Thursday, May 7, 2009

Traditions in Turmoil

By Mary Ann Glendon, 471 pages, Sapientia Press.

“The position of women is linked with the fate of the entire human family. There can be no real progress for women, or men, at the expense of children or of their underprivileged brothers and sisters. Genuine advances for women cannot overlook the inequalities that exist among women themselves. Enduring progress for women must be rooted in solidarity between young and old, between male and female, as well as between those who enjoy a comfortable standard of living with ample access to basic needs and those who are suffering deprivation.”

These prophetic words, found in Traditions in Turmoil, were spoken by Pope John Paul II's representative to the 1995 Beijing Women's Conference, Mary Ann Glendon, law professor at Harvard University. She defends the faith in a contentious, anti-Catholic academic and intellectual environment.

The writings and speeches in Traditions in Turmoil, most of which are quite short and to the point, testify to Glendon's courage and intelligence. Her great Catholic faith, including her profound trust in the Church and its leadership, comes out even more powerfully.

Glendon is so refreshing because she is a female North American university professor who refuses to buy into the feminist industry's duality of Woman-as-Victim and Woman-as-Superwomen that has overtaken other conceptions of femininity and sexuality and even motherhood itself.

Yet rather than sounding dowdy or old fashioned, Glendon brings out the great wisdom of the Catholic tradition in the same manner that Pope's John Paul II and Benedict XVI have done.

Glendon's appreciation for the cultural significance of religion and of the essential link between culture and religion remind the reader of Pope John Paul II's deep connection to Poland's spiritual geography and history, which of course were Catholic geography and history. Glendon's following words remind us that leaving the Catholic church comes at a great loss:

“I am always amazed when I read of Catholics of my generation who complain that they felt stifled in the Church in the 1950s. For me, as a girl in a small Massachusetts hill town, pre-Vatican II Catholicism was a window opening out to the wide world that lay beyond the Berkshires. Its ceremonies spoke to me of a history before Plymouth Rock, and its liturgy linked me to every living Catholic on earth.”

Her intellectual boldness in the face of so much hostility to Catholicism was developed at an early age, when she read the words of Theodore Hesburgh: “When you encounter a conflict between science and religion, you're either dealing with a bad scientist or a bad theologian.”

It thus comes natural for Glendon to approach her faith with a critical view, again something that finds a parallel in the thinking of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. This is a very deep current in the Catholic tradition. St Thomas Aquinas believed that the intellect was a gift of God and that he need not fear Aristotelian philosophy or any seeming conflict between faith and other ways of thinking.

Mary Ann Glendon and Traditions in Turmoil continues the great Catholic tradition of wedding brains with piety.

No comments:

Post a Comment