In recent correspondence on a couple of blogs and in private correspondence as well, I’ve had occasion to revisit a lie used by feminists (secular and religious) to prosecute their attacks on classical western patriarchy. Since the relevant refutations to this particular lie are close at hand, I post them here, and inaugurate a new classification of posts in this blog: Welcome Lies.
This blog entry is, therefore, an engagement of Welcome Lie No. 1. It’s not No. 1 as a matter of importance, but only in terms of this blog. It’s the first of the welcome lies, welcomed by egalitarians, that I’ll treat.
The term “welcome lie” comes to me from an article by Michael Nolan who wrote: “If the first casualty of war is the unwelcome truth, the first tool of the discontented is the welcome lie.” This is the sentence which begins his 1998 article published in First Things entitled “What Aquinas Never Said About Women.” The second sentence of Nolan’s article goes like this: “Such lies cluster freely around Thomas Aquinas.”
Nolan goes on to refute two of the more common lies, namely that Aquinas claims women are defective males and that he claims that the male human embryo receives a rational soul earlier than does the female. In addition to Nolan’s refutation of this lie (a welcome lie for the religious egalitarian, eager to bash Biblical patriarchy), I offer one of the most incorrigible examples of preference for agenda over truth, namely Patricia Gundry’s online philippic against patriarchy entitled Woman Be Free. If one will surf to the online text of this work, and do a word search on “Aquinas,” he will arrive at the paragraphs where she lodges the welcome lie against Aquinas which Nolan ably exposes in his article at First Things.
There are several curious features of Gundry’s distribution of this lie about Aquinas which I want to catalog here. First of all, it appears Gundry has not even read Aquinas, for her citation of him is not from any translation of the Summa Theologica, but rather from Susan G. Bell’s 1973 book Women: From the Greeks to the French Revolution . If one wishes to consult Aquinas directly, a standard English translation has been on the net for years at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library . This site lists several digital versions of the Summa and the part of the Summa used to excoriate Aquinas is found here.
Second, Gundry’s citation of Aquinas is egregiously out of context. You may verify this for yourself by consulting Nolan’s exposition and also by consulting the English translation of the Summa at CCEL. The words cited by Gundry are found in Summa 1, 92, 1. But if you will read Aquinas’s text of the entire question he’s engaging (only half a dozen or so paragraphs) you will see that the words Gundry quotes are Aquinas’ paraphrase of Aristotle’s view, which Aquinas immediately contradicts and corrects.
Imagine that I write an essay defending capitalism, and I paraphrase Marx on the social injustice of private property. Imagine that after this paraphrase, I go on to contradict Marx and offer a contrary idea about private property, the latter being my own conviction. Imagine, later, that Patricia Gundry lifts my paraphrase of Marx out of the essay, and then offers this as proof that Fr. Bill is a Marxist.
This is exactly what she has done to Aquinas (indeed, it is what all egalitarians do when they accuse Aquinas at this point). Said another way, Aquinas is correcting a mistake in Aristotle, but Gundry (and others like her) take Aquinas’ paraphrase of Aristotle’s mistake and assert it is Aquinas’ own conviction! Is this chutzpah, or what?
Ordinary people would rightly call it slander. It’s possible, I suppose, that Gundry has allowed herself to be led into slander by gullibly believing others who slander Aquinas. That’s the most charitable explanation for her mistake. And, this no doubt explains the popularity of this slander among many egalitarians. “I mean, Gee Whiz! Aquinas, for crying out loud – the Big Cajunah of the Catholic Church. He thought women were defective males! If he can get it so very very wrong, then maybe we’re not crazy at all to insist that there’s been a conspiracy against women for centuries!”
As Nolan said, this is a welcome lie. Nevertheless, I’ve had to dismiss the Gullibility Theory of Gundry’s persistence in spreading this lie, because … About eight years ago, just after Nolan’s article made its appearance in First Things, I happened to be engaged in cyber-discussion and debate with Gundry in a forum devoted to the controversy between patriarchalists and egalitarians in the Church. I had found and read Gundry’s work Woman Be Free, and also Nolan’s concise refutation of the lie about Aquinas which her work contained. I laid all this out before Mrs. Gundry, challenging her to read Aquinas directly (not someone else’s citation of Aquinas), to read Nolan’s defense of him, and then to retract her slander of Aquinas. She never responded directly in that forum, but in one of her own forums (in which I was lurking) she reported my admonition and asked others what they thought of all this. Nothing further came of it. That was about eight years ago. As you’ll see by consulting her digital text of Woman Be Free, she has never retracted her slander.
So, I do not think Gundry is gullible. No, she seems quite content to slander a teacher of the Church because she rejoices, as Nolan says, in a welcome lie.