Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Vatican does it again...

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

I shouldn't be surprised at anything the Vatican's newspaper is printing, but on International Women's Day, they published an article in which they weighed in on the event or invention which has most liberated women (even though really, who asked them?): ""Some say the pill, some say abortion rights and some the right to work outside the home. Some, however, dare to go further: the washing machine."

Now, I can understand the Vatican's ideological opposition to the pill, even if I don't agree with it. But the washing machine? I admit that it did free women from washing clothes by hand, which made laundry into a grueling chore, but to suggest that the washing machine, rather than the right to work or the right to vote, or even, for God's sake, the tampon? Stances on abortion and contraceptive use aside, I think we can all agree that this article is pretty condescending and insulting - basically, it's saying that women were liberated once they could throw the clothes in the machine, shut the lid, and have a cappuccino with their friends...so just imagine what life was like after the dryer! That was really all that was keeping us from having careers - just that pesky laundry! Not discrimination, or anything. The Catholic Church doesn't know anything about that.


At March 10, 2009 at 3:36 PM , Anonymous Christina said...

Just out of curiosity, has anyone found the actual article, rather than articles written about the article? It just seems like a good idea, in principle, to read what was actually said before making a judgment (which is why I'm reserving comment on it until I'm able to find it).

At March 10, 2009 at 4:09 PM , Blogger Roscoe said...

Just a clarification...for some people this correction may mean something.

It wasn't a writer for the l'osservatore romano, it's a newspaper, not of the Vatican's mind you. So this has nothing to do with doctrine or dogma or anything like that. It woudl be as ridiculous, as one commentor put it, as attributing a washington post article to the Obama administration.

Moreover, while I still haven't found an original copy of the article, as I'm sure Amelia never did and bothered to read, it sounds as though this was clearly a tongue-in-cheek article. Apparently, most of the article actually focuses on attacking the pill and abortion (surprise!). From what I've read, which is not to be trusted, granted (I won't be satisfied until I actually read the damned article...so frustrated I can't find it...), the writer was actually making fun of an add for some washing machine. So, it may turn out that this article actually is more palatable to feminists than Amelia makes it out to be.

But then again, and this is not directed at Amelia, but rather the myriad of other sites online that don't bother to do good research, when Catholic bashing comes this easy, why complain or delve deeper, right?

At March 10, 2009 at 4:35 PM , Blogger Roscoe said...

sorry, i meant, it WAS a writer for the l'osservatore romano

At March 10, 2009 at 6:23 PM , Anonymous Dan said...

"I shouldn't be surprised at anything the Vatican's newspaper is printing..."

And we shouldn't be surprised that Amelia's anti-Catholic rant is right on cue.

Nevertheless, I wonder why she's so obsessed with the Catholic Church.

At March 10, 2009 at 9:39 PM , Blogger Amelia said...

Dan, I'm pro-choice and pro-contraception. I also want women to be accepted as part of the church hierarchy, just as basic equal rights. I am very willing to admit that the Catholic Church does some great human rights work, and that its stances on some issues are good, but when it comes to women, I think that the church as an institution has a lot to answer for.

I would be very interested to read the original article, but I feel that if a summary reaches the AP, I can at least trust it reasonably. As for my so-called "obsession" with the Catholic Church...I'm not sure why occasionally calling out a fairly sexist institution denotes obsession. This article, at least as summarized by the AP, is pretty ridiculous - I think we can both agree on that.

At March 11, 2009 at 12:34 AM , Anonymous Anna said...

Ha - the caption on the picture makes it sound like she's planning to use the washing machine for masturbatory purposes. It's a nice accompaniment.

At March 11, 2009 at 3:49 AM , Blogger Franki said...

It's not an anti-Catholic rant. We're an international cult whose leadership occasionally says/does some silly/questionable/offensive things, and Amelia's certainly within her rights to point it out. And heck, the Church is a multi-billion dollar organization with millions of followers - I think it can take the heat.

At March 11, 2009 at 4:59 PM , Anonymous Dan said...

I was pressed for time when I rattled off my previous comment, so it was unfortunately abrupt, but it does reflect my immediate reaction to your piece. I'm sure I'm not the only one to react this way.

One article written in l'Osservatore Romano just doesn't seem to be so significant that it merits drawing conclusions about "the Vatican position" or the Catholic Church, especially considering that nobody here seems to have read the original article. Yes, the Reuters summary makes it sound ridiculous, and it may actually be ridiculous. Then again, maybe the Reuters journalist just wanted it to come across that way.

I think everybody gets it that you disagree with the church on some big issues, but you aren't addressing those big issues, other than peripherally, by taking a few jabs at one or another obscure article.

I think you could do a better job of articulating your beef with the church. Your second sentence above expresses a wish that the church would change in a certain way, to include women in the church heirarchy. I think that's a fair comment, and many Catholics share a similar view. I also think it's something that has to be worked out mostly within the church and among Catholics (we could go on at length about this particular topic). However, when you lump this together with your first sentence, as you have done above, you seem to be implying that it is sexist to be pro-life or to forgo contraception in favour of natural methods, and you also seem to be expressing a wish that the church would change its position on those issues, and furthermore that it is a matter of justice to women. Many people would take extreme exception to this, particularly those who not only understand the rational basis for the church's position, but also put it into practice and live it every day (we could go on at length about this particular topic as well).

No one is forcing you, or even asking you, to follow church teachings. So, I think there is a certain sense in which you are being disrespectful to those who freely choose to do so. You seem to be saying that they are making wrong or invalid choices. You seem to be preaching to them in a way that they, and the church, are not preaching to you. No doubt I am misinterpreting your intent, but it does come across that way.

At March 11, 2009 at 8:23 PM , Anonymous Corita said...

The article WAS rather tongu-in-cheek, which is suggested in the quote above: "Some go even further...the washing machine." The focus was technology.

Just an FYI: The AP routinely ascribes stuff to "the Vatican" when it is just something that is reported in the Vatican newspaper, or an opinion given by someone CAtholic who does not speak officially. So, no, you can't really depend on the AP when it comes to this.

At March 12, 2009 at 3:42 AM , Anonymous Monika said...

Reply to Dan:

You say that "No one is forcing you, or even asking you, to follow church teachings" but I am not sure I agree with that statement. In fact if that were true I would have no problem with religion. I wouldn't agree with it but I would certainly not have any problem with it's existance or with people following it if they wanted to. However when church groups lobby to make abortion (for example) illegal they are trying to make me follow their world view and their teachings.

Sorry this is a bit off topic and I know you were specifically talking about Amelia but that sentence just summed up so well why I am not very positive about religion.

If you are the Catholic Church I think to tell your followers not to have an abortion is fine (I disagree but it is not my choice). To try and tell everyone in the world not to have an abortion is overstepping yourself but really is still fine (free speach is important). To try and actively prevent people who do not follow your religion from having an abortion is what I think is wrong.

At March 12, 2009 at 3:33 PM , Anonymous Dan said...


Firstly, the pro-life movement is much, much larger than the Catholic Church, so your argument is not strictly speaking with the Church on this issue. Nor is it a dispute about religious belief. The pro-life position can be established and defended using philosophical principles (ie. human rights) and the facts of modern embryology.

Secondly, the Church participates in pro-life lobbying because it has a duty to protect the most vulnerable. This is very much a matter of the church speaking up on civil rights issues, as it has done in the past and will always continue to do. I realize this is not going to make sense to anyone who does not understand that a human embryo is a person. Such is the nature of the dispute over abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and so on.

At March 12, 2009 at 4:16 PM , Blogger Chloe said...

"the Church participates in pro-life lobbying because it has a duty to protect the most vulnerable."
It's funny you should say that, Dan, because the New York Catholic church is vigorously objecting to a bill that would change the statute of limitations for sexually abused children, including those who were abused by members of the Church. So fetuses are vulnerable, but sexually abused children are not? I don't think the Church's pro-life stance is about defending the vulnerable as a general belief, it's about being pro-life. Which is fine - if you want to be pro-life, be pro-life, but don't cloak it in claims that it's all a part of your moral defense of the defenseless if you aren't going to follow through in other cases.

At March 12, 2009 at 4:45 PM , Anonymous Corita said...

Hi, Chloe:
I am a new reader here, but I came over from Feministing, and I am not some weird troll who is just rattling about waiting to take up causes...just to get that out of the way first off. And, yes it's off topic so I feel fine if this is as far as it goes.

The Church's opposition to the legislation in Maryland and New York and other places where it has popped up has been misreported/misunderstood a great deal. They are opposing attempts by people to extend the statute of limitations on **civil suits** against dioceses in cases of sexual abuse. The statutes as they stand now are usually about 20-30 years, and the (wildly popular, especially with lawyers) proposed legislation is to allow people to sue up to 50 years after the crime.
The two main objections:
(1)The proposed changes to laws DO NOT affect the pursuit of criminal charges against anyone accused of sexual abuse. I know that in Maryland there is NO statute of limitations on criminal prosecution of child abuse. The limitations on civil lawsuits were set traditionally due to the practical reality that it is exceedingly dificult to get reliable witnesses after such a long time. Of course, there is no limit on suffering when a person is abused. That is the great tragedy. But, it is just unrealistic to pursue lawsuits after such a long time.

(2)AND THIS IS THE REAL MATTER: These proposed changes are being brought *only* to change the statutes as they relate to the Church. The laws would not apply to school systems or state governments. Thus, they are a form of discrimination against a particular religion. (this in itself is enough to oppose it, and I would expect the Church to speak against these laws if they were being enacted against any other religion as well.)

The Church gets lots of flack for lots of things, and plenty of it deserved, but I don't think there is a whole lot of critical thinking going on about the way Church-related news is reported.

This "Vatican says...." headline about the washing machine is a perfect example; just one of MANY that get published on a regular basis when it wasn't said by the Vatican at all.

At March 12, 2009 at 6:32 PM , Blogger Roscoe said...

Sigh, including just the right facts to make your point, Chloe, and ignoring the other details is not the best way to make your argument any good. If you are going to bring up a point like this, at least have the courage to admit that there are problems with the bill that have nothing to do with a moral position on child abuse. What makes this country free and fair is the measures our laws take to ensure the innocence of a defendant is respected until he/she is proven guilty, first off, and that laws do not discriminate against a certain group or organization. Now I'm not saying that the statute of limitations shouldn't be raised (I mean, let's be honest, it probably should given the psychological trauma associated with abuse). But what about those people that were abused by a school teacher and all of a sudden the laws are telling them that their abuse isn't important enough to change the statute of limitations for their cases? Plus, you make it seem as though the Church actively condones sexual abuse, which is misleading and rhetorical. Nothing you have presented in your argument has shown or proven in any way that the Church does not have a stance of defending the defenseless, or even the weaker claim that their pro-life stance is only about pro-life, not about the defenseless.

At March 12, 2009 at 8:03 PM , Anonymous Dan said...


I did say "...has a duty to protect..." rather than "...consistently protects..." because I am well aware that the church has far too often failed miserably in its duty to protect. I can't defend everything the church has done. But I would ask you to remember that the church is made up of people, and people make mistakes, sometimes horrible mistakes. I hope we can learn and not repeat the same horrible mistakes.

If you look hard enough, you just might find evidence that the church really does believe in protecting the vulnerable. You could try searching "preferential option for the poor" or "development and peace" or "share lent" or "l'Arche". I could go on.

At March 13, 2009 at 12:49 PM , Anonymous Dan said...

Getting back to the article that started this discussion... I still haven't seen it, but I did come across this today:


Just so you understand the perspective from which he is writing, I'll say that Colby Cosh is no fan of the Catholic Church (eg. he is most definitely pro-choice). He does, however, put the Osservatore Romano article in its proper perspective... before launching into his own analysis of the significance of washing machines.


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