Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Happy Birthday to Ewe!

Three years ago today I launched this blog expecting after a few months of paltry readership I would find another hobby.  I am deeply humbled by the number of e-mail subscribers, Blogspot followers, other visitors, thoughtful comments and personal emails I received over the past three years instead.  Visitors to date exceed 57,000 and come from over 120 countries.  Though this pales in comparison to the New York Times’ readership, it is well beyond my expectations.  I feel very connected to the catholic (universal) church. Thank you. 

The death threats were a little unexpected too but ever since I switched to moderating comments the trolls that wrote them seem to have found other outlets for their anger. However, the angry trolls are a big part of why I began the blog.  I do not wish to cede my religion and religious identity to bullies, especially ones whose views on women deviate from that of Jesus’.

I do carry some sympathy for the angry trolls, though.  They simply reflect attitudes taught about women by many celebrated “leaders” throughout the church’s history.  Some of these “leaders” were declared “Doctors of the Church”, a distinguished position giving their theological writings strong influence throughout history.  If you are unfamiliar with their theological reflections on women, here are a few samples:

St. Augustine (the 4th century bishop who fathered a child out of wedlock and then abandoned care for the child and mother to become a priest)

"I don’t see what sort of help woman was created to provide man with, if one excludes the purpose of procreation.  If woman was not given to man for help in bearing children, for what help could she be?  To till the earth together?  If help were needed for that, man would have been a better help for man. The same goes for comfort in solitude.  How much more pleasure is it for life and conversation when two friends live together than when a man and a woman cohabitate?"

St. John Chrysostom (the 4th century archbishop dubbed “Chrysostom", a word meaning “golden mouthed” in Greek, because of the perceived wisdom flowing from his mouth)

"The whole of her bodily beauty is nothing less than phlegm, blood, bile, rheum, and the fluid of digested food… If you consider what is stored up behind those lovely eyes, the angle of the nose, the mouth and cheeks you will agree that the well-proportioned body is merely a whitened sepulchre."

"There are in the world a great many situations that weaken the conscientiousness of the soul.  First and foremost of these is dealings with women.  In his concern for the male sex, the superior may not forget the females, who need greater care precisely because of their ready inclination to sin.  In this situation the evil enemy can find many ways to creep in secretly.  For the eye of woman touches and disturbs our soul, and not only the eye of the unbridled woman, but that of the decent one as well."
St. Thomas Aquinas (the 13th century priest who nearing his death declared his copious theological writings to be “mere straw”)

“Woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence, such as that of a south wind, which is moist.”

I write this blog also in an effort to countermand the false teachings of men like these Doctors of the Church.  As an aside, the current trend at seminaries is to give greater emphasis to Aquinas’ teachings in general despite being based upon what is now seen as comically flawed understandings of human biology, psychology, and reproduction.

What influences over time have these writings had on women’s roles in the church and in society?  What influences do their writings still carry today?  What can and should be done to eradicate any remaining vestiges of their false teachings? 

When I began this blog I think the only readers were people I knew personally.  But now with hundreds of subscribers many people do not know me other than through the pen name of “Questions from a Ewe.”  I use the pen name because the questions I ask are not about me or any agenda of mine.  I think they are questions shared by many women (ewes), and men for that matter.  So, I don’t think my name matters as much as simply and sincerely challenging concepts built upon faulty foundations. 

I’m not a famed theologian who will gain readership due to reputation.  I don’t seek fame from writing my questions nor do I seek to make money from posing my questions.  My simple hope is that readers come here because they are searching.  I hope they, like I, find many questions that challenge them towards continued spiritual growth and appropriate action.  I also hope that my questions give pause to at least a few hierarchical leaders.

Thank you for helping me evolve this blog from a hobby into a ministry.  I appreciate your prayers, comments, suggestions and encouragement.  I will continue to write as long as discernment of the Spirit indicates I should.

This blog’s name is similar to that of an unpublished book manuscript that I wrote in 2008/2009 and sent to several church leaders called, “Questions from a Ewe to her Shepherds.”  The first page of that manuscript is a lengthy dedication to various people who helped cultivate my inquiring mind.  The last two items in that litany I will share here as my parting thought today. 

This blog is dedicated:

  • To all who seek God and dare to question in their search
  • Most especially to my daughters that through my, their, and others’ questions, they may see a break in male hegemony in their society and their Church

As an aside, I have been asked and agreed to host a discussion table about this blog at the Call to Action Conference in Milwaukee on Friday, November 1, 2013 in something called “Wide Open Friday.”   I would love to see ewe there.

(A quick shout out to my friend Jack who provided me with some of these interesting quotes and another shout out to my friend Jason who shares the same birthday as this blog.)


  1. Happy Birthday!!

  2. Dear Ewe
    This blog has been a lifesaver - thank you! You have enhanced my knowledge and understanding of the issues surrounding women in the church and the nature of church membership itself immeasurably. Your informed, measured and carefully articulated pieces really help me - as a Catholic mother of 4 pre-teen and teenage girls [none of whom have much time for the church - and I find it hard to blame them]. The situation in the US is not quite the same as in UK but many of the fundamental problems are common. I just pray Pope Francis opens his eyes to feminist inequalities too.
    Incidentally - I just heard on the radio that Canterbury Cathedral (Church of England) has, after 900 years, realised girls and women can sing and set up a choir for them - but not on the same terms of course - definitely a second rank arrangement (to be called Canterbury Girls 'Voluntary' Choir)- so even having women priests for quite a while now hasn't moved them along very much. I sometimes feel the only answer would be to give up trying to move the essentially immovable and start again on a truly equal basis, with full awareness of historical cultural context of writings and take a modern look at spirituality.
    PS - wanted to put my name on this but can't seem to make the 'Edit profile' bit work - it comes up on top of the comments box so I can't see it properly and doesn't then do anything - hence 'anonymous'
    Thank you once again - Madeleine from UK

  3. Happy Birthday and many more. You are a breath of fresh air in the church and in the world. Thank you for articulating what so many of us feel.
    Linda in Bradenton, FL

  4. I've only just recently found your blog. I too find it helpful and affirming. I have pretty much stopped attending Mass - because I got too worn down spiritually by the constant and rampant sexism and clericalism.Like Madeleine from UK above, I too think perhaps the spiritual way forward would be with a new structure rather than with more wasted efforts at reforming the immovable.

    Our HOME CHURCH Community in the West Valley of Phoenix, ARIZONA really appreciates your scholarship, humor and timely comments. THANK YOU for ALL the time and effort you put into creating your Blog. They increase our perspective and encourage our positive dialogue as we EACH follow our unique spiritual paths. PRAISE GOD !!
    Lynn Norton