November 29, 2012 by lucieromarin
A recent post over at Charming Disarray – in which the writer describes having to argue with Catholics against wife-beating and telling your wife what to wear – makes me realise not only that a rift in time and space is causing my twenties to be repeated in the lives of other women (bad) and that they are handling it better than I did (good) but that one of the fastest ways to end up as roadkill is to be subject to opinions which are voiced with no authority other than conviction (and, sometimes, a Y chromosome.)
So…why do the Modesty Police exist? How did they get there – despite the best efforts of many conservative and traditional priests to restrain them? Here is my theory:
1) As a rule, laymen are not called to lead the Church or to save it. However, a generation of Catholics have been taught that they are all that stands between the Church and total collapse. The men especially have been trained to believe that they need to be fixing something in order to be really valuable Catholics. So, they’re on the lookout for an error to correct.
2) Many of the evils of the previous three decades have been attributed to feminism, which, in many minds, means ‘feminists’, and that means ‘women.’ So, the person who is on the lookout for someone to correct may be particularly on the lookout for a woman to correct. (Even if she is at the Latin Mass in an ankle-length skirt and a mantilla, she is still a potential feminist!)
3) Having spent a few decades dodging modernist bullets, many minds have retreated into a kind of corner in which they no longer really trust any judgement other than their own. So, the man who needs to save the Church by correcting someone like a potential feminist is also deeply wary of any opinion differing in any way from his. The mere fact of differing makes it potential modernism.
4) Leadership voids get filled. The layman who was never meant to lead or save the Church but is now trying to save it by insisting on his own opinion does, nonetheless, take his opinion from somewhere, whether he knows it or not. Enter American Protestantism.
5) Of course I cannot do justice to every version of Protestantism (not to mention every Protestant) in one paragraph, but this much can be said – that, though many conservative American Protestants have done away with the Apostolic Succession and the concept of priestly authority, they have not done away with the concept of the domestic authority of the husband. They do, in fact, cling to it even louder and more tenaciously than other people; maybe this is because, with no Pope and no King, they have no other forms of divinely-appointed authority left.
6) America is also the country in which door-to-door salesmen are so normal that they are not called ‘gypsies’ or ‘tramps’, (at least as far as I know!) and which has produced two giant religious movements based on the idea that door-knocking and telling complete strangers what to believe is rational behaviour.
7) The darlings of lay Catholic celebrity in the 1990s were either converts from Protestantism, or were still Protestant, and they carried their pre-conversion (or non-converted) attitudes towards family relationships into their public speaking. Thus, I heard a cassette tape (yes, I’m that old) of Randall Terry addressing an HLI conference about his pro-life work, in which he referred to the good family as one ‘with the wife in submission.’ Similarly, Kimberly Hahn expressed her gratitude for Scott not making her conversion ‘a submission issue.’ This is not the limit of American influence either. For example, when the Legion of Mary was founded in Dublin, the members prayed and visited hospitals. Today, (if I understand correctly) members have the option of going door-knocking – a direct import from American cults, and not related to traditional Catholic practice at all.
8) So! Your young Catholic man is desperate to save the Church, knows that this will be achieved by his correcting modernists and feminists, has developed a habit of mistrusting all judgement but his own, and has, in that mindset, filled the Catholic leadership-void in his life with a quasi-leadership consisting of American Catholics who have, to different degrees, absorbed a Protestant approach to saving the world, which includes an inflated concern with wifely and female submission and the certitude that the Holy Spirit mandates the imposition of one’s private interpretation upon other minds.
Now, he just needs a target!
9) That is why you, as a woman (potential feminist, subject to authority), must listen to him tell you what to do, and why, if you don’t, that just proves you’re an actual feminist, and you need to be targeted some more.