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"feckless unmen and trashy unwomen"

Bishop Williamson really doesn't think that women should receive a higher education. Heaven forbid, they might take a course in Jewish Studies--and learn about the Holocaust!

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Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor in the Theology Department and Law School at Boston College.



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Oh my - really what else can be said. Oh my.Signed, Wearing Trousers and Matriculated

This letter of 2001 is a true "space odyssey." Anyone, including the Pope, who would justify the resinstatement of this man to episcopal status has got to be completely out of touch with the world. Come to think of it....

The most alarming thing about this is that other people -- admirers of Williamson -- posted it on the internet for all to see!On the other hand, it's hard to feel threatened by the movement when you see such intellectual and theological rigor in action:"Here is a pointer in the direction of normalcy: any Catholic with the least respect for Tradition recognizes that women should not be priests - can he deny that if few women went to university, almost none would wish to be priests?"Edit: Cathy, I trust you are taking this to heart: "Did this lawyeress check her hair-do just before coming into court? If she did, she is one distracted lawyer. If she did not, she is one distorted woman."

Now I'm having trouble looking away from this wreck. A mother lode of other letters by Williamson, including his October 2001 statement on the 9/11 tragedy -- just one in a long list of conspiracies (from the sinking of the Maine through Pearl Harbor and the JFK assassination).

Politically, behind the Arab terrorists are most likely the would-be architects of the New World Order, who have long been using the United States as an instrument to achieve their control of the world. Long ago they planned three World Wars to achieve their aim. It is they who provoked the sinking of the Lusitania and the attack on Pearl Harbor to bring the USA into the first two. Now they seem to be using the Arabs also. Humanly, they are clever. They are even diabolically clever. But little do they realize that they are in turn mere instruments of God who uses them for the salvation of souls.

Who does he mean, I wonder?

It really is too bad that we don't have that notorious trouser-wearing "unwoman" Elizabeth Anscombe with us anymore - - she would know exactly what to say that would put Bishop Williamson in his place.

My bet is that Williamson is not alone in SSPX with these wacko ideas. Anyone would need fascist tendencies to join that group.We see he has problems with Jews women, and also with the US intellegence agencies =CIA & NSA because 'they initiated the 9/11 attack to justitfy the Afghanistan war.'Can we expect any moment that the Catholic bishops of No. Virginia and Maryland will come to the defence of the thousands of Catholic employees of these agencies, members of their 'flocks'???........ NOT

Yes, the anti-Semitism and 9/11" Truthiness" are disturbing. But the man's views on "The Sound of Music," as elaborated in this 1997 Christmas letter, must count for something on the positive side of the ledger, no? "Soul-rotting slush"? "All the elements of pornography"? Julie Andrews as "one rolling canine female"? Perhaps we must give Benedict the benefit of the doubt...

Dear friends, please excuse this long excursion into the audio-visual scenery of an average modern Christmas, but no less maybe necessary to rub noses in the falsity of this soul-rotting slush. Clean family edification? Nothing of the kind!As for cleanness, many films may be worse than the Sound of Music, but stop and think - are youth, physical attractiveness and being in love the essence of marriage? Can you imagine this Julie Andrews staying with the Captain if "the romance went out of their marriage"? Would she not divorce him and grab his children from him to be her toys? Such romance is not actually pornographic but it is virtually so, in other words all the elements of pornography are there, just waiting to break out. One remembers the media sensation when a few years later Julie Andrews appeared topless in another film. That was no sensation, just a natural development for one rolling canine female.

"Hair-do"-- Hand me a bottle of Alberto V05 hairspray.

Wow - if the Sound of Music is pornographic, I'm hard-pressed to come up with a family-friendly movie. Even Barnie the Purple Dinosaur cavorts naked.

I did actually take a course in the Holocaust as an undergrad. Reviewing the material for finals was a 5 hankie affair. The visiting professor was very good but rather obviously wanting me to come to the conclusion that Christianity was intrinsically anti-semitic. Having been raised in the pro-Israeli end of the evangelical world, I felt completely confident that it was not true,I knew next to nothing of Catholicism at that point in my life, much less anything about the anti-semitic traditionalism of the French Catholic far right. Just as well.

The tendency to zoom in on outrageous comments from Williamson strikes me as understandable, esp. from Catholics that are not sympathetic to traditionalists. As an academic, however, I am curious to have the attention focused on the forest than its trees. Continue on Williamson the person, if you must. But can someone start a link on the movement? I thought of this question when reading a comment from a theologian in Rome by the name of (ironically) Thomas Williams in the NRO blog. "The lifting of the excommunication," says the blog, "has more to do with the 600,000 members of this splinter group than it does with these four individuals." Over at the Atlantic, Ross Douthat has also put in his two cents.

Sorry, meant to say, "But can someone start a thread to discuss the movement?"

Fr. Thomas Williams, dean of theology at Regina Apostolorum University in Rome, comments to NRO: The atrocities of the Third Reich are not a matter of theological opinion but of historical record. A bishop has no special competence to opine on these matters....

Historyman,My question is this: What would happen to a bishop who had never been excommunicated and was in every way in good standing within the Catholic Church if he expressed the opinions expressed by Bishop Williamson? Would Rome express strong disagreement but say bishops have no special competence to opine in these matters? Or would such a bishop be disciplined or commanded to remain silent about his offensive opinions? Is Williamson being given special treatment in being brought back into the Church and merely having his opinions condemned? I really don't know, but strongly suspect he is. And if he is, I really don't understand why someone who is being brought back into the Church should be treated more gently than someone who has never left.

"Survey the waste on any "university" campus today - feckless unmen and trashy unwomen whose noblest activity is throwing frisbees at one another!"Guilty as charged. On warm days, I joined in on this activity as an undergrad at Saint Michael's. I even occassionally played frisbee while (gasp!) studying for MA in theology at Catholic University. Sadly, my professors never assigned any of Bishop Williamson's writings. I may have avoided such ghastly sins. (Of course! If not for my frisbee playing, I might not have needed two tries for my comprehensives)

When Ted Hesburgh's mother was pressed to send her son to the minor seminary lest he lose his vocation, she, refused, and responded by saying if he has a true vocation he will still have it when he graduates high school. That is a Catholic showing clergy what the boundaries are. Catholics have to continually resist the clergy on women and sex. In general they are woefully ignorant of both.

Why is this group given the appellation of traditionalist? To me, this term connotes a group having a rather benign, easily mended, disagreement with the Magisterium over minor points of doctrine, when in fact, this group sanctions the most vile forms of anti-semitism.Without much trouble, I extracted the following from a screed on the SSPX web site ( and Jewry are destined inevitably to meet everywhere without reconciliation or mixing. It represents in history the eternal struggle of Lucifer against God, of darkness against the Light, of the flesh against the spirit. It represents in time the spiritual accomplishing and the fleshly accomplishing of the Scriptures. The Letter must be everywhere to be the servant of the Spirit. It is with this understanding St. Thomas Aquinas teaches us that the Jewish people is the servant of the Church.It is a terrible enmity, because it is theological. There is a mystery of iniquity in the Jewish people, as we are taught by St. Jerome and St. Justin, echoing Jesus Christ and the preaching of the Apostles. Jesus Christ anathematized them, calling them hypocrites and liars because the Pharisees practiced enmity under pretense of doing good. They only perpetuate what they did once to Christ.Is that what traditionalism means?

Yup (maybe).Sigh.

Antonio-Given that the Lefebvrists agree with many if not most of the Popes and heavyweight theologians in the long history of theCatholic Church, and given that they know that fact very well, it seems to me they have a right to call themselves Traditionalists". What they don'r have a right to do is claim that the Church's major doctrines never change, that some Traditional doctrines cannot be ditched.The question then becomes: which doctrines are really unditchablle? How do we know them when we find them? Itxslso seems to me that to answer those two question we need a theological epistemology-- a set of principles which can guide discussion of such epistemological cquestiins. But I've never heard of such a subject being dwveloped.

Antonio,The SSPX claims to be curators of "the Tradition", and so they use that term repeatedly and get called 'traditionalists'. Unfortunately, they have a deficient idea of our living Tradition, holding that it is what they say it is rather than the traditional Catholic view that it is what the Pope and/or a council of bishops says it is. This is simply arrogance imo, and is the one point they need to address in order to progress toward full communion.

Did you catch the part where he referred to Adam and Eve as being only 5 millenia before St. Thomas? Apparently he's a young earth / biblical literalist as well.

SPPX may be entitled to the mantle of traditionalism in some technical sense, but in common parlance, traditionalism is uncritically held to be a good thing. Hence, it becomes a euphemism that masks the reactionary and repellent aspects of the organization. What's more, characterizing the group in that manner, as the following NCR article does, is to legitimize their assertion of an orthodoxy superior to the Magisterium.

Real traditionalists center in the word of Paul in "the freedom of the children of God." Paul insisted that the Just person did not need the law. That is preeminently true of Canon Law. Canon Law is one of the most corrupt areas of the church. I guess it helped to prevent some unfortunates from being guillotined in times of dictatorship. The history of Canon Law is plagued with forgeries and fraud. Except in countries where the Vatican has concordats, nobody pays attention. So let's banish Canon Law and write a new mandate which starts with the Sermon on the Mount.Canon law is really contrary to Galatians 1-19. What to do? It is really the wrong messge, the wrong evangel. Excommunicate Canon Law. Let it be anathema!

"Why is this group given the appellation of traditionalist? To me, this term connotes a group having a rather benign, easily mended, disagreement with the Magisterium over minor points of doctrine, when in fact, this group sanctions the most vile forms of anti-semitism.""SPPX may be entitled to the mantle of traditionalism in some technical sense, but in common parlance, traditionalism is uncritically held to be a good thing. "To the extent that I understand traditionalists (and I admit they often perplex me), I think it's important to not let the SSPX copyright the term. There are many people who are traditionalists who are fully in communion with the church. It is for them that the Holy See has directed that the "extraordinary form" of the mass be given wider availability.If we are to welcome SSPX members back into the fold, these faithful traditionalists will be very important - they're the bridge to welcome home those who have left.Just my opinion.

Ask yourself this: Are you offended by this man's extreme and cartoonish conclusions, or are you offended by his mode of analysis -- which is to locate an "ideal" of male and female within scripture and tradition (Aquinas) and try to interpret it in light of modern conditions regardless of whether it is "right" or "accpetable" to individual circumstance. The latter methodology is, in my view, always objectionable even when it is being used by reasonable people, and has the additional weakness of being highly susceptible to extremist and alarming attempts to subjugate people, especially women, in light of preconceived and unyielding views of what they "should be." It is the basis for oppression of women the world over, even when its conclusions are not nearly so extreme.

I think Ann Olivier has a point and raises an excellent question. The SSPXers, If I may use that expresson, are true to ideas widely held in the Church during the first half of the 20th century and then thought to be traditional. However the SSPXers have a blinkered view of the past. They have no real sesen of history. I wonder if they realize that the Donation of Constantine, a documents which some Popes have cited as authentic, is a forgery. I wonder if they know that in the early days of the church a bishop who moved from one diocese to another was considered to be guilty of spiritual adultery. Tradition is multifaceted. As to her question, I think the short answer is that what has been revealed to us and what we believe by divine faith is not "ditchable". There are also, as I understand it, matters closely connected with revelation that can be infallibly taught. But there are also things that have been in some sense taught in the past and some that still are being taught that fit in neither of these categories. The thing to know is what falls in what category. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is not much help in this.

Alas, the bishop's grasp of philosophy is rather shaky. There is, of course, a dubious inference from a passage in the Summa about women teaching in the church to broad conclusions about women teaching in general. And then he appeals to the lack of women participating in Plato's dialogues as support for his position. Apparently he has not read the Republic, where Plato argues that women should be permitted into the highly educated guardian class, the members of which rule the city-state. In fact, if the bishop ever decides to actually read it, he might realize that Plato decisively rejects the idea that there are differences in the natures of men and women relevant to either education or leadership.

"The sexes can never be on an equality as regards studies pursued at a university."Catholic EncyclopediaBarbara,Regarding the point you make, it is interesting to read the entry on Woman from the online Catholic Encyclopedia, published in about 1912. (An excerpt is below.) Bishop Williamson's opinions are not all that different from those expressed in the article. We have to ask ourselves whether the Church's position on women today will sound as curious and quaint (or outrageous, maybe) in a hundred years as the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1912 does to us today.

The second branch of the woman question, which of necessity follows directly after that of gaining a livelihood, is that of a suitable education. The Catholic Church places here no barriers that have not already been established by nature. Fnelon expresses this necessary limitation thus: "The learning of women like that of men must be limited to the study of those things which belong to their calling; The difference in their activities must also give a different direction to their studies." The entrance of women as students in the universities, which has of late years spread in all countries, is to be judged according to these principles. Far from obstructing such a course in itself, Catholics encourage it. This has led in Germany to the founding of the "Hildegardisverein" for the aid of Catholic women students of higher branches of learning. Moreover, nature also shows here her undeniable regulating power. There is no need to fear the overcrowding of the academic professions by women.In the medical calling, which next to teaching is the first to be considered in discussing the professions of women, there are at the present time in Germany about 100 women to 30,000 men. For the studious woman as for others who earn a livelihood the academic calling is only a temporary position. The sexes can never be on an equality as regards studies pursued at a university.

Funny you should mention the 1912 Encyclopedia. think this is a challenge for the "new feminists.'

Hello All,I'm taking Bishop Williamson's letter as an especially good test of a philosopher's principle of charity. I realized recently that if one accepts the chastity argument that the philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe and the late Pope John Paul II gave in defense of a norm prohibiting contraception, then one will most likely also favor a norm prohibiting co-educational institutions of higher learning. Williamson does not mention contraception in this letter but I think I'm safe in assuming he supports a norm prohibiting contraception. So perhaps he's just being consistent, although one would really have to stretch the principle of charity here because he is arguing not for "separate but equal" universities but for a male-only norm as a necessary condition for "true" universities. (I have no idea if Anscombe realized what her own views suggest regarding higher education, but so far as I know she did nothing to discourage women from seeking higher education as she did.)I have to add a disclaimer for all my friends who agree with the teaching of Humanae Vitae and related documents: I'm not disagreeing with this teaching. I'm just suggesting that this particular argument in favor of the teaching (which is not the Humanae Vitae argument) is not a good argument.And of course, Bishop Williamson would recommend that all participants here ignore everything I say because I received my graduate training in philosophy from a secular "university" (his sneer quotes).

Please review this link - whole document is long but using the SSPX statements, the author does an excellent job of making a distinction between Tradition (correctly understood) and Traditionalism (which, simplistically, takes a specific period of history and makes it permanent ignoring prior historical periods, expressions, etc.)Quote: "There is a formula current in Christian teaching (and the formula is borrowed from St. Paul himself) that traditional truth was confided to the Church as a deposit which it would guard and faithfully transmit as it had received it without adding to it or taking anything away. This formula expresses very well one of the aspects of tradition and one of the principal roles of the living magisterium. But this idea of a deposit should not make us lose sight of the true manner in which traditional truth lives and is transmitted in the Church. This deposit in fact is not an inanimate thing passed from hand to hand; it is not, properly speaking, an assemblage of doctrines and institutions consigned to books or other monuments. Books and monuments of every kind are a means, an organ of transmission, they are not, properly speaking, the tradition itself. To better understand the latter it must be represented as a current of life and truth coming from God through Christ and through the Apostles to the last of the faithful who repeats his creed and learns his catechism. This conception of tradition is not always clear to all at the first glance. It must be reached, however, if we wish to form a clear and exact idea. We can endeavour to explain it to ourselves in the following manner: We are all conscious of an assemblage of ideas or opinions living in our mind and forming part of the very life of our mind, sometimes they find their clear expression, again we find ourselves without the exact formula wherewith to express them to ourselves or to others an idea is in search as it were of its expression, sometimes it even acts in us and leads us to actions without our having as yet the reflective consciousness of it. Something similar may be said of the ideas or opinions which live, as it were, and stir the social sentiment of a people, a family, or any other well-characterized group to form what is called the spirit of the day, the spirit of a family, or the spirit of a people. [2]Tradition in short is not a static deposit but instead is a living entity which grows and develops within the Church throughout the centuries (Mark 4:26-33; John 16:12-15)."Most reasonably informed Catholics recognize the distinction between doctrines and disciplines but often there is a problem understanding what constitutes authentic Tradition from mere ecclesiastical traditions. This distinction and the inability of self-styled 'traditionalists' to differentiate between the two is a serious problem. To put it as bluntly as possible: no Apostolic Traditions were abolished by Vatican II. There were some ecclesiastical traditions that were modified but this is not something that is uncommon throughout history.

Cathy, the spirit of that 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia article lives on in the lower Hudson Valley. As witness, last Sunday a flyer in the local Parish Bulletin advertised a First Thursdays Marriage Program, run by a Legion of Christ priest in these terms: WOMEN, this series will give you the tools to grow in admiration and respect for your husband. MEN, this series will help you become the leader and guide you want to be. The syllabus proposes to explore the hard-wired differences between men and women and promises participants will learn why the Christian faith embraces these differences as good and what it teaches us about them. The presenter is not as obviously off-the wall as Williamson, but seems an amiable fellow, quite plausible, if you don't look or listen too carefully. Still, that very plausibility is in itself a problem. It may be that we are lucky that the four SSPX "Bishops" with whom the Pope is dealing are so outspoken and, let's face it, eccentric. The faithful are getting a really good look at them, and perhaps will take due warning.

Historyman:It's a "movement," alright. It's the kind of movement that you toilet-train your kids to avoid in the wrong places, too.

Well, fortunately (if you read his extraordinary piece to the end) Bp. Williamson only forbids girls from attending public universities. Presumably it's OK for them to go to private universities. Not Cal or Michigan or Ol'Miss or the Sorbonne, but Harvard, Yale, Oxbridge, all OK. Do you suppose that's what he meant? What about those of us who have had women students, public or private? are we guilty too for teaching them to have ideas above their stations or natures?In any case, there's an interesting article in the new Tablet on Mary Ward (1585-1645), working at great risk at the time of Elizabeth I's Catholic persecutions, making her way to Rome, trying to get authorization for the founding of a self-governing women's congregation along Jesuit lines, only to be tossed in jail after Pope Urban VIII zapped her in Pastoralis Romani Pontifici (1630). Finally, long after her death, in 1749 the congregation was authorized, but ony on the condition that Ward herself was not claimed as founder of the order (how nice to be able to rewrite history by fiat !!! -- not all Fiats are built in Turin, it seems; some come from the factory in Rome). Now she appears to be headed for canonisation, and presumably Pope Urban's bull should now to be considered just that. But Williamson, it seems, keeps the Old Flame burning

By the way, 57 percent of college students today are women. If this keeps up, it will be like Surf City. (Let's see if anybody gets that 1960s reference.)

"feckless unmen and trashy unwomen"I praise Bp Williamson for his mastery of English, and his wit -- which is alas not put to good use except when assaulting the meretricious "Sound of Music".If only we had more churchmen who knew how to turn a phrase.

My question is this: What would happen to a bishop who had never been excommunicated and was in every way in good standing within the Catholic Church if he expressed the opinions expressed by Bishop Williamson? Would Rome express strong disagreement but say bishops have no special competence to opine in these matters? Or would such a bishop be disciplined or commanded to remain silent about his offensive opinions? Is Williamson being given special treatment in being brought back into the Church and merely having his opinions condemned? I really dont know, but strongly suspect he is. And if he is, I really dont understand why someone who is being brought back into the Church should be treated more gently than someone who has never left.-----David Nickol,Sorry I haven't got back dotCommonweal for the last couple of days... Good questions you have, but I don't really know the answers. Have there been bishops in good standing voicing anti-semitic opinions? I can only think of the Polish prelate - what's his name? - in the 1980s who said something pretty controversial about one of the extermination camps. Was he ever rebuked by the Vatican?Anyway, my point is that it is very tempting to focus largely on a person than the larger group, on the leader than the movement. Easy to focus on Hitler than the German people, for example. Or, to use a different example, easy to focus on William Jennings Bryan at the Scopes Trial than fundamentalists of his time. After Scopes, everyone thought the fundamentalists were gone for good. But they only went "underground", building colleges and seminaries and institutions, and emerged to help form the Religious Right a few decades later. In many ways, the dismissive attitude of the "mainstream" Protestant churches in the 1920s towards fundamentalists came back to bite them in the 1980s.Williamson's comments are bound to raise eyebrows and ire. But it is much more fruitful to discuss the larger entity that is SPPX. In any event, I see that there've been several new threads on the topic since I last logged in.

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