Aquinas, Ruether, Misogyny & the November Election

Yesterday we meditated on Thomas Aquinas’s courageous and controversial move against dualisms of matter vs spirit and body vs. soul that had characterized much of Christian theology for centuries.

Fr. Gregory Pine, O.P., of The Thomistic Institute, explains Thomas Aquinas’ teaching on the body and soul.

We invoked theologian Rosemary Ruether who lays much of the oppression of women to a philosophy of dualism found in the “fathers” of the Christian church.  She says:  

Although women were no more bodily and sexual than men, the male perspective tended to equate the dualism of soul or mind over body with the dualism of male over female.  Women came to be regarded as closer to the flesh than men.

Notice how she connects dualism of soul/mind over body with the dualism of male over female.  Any empowerment of women needs to move beyond this dualism.  And Aquinas did exactly that by choosing Aristotle over Plato. Ruether continues: 

“Ordain a Lady.” Musical protest sponsored by the Women’s Ordination Conference

The negative view of sex and the body is assimilated into a negative view of women as spiritually inferior to men and more identified with the carnal instincts.  This creates a fearful view of sex and a fanatical misogyny toward women that becomes characteristic of the Christian monastic tradition. 

Notice the price we pay due in a philosophical dualism—a “fearful view of and a fanatical misogyny toward women” follows along with negative attitudes toward our bodies.

She criticizes an anti-sexual attitude as being unbiblical because it is not Jewish:  

This is different from Judaism which, although it regarded women as socially subordinated, had a much more positive view of sexuality. 

Ryan Grim of The Hill details the reference to 17th-century jurist Matthew Hale in Justice Alito’s leaked abortion draft.

This misogyny and fear of sex is very much in the news these days.  The SCOTUS position backed by many right-wing politicians declares that they have the right to control women’s bodies in the 21st century.  The invocation of two 17th century English jurists who ruled that witches should be burned at the stake in the SCOTUS decision to overthrow Roe v Wade underscores that supposed mandate.  The decision that followed from a similar philosophy by a judge in Alabama to forbid IVF followed. And now the beating of the drums to forbid contraception. 

The fanaticism does not cease.  Ideas—and philosophies—bear consequences. 

As do elections.  Our attitude toward the body results in attitudes within the body politic.  Both are on the ballot this November.

Adapted from Rosemary Ruether, “Patristic Spirituality and the Experience of Women in the Early Church,” in Fox, ed., Western Spirituality: Historical Roots, Ecumenical Routes, p. 145.   

See also, M. D. Chénu, “Body and Body Politic in the Creation Spirituality of Thomas Aquinas, in ibid., pp. 198-214.

And Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, pp. 36-48, 149-156.

And Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom For Hard Times, pp. 57-64.  

Banner Image: 14th-century miniature of women being burned as witches, with others held in stocks. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons

Queries for Contemplation

Do you recognize misogyny as being on the ballot this November?  How best to combat it? 

Recommended Reading

Western Spirituality: Historical Roots, Ecumenical Routes

In this book, Fox gathers scholars from various cultures and traditions such as Helen Kenik, Jon Sobrino, Nicolas Berdyaev, Rosemary Ruether, M. D. Chenu, Mary Jose Hobday, Ronald Miller, Monika Hellwig, James Kenney, Justin O’Brien and others to approach creation spirituality from many traditions and many angles. 
“An exciting and important book…a pleasant alternative to the oppressive burden of the fall/redemption tradition.” ~ New Review of Books and Religion 

Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him.  He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French).  He  gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way. 
“The teaching of Aquinas comes through will a fullness and an insight that has never been present in English before and [with] a vital message for the world today.” ~ Fr. Bede Griffiths (Afterword).
Foreword by Rupert Sheldrake

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

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4 thoughts on “Aquinas, Ruether, Misogyny & the November Election”

  1. Avatar

    Obviously, don’t vote for the misogynist. How to combat this? We need to ask and answer why over 70 million people including women, voted for the misogynist in the last election? Why does the political party and its members still support and lie for the misogynist? If their votes cannot be ‘won over’, then an army of previous non-voters have to head out to the polling stations on election day. The misogynist party fears the likes of Taylor Swift for this reason. — BB.

  2. Avatar

    (I misspelled Eden Amadora’s, priestess, name and website,, in my Comment yesterday.) Today, the DM team is giving us another great and joyful video, “Ordain a Lady” by the Women’ Ordination Conference. Maybe as our patriarchal institutional church continues evolving spiritually, many of us will come back to the Catholic Universal Church. God and the spiritual realms are beyond genders, mainly Wholistic Loving feminine and masculine spiritual energies.
    Sadly, our human history and patriarchal institutions have been very spiritually unbalanced and misogynistic with all its consequent human destruction/oppression and suffering up to our present times. Maintaining Our Faith in our hearts/Souls in our daily lives/actions as we spiritually evolve with one another in Our Beautiful Sacred Mother Earth, and with All Spiritual Beings/ Realms of Our LOVING Co-Creating~Evolving Sacred COSMOS is essential….

  3. Avatar

    All women know that the destruction of civil rights for women is the evangelical/republican agenda–and they’re pursuing it with venom. The only women who will vote to enslave themselves are those like Amy C Baret whose religion tells her she has to do whatever men tell her to do (and anyone who thinks she’s not following that belief from the bench isn’t realistic).

  4. Avatar

    We need to be proactive in getting people out to vote. There are local opportunities and the national Vote Forward organization that concentrates on writing to those who do not usually vote.

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