In our discussion on Natural Law Milliganp raised the question, perhaps not seriously, of whether there were differences in application where women are concerned. I thought it would be interesting to look at the basis for such differences, and invite you to see if you can answer Milliganp’s question.
We must go back to origins. The story of Adam and Eve is useful because it looks at Creation while our nature was not yet fallen. The picture is clear: Eve was produced out of Adam and she was to be the companion of the man, and a help to him. Thus, important though her rôle would be, it was essentially secondary – Eve was made for Adam, not the other way about. Nor indeed, even in this unfallen state, did she resist the Serpent’s scam. She fell for the old “that’s the very reason…” ploy – in which the objection itself is turned into the reason why she should change her mind. She appears to have been a trifle susceptible to oleaginous serpentine charm. But she retained charm enough herself to induce Adam to join her.
At this point they both fell, and their fallen state was to be full of damage and misery. It is here that the serious Natural Law theologian makes an important distinction. Before the Fall, it operated to perfection: after the Fall, it had to be applied to a very different situation. A simple example is given by the various sexual rules which the Church teaches nowadays. The rules would not have existed before the Fall because mankind would have controlled its sexual and reproductive faculty strictly according to right reason. These applications of the Law to fallen nature are held to be the “secondary” precepts.
Among the outcomes of the Fall is painful childbirth and, more immediately relevant to our question, a destiny to be ruled by the man. Before, they would have worked in shared harmony, now there is tension and subjection.
I will just mention here that Eve’s part in all this has often been a reason for condemning woman. You may have seen Renaissance pictures in which Serpent is given the head of a woman. And the tendency to hold women responsible for tempting men into lustful activity is long established, and potent to this day.
After the origins we look at structure. Moral theology uses this as God’s statement about lawful behaviour as written in his Creation (as present before the Fall). Regarded as sexual beings, we see a dramatic difference between the two. Where the reproductive organs of men appear as appendages, a woman’s body is simply built around them. Not only does she have breasts for lactation but the major features of her interior pelvis are tuned to reproduction. And, some may argue, rather inadequately tuned since they incorporate a physical and psychological cycle which plays an important and continual part in a woman’s life. The term of this cycle is (or used to be) called “the curse”. Though I have heard it called “the blessing” by some Catholic women in the past.
Are we to infer that a woman has an obligation under Natural Law to produce children? No, she may rightly have a vocation to avoid her body’s most outstanding characteristics. But it would be paradoxical if she did not recognise that such a calling was the exception, justified by a higher vocation, and would be carried out using the strengths of her maternal psychology. But once she has children, their natural care during their dependency would arguably be obligatory in the ordinary course of events. Circumstances might oblige her to use proxies for her children’s care, but this would not be ideal.
It is ironic that female characteristics, such as bosom, waist and hips, are seen nowadays as attractions in their own right, rather than as signs of childbearing potential – although these appear to act as a bait to the male at an unconscious level.
Once we move away from Scripture and biological structure we encounter real difficulties. While we can make generalisations about how the psychology of women differs from that of men, we know that the differences are not clear cut. Individuals vary over a wide span and there will always be numerous instances which challenge broad assumptions. However brain structure can give us at least a clue. It would seem that the male brain has greater connectivity within the same hemisphere – which is efficient for relating cognition to action. Women have greater connectivity across the hemispheres – linking analysis and intuition.
Here, it would seem, there is a relationship between brain structure and rôle. Men are best fitted to the single concentrated task like hunting or its modern equivalent. Women are broader in their skills, adapted to multitasking, and at home with the emotional life. So men are best fitted for external challenges while women are fitted for family care and careers suited to their wider range of skills.
It would be folly for me to attempt to extract from this picture elements of the Natural Law which apply to women and not to men. I may indeed be tarred and feathered for the account I have given. But please be free to comment on whether my analysis gives us clues to the fitting female life.
I am not sure to what extent we can draw conclusions from the early account in Genesis. First, we might think that it reflects the culture of the time in which a woman would automatically have been seen as secondary. Then, although I don’t know the Hebrew, in all translations I have seen there is reference to Eve as a helper who is fit or complementary for him. This suggests that the word ‘companion’ might be appropriate. But that is not a word which suggests inferiority.
I notice too that Eve is extracted from Adam only to be united to him again in one flesh. That sound a very complementary union.
That is how I would see it too.
I will add though that I heard a homily years ago and it was regarding the Old Law which Jesus came to explain as He said but not to change. not one single jot would be removed.
It went on to speak about the Law of Moses. and the meaning of divorce, a man putting away a his wife and taking another one. In those day apparently if a wife could not have a baby or especially a son he could divorce her and marry someone else! It would be allowed
I took it that Jesus was making the point that it would not be allowed and a man could not divorce his wife for that reason.It would be adultery. Jesus then went on to say ‘Even if a ,man looks at another woman with lust in his eyes he is guilty of adultery.
Jesus was raising up females to a point where they are equal to males,
Man will leave mother and father and become one flesh- we can take it further and see how in marriage we are united in the Trinity..
We can as Christians understand this now better with regard to The Holy Family in Salvation history,and that is why I believe that Holy Mother Church has a great deal of discussing when She discusses the Family in September,taking all things into account especially artificial contraception. as far as Catholics are concerned!!.
I thought the days of thinking that women were, how can I say “baby making machines” were well and truely gone. Women today can now think or aleast (some) be less pressured into marriage and baring children, They can choose more freely when they are ready to start a family. At the beginning of the world, we are told God said “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and conquer it” So what is next? Many have already filled, and conquered the earth! LOL
I would like to believe that women or at least Catholic women will love Our Lady and not listen to the permissiveness of the world.,which has always been unchaste..We might say ‘not as much as today’-but we have always been tempted,it just takes prayer and the love of the Lord and the Sacraments to keep us strong to say no to sexual activities outside marriage.
Males can do some tempting too it goes both ways..
One might say ‘that it is easier said than done’,but it is only through faith and prayer and self respect can it be achieved.. We don’t have to be puritans.
When I said : (Women today can now think or aleast (some) be less pressured into marriage and baring children, They can choose more freely when they are ready to start a family.) I was speaking about women who do not have sexual relations, who want to have a career, persue sports, live alittle before starting a family. Some women think this way, others want sexual relations too without having a child (we know it goes on). where there was no choice in generations gone by, we now have to much choice to decide when and if we reproduce. Where men always hand the “upper hand” women now can control their own life, it just seems some do it in a devastating way…..
Over and over again God shows in the Old Covenant his use of ‘ holy ‘ women as a precursor to the ‘ new Eve ‘ – the Mother of God. The Cat. Cath. Ch. gives ample evidence of how God used those women considered powerless and weak to bring about His promises for mankind culminating in the ‘ great promise ‘ delivered by Mary. What greater accolade can woman have than the privilege of delivering the Saviour to set in train the fulfillment of salvation history.
Some of the holy women would not fit a modern interpretation of the term. Tamar dresses up as a prostitute and seduces her father-in-law to produce an heir for her dead husband, Rahab was a prostitute, Ruth gets a husband by sneaking into his bed during the night and Batsheba, the mother of Solomon, has an adulterous relationship with David.
Mary accepts God’s request with faith, knowing it could be the ruination of her own reputation. God doesn’t make holiness an easy or obviously virtuous choice – especially for women.
Our Lady, we are told, born without original sin, she had no fallen nature, the one and only born free from sin, in order to give birth to the son of God. Seems she was set apart from the whole of the human race for this purpose. Pretty hard to live up to for women today or at any time really. But same goes for men, they should try to live like Christ.
The way I see it is that Our Lady was born without Original sin, Yes we are born again when we are Baptised, then being in the State of Grace, until we reach 7 years the age of reason,
We from an early age will be taught enough by the time we reach our first Confession then our First Holy Communion. all the time learning our Catechism and receiving the Holy Spirit in Confirmation making us soldiers fro Christ ready for battle. or at least that is how it is supposed to work. We have the advantage over those who were born in Jesus’s time,hence the reason for Holy Mother Church so that we can become just Spiritually like Our Blessed Mother and St Joseph’ and hopefully with the Grace of God the image of Christ, only the image-like Him not Him!!
Perhaps Adam an Eve sinned against Gods command by eating from the Tree of Knowledge before Gods command ,like the way we do not take heed of the fertile and infertile time for conception and use means other than the way God planned it to be. Not listening to the way He speaks through the Authority of His Church!
Would it be more precise to say that she was redeemed from the beginning from any stain of Original Sin but that she necessarily inherited a human nature damaged by the Fall? As did her son – who was like us in all things except sin. The ‘common teaching’ (not of faith) is that she was free of all concupiscence since this would be incompatible with her orientation towards God.
Many of the Fathers taught that Mary remained a ‘physical’ virgin despite giving birth. But more recent views suggest that the rupture, or otherwise, of the hymen is accidental to virginity. We have no reason to suppose that for her childbirth took its normal course.
St Joseph, I think the critical matter in the story of the fall is the rejection of God’s sovereignty. If a sovereign God tells us that marriage is indissoluble and that fornication i(or the debasement of our sexuality to mere pleasure) is wrong then we have no right argue, even from science. As Catholic Christians we believe that sovereignty is also present to us through the Magesterium of the church.
One could argue that since women are a law unto themselves, this applies also to Natural Law. Regarding sexual politics, we seem to be in a strange situation at present. Women claim equality with men (and why not?) even to the extent of serving in the front line – when pregnant! – and aspiring to leadership roles (Angela Merkel occupies the same shoes as Otto von Bismarck) while at the same time are content to claim victimhood status, which is a tacit admission of inferiority. I can’t imagine a man complaining to the police in 2014 that he was ‘touched inappropriately’ by a female celebrity in 1976.
As I was mentioned in the opening remark, I thought it was time to reply. My question had been of the form “does the natural law justify the historic repression (or subjugation) of women”.
Now some could well answer that their mothers or grand-mothers would not have seen what they saw as natural order as repression. Abbot Laurence O’Keefe, who introduced me to scripture once said “Anyone who thinks Judaism is a patriarchal religion has never met a Jewish mother!”
However it is interesting that Quentin has used the second creation account in Genesis as his introductory text. The first account talks of the equal creation of male and female; to paraphrase (avoiding the difficulty that the English language does not have a commonly used gender-neutral term) “God created human in the image of God-Self, in the image of God, God created human, male and female God created human”. Abbot Laurence told us that this creation story was the older and more theological reflection on the nature of humanity being in the image of God. It speaks of an equality-with-difference at odds with a patriarchal interpretation.
The second creation account is also rather clumsy, the idea that God brought Adam a lion, a sheep, a dog and a duck as potential companions before deciding to create woman merely because none of the others were satisfactory makes God seem rather silly.
A noted Jewish exegete once pointed out in a lecture that the second creation account represents Adam and Eve as being naked, but unaware of their sexuality. In Jewish exegesis the serpent gives Eve a sex-ed lesson – the serpent representing the male phallus and the fruit of the tree (a Fig tree) the female vulva – in Mediterranean cultures this analogy has a history.
In this interpretation the sin of Adam and Eve is to create new life without God’s command – and typifies Original Sin as a sexual sin. The obviously downfallen nature of human sexuality speaks to this interpretation.
Anyway, I think this is sufficient to an opening exchange.
Yes, I used the second account because, while the first account is focused on creation, the second is focused on man. The two accounts have different authors of course, and this is clear from the two different words used for God (Yahweh and Elohim ). The Yahweh account is accurate in referring to male and female as being made in his own likeness, because the essential elements of this similarity are in both men and women.
(I am not sure where “a lion, a sheep, a dog and a duck” come in!)
There is indeed an indication that some kind of sexual element was involved in Original Sin since the couple immediately felt ashamed at their nakedness. But this could mean no more than their passions, hitherto directed by right reason, are no longer under control.
The idea that the serpent and the fig were symbolic of the sexual organs would have delighted Freud. Perhaps it did – he enjoyed such associations.
Re lion, sheep etc… Genesis 2:20 ‘ The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. ‘
Perhaps it was Adam, rather than God, who thought he might find a partner in this way?
I wonder who first realised that the typical shape of a fig leaf suggested a covering for the male genitalia. As for Freud, once you start looking for such associations they can be pretty easy to find.
I used to think that intercourse must have been involved with O.S but then someone pointed it out that it was not, when I’d asked this question : Why did A&E feel shame in seeing each other naked, why would being naked be a negitive thing pretty much straight away? Answer : For the first two original persons, it contrasts the difference between being in the original warm friendship with God and being in the cold outside the original relationship. Gen 3 :10.
So this did help with my thinking on O.S. Also what about our conscience? Environment and culture play a role in conscience formation, plenty of aboriginal cultures found nudity a non-issue.
Is there any empirical evidence to support the claim that human beings ever existed in an unfallen state?
Perhaps you would specify what you would accept as evidence in this case.
If we are to believe that God would not make anything that was imperfect-the evidence is there staring us in our face.
It is man by his free-will that the fallen state came about .
“Perhaps you would specify what you would accept as evidence in this case.”
Evidence from biology/anthropology that early human beings (and the rest of creation?) existed in a radically different and better state than they subsequently became after the fall.
In making a case for the Natural Law – which is supposed to be accessible in some degree by all reasonable human beings – it would seem unhelpful to explain it with reference to the fall which many would regard as an implausible account of human origins.
In 1909 the Pontifical Biblical Commission insisted that Catholics must believe in the creation of Eve from the body of Adam. Who would defend that position today?
I think you are going to be out of luck. The first homo sapiens lived about 175,000 years ago and, up to the Fall, lived in a garden in Eden. And I wouldn’t discount the possibility that predecessors of sapiens had immortal souls. Archeological records relating to homo are few and far between and, of their nature, would not be reliable inclinations of a spiritual way of life. Perhaps we should remember Aristotle’s view: “ It is a mark of the educated man and a proof of his culture that in every subject he looks for only so much precision as its nature permits.”
It is of course perfectly possible to infer the characteristics of unfallen nature from the fallen nature we observe all around us, much as we might mentally reconstruct Humpty Dumpty from the sad mess at the bottom of the wall. We do not suppose the Genesis story to have been a literal account of an historic occurrence, but a means of conveying to the reader how man’s wilful determination to defy God brought him into a sorry state of alienation.
Yes, the 1909 Biblical Commission is a creature of its time, and a useful reminder of Bishop Butler’s point that what is not infallible, is fallible.
Aristotle’s point is fair of course, but it doesn’t say anything about how valid a claim will be in the given circumstances. We couldn’t expect to find empirical evidence of quite a few such claims from history/prehistory. How best to view them? As consistently as possible I would suggest. If it is a common, everyday day claim then there may be little reason to doubt the report. If it is an unprecedented, unrepeatable and/or otherwise extraordinary claim then it should be treated as you treat any such.
I think there are limits to what we should infer from a “mess”. I might look at the ingredients for a cake and think the finished product better in comparison, but I should be careful not to think those ingredients were clearly an imperfect or fallen cake.
What you say is fair, Alan. But perhaps it is enough for our purposes to reflect on the fact that man has high aspirations to be good, yet manages to be bad in so many ways. At one level these biblical accounts are ways in which humans attempt to understand this internal conflict. Typically, for the time they are written, they get put into a story. The story may be myth, but the myth may contain an important truth.
“ It is a mark of the educated man and a proof of his culture that in every subject he looks for only so much precision as its nature permits.”
I couldn’t agree more!…
“the 1909 Biblical Commission is a creature of its time”
I agree, just like Humanae Vitae and the CCC….
If I might comment on Alan’s cake analogy. Atheists often point to natural disasters as an indication of the absence of a loving God. However the movement of tectonic plates which produce the most severe natural disasters are an integral part of the development of our natural environment. This green and pleasant land has been formed by plate tectonics, ice flows, flooding and the weathering of time. All are essential to the beauty we see in the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the Cotswold valleys.
The cake is greater than it’s ingredients and the work of a creator. So is our world.
I think perhaps atheists are questioning the mixture of loving and omnipotent when they ask about natural disasters. Is the sometimes destructive nature of geology, for all the creative power it also has, the only way God could have fashioned the dales and the valleys etc.? He seems quite limited if so, potentially unloving if not.
While it is probably true of every cake, as a one time chemistry student I cannot look at things that form from constituent parts and conclude that a creator must necessarily be involved in every such process. If that were true then God would either need to tinker constantly or He would have needed to establish some system of self assembly … and if such a system can exist then its existence alone might explain creation. Some might call that system god anyway I suppose, but it doesn’t have enough of the characteristics for me.
“The cake is greater than it’s ingredients and the work of a creator. So is our world.”
Are you suggesting that it is impossible for God to make a world in which there is no suffering or evil?
Leibniz spoke of “The best possible word”, a world that is open to dynamic change has to allow for positive and negative outcomes.
millignap if God wanted sexual intercourse not to be enjoyable no one would have babies.I don’t know if that is what you mean.?
What was believed by our previous generations can seem really mind blowing compared to what we know about ourselves as humans now. Sex was at one time seen as sinful, and only to be for procreation, in the extreme. But that was what was taught and many didn’t question anything because of fear I think.
Also thinking about Mary, she obeyed God directly, through the angel. She wasn’t obedient to a man….just thinking out loud…..
Alan. if you saw my cakes you would definitely call them a mess, it does depend a lot on the maker, also by knowing what it can be like-for instance if my daughter males one from the same ingredients!
I believe Acquinas held that sex was always intended to be pleasurable but that the fall disordered that pleasure.
I believe like everything it has certain conditions.
I am pleased you agree with Humanae Vitae.
They say that the proof in the pudding is in its eating. and HV has certainly done that.!!
There is a place -it is called Heaven!!
Milliganp.l am on a kindle so excuse spelling mistakes it is not doing what I ask it to do..capitals when it shouldn’t be and lower. Case when it should not..I am looking after my grandson so I won’t comment any more until I go home on my computer.
I often wonder if Our Blessed Mother had more visits from the Angel or if Her life was full of visits as She pondered on Her Life of the Mother of God.
If She gave birth to a Child when no intercourse took place She will have believed more strongly to the Incarnation..
I believe it would be lovely to have a husband like St Joseph, many wives would pray for that and then there probably would be less divorces!
P.S. Also As Nuns marry Jesus spiritually-perhaps if more priests married the Blessed Virgin there would have been less child abuse.
Yes, St Joseph as protector of the family, mary and the child Jesus. But maybe not so much the idea of never having a normal martial relationship, as they never did!
Differences in application of Natural Law where women are concerned…
Abraham was praised for his willingness to sacrifice his only son Isaac, at God’s command, – though in the last analysis he was not required actually to do it. He was praised for his faith in God and his obedience to God’s command (there’s a lot about this in one of the NT letters, but I can’t offhand remember which).
God wouldn’t even have asked Sarah. Natural Law demands that a woman nurture “the child of her womb” (as recognised in one of today’s readings), and destroying that child (no matter who commands it) should be unthinkable to her.
The widespread destruction of children in the womb which has come to prevail in many cultures over the last fifty years reflects social and financial pressures (among others), which in this case are opposed to natural law.
I am not too sure what you mean.!
Do you mean that Our Lady and St Joseph could live with the fact of being free of a sexual relationships but it would be different for priests?
If that was what you meant I can understand what you say,but it is not understandable for any one especially a priest to abuse children.
If they fall in love with a woman .and they feel they can not keep their celibate vows-they have the choice to ask to be defrocked.
Perhaps that is not what you mean
No I meant it about your comment, “I believe it would be lovely to have a husband like St Joseph, many wives would pray for that and then there probably would be less divorces!
I did not mean that there would be less divorce by a couple being ‘celibate’ like Mary & St Joseph, but they would perhaps show more respect for their wife or husband by understanding, and be more faithful in their relationship to make it last ’till death do us part’..
Jesus said ;’All things are possible with God’..It is also said in Scripture I think St Paul speaks of it, that a husband and wife should be apart for a while (sexually) to allow some time for prayer; I would say that fits in very closely to the fertile period and childbearing.
Ann I am very pleased there are some female on this blog to understand what I say eventually.! .
Although Quentin does have some enlightenment on female thoughts.!
Thanks, I get what you mean now. 🙂
Jesus said ;’All things are possible with God’..It is also said in Scripture I think St Paul speaks of it, that a husband and wife should be apart for a while (sexually) to allow some time for prayer; I would say that fits in very closely to the fertile period and childbearing.
I never thought of it that way before….very good 🙂
I read an article by an orthodox Rabbi. In Judaism husband and wife separate during the menstrual cycle. This came about from a misplaced understanding of what was actually happening and Jewish understanding of ritual cleanliness. However the corollary benefit was that once a month there is what he called a honeymoon night. The ritual separation enhances rather than damages the relationship.
Michael Palin, in a documentary about Tibet went to a village where they have a separate compound for women during menstruation. During this time the men have to look after the children, cook etc. in this society women see their natural cycle as a blessing not a curse.
Perhaps there is a natural law lesson our modern society could learn from these examples.
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Milliganp March 1st 12.19 pm
“Now some could well answer that their mothers or grand-mothers would not have seen what they saw as natural order as repression.”
I agree. Many were quite content to know that “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”, or to be “the power behind the throne”.
Two world wars and technical developments have changed western culture unimaginably since then, and the genie is well and truly out of its jar? lamp?
Quentin : in your write up :
“Eve was made for Adam, not the other way about”.
I try to think of it as both were made for each other, as the two become one, male and female form one unity. Both are first, rather than any being thought of as secondary……perhaps it’s 21st century thinking for me, but I would like to think that God sees both male and female as equal in a way, as he gave both the gift to create life.
Your comment March 3rd at 7.21.
Holy Mother Church when She speaks of Genisis, we appreciate how its language is meant to be, and understood in the way that the 1909 Pontifical Bibilcal Commission has laid it out in its definition.
I don’t think we are meant to believe that God made Adam from the the dirt of the earth (although in some cases that would be easy to believe) or did he take a rib from Adam and make a female.
We can believe that He gave us a soul and that is where we are in the likeness of God.We can understand right from wrong and use our free will to choose it.However be guided by our conscience that has to be informed as Adam and Eve were at the time in the Garden of Eden of Good and Evil..
They made their choice like many do today, and we see the road to destruction since it has led us to.
We do have a Saviour-however that does not suit everyone,because we are all guilty of our first parents sin- we will not serve, we do not wish to be like Him -but be Him.
I only know much about the natural law only as being ‘man eat man’ and we will survive,
That is not Gods Law He came to teach.us differently than that. And died for it.
However perhaps we need to become like little children again!
Sadly, the idea that women can have a break from their children and husbands (I can only speak of the UK) and that is’ Night out with the girls and Ann Summer Parties’ or male striptease etc.. I am not imagining this I have had the invitations (just as a joke) knowing that I would no go,however I could go and surprise them sometime,that would be fun!!
It is strange how their husbands don’t object,my late husband would definitely have objected,although when I met him at 17 he was 21 he had a membership card to a striptease club in the West End of London. It was either ‘it or me’ at the time!!!! He did ‘grow up later on in years before we married 4 years later! ‘May he RIP I hope he is smiling at me in Heaven now..
God be with the days when the most adventurous night out for a married woman was a Tupperware party. However my wife died go to one held by a neighbour and the conversation turned to the sexual performance of husbands – she didn’t go to another. The ancients had it right on the problems of temptation if not always right on how to avoid it.
My last reply to you went where it ought not to go. sorry.
I am diabetic on insulin, dickey heart, and when I see all these lovely scrumptious cream cakes etc being served up to others in restaurants, or see them displayed in shop windows I know I can eat them if I am silly enough to do so. My family when I eat with them don’t eat them either.
We have to take care of our body and more so our soul. As you no doubt know.
And I just ‘Luv’ fresh cream cakes etc
March 4, 2014 at 10:49 am
Interesting. I would say most women are grateful to be able to bear children and see it as a gift, but suffering with PMS every month can certainly feel like a curse!