Guest Post by Diane C. Harris
Within 24 hours of the publication of the August 7th bulletin in Corning’s All Saints Parish, rumors began filtering around the Diocese of Rochester that Deacon Ray Defendorf had used three pages of the Sunday Bulletin to defend the indefensible. And the indefensible would be the infamous Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB (Benedictine), and her almost incoherent feminist raging against the Catholic Church. In brief, she doesn’t like the way God does things, and she is here to tell Him (and us) so.
A caveat. We are responding only to (and relying on) what Deacon Defendorf wrote. We are not going to confirm that he accurately quotes Sr. JC, as we were not there. What he wrote is the problem and the risk to souls; hopefully he accurately represented what she said, which is consistent with other articles written about her.
First we had to wade through nearly the entire front page, reading about the Deacon’s and his wife’s outing to Chautauqua, and entertaining his request for the most ironic of statements; i.e. his asking for open minds on a subject which only the most closed minds could support. How about open minds to Sacred Scripture and Tradition and to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church? That would be a good place for a presumed Catholic to begin “openness.”
Second, for perspective, it is important to state that the world tragedies about which Deacon Defendorf quotes Sr. JC are indeed tragedies, abuses, and sinful degradation of women. However, martyred Christians and those risking martyrdom also suffer from horrendous persecutions in many countries, without gender bias and without mention. Nevertheless, we willingly yield the point that such horrors as child prostitution, slavery and mutilation should not be tolerated by any people of conscience or humanity. We also point out a horror of twisted thinking, i.e. Sr. JC’s unrepentant hijacking of the inhumane suffering of women and girls for her own agenda, which is to push for the ordination of women in the Catholic Church. The two subjects are without cause and effect. She makes an unjustified sweeping jump from worldwide tragedy and suffering to her own purposes without even a blush. It is an unconscionable and unjust leap, that distracts from justifiable outrage against true torture and unspeakable maltreatment. How dare she!
Absurdity: That Deacon Defendorf would characterize her as “one of the most knowledgeable, powerful and important, voices of conscience” is an absurdity. Pope Benedict has urged scripture scholars and theologians alike to use their gifts to build up the Church, not to tear her down. Sr. JC pollutes the minds of Catholics genuinely trying to follow the Holy Father’s teachings, and so puts their very souls at risk. Conscience has never been a matter of personal opinion; it is always a matter of sincere assent to faith, humble discernment of a situation, and prayer, above all. When Sr. JC found herself on such a path, insultingly and diametrically opposed to Catholic teaching, she should have followed a route of conscience formation rather than casting a wide net (40 books!) for the innocent and confused to join her cause. Yes, many may go astray because of her, but hers is the greater sin of disobedience and scandal, and of her order in supporting these actions. That Deacon Defendorf drums up support for her is also disobedience and scandal. And we cannot help but wonder how high in the Diocese of Rochester does such endorsement, disobedience and scandal rise?
Wheat and Chaff: For those who are genuinely sincere in distinguishing well-meaning struggles for the legitimate roles of women in the Church from the irrelevant and irreverent agitation, here is a quick hint to discern the wheat from the chaff. The wheat will be on a constant and persistent journey to discern and follow God’s Will, humbly accepting correction, no matter what the cost, in pursuit of truth and obedience. The chaff of the women’s rights hijacking of both Catholic teaching and innocent suffering is most evident in what is not said. Feminist chaff writers almost never mention the woman most honored and chosen by God, our own Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Where in this All Saints bulletin do we see the greatest example of God’s blessings on womanhood even mentioned? Nowhere. Sometimes it almost seems that opinion-filled feminists are jealous of the Mother of God, adverse to the Rosary, and arrogant in dismissing or ignoring Our Lady.
No “Divine Feminine:” Deacon Defendorf uses the Sr. JC’s words “Divine Feminine.” But there is no “divine feminine,” at all. Jesus Christ came as Man. He revealed the Father as “Father,” not as androgynous. Sacred Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit as “He” (and not as “it” which is especially shocking when heard from the pulpit!) I inquired about this point some years ago when a renegade DRE was calling the Holy Spirit “she”, and Bishop Bruskewitz personally conveyed to me that God chose to reveal Himself as male; we have no power to change His Revelation. Sr. JC complains that our not calling God “mother” is “blatant sexism, as well as bad philosophy.” No, Sister, it is “blatant truth.” Get used to it and just stop agitating others to rebellion for your cause. Then, reverting to her comments on infanticide, abortion and neglect, she blames God for the world’s mess. Of course, the Deacon does not reveal that in a recent Life Site News article, Sr. JC supported contraception and refused to condemn abortion outright, saying instead that the church is too “absolute.” Well, life and death is pretty absolute. One is either alive or dead. Period.
It’s about Pronouns? That a “divine feminine” (if it existed) could be manipulated by pronouns strikes the reader as a particularly silly stance of Sr. JC. Not every culture uses pronouns the same way. Where is Sr. JC’s study on abuse as a function of pronouns by various cultures? Don’t hold your breath waiting for it to appear. It gets sillier: “Churches, mosques and synagogues need to recognize and support the significance of female pronouns.” Huh? They don’t “need” to do anything of the sort, and on what basis does she make the demand that “they cultivate feminine characteristics in their congregations?” Such gender blurring, new age-y approach can only interfere with the way God created us, “male and female.” (There is also a strange sentence which isn’t clear if it is from Sr. JC or the Deacon, but it is the claim that Christianity forbids making images of God. One need only step into a faithful Catholic or Orthodox Church to see how imagery lifts the soul to God. God has revealed Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ. Such imagery today is not the idolatry of old; it is a call to prayer. We hope this allegation is a typo.)
When Sr. JC is interpreting Sacred Scripture, she is almost at her worst. God as a “seamstress” in Eden is supposedly feminine (yet many tailors are masculine.) The male apostles didn’t weep? How do we know that? We can know what is said in Scripture but we cannot know what is not said. That is logic 101. Then there are the words “No women, no Jesus,” not applied to the Virgin birth but applied to finance and a tomb visit. Her logic is pushed beyond its extreme with the words: “…the God who could part the seas and draw water from a rock and raise the dead to life, is totally powerless to work as fully through a woman as through a man?” Again, Sr. JC totally ignores the Virgin Birth, His Mother’s intercession at Cana, Mary Magdalene as Apostle to the Apostles, and the continuing intercession of His Mother for us in prayer. Nowhere in Scripture, Tradition or in the Catechism will anyone find words that God is “totally powerless to work as fully through a woman as through a man.” This is what is called, because of its illogical diversion of attention and its false assumptions “a straw man.” But perhaps for the Deacon and Sr. JC we could yield, and call it “a straw woman?”
Pray: Not content to leave three pages of bulletin heresy in place, Deacon Defendorf is now preparing to have a parish discussion on the “Divine Feminine.” May God protect the good people of All Saints Parish, and have mercy on the souls of those who would lead them astray.