Those popes who bear the name, "Pius," are the greatest guardians of the Church against heresy. This blog is a watchdog for modernism in the Church. In reality, outside this blog, the members of the board temper their criticisms and opinions with prudence and charity so as to help souls in their journey towards Christ. But sometimes, for the sake of their own sanity, the authors of this blog just need to blow off some steam. The result is Totus Pius.

19 August 2006

An Interesting Question

Considering that We have just returned to one, We found this letter on universities by Bishop Richard Williamson, one of the four SSPX bishops, to be of some interest (thanks to The Cornell Society for a Good Time for the link). Putting aside the fact that the bishop is a leader of the society, what do you think of his argument and his use of St. Thomas? Or his indictment of the modern university as worse than a brothel? We will give you Our thoughts after a few well-fashioned comments.


Anonymous said...

OK, I'm a woman, so my response will be "particular" and personal. (Sorry, I can't help it.)

My initial reaction was, not surprisingly, horror. However, as I read on, I realized that much of what he said about the female experience in higher education and in careers had been true for me, anyway.

I was a mediocre student in college until I met and fell in love with a guy who was a good student - then I became a good student. I graduated, but what I really wanted was to get married and have 12 kids. (Unfortunately, my husband thought 2 was plenty, so there went that.)

Years later, with very aggressive urging from my husband (he was kind of a liberated man, you see), I went to law school and graduated very near the top of my class. (Yes, I had two young sons at the time.) But I have to admit I loved studying the law.

When I left my husband, I had to go to work, so I became a lawyer. First thing I did out of the gate was have an affair with my boss. I've now been a lawyer for 18 years and have been a reformed/reverted, chaste, good Catholic for five years. I do like practicing law in many ways. It is interesting, and it has provided my kids and me with a good income. I like the people I work with. I like it more now, post reversion to the Catholic Church, that I'm not trying to be "WOMAN," a "rainmaker" or top dog in my firm. (In essence, I've taken a somewhat "submissive" role within the milieu of my law firm.)

But . . . if I could go back in time, I would have picked marriage/family or being a nun.

Also, re: female weakness - I don't really know that I can universalize this, but I do know that I - a woman with fairly above-average intelligence - have fallen for every intellectual fad known to man before Jesus found me again and let me settle down like a weaned child in the Catholic Church. I have an awful lot in common with Eve, I'm afraid.

All that said, my legal background has helped me accept the Church in ways I wouldn't have been able to before. It helped me understand the concept of "authority," which helped me greatly to understand and accept papal infallibility. It has also helped me teach the Catechism to kids.

So, with all respect to Bishop Williamson and agreeing with many of his points, I would have a hard time saying that higher education for females is a waste, even if they go on to be homemakers. After all, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and Alice von Hildebrand both have Ph.D's, and they're pretty orthodox.

I'm 51, so I'll defer to younger commenters on whether the modern university is like a brothel. It wasn't when I attended in the '70s.

A Lawyeress

Emily said...

Well, there's certainly a lot to think about in the article. Interesting that you should bring it up on the day we hear about wisdom as a woman setting out a banquet in the readings.

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."

While I'll agree that women tend to think more intuitively than men, this statement seems to be just inches away from declaring men to be more human than, or superior humans to, women. If the mark of humanity is rationality, and men possess superior reason, I'm not sure what other conclusion to draw.

I will agree with him, of course, that modern education has been overly-subjectivised, but if the presence of women is to be blamed for that, then I suppose we shall have to blame them for almost the entire modernist heresy. Certainly, this was around long before women were widely accepted in universities, since Pius X was so concerned with the problem.

Bp. Williamson's point about universities being full of "all kinds of boys and girls with little or no interest in ideas so that they should not be studying in the first place" is an interesting one. I've long been opposed to degree inflation, to the point where a master's degree is often required where a high school education was once sufficient. Gender aside, not everyone needs to have a university education. That having been said, I take umbrage at his use of the term "elite" to describe those who should hold such an education. Far too many problems, including, ironically enough, the implementation of the Second Vatican Council, can be attributed to people holding such an "elite" in too high a regard, over even their own common sense.

As for the modern university being "worse than a brothel," he fails to prove the exact cause of this, I think. Modern society in general has its share of sexual problems, and, while I suppose we could blame this upon its containing both genders, segregating them is hardly a satisfactory solution. While the good bishop is keen to note that women, without men, tend to react to situations less reationally, he fails to note that men, sans women, tend towards boorishness. Now, he would certainly--and rightly--object that men are capable of overcoming this tendency, with some effort. However, if this is the case, then it is also true that a coed group is able, with some effort, to subject their impulses to their reason and create a chaste environment. Any given situation will have it's own set of problems to overcome.

In a similar vein it is also possible that women are able to exert their reason over their emotions, and that their reason could work in concert with, rather than suppressing, their God-given intuitive nature. This is to say, women are given an equal share of reason to men, as they are equally as human, but they put it to use in a different way.

As for the idea that it was alright for Isabella to lead Spain, as Spain was her "family," I find this an odd argument, as he does nothing to explain, but also to weaken his case, as apparently there can be some place for women's intuition in a leadership role.

I may come back with more thoughts later. For now, the rambling nature and any possible errors in this post should not be taken as an example of woman's reason in general, but rather of mankind's reason at 2 am!

Raindear said...

While I sympathize with Bishop Williamson's view of co-ed universities and higher education for women, I see one main flaw in his argument.

Men and women have the same end, an intellectual end, the contemplation of God in the Beatific Vision. While men and women have very distinct roles and certain kinds of knowledge are unsuited to a woman's role, nonetheless, we are both perfected by the knowledge and love of truth. As a training ground for leadership, perhaps universities should be reserved for men. However, true ideas are needed, not only for ordering or ruling, but for living well. Thus, anyone will benefit from some intellectual formation.

JPSonnen said...

i've met this bishop and i've been his guest at his seminary in winona, minnesota. he claims to be a "thomist" while his ecclesiology is all goofy (of that of the eastern orthodox). true thomism is metaphysics (natural theology, ontology, epistemology), etc.

Anonymous said...

Since no one else seems to be joining in, I will add a few other thoughts that have come to me since writing the above post:

1-It seems that Bishop Williamson misses the third way (perhaps the SSPX doesn't recognize it) - and I missed it too on my first go-round - of being single and chaste. The real Catholic Church recognizes the single state as another valid way to live. This would allow very intelligent women to obtain advanced education without interference with child-rearing responsibilities. Ditto for married women who were unable to have children.

2-Having thought about it some more, I really do agree with the Bishop in many ways, but I think he should not limit his comments to women. Higher education is overrated for both sexes. How many young men would be excellent tradesmen or craftsmen but feel such work is beneath them, so they end up being mediocre college students and stuck in boring, middle management as a result? Just as it's no disgrace for a woman to be a full-time homemaker, having lots of children, it's no disgrace for a man to build, fix/install plumbing and wiring, and drive trucks. (Actually, the older I get, the more I appreciate men who can do these things!)

3-Somewhat related to point #2, I can't believe the number of young, quite average, graduates I meet who think they are brilliant because they've been fed so much self-esteem but so little real learning in modern colleges. (Readers of this blog excepted, of course.)

The Lawyeress

Raindear said...

One thing occurs to me with regard to his use of St. Thomas...

Man is a spiritual creature, possessing soul as well as body, and for him generation is more than a physical act. In order to be the best helpmate for man in the work of generation, a woman must also be capable of them most intimate friendship with him. But Aristotle and St. Thomas point out that friendship is most characterized by conversation about the highest things. Therefore, a woman is a better helpmate in generation if she has some knowledge of the highest things.

This fits with the Christian understanding of the sacrament of marriage, that spouses help one another achieve heaven. According to Aristotle and St. Thomas, true friendship is based on virtue but is also for the sake of virtue. As Aristotle says, friends "are thought to become better too by their activities and by improving each other."(NEIX.12)

marc said...

Mr Williamson lost me with his remark about women and trousers.

If the Angelic Doctor can reach the wrong conclusions about the natural beginning of the human person, so can he also reach the wrong conclusions about women and their natural abilities and aptitudes etc: not that I will attempt to dispute with him, mind you, ha.

Curmudgeon said...

"Mr" Williamson? Despite the circumstances of his ordination and his unenviable canonical status, he is nonetheless a validly consecrated Catholic Bishop. Save the Mistering for the Anglicans and other prots who are play-acting at it.

karyn said...

I am 17 years old this year, a converted Catholic who regards herself as traditionalist and conservative, who has been to the SSPX for Masses.

But this letter i regard as downright offensive. Women might be 'subject to men' in scripture, but we are created equal in dignity before the eyes of God, with the same intellect and use of reason.

I myself intend to study theology at Cambridge or Oxford and raise a family after that. This letter is nothing less than an affront to my ability to think for myself or even defend the faith as a good Catholic and an apologist, let alone my ability to work hard to achieve the grades i currently have.

please visit my blog at

I love your blog and the views you offer, but this letter is nothing less than degrading to us as women. Please understand.