The Neutron Bomb

Tracey Rowland contemplates Belgium by Deborah Gyapong, which she took from the Crisis Magazine article is worth contemplating.

I haven’t been to Belgium since my short trip to Gent in 2000, and even then, I had no contact with Catholic intellectuals. However, I am reading about how the Belgian Church is in an even more ruinous state than France. The fact that Belgium has legalised euthanasia has little to do with the Church, since Belgium is as secular a state as most countries in Europe.

When a town is hit by a neutron bomb, as Dr Rowland pointed out in her article, it kills people but leaves buildings intact. This is something I find here in France. I look out of the  window of my study where I am typing this, and I see the church tower and spire. The Angelus bell rings three times a day. The bell is also rung when there is a funeral and the occasional wedding on a Saturday. There is one Sunday Mass celebrated per month, by a retired priest living in the town a few miles away. My wife and I once attended this service. The priest seemed to have little to do other than the consecration. A couple of women did the rest to their tastes. My wife really prefers the modern style of services, but this one left her cold. I might as well have been having a nice cup of tea in Pickering. Dr Tracey Rowland would have had the same experience with a formerly Catholic university faculty in Belgium. The buildings and monuments are there, but the people are gone. Here in France, the rate of practising Catholics nationwide is about 5%. Given the higher average in the cities, this reduces the mean figures in the countryside to almost nothing.

The monuments are all still there, but the soul is gone. I can understand what made people want to trash the Counter-Reformation Church, especially with the paedophile priest scandals. Many conservatives blame the homosexuals and the feminists. There is a very aggressive ideological build-up, and it is looking very ugly indeed. Let us consider feminism.

I am personally favourable to women having a greater role in the Church, especially as theologians and advisers, respecting the more prophetic role that fits the feminine stereotype. What I detest is a woman deciding to “become a man” and oppress men as she believes men used to oppress women. Being married myself, I see and feel these dynamics in the relationship. Many things my wife says and believes are of an amazing depth of perception, and she finds many women utterly contemptible through their lack of personality and character.  We men find that if we stand our ground and show character, women respect us the more for it. A man who obeys his wife, even if the wife says that this is what she wants, will despise an over-compliant husband. One must avoid extremes, or violence. It is “give and take” all the way.

Many of these things appear in the way “empowered” women are trying to de-construct the so-called “patriarchal” Church. If that Church cannot be feminised, then it must be destroyed. A wife with that kind of attitude is left behind at the side of the road, or clapped in the scold’s bridle! Joking apart, if the opposites cannot work together, then the strongest is the winner. The Old Testament, even in its poetical and prophetic mood is not very sympathetic to perverse woman.

And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.

In the context, these somewhat misogynistic sayings refer to the woman of loose morals, the harlot and the one who seeks to exploit. It was not so long ago that I commented on one of the most extreme examples of fallen womanhood – Irma Grese and the many other examples of evil and sadistic women. Feminine psychopathy has been studied and it is quite chilling. When they are bad, they can be as bad as evil men, and sometimes worse.

I say this to situate the mindset of some forms of feminism in its ambition to make men the oppressed gender. It was bound to happen, and we will find the role and position of women has changed throughout history, from the days of Saint Hildegard of Bingen and the most sublime to the days when women were accused of witchcraft on the flimsiest of evidence and burned at the stake after being horribly tortured.

I have a great amount of sympathy for women of quality who try to live in symbiosis with their opposite sex. Personally, I make great efforts to avoid telling sexist jokes and showing the kind of attitude discussed between the “guys” over a pint of beer in the pub. We do have efforts to make, and so have they. It is appalling to see how women are treated in the Muslim world, but they got just about the same in fourteenth and seventeenth century Christianity, in both Protestantism and Catholicism. So much has been gained in the twentieth century: education, employment, equal pay, rights under the law, freedom from discrimination and oppression. However, is a day coming when men will be deprived of education, medical care, any work other than brute labour and discriminated against? If my wife cracked this kind of joke, I would take her up for it too.

What would some feminists do to Christianity? It seems that they want to get rid of it to replace it with something else. They would get rid of all gender-specific language. We have Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but if they talked of Mother and Daughter, they would be just as sexist. Parent and child? Perhaps, but we talk of boys and girls in common language. All rather hypocritical if you ask me…

Perhaps some feminists would take us back to Paganism. The idea is interesting, and I would attend one of their prayer services to see what they do. I haven’t found any in this country. Perhaps I haven’t looked hard enough. I don’t imagine many of that sort of stuff in the countryside and I don’t often go to Paris.

Women in churches are very variable, from the most busybody and vulgar to the most delicate and compassionate. Just yesterday, I reproduced a couple of clips from Brideshead Revisited with Cordelia speaking of her brother Sebastian. This character is a devout Catholic who keeps simple in her life and gives her life in the care of the war wounded and maimed. She is a most attractive personality in her plainness. This does not seem to be someone under the domination of men, but confident, open and innocent.

Those feminists who would bring about George Orwell’s 1984 and Big Sister (oops, Big Sibling! 😉 ) seem to be bent of de-constructing Christianity on the pretext that it cannot be manipulated into the meaning they would like to make of it. According to various articles I have read, the radical feminist ideology takes a number of forms, some with which I would sympathise, and others I see as no less reprehensible than masculine sexism. It is thing to affirm the dignity and value of women as human beings, and another when they want to redefine the world in the same way as militant homosexalists.

One of the greatest fallacies is the blanket condemnation of western culture. The assumption is that everything has been devised by men, from a masculine viewpoint. A sane mind would seek to balance masculine institutions by allowing women to take a part in a dialogue to restore balance. Actually, for many, the fact of a masculine underpinning makes something intrinsically wrong.

Interestingly, some feminists refuse the term feminist, for it reinforces the feminine stereotype. What do they want? The abolition of God and Christ? Gnosticism? We can ask ourselves which religious traditions are more sympathetic to women. Most are not. Some forms of Hinduism burned widows alive with their deceased husbands. We know what happens to women in places like Afghanistan and Iran. They are not easy places for feminists! What about Buddhism? It looks to me as though traditional Christianity is the kindest to women. Christ did much more for women, and not only saving their lives, than most religious men of those days.

Women who treat men kindly are more likely themselves to be treated with kindness. If my wife starts yelling at me, I’ll just give her a “time out” or ask her what “all that” is supposed to be all about. Just give it to me like a human being. Reason it out and express it in language, then I’ll listen and try to do something about my shortcomings. It can surely happen on a bigger scale too. We have just got to get on together.

I think there is no doubt that there are differences between men’s and women’s brains and our psychology. There are the old stereotypes, and it is good to read and study. The man tends to see the whole and the purpose of something. Women go straight to the details and tend to believe that rational explanations are unnecessary. Things are “just so” depending on what is most convenient. On the other hand, I often find my wife trying to assert herself as a man and reasoning – though often (at least from my perspective) off at a tangent. I have learned a lot about Jungian psychology and how it is helpful for men and women to be less clear-cut about their gender, and integrate characteristics of the opposite sex into their lives. A man needs to be more home-loving and attentive to details and feelings, and a woman needs to discover reason, faith and spirituality, a sense of liturgical symbolism which is often lacking.

Neutron bomb or renewal of humanity in a perspective of empathy and care for other people? It’s a good question, and a lens through which we might discern the future of traditional Catholic Christianity.

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9 Responses to The Neutron Bomb

  1. Stephen K says:

    The subject of sex and gender can be complicated. And the terms and relationships of “man/woman”, “male/female”, “feminine/masculine” are not equivalent. A person will be female or male depending on the chromosomal combination and the presence of particular genital anatomy at birth. This leads to a prolonged cultural and social formation in various kinds of attitude and intellectual and emotional patterns that we distinguish as ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. One day, pre-puberty, we are referred to as ‘girls’ or ‘boys’ and then a little later we are called ‘men’ or ‘women’, which can also mean not only ‘grown-up masculine/feminine persons’ but a fully admirable or powerful exemplar of one’s sex: ‘Be a Man!’ goes the motto; ‘I am Woman’ goes the song.

    ‘Feminism’ can also mean slightly different things, or take several forms or express different emphases. If a common core objective could be identified, it would be, I think, the assertion of women’s human right and dignity – which is often expressed in political/economic terms (i.e. what society allows or encourages them to do and how it speaks of them) – as equal, and as co-primary with men’s right and dignity. Sometimes, the struggle to assert this takes place against a culture or establishment where women’s rights and dignities are perceived as or are not equal but secondary, in which case it will take on revolutionary characteristics. Revolutions appear – probably always – to throw out babies with bathwater, and so feminism, like all -isms, can assume extreme forms. Indeed, the great dilemma for humans in history seems to be, how to get rid of dirty bathwater without getting rid of baby at the same time, because generally, establishments will not get rid of dirty bathwater voluntarily. Both the 16th century religious turmoil and the Tridentine reformation, and the belated and essentially subpoenaed responses of church leaders to rectify long concealed clerical abuse and episcopal hypocrisy, are examples of this. Sometimes, the price of getting rid of dirty bathwater may be the throwing out of a baby – although, if analysed acutely, it might be seen that the babies that have to be sacrificed are not real babies after all, but merely cherished or comfortable preferences. If honesty, purity of heart, compassion and love of God and creation are the result from or survive a revolution, then what may have been lost probably doesn’t matter.

    However, my comments here are not intended to endorse every word spoken or deed acted for or against the various expressions of feminism: it is much too large a subject here. I can’t see how those who would seek to replace aggressive patriarchies with aggressive matriarchies are advancing the human condition. And at some point revolutions lose their meaning when the wheel has turned: the storming of the Bastille and the reconstituted Assembly are followed by or develops into the Terror; the October revolution is followed, after only a short interval, by Stalinism. The real challenge seems to me to be how to see both men and women as humans and not stereotypes.

    I should add here that any attempt to replace one sex with the other seems both nonsensical and doomed: sex only has meaning if there are two. The Male means nothing if there is not the Other, Female, and vice versa. Man is to Woman, as Woman is to Man, so to speak. Although both find their source in the Divine, God is neither male nor female, unless we want to toy with the Trinitarian concept of Persons in Hegelian and dialectical terms.

    As a final comment on what is yet another interesting post by Father, it seems to me that not every feminist pushes for the ordination of women, but it certainly is part of at least one religious feminist agenda. I also think that the response to that push can often be characterised in some respects as ‘masculinist’. My own inclination is that the question requires neither, but rather a ‘humanist’ approach. I myself do not see at all why women cannot or should not be ordained Christian priests, but ironically, sex-based argument appears to obscure or impede either the will or ability (or both) to ‘humanise’ such religious/theological issues.

    Just some thoughts and a personal response .

    • ed pacht says:

      I’m not quite sure Stephen is addressing the problem Fr. Anthony has presented, but his analysis of feminism and its causes seems accurate. I’ll respond here at the risk of going down a rabbit trail. This, like most issues, tends to come down to a case of false opposition. There are two propositions presented in almost all manifestations of this controversy. 1. Men and women are equal; and 2. Men and women are different. These two thoughts tend to be presented (both by ‘conservatives’ and by ‘liberals’) as in opposition to one another, as if equality eliminates difference, or the realization of difference eliminates equality. This cannot be true, as both propositions are entirely true. Thus both difference and equality need to be affirmed and celebrated. Where problems arise is when the balance is not maintained (as it rarely is).

      Men and women are different, not only in the obvious physical aspects, but in the operation of the hormonal systems, of thought patterns, in emotional expression, in interpersonal relationships, and, probably most importantly, in the radically different role each plays in the conception, bringing forth, and nurturing of the next generation. They are simply not interchangeable.

      However, it is wrong and pernicious to present either sex as superior to the other. God designed humanity (and, yes, much of the phenomenon called, ‘life’) to require this difference of sexes, so that our species, and very, very many other species, both animal and vegetable, depend for continuance on the existence of both species, Neither is dispensable.

      Feminists are quite correct to point out that men have often attempted to assert superiority, declaring male roles to be superior to female roles and then banning women from them, and that the church has often been foremost in promoting such views. Nonetheless the history of Christianity is filled with strong women, using the distinctive gifts of their sex in ways no man ever could. Can women preach or teach? Well, witness Priscilla, any of several women called prophetess, the several women listed by the Roman Church as Doctors of the Church, and more others than I can count. It would seem to be a role well filled by women, and in a way, perhaps, that a man could not. Can women administer. Well, look at all the wonderful abbesses, some of whom had authority over men, like Hilda of Whitby and Teresa of Avila. Can women do works of mercy, take on a ministry of prayer, and so forth? Obviously?

      Are any of these roles of lesser value than that of priest or even bishop? There’s where the problem comes in. They are not. It is the clericalism that tries to present clergy as superior beings that is one of the major shortcomings of Christianity as practiced. Is a priest better than other humans? Is he closer to God than others? Is he more learned, more spiritual, more moral than other Christians? Obviously not. Anyone who tries to say otherwise is simply not paying attention. What, then, distinguishes a priest? Well, it is his role a symbol of Christ Himself, an icon, perhaps badly flawed, of the One who took full humanity on Himself and walked the earth, not as some sort of androgyn, but as a man, and died, not as a generic sexless human, but as a genuine man, the Son of God and Son of Man. The priest, in offering the Holy Sacrifice, is standing before God as the One whose shoe he is not worthy to tie, to make there the true and living sacrifice that only Christ can offer. Can a woman be such an icon? Somehow that seems a terrible stretch, especially as the only way that could be was for her to cease to be woman, to become what she was not made to be. That would be to lessen herself in ways I do not think God desires.

      Jesus was surrounded by women, and he treated them with intense respect. It was to women that He first showed himself at the Resurrection. But it was the men with all their glaring weaknesses that He appointed Apostles. It gives one pause to wonder why. Sometimes it is claimed that He was merely yielding to convention — just when did he do that with regard to any other issue? Isn’t it rather that He died, at least in part, for flouting convention?

      OY, this got longer than I intended. In short, it is my conviction that women should, must, have a greater role in the church than has been permitted, but that their role needs to arise from their very nature as women. I can’t see that priesthood fits them any better than motherhood fits me.

      • Stephen K says:

        Ed, it is true that Father’s “neutron bomb” problem is not principally concerned with the question of women in the Church, but if I may, I would simply say that you have hit a nail upon its head in saying that clericalism, that presents the clergy, priests in particular, as superior beings, is a major shortcoming and problem for the Churches (i.e. ‘Christianity as practised’). It is almost inescapable where the authorities are all or mostly clerical. It is both false and futile to protest that this is an aberration, a misunderstanding, a corruption of true theology of the church: anyone brought up in a clerical church knows only too well that the vocabulary, culture, hagiography, catechesis are all enlisted to support the status quo inherited from some post-early Christian community model wherein most of us are not brothers or sisters (really) but only sons and daughters of Fathers, or subjects to Lords, Graces and Excellencies. We have to be, at least, honest enough to admit this. The ethos of clericalist models of priesthood, promoted by the SSPX, the FSSP, and other institutes etc. is unmistakeably in this tradition.

        Of course this has had implications for the place and value of women in religious life. If the brother model had not been replaced by the ‘Father’ model, the notion that spiritual and theological equality required access by women to ordination may never have arisen or become an imperative. It is not, perhaps, metaphysically necessary that any priest be a woman in fact, but the sad fact is that religious history and culture has conflated institutional authority and holiness-status with maleness and so the priesthood, and ordination, cannot avoid being a target in modern feminist politics.

        I am hesitant to say that things like women’s ordination or its continued suppression are litmus tests for the survival of churches; indeed, I am more inclined to the view that Christianity is not guaranteed (discounting the traditional meaning of Matt 28:20) and that the relationship of adherents to God and fellow men and women needs to be radically (i.e. at the roots) re-conceived. It may be that it is not that the church buildings and churches that are empty that is the problem, but that we think that vital Christianity depends on church buildings and churches or is only expressed when they are full and docile.

        For what it’s worth, ed, I think restricting the ikonic symbolism of Christ-Priest-Victim to humans who shared the same sex as Jesus is to assume what must be proved, namely, that being male is theologically essential, or that Jesus’ maleness was metaphysically (as opposed to historically or culturally) essential to Calvary. I think Christian symbolism, and grace, know no such restrictions. Whether Jesus was a man or a woman, Christians could still speak of incarnation, and the Word made Flesh. The way I see it, Jesus’ maleness is irrelevant for all theological purposes. Otherwise, I agree with much of what you say. Thank you.

      • ed pacht says:

        And I believe His maleness is central to theological purposes. He was not merely a generic human, but as fully a man as any other man, and is always referred to, both in Scripture and in Tradition as such. You err also in conflating authority and holiness-status. That is not an aspect of Catholic Tradition. It has always been recognized, often loudly, that being clergy does not make a man holy – that clergy are at least as sinful as other men — and there is a veritable army of women recognized for their holiness, beginning with the Theotokos herself.

  2. Michael Frost says:

    Just had two quick thought:

    First, the French were (likely) pioneers in this secretive field.

    Second, while it is commonly held that–“When a town is hit by a neutron bomb, as Dr Rowland pointed out in her article, it kills people but leaves buildings intact.”–enhanced radiation weapons (ERWs) actually have both blast (heat & pressure) and radiation effects. They emit more of certain types of radiation and have a lower percentage of their outcome in the form of blast . They were mainly designed to destroy tank columns with reduced impact on infrastructure or to knock out ballistic missiles. Also, most ERWs are quite “small”, with nominal “yields” of around 1-10 kilotons. The small 1 kt bombs would be less than 1/20th of the yields in 1945 Japan, and possibly as much as 50% of the reaction would be in the form of released radiation as opposed to blast. So the blast radius is significantly reduced.

    It would be more accurate to say… When a town is hit by an ERW, it kills people and destroys buildings, but just in a different manner, with the emphasis on maximizing deaths by radiation and reducing the destruction of buildings in comparison to non-ERWs. So you still get lots of dead with many destroyed buildings.

    • Yes, I had the curiosity to read about the neutron bomb. It belonged to a notion in the 1970’s of fighting a limited tactical war with small nuclear weapons like the “Davie Crockett” – a small nuke fired from a gun. It met considerable opposition from the anti-nuclear lobby and many western governments. The idea of it just killing people and leaving everything else completely undamaged is untrue. The idea was meant more as an analogy.

      • Michael Frost says:

        Possibly the best readily available work on American nuclear weapons is James Gibson’s Nuclear Weapons of the United States (Schiffer, 1996).

        You’ll find the Davey Crocket’s, M-28 120 mm & M-29 155 mm, on pgs. 228-229. Minimum range was 1,000 ft. The yield of the W-54 warhead was 20- 250 tons (or .02-.25 kt) . Operational in 1962 and 400 warheads produced. Last one was withdrawn from service in 1971. So very short service life. The section on “Atomic Demolition Munitions (ADMs)” is fascinating, pgs. 232-234. The tiny SADM weighed 79 lbs. without its shipping container and had a yield of .1-1 kt.

        I also find French nuclear weapon systems fascinating. The ground-launched Pluton. Air-launched ASMP. If only there were more and better sources available in English, as I don’t read, write, or speak French.

      • Yikes! You know a lot about these little beauties. I don’t suppose you could make one in your garage to get rid of ****? 😉

        Here’s an article on home nuke building.

      • Michael Frost says:

        Oops, my bad. He spells it “Davy Crocket”. My Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1949, says the historical figure was David Crockett (1786-1836). I suspect spelling and punctuation were fluid at that time on the frontier? 🙂

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