Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Matchmaker, matchmaker, give me a degree

That girls should not be in universities flows from the nature of universities and from the nature of girls: true universities are for ideas, ideas are not for true girls, so true universities are not for true girls. -- SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson

When I was 16 or 17, my family had dinner over at the home of some friends. As I was browsing the bookshelf, I came upon a textbook: Acting Is Believing. My hostess mentioned that she had been a theater major in college.
"Were you an actress?" I asked.
"No, I didn't really want to act," she said. "I was just interested in theater."

Believe it or not, it had never occured to me that you could study a subject at college without intending to pursue a job in that field. I'd always seen college as a glorified vocational school, and I wasn't at all interested in teaching, which is what my acquaintances with English degrees did (English degree (noun): that catch-all program for kids who like to read). But here was a real person who'd studied theater (something I was truly interested in) not because she was an already accomplished actress or planned to do movie work, but just because she liked theater. And though I still didn't know what I wanted to do, I decided that I would study theater, and even chose Franciscan University of Steubenville because of the conservative Catholic colleges I'd heard of, it was the only one with a real drama department. And so I went to college and met Darwin within the first few weeks at one of the ubiquitous freshman mixers.

I knew plenty of girls who went to college to get their MRS degree, and even some who dropped out of school to get married. Once they'd found a mate, college had served its purpose, and since they planned to stay at home with the children, they didn't need any further vocational training. And what better place to meet a good Catholic guy than at an orthodox Catholic college? (Oddly enough, none of these girls were engineering students or Computer Science majors, which would have been the most useful places to be if you wanted to attract the attention of a bunch of future wage-earners.)

Now I'm a stay-at-home mom with a heavy debt load and a firm grasp of intentions and objectives in scoring a script for acting. I'd always intended to stay at home with children when I became a mother, and I figured that one day I'd get married. But for me, going to college was not about finding a husband, although I did that. College was where I learned to think well -- to encounter an idea and examine it on its merits; to express concretely why elements of the faith had always felt right to me; to formulate a logical argument for why I believed that certain things were wrong; to read critically. I don't see a dichotomy between staying at home with a family and having a well-honed, educated mind -- though perhaps the good bishop would disagree, since
to attract a man so as to marry and become a mother, to nurture and rear children and to retain their father, she needs superior gifts of feeling and instinct, e.g. sensitivity, delicacy, tact, perspicacity, tenderness, etc. by which her mind will correspondingly be swayed, which is why no husband can understand how the mind of his wife works! For to do the work of generation, i.e. to ensure nothing less than the survival and continuation of mankind, God designed her mind to run on a complementary and different basis from her man's. His mind is designed not to be swayed by feelings but on the contrary to control them, so that while his feelings may be inferior to hers, his reason is superior. And reason being meant to rule in rational beings, then he is natured to rule over her (Gen. III, 16), as can be seen for example whenever she needs to resort to him for her feelings not to get out of control. (Bishop Williamson, Girls at University, Sept. 1 2001)
In my opinion, the bishop could have taken the opportunity at college to hone his writing and reasoning skills. That's why I went to school, sir.


Darwin said...

I'm sure this is deeply divisive and unhelpful of me, but I'm deeply amused by trying to decide the correct way to pronounce SSPX without saying each letter. Would it be "Spix" or maybe even "Spixie"?

Deeply un-ecumenical, I'm sure, but the possibilities all seem fun...

Unknown said...

So women are the only ones who let their feelings take precedence over thought ? Then why is it primarily men who consume pornography ? If these guys were 'thinking' with their brains rather than with a lower part of their anatomies, the porn industry would shrivel up and die.
But, then again, I'm an unmarried woman with little interest in running a household, so obviously I was never "a true girl " !

mrsdarwin said...

I would be very much interested, Narwen, to sit in on a conversation between you and Bishop Williamson. And I bet your logic would be sharper than his, too.

Household, schmousehold. Keeping house is a job, just like being a janitor or running a company. It's just something one does, because if one doesn't, it doesn't get done.

And frankly, let the bishop argue with a four-year-old if he thinks women don't need training in rhetoric and logic!

Anonymous said...

It's a little misleading to quote the somewhat fruity and nutty loose cannon of the society, Williamson, without a disclaimer that he certainly does not represent either the SSPX or traditional Catholic thinking. He's like the eccentric uncle who insists on talking gibberish when company is over for dinner.

Nevertheless, it's sad that he distorts something that's genuinely true: men and women do process information differently, and do approach reasoning differently. This is not to say that women cannot reason or should not be educated (my own wife and sisters, and my mother are articulate, capable people while being traditional orthodox Catholic ladies).

Williamson is falling prey to a natural enough temptation: when you see an error like feminism and the notion of no differences between the sexes, you might be inclined to overreact and overemphasize the quality and nature of the true differences between men and women.

Darwin said...

I'll admit, taking shots at Williamson is terribly easy... I've run into some Traditionalists who seem to be big fans of him, though at the same time it seems many others find him an embarrasment.

I suppose the thing about Williamson (and some others at the nuttier end of the Traditionalist spectrum) is that they annoy me more than some of the wacky leftist bishops because it seems like they ought to know better. If you're benighted enough to think that the sixties were a good and glorious time in which all that was previous potential in the Church suddenly came into bloom, it's not surprising that you're softheaded about everything else. But if your entire reason detre is to insist on keeping in touch with the 2000 year history of the Church, it seems doubly embarrassing to get deeply bogged down in such of-the-moment, shallow analysis.

I think that's part of why many of us who consider ourselves very, very theologically and liturgicalliy conservative, but who aren't 'Traditionalist' in the Tridentine-mass-only sense of the term find outselves beating on the SSPX and such so much.

mrsdarwin said...


I certainly don't dispute that there are differences between the sexes, nor should any person of sound mind do so. But for Williamson to insist that a true woman should not seek to engage ideas when his own thinking is so riddled with logical errors and fallacies smacks of lunacy -- not that I think you'd disagree with me there.

I find militant feminism of the modern school silly and self-indulgent: "Men are oppressive, hierarchical, egotistical, and there's absolutely no difference between men and women!" But denouncing the education of women with such a flawed rhetorical style is hardly going to appeal to anyone of sound mind. Perhaps it's a natural temptation to overreact to an error, but academics who want to be taken seriously need to strive for a more reasoned approach.

He's like the eccentric uncle who insists on talking gibberish when company is over for dinner.
I like that, and I suppose that there are plenty of other loose cannons making noise in
Catholic circles, like Mahony on immigration. However, immigration is actually a serious issue. Fears about girls not being suited to higher education or women wearing pants or the hideous fallacy of the Sound of Music are most definitely not.

Not that I think you'd disagree with me on that.

Rick Lugari said...

Aww, what a cute post. Way to tell 'em, Cupcake!

mrsdarwin said...

That's Doctor Cupcake to you, punk@$$!

Rick Lugari said...


Speaking of doctors, anything exciting been happening on General Hospital?

mrsdarwin said...

I dunno, Rick -- how's your Dungeons and Dragons game going?

Rick Lugari said...

Not good, Mom is winning...


mrsdarwin said...

Oof! :)

Anonymous said...

Perhaps this man is a "loose cannon" or a cranky ole uncle; but he is also a bishop in his church and has not been censured nor reprimanded by his hierarchy (does he have one; who is above a bishop in the SSPX? Do they have a presiding bishop, like the Episcopal Church or the Lutheran Church? An Archbishop, like the Anglican Communion?)What is the difference between this guy's ideas about women and those of the taliban?

Rick Lugari said...

Good questions, Anon. So good that if someone answers you they might spark a riot.

I'll try to explain the situation as concisely as I can.

The leat Archbishop Lefebvre started the SSPX (with the Church approval). He had misgivings about Vatican II and the new Mass. Things got strained between him and Pope Paul VI and some measures were taken to limit the activity of the SSPX (I don't recall all the circumstances of that and don't care to look it up right now).

Eventually he wanted to ordain new bishops. Pope John Paul II agreed, but he didn't like JPII's selection for ordination and JPII didn't like Lefebvre's. They were in the process of negotiating the matter when Abp. Lefebvre went off and ordained four bishops without the Holy See's approval.

Pope John Paul II excommunicated all the concerned parties for schism. They said it didn't count and that they were not in schism and therefore not excommunicated.

Ever since then, they have been operating on their own with no official connection to the Holy See.

They elect a superior from among the clerics every so many years. Bp Fellay is the current superior. What authority he actually holds over any others I'm not sure.

It's not like Rome can offer any correction because...well...why bother? They haven't been obeying the pope for the last 18 years, why they start now?

And to be forthcoming, I was once a member of the SSPX. I remain sympathetic to the cause of the traditional rite, but I found what I view to be some serious problems with them.

Daughter of St. John said...

Phew, and I was beginning to think of late that I was the only (or one of a very few) Catholic woman who saw value in my pursuit of a PhD!

Thanks for the great post!