

Ted K,
I agree with you that our modern obsession with equality is not helpful to our spiritual lives. Nevertheless, we simply must admit that men and women are equally human and, therefore, (absolutely speaking) are equally the image of God.
Are you denying this? It necessarily follows from the fact that being human does not admit of more or less -- we are either human or not; thus, we are all equally human. It is in this sense that I wrote, "If men and women are equal" ... for men and women are equal in that most fundamental sense.

Reginaldus said...

@Colleen Hammond (Oct 6, 1:47am),
Thank you for the great quote from G.K. Chesterton and for your own witness! Blessings to you in your work of helping women to regain their dignity, in part, through their habit of dress.

Colleen Hammond said...

@Reginaldus: Thank you, Father! Your prayers and blessings are greatly appreciated!!!

Ted K said...

Thank you for your question, Reginaldus.
It is difficult to defend today the idea that being human does not admit of more or less. We see this most vividly on the question of abortion, that the foetus or whatever is said not to be fully human. Furthermore, it is commonly accepted that the idea of humanity or human nature is in process of evolution, making Christ's redemptive work for human salvation problematic since human nature has changed over the past 2000 years. Then there is the question of classification, to what extent, say, does a severely handicapped creature that looks human qualify as human? And finally there is the cultural argument, that human nature is a product of cultural forces which are constantly in flux.
I do not think that Darwinian evolution necessary means that species evolve; there is indeed adaption within the species, but the existing species remain distinct while new ones are formed by leaps from them according to God's Divine Ideas. So I also take the minority position today that there are no degrees of humanity. But then my problem is how to define human nature so that I am not uttering meaningless words. I feel uncomfortable when someone uses the "equality" word as in this case without defining that human nature which is said to be equal in men and women. Is a human being a rational animal, a religious animal? No one is always rational, and not everyone is religious. And this problem of definition is precisely why this whole issue of human nature is so difficult.

Reginaldus said...

Ted K,
I'm not really sure what you are trying to argue. This blog is directed to a Catholic audinece, obviously certain points that we all accept would have to be hammered out more explicitly in the public square. However, if I had to begin every discussion by going through the idea of Matter and Form, then the idea of the Rational Soul, etc. it would take a long time before I said anything "Catholic" at all.

That being said, I would like to address one point at the end of your comment: "Is a human being a rational animal, a religious animal? No one is always rational, and not everyone is religious." To this I answer: A human being is a rational animal. Every human being is always rational (whether in the womb, asleep, dying, etc.). Rationality is sometimes hampered from being fully expressed -- this does not mean that the person is not rational. Now, we often use the word "rational" in various ways -- I here use it to denote one who has the faculties of intellect and will. To be rational is to be a person -- every human being is a person, always. So, to be very clear: every human being is always rational.

I'm sorry if the title to the article makes you "feel uncomfortable", but this whole discussion of the meaning of equality seems to be leading quite far away from the real argument of the original post.
Nevertheless, thank you for your comments. I think we are basically on the same page. I hope you feel free to comment on future posts as well!

Ted K said...

Reginaldus:
Thank you for your response, and I am sorry that I was not clear. I must learn to go to bed at the proper time, and not be lured into philosophical debates when I am half awake.
To define man as a rational animal is one good example of why Thomism, or rather neo-Thomism, was looked at with so much disdain following the Council. The question of how to define Man has been a perennial question, but to define him simply as rational is insufficient. For centuries women were looked at as lessser-humans (if human at all in some societies) because even as far back as Plato had mentioned, they were said to be too irrascible, their rational (intellectual) powers being secondary to their emotions.
After countless experiments today we now know how the animal kingdom forms a continuum of rationality. The cat is more rational than the mouse when it plans its strategy to catch it. So too is a grown dog just as rational as a newborn infant. Yes, the infant as it grows will become much more rational than the dog, but then at what point to we claim human rationality, and therefore a humanity? The dog cannot speak nor do mathematics, but neither can a baby.
Yes, only humans have a potentiality to realise a certain level of rationality. But some handicapped persons will never
realise this and that does not make them less human. Moreover, from the evolutionary standpoint, intellection has been evolving if we consider Neandrethal man for instance. In other words, it is hard today to argue against degrees of rationality even in man, and this is precisely why rationality is not a sufficient condition for being human, as otherwise there would also be degrees of humanity.
So my point is this: you cannot call men and women equal as to their human nature if human nature is defined only in terms of rationality. The historical experience has been quite negative on women with this definition. My apprehension over the use of "equality" is just simply that we had better know exactly what we are talking about when we use this politically exploited word.
We as Christians have to find a solid definition of Man, and present it to the world to guide its ways. Until we do, let me just say that men and women at least have a common human nature based on the image of God and also as to their final end, which is the Beatific vision, so that both have to be treated with the justice and love of which God is the exemplar.

Ted K said...

Reginaldus:
Thank you for your response, and I am sorry that I was not clear. I must learn to go to bed at the proper time, and not be lured into philosophical debates when I am half awake.
To define man as a rational animal is one good example of why Thomism, or rather neo-Thomism, was looked at with so much disdain following the Council. The question of how to define Man has been a perennial question, but to define him simply as rational is insufficient. For centuries women were looked at as lessser-humans (if human at all in some societies) because even as far back as Plato had mentioned, they were said to be too irrascible, their rational (intellectual) powers being secondary to their emotions.
After countless experiments today we now know how the animal kingdom forms a continuum of rationality. The cat is more rational than the mouse when it plans its strategy to catch it. So too is a grown dog just as rational as a newborn infant. Yes, the infant as it grows will become much more rational than the dog, but then at what point to we claim human rationality, and therefore a humanity? The dog cannot speak nor do mathematics, but neither can a baby.
Yes, only humans have a potentiality to realise a certain level of rationality. But some handicapped persons will never
realise this and that does not make them less human. Moreover, from the evolutionary standpoint, intellection has been evolving if we consider Neandrethal man for instance. In other words, it is hard today to argue against degrees of rationality even in man, and this is precisely why rationality is not a sufficient condition for being human, as otherwise there would also be degrees of humanity.
So my point is this: you cannot call men and women equal as to their human nature if human nature is defined only in terms of rationality. The historical experience has been quite negative on women with this definition. My apprehension over the use of "equality" is just simply that we had better know exactly what we are talking about when we use this politically exploited word.
We as Christians have to find a solid definition of Man, and present it to the world to guide its ways. Until we do, let me just say that men and women at least have a common human nature based on the image of God and also as to their final end, which is the Beatific vision, so that both have to be treated with the justice and love of which God is the exemplar.

Reginaldus said...

Ted K, Thank you for the clarification. I am largely in agreement with you. You are quite right that certain words have been very much highjacked by politics, secularism, etc.
Blessings to you!

Wild Bill said...

Sorry for the late comment. I just discovered this post. Sometimes I wish there was a dispensation for us bald guys to wear watch caps in our hyper-air conditioned churches!

I hope the ladies will come back into conformity with canon law (and that the bishops will provide the gentle pastoral care) regarding the chapel veil. It's just part of the general reverence that's so woefully absent in our congregations today.

James said...

@ Wild Bill you thought you were a late comer? :D I'm pretty sure that Cannon Law has been changed in regards to wearing a veil.

Equality: I'm surprised that the relationship between the Father and the Son didn’t come up. Both being fully God are equal, yet the Father is certainly in charge. “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever, he does, that the Son does likewise” Jn 5:19. The Son imitates the Father not the Father, the Son. Moreover, the Father gives the Son His inheritance. As Reginaldus has been suggesting, matters of inferiority/superiority are not always matters of nature but also matters of relationship. A saintly woman might often be subjected to the authority of a wicked woman. I would say that this is also unjust; however, in a relational sense the saintly woman is “inferior” to the wicked woman. Now, because of justice, superiority/inferiority ought to correspond to the goodness of one’s nature and sanctity. Therefore, our Mother Mary is rightfully Queen of Heaven (Salve Regina!).

But then why should the Virgin Mary have been subjected to St. Joseph? I think the simplest answer is that we live in a fallen world. Joseph should not have been less holy than his Beautiful Bride. But the relationship of authority between man and woman is based not just on goodness but rooted in the nature of a marital relationship. God has decreed that man should have authority over his wife just as the Father has authority over His Son. “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rm 13:1). While this creates a certain injustice (due to man’s sinfulness), in His wisdom, God has seen fit to establish the world in this way. The disciple of Christ, however, because of the omnipotence of God, accepts this in humility, a virtue more glorious than any vice is shameful.

Peace and love in Christ!

Reginaldus said...

@James, Indeed, the relationship between Joseph and the Virgin is a great witness to the high calling of married life!

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