In a recent essay in the Daily Beast, Candida Moss and Joel Baden question Pope Francis’ liberal credentials, denouncing his attacks on gender theory.
According to Moss and Baden, the Pope “has a bad habit of dissing women and marginalizing sexual minorities,” which suggest to them he may not be as liberal as some may think.
What really got their skivvies twisted, however, was the Pope’s comparison of “modern theories of gender” with “the educational policies of Hitler and the destructive possibilities of the nuclear arms race.”
The authors cite an interview where Francis spoke of nuclear weapons, genetic manipulation, and gender theory, all in the same breath. “Let’s think of the nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few instants a very high number of human beings,” the Pope said. “Let’s think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation.”
The authors correctly recognize that what the Pope is really criticizing is “an academic perspective that sees gender identities as a spectrum rather than as binaries.” The Pope believes that God creates people as “male and female,” rather than an ever expanding gamut of contrived pseudo-sexual genders.
Gender theory, say Moss and Baden, has provided much of the intellectual foundations for “LGBTQIA advocacy,” something the Pope cannot even pronounce.
They are, therefore, appalled that Francis labeled conditional school funding tied to a requirement of a curriculum espousing gender theory as “ideological colonization,” and especially that he noted that “the same was done by the dictators of the last century. … Think of Hitler Youth.”
In a fascinating display of academic bravado, the two authors then decide to school Francis on his use of biblical references. The Genesis story of Creation, the authors contend, with Eve being formed from Adam’s rib, “has given rise to millennia of female subordination.” Moreover, they suggest, it is wrong. Against popular belief to the contrary, in the beginning, there were no males or females at all, just sexless “androgynes.”
Now, this may sound like so much plonk were it not for the fact that Moss and Baden are serious academics; that is, they are academics who take themselves seriously. So they did what most serious academics of their ilk would do. They scoured the historical record to see if some other thoughtful person would back up their intriguing, if unlikely, theory.
Moss and Baden found their compliant patron in the ancient Jewish philosopher Philo, who “declared that the first human creation was not two individuals, ‘male and female,’ but one individual, ‘neither male nor female.’”
As Dave Barry would say, “I am not making this up.”
Furthermore, they state, in “the writings of the rabbis of the early first millennium CE [sic], we read: ‘At the time that God created the first human, he created him as an androgyne.’” There it is, folks. But in case anyone still has doubts, the authors also declare that “some Gnostic Christian texts” say the same thing.
The authors think that with this astonishingly vast testimony of acknowledged sages, they have successfully shown Pope Francis—and other benighted souls who still cling to a male-female distinction—to be woefully mistaken.
Francis’ “natural order of creation,” they tell us, is “not necessarily so.” It is, rather, “a product of a particular culturally-bound reading of the biblical text.” No matter that it is also the consistent reading of the text that has been embraced by orthodox Jews and Christians for the past two millennia. It must be wrong. Philo says so.
Along with getting gender wrong, the authors tell us, “Pope Francis consistently sells women down the river.” Never mind that he has tripled the presence of women theologians on the prestigious international theological commission. Never mind that in the Philippines, he publicly complained that there were not more women present. Never mind that he has consistently lifted up women as the primary evangelizers, responsible for passing on the faith to future generations. None of this matters. “Even if Francis were a closet liberal, he’s a liberal who ranks women’s interests at the bottom of his list of priorities,” assert Moss and Baden, no doubt paraphrasing Philo.
In the end, Francis is guilty of “recycling centuries of misogyny,” the authors say. Moreover, if we take his position on gender theory seriously, “then we give up certain kinds of gender equality, as well as the possibility of creating a fully welcoming environment for same-sex couples or trans-individuals.”
Candida Moss teaches at the University of Notre Dame, a Catholic university. She has made a career out of biting the hand that feeds her, rejecting Catholic tradition whenever it rears its ugly head. In so doing she has become a darling of the semi-skilled knowledge class.
“Women have much to say in today’s society,” said Pope Francis last month. “Sometimes we act macho and we do not allow women to express themselves. Women are able to see things with special eyes.”
Yet for Moss and Baden, to oppose “LGBTQIA advocacy” is to be a misogynist. Perhaps that is something only an androgyne could understand.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.