Sunday, April 3, 2011

Colorful Medieval Women Were Oppressed?

H.W. Crocker III writes, "..that the Catholic Middle Ages were an era of oppression against women...that's rather hard to square, on the face of it, with medieval devotion to the Virgin Mary; the medieval invention of courtly, romantic love; the practice of chivalry; and the existence of queens and princesses. In every case, we have men making pledges of loyalty, fidelity, honor, and protection to women -- women, it might be noted, with power and favor, whether it be royal, romantic, or divine.

The New Testament has a rather higher estimation of women than does the Koran. Jesus consistently treats women with respect. Christians, from the beginning, did as well. The idea of woman as a "sex object" is profoundly un-Christian in a way that it is not unpagan or un-Islamic. Christianity has no temple prostitutes or harems, no slave girls or houris. The New Testament never recommends scourging women, nor does it compare women to a field to be plowed (as the Koran does). In Islamic law, divorce is a matter of three words ("I divorce you"); women are property, and women have essentially two purposes (you can guess what these are).

In the medieval West, both polygamy and divorce were illegal. Women could govern from thrones or pontificate from the libraries of nunneries, and they could rule the roost of a middle-class home just as any other Western hausfrau has done over the last 2,000 years. Women were free to dress as they liked and could go to the tavern -- even brew the beer -- if they liked. They held jobs and learned crafts and trades. If peasants, they worked the land with their husbands. They could become saints and lead men into battle (like Joan of Arc). Especially if they were in religious orders, they were well-represented in elementary education, nursing, and the other "caring professions" (as we would call them today).

Folk medieval hammered dulcimer music

If they were noblewomen, they inherited and wielded property (and received all due feudal obligations), joined their husbands on hunts (or on Crusades), and went to a court school where they were taught art, manners, and household management (everything from medicine to oenology, from sewing to accounting, from gardening to how to handle servants). They were also patrons of the arts.

If women were barred from classical schools and universities, which they were, it was less on Christian grounds, strictly speaking, than on classical ones -- on the Aristotelian insight that women are the subordinate sex. [But see how highly educated many women were through homeschooling, as in the case of St. Thomas More's family. They were educated far beyond the quality of many Ph.D's today: Latin, Greek, Logic, Philosophy, Theology, Mathematics and Astronomy!]

Just how "subordinate" women were might be seen in the bawdy -- and quite "liberated" -- Wife of Bath in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. She should put paid to any idea that medieval women were oppressed. The Wife of Bath, after all, selects her husbands -- five in total -- on the basis of money (she boasts of picking the first three clean of cash before they died) or manly chests, including the handsome pallbearer of the fourth. She finds happiness with her fifth (and favorite) husband after trading blows with him and convincing him of her rights. (The fight starts when she angrily rips a page from the book he has been reading aloud, The Book of Wicked Wives.)

The late Michael Davies pilgrimaging in shorts to Chartres, France on a hot day for the Tridentine Mass
In all this, she cites Scripture, noting that "I have the power during all my life / Upon his proper body, and not he: / Right thus the Apostle told it unto me, / And bad our husbands for to love us weel."

Her tale -- and life -- is rather more hilarious and scandalous than today's"medieval" Islam would allow. In the Western Middle Ages, however, she was a recognized type, as she would be if she were plopped down in your living room today."---Five Myths About Christianity, Islam, and the Middle Ages, Inside Catholic

Note: Real "liberation" for women can exist only where every worker is paid a living wage (capable of sustaining affordable housing, food, and family), where women may freely enter any decent profession, not where they are hounded into the workplace by vicious social engineering. CEO pay today (like 'entertainers' also) shifts what should provide just wages for all workers (not equal but just) only upwards and thus is obscene, anti-family and therefore anti-human. Justice matters in economics, and any economic system that undermines the family, the basic unit of every tribe and nation and our very future, is not just.

--->April 3: It was on this day in 1968 that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his final speech in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had come to support striking sanitation workers. I'm sorry to say that racial / identity politics appears alive and well on the Internet. King however laid down a high moral law which today remains instructive for each and every one of us, that none "be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character". Seriously, can any ask for more than that? There is of course nothing wrong with loving and nurturing one' own national traditions and tribes (we certainly should!), reasonable immigration laws, etc., but in the end there is only one human family created by God. Loving one's own does not mean hating or deceitfully undermining any other. King's standard, considered in itself, as laid down in his most famous speech, reflects a simple and profound justice.

--->Possible first ever portrait of Jesus? The incredible story of 70 ancient books hidden in a cave for nearly 2,000 years... "booklets – found in a cave in the hills overlooking the Sea of Galilee is one reason Bible historians are clamouring to get their hands on the ancient artifacts...

--->Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio on the Healing of the blind man...He could have simply issued a majestic command. But, instead the Divine Physician chose to spit and make mud...what could be the meaning of this rather earthy therapy? Read on...

--->Latest Satellite Imagery From Fukushima Tells Sobering Tale...

--->David L. Gray on why he opposes the death penalty: "God found me in prison and I've seen Him possess the hearts of many men there, so I know full well that His loving grace works sinners behind the fences. Moreover, being that Jesus commanded us to visit prisoners (Cf. Mt. 25:35-45), so that we might share His love and good news with them, why would a Christian ever opt to murder prisoners?"...Read on

--->Why Aerial Warfare is Immoral...Dan Nichols

--->I was thinking today what an act of genius it was for my generation to forbid all serious discipline in classrooms just as it had been decided that henceforth most education would become sociology. Today a High School student in the United States can call one's wife a whore, and if you slap his mouth you go to jail. Genius!

One more thought on that, What can one make of a society which will execute criminals but forbid most local intermediary disciplinary acts for the incorrigible, acts (reasonable corporal punishment, not abuse) that might teach and reinforce right and wrong before that extremity administered by lethal injection? It is schizophrenic, no?

Paul, Christian hermit--->"You hear it all the time: We humans are social animals. We need to spend time together to be happy and functional, and we extract a vast array of benefits from maintaining intimate relationships and associating with groups. Collaborating on projects at work makes us smarter and more creative. Hanging out with friends makes us more emotionally mature and better able to deal with grief and stress. Spending time alone, by contrast, can look a little suspect. In a world gone wild for wikis and interdisciplinary collaboration, those who prefer solitude and private noodling are seen as eccentric at best and defective at worst, and are often presumed to be suffering from social anxiety, boredom, and alienation. But...

--->Is poetry really dead as this fellow says? If so what killed it? Lack of pay, the advertising industry, a world without rest? Will that which may or may not be dead make a comeback...?

--->As someone wrote in the comments, "These poor Walmart employees are paid little then forced to do stupid pep rally dances..." like children. It's humiliating...! (Thanks to Judith Moriarty for this)

---> An older article: Ruminating on Predestination, Mystery
and Laughter...

Cornel West on the Left Today and
Barack Obama

--->Quick definition, NWO: The so-called New World Order represents a global transformation wherein sin, indecency and planetary war are institutionalized, protected by law; and where traditional morality is publicly mocked and sometimes persecuted.

--->Artist Ai Weiwei still missing after being held by Chinese police...

--->Ad tuendam fidem: Three Categories of Catholic Doctrines...

Every step or stumble on the way to the Way (Jn 14:6) is, we find, Ok, as long as one keeps walking in the right direction towards the Light of the world. I try never to judge anyone truly seeking, asking and knocking---because we're all doing it all of our lives, all the way to Him. "All the way to heaven is heaven," Dorothy Day said truly.

--->David L. Jones: US/ Transforming Culture through Politics..?

St. Hildegard von Bingen's Liber Divinorum Operum, 1165 AD--->"The glory of God is man fully alive," St. Irenaeus said. The media is always deliberately and cynically caricaturing Catholics as kill-joys, when the truth is Catholic's believe in both fleshly joy (click) and the joys of the spiritual life, per the wonders of created life.

The calling to the oblation of celibacy, Jesus said, is a very special, not ordinary, calling for chosen souls who give themselves for us all in Christ.

What wholeness the Church represents! No aspect of the human person is shut off from all other aspects, whereas sheer decadence / nihilism (our culture) shuts off and represses the most important aspects of whole humanness, the spiritual, God's commandments (human obligations to God and man!) except for neo-pagan perverted kinds that reinforce decadence, ala Alan Ginsberg's perversion of Zen.

--->Dorothy Day's funeral procession, November 1980...courtesy of Jim Forest...

--->This "pastor" must be mad, criminally insane...(click)

Uta Ranke-Heinemann--->History: Hans Kung and Charles E. Curran were not the only ones to myth the Boat: Uta Ranke-Heinemann, a student with Joseph Ratzinger under Karl Rahner was, as Wikipedia points out, the first woman to ever hold a chair in Catholic theology, and the first woman to lose it after declaring the Virginal Conception of Christ a mere metaphor. Born in 1927, the eldest daughter of former German President Gustav Heinemann (1969 – 1974), Heinemann converted to Catholicism in 1953 and studied in Munich alongside Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), becoming a professor in 1970. In 1985 she began teaching at the University of Essen (now known as the Duisburg-Essen University) but lost her position in 1987. She was also a vociferous critic of traditional sexual morality. In 2001 she announced her departure from Christianity...She considered herself excommunicated (latae sententiae) according to can. 1364 §1 CIC and can. 751 CIC for doubting an article of Catholic faith (the virgin birth), but no explicit excommunication (ferendae sententiae) was pronounced against her. Since then she held a chair of the history of religion until her retirement. ---Wikipedia and The Wild Reed

--->New York City's totalitarian Nanny Mayor is putting the City Health dept on a diet: "No deep-fried foods served at agency lunches. No cookies and cakes at the same time (What!). And no beverages over 25 calories per ounce...[prescribes] bagels and muffins..." instead. Imagine if Bloomberg or any like him were President! The horror. ...More (More choices would be one thing, but breastfeeding city workers is over the Big Top). Gosh, Wally, even Mom lets us have cookies and cake sometimes...(Update: Overturned in 2014)

--->Celente's Shocking Jeremiad: The First Great War of the 21st Century...(video)

--->Noam Chomsky: Libya and the World of Oil...

--->858 Military Dead in Afghanistan Since Obama Was Inaugurated in 2009...

--->Bernanke Predicts High Level of Foreclosure Starts
in 2011...

--->ElBaradei: We'll fight back if Israel
attacks Gaza...

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  1. [He who reads from "Wicked Wives," finds his bear-- and feigns surprise.]

    As for MLK, I wonder if he always knew (as found Gandhi before him and as JP II after him knew) that all of it -- all his life's work, prayer, suffering and sacrifice -- would only gain one step toward fraternity.

  2. This is a good article on the treatment of women during the Middle ages. The myth that women were soerly opressed during this time buy the Church is just one more instance of secular=neopagan propaganda. A real bold example of this is the Witch Museum in Salem MA. In these exibits it is suggested that witches were burned because these women were highly educated , particularly in the healing arts and that threatened the male hierarchy of the Church. (pause for shocked expressions of disbelief) I suppose all those women saints who admonished popes and taught millions were dressed in drag!!
    It goes to show that we have to do all we can to combat this mindset and use all means to rebuild Christian culture while we still can.

    As for the death of poetry, poetry is not dead, it has just taken another form. The practitioners of this form are people like Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Pete Townsend, Sarah McLaughlan, etc. Popular music is the poetry of the 20th and 21st centuries.

  3. We cannot rebuild Catholic culture. We can only speak our portion of the Truth as we apply it--Truth, which opens the door for the Holy Spirit, Who opens the door for Christ's sacraments.

    As for Catholics being kill-joys, well, most of the online ones are. I wouldn't look into Catholicism from the blogosphere, that's for sure -- poseurs, fops, whisperers, crusaders, pope-police.. Sadly there's more spiritual joy in cutting a deck of angel cards at the bequest of a former Catholic who wants to read them for you with the greatest love.

  4. C is probably right about not being able to rebuild Catholic culture if he has the civil culture in mind. But I believe we can and should attempt to do so in the Catholic comunity itself, starting with our own individual lives. Yes, part of that rebuilding is speaking our porton of the truth and encouraging as many catholics to come back to the teachings of the Church as possible. This will indeed open the door to the Holy Spirit and lead to a more sacramental life. A Catholi9c community thus renewed will become a strong beacon of truth for those outside the Church who are sick and tired of the illusions of the secular world and long for an alternative.

  5. It has been argued that Chaucer's 'wife of bath' was not meant to be a model or ideal of womanhood, but rather something of a satire, and was perhaps meant to be a representation of the 'wife from hell'.

    Joan of Arc was not the only 'warrior woman' the the Middle Ages. Noblewomen were actually expected to be able to protect and defend thier husband's lands and estates if curcumstances requireed it. This sometimes involved them organising the garrison, and even donning armour or assuming a leadership role, though they probabaly did not actually fight with swords on the front line.

  6. As for Catholics being kill-joys, well, most of the online ones are. I wouldn't look into Catholicism from the blogosphere, that's for sure -- poseurs, fops, whisperers, crusaders, pope-police..