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Jimmy Carter\’s Profound Ignorance

June 26, AD2013

\"JoAnna

One of the more popular quotes in Catholic circles is, \”There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.\” – Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

This truth is all the more evident when notorious anti-Catholics in the public eye give interviews to equally biased media sources. Case in point, ex-president Jimmy Carter and TIME magazine. With all due respect to former President Carter, his theology is pretty terrible and there were more than a few quotes that caused me to either shake my head in bafflement or wince in pain. For example:

I think there’s a slow, very slow, move around the world to give women equal rights in the eyes of God.

This is a bizarre statement on its face. The function of civil government is not to give women (or men) equal rights in the eyes of God – wouldn\’t an omnipotent or omnipresent God, the one Jimmy Carter claims to believe in, already have full knowledge of those rights? — but rather to confer legal rights (or recognize natural rights that already exist, such as the inalienable rights as described in the Declaration of Independence) that reflect their God-given, intrinsic human worth and dignity.

And then after about the third century when men took over control of the Catholic Church, then they began to ordain that women had to play an inferior position, not be a priest.

Men “took over control” of the Catholic Church? Carter must be as bad at history as he is at theology, because men have always been at the forefront of leadership in the Church. Jesus is a man. St. Peter, the first Pope, was a man. All subsequent popes have been men. The early Church fathers were men. Women did (and still do!) have leadership roles within the Church, but Christ instituted the male priesthood for men only – not because women are inferior to men, but because woman and men have different, complementary roles to pay in the spiritual life of the Church. Christ could ordained any of his women disciples – including his own mother, the only human conceived without sin – but He did not, and the Church is following His example.

Men who are called to the priesthood become spiritual fathers, serving the people of God, and act in persona Christi – in the person of Christ – during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The priest represents Christ, the Bridegroom; the Church is His bride. Women cannot be both a bridegroom and a bride. They have a much more important role. Women are infinitely blessed with the gift of fecundity, the ability to nurture and bring forth new life and new immortal souls into the kingdom of God. This an awesome and amazing ability and one entrusted to women alone. In the Church\’s view, women can\’t be priests for the same reason that men can\’t be pregnant — God designed men and women for complementary roles in the life of the Church, roles that are equal in dignity and importance for each sex.

Carter fundamentally misunderstands the role of the priest if he thinks that laypeople or religious sisters are “inferior” to priests. That belief is not and never has been a teaching of the Church. Nor is it a teaching of the Church that there is a “right” to the priesthood granted to anyone, male or female. As the Catechism says, \”No one has a right to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. Indeed, no one claims this office for himself; he is called to it by God. Anyone who thinks he recognizes the signs of God\’s call to the ordained ministry must humbly submit his desire to the authority of the Church, who has the responsibility and right to call someone to receive orders. Like every grace this sacrament can be received only as an unmerited gift\” (1578).

John Paul II reaffirmed the infallible teaching regarding a male-only priesthood in his apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, in which he also wrote,

The presence and the role of women in the life and mission of the Church, although not linked to the ministerial priesthood, remain absolutely necessary and irreplaceable. As the Declaration Inter Insigniores points out, \’the Church desires that Christian women should become fully aware of the greatness of their mission: today their role is of capital importance both for the renewal and humanization of society and for the rediscovery by believers of the true face of the Church.\’”

Carter’s vast ignorance of the Church\’s great appreciation for women is even more evident given statements like this one:

For instance if an employer, who might be otherwise enlightened, if he is a religious person and he sees that, he might be a Catholic, and a Catholic does not let women be priests, then why should he pay his women employees an equal pay [as men]?

This makes no sense whatsoever. Another writing of John Paul II, Letter to Women, states,

And what shall we say of the obstacles which in so many parts of the world still keep women from being fully integrated into social, political and economic life? We need only think of how the gift of motherhood is often penalized rather than rewarded, even though humanity owes its very survival to this gift. Certainly, much remains to be done to prevent discrimination against those who have chosen to be wives and mothers. As far as personal rights are concerned, there is an urgent need to achieve real equality in every area: equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements, equality of spouses with regard to family rights and the recognition of everything that is part of the rights and duties of citizens in a democratic State.

and

Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life-social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of \”mystery\”, to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity.

Does this sound like the teaching of a Church that believes women are fundamentally unequal to men, and therefore should be paid less than them? Any “Catholic” man who tries to use the teaching of the Church to rationalize unjust discrimination toward women is no better than a Catholic who attempts to twist Church teaching in support of the killing of unborn children (for example, Nancy Pelosi).

Furthermore, perhaps Carter is unaware of the generous benefits afforded to women who work in the Vatican:

The women pointed out that the growing presence of women in the Vatican has led to a very pro-family environment. The Vatican, whose workforce is approximately 40 percent female, has a very progressive maternity leave policy, allowing women paid leave beginning two months before their due date and allowing them a year of paid leave after birth. When the women return, they are allowed to create a “milk schedule” so that they can structure their hours around their nursing needs.

If women are as denigrated and disparaged by the Catholic leadership as Carter believes they are, why are women allowed to work at the Vatican at all, let alone comprising 40 percent of the workforce, and why are they given benefits that are far more generous than those offered to women in the United States? Are those the actions of an organization that is oppressive toward women? Are female employees of The Carter Center afforded similar benefits? Somehow, I think not.

As a lay woman in the Catholic Church, I find Carter\’s viewpoints profoundly ignorant. I wish he would have the honesty and integrity to argue against what the Church actually teaches instead of some bizarre caricature of what he thinks She teaches – but that\’s probably asking too much of an ex-President. In his view, who needs honesty and integrity when you can advance your personal and political agenda by defaming fellow Christians?

Venerable Fulton Sheen, pray for us.

© 2013. JoAnna Wahlund. All Rights Reserved.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

JoAnna was baptized, raised, and married in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America but converted to Catholicism in May 2003, on G.K. Chesterton's birthday. She has six terrific kids here on earth, four saints in heaven praying for her, and a wonderful husband who supports her in all things. She enjoys defending the Catholic faith online (in between her duties as chief cook and bottle washer for La Casa Wahlund, and her role as Senior Editor of Catholic Stand). She blogs at www.catholicworkingmother.com and more sporadically at http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com.

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  • CatherineMcClarey

    I hope that Jimmy Carter recovers from his current illness. Having said that, he has always been a mean spirited little man who has always despised anyone with the termerity to disagree with him.

    “Bad enough that James Earl Carter, Jr. is the worst president this country has had not named James Buchanan or Barack Obama, but he is also an anti-Catholic bigot as his latest mind droppings amply demonstrate:

    Former US President Jimmy Carter has disclosed that he had angry exchanges with Pope John Paul II about liberation theology and about the ordination of women.

    The former president said that he complained to the Pontiff about the Church’s “perpetuation of the subservience of women” while Blessed John Paul II was visiting the US in 1978, and “there was more harshness when we turned to the subject of ‘liberation theology.” Carter said that he classified the Pope as a “fundamentalist,” placing him in that category along with Iran’s late Ayatollah Khomeini.

    In the same interview Carter said that “it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies,” although he suggested—“maybe arbitrarily”—that churches should not be required by law to solemnize same-sex unions.

    Carter made his remarks as he introduced a new edition of the Bible with his own study notes, helping readers to follow his understanding of the Scriptures.

    Jimmy, here is a clue for you. No one cares a rat’s nether regions about what you think about anything. You were a completely incompetent president and the American people have tried their best to forget you. You were such a wretched president that even in your own party you are a non-person, and it difficult to embarrass Democrats over anything. Pope John Paul II was a magnificent pope. Here is a list of just a few of his accomplishments, although it will take centuries for historians to fully assess his almost 27 year-long papacy, but here are some of the factors that I think they will note.

    1. He largely stopped the post Vatican II chaos-After Vatican II the impulse to transform the Church into an institution fully reflecting the current views of cultural elites in the West wreaked much havoc. Paul VI, a good and holy man, drew a line in the sand with Humanae Vitae, but he lacked the stomach and the will to fight it out with those who would have transformed the Catholic Church into what the Anglican Church is now: a dying institution, adrift from any allegiance to traditional Christianity, and fully in accord with the mores and beliefs of the secular elite of the West. Many were rubbing their hands with glee after the death of Pope Paul, in confident assurance that a new liberal pope would complete the transformation of the Church into something akin to Unitarianism with fancy dress. Instead they got John Paul II, a Polish fighter who had stood toe to toe with the atheist rulers of Poland and was not the least frightened or impressed by the forces that sought to neuter Christ’s Church. The chaos and low morale of the Church could not be completely reversed in one papacy, but John Paul II began the process and made a huge amount of progress.

    2. Presiding at the Funeral of Communism-During World War II, both the Nazis and the Communists slaughtered a huge number of Polish priests, viewing them as deadly enemies. How very right they were! The Polish Church, in the midst of one of the worst persecutions sustained by the Catholic Church in the last century, never lost faith that the Church and Poland would both ultimately outlast the totalitarian regimes and emerge triumphant. John Paul II was the embodiment of this robust confidence that Communism, like Nazism, was merely a brief historical aberration that could and would be defeated. The rise of Solidarity was completely predictable to him, and his embrace of it made a crackdown by the Polish Communist regime, and its Kremlin puppet masters, impossible. John Paul II and Ronald Reagan in the Eighties brought about the largely peaceful collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and laid the groundwork for its collapse in the former Soviet Union. The heirs of Joseph Stalin learned to their sorrow that the type of power wielded by a skillful and determined pope cannot be counted in divisions but rather in human hearts.

    3. Culture of Life-In the teeth of an overwhelming movement among Western elites to jettison the belief that human life is sacred, John Paul II rededicated the Church to that proposition and waged a long uphill struggle throughout his papacy against abortion and euthanasia. Like Moses, John Paul II did not live to see the victory in this fight, but ultimately we will win, and his brave stand at a crucial moment in history will be one of the reasons why.

    4. Pope of the people-With modern means of transportation, a vigorous Pope can treat the whole world as his diocese by globe-trotting and that is precisely what John Paul II did. In the Nineteenth Century, modern means of communication, the telegraph, photography and newspapers, were skillfully used by Pius IX to forge a personal contact between the Pope and average Catholics. Pope John Paul II took this a step farther by bringing the Pope to the average Catholic. A masterful stroke and superbly executed.

    5. Vocations-Pope John Paul II began the process by which the hemorrhaging of priests was stanched and laid the groundwork for the rebound we are now seeing in vocations to the priesthood in most of the Church outside of Europe. Much needs to be done still, but without the efforts of John Paul II the situation now would be of truly crisis proportions.

    6. Theology of the Body-One of the crises of our time is the alienation between some men and women caused by rapidly changing relationships between the sexes brought on by modern life. John Paul II addressed this in his Theology of the Body. Go here for a good overview. The exalted view of John Paul Ii of the love between man and woman in marriage of course ties in perfectly with his defense of the sanctity of life. In many ways love was the central theme of the papacy of John Paul II.

    7. Centesimus Annus-With the collapse of Communism, in 1991 John Paul II released Centesimus annus, an overview of the mistakes of Marxism and the challenges that remained in a world where Capitalism now seemed supreme. Go here to read it. The most significant two paragraphs:

    42. Returning now to the initial question: can it perhaps be said that, after the failure of Communism, capitalism is the victorious social system, and that capitalism should be the goal of the countries now making efforts to rebuild their economy and society? Is this the model which ought to be proposed to the countries of the Third World which are searching for the path to true economic and civil progress?

    The answer is obviously complex. If by “capitalism” is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative, even though it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak of a “business economy”, “market economy” or simply “free economy”. But if by “capitalism” is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative.

    8. Liberation Theology Rejected-In the Sixties and the Seventies of the last century, elements within the Church engaged in a strong flirtation with Marxism and the idea that the Kingdom of God could be brought about by class struggle and rebellion. The idea was completely hare-brained, but it attracted quite a following. John Paul II explained that the liberation that Christianity brought had nothing in common with the power grab the Marxists were seeking. Go here for resources regarding the statements of John Paul II on Liberation Theology.

    This list only touches some of the main features of the papacy of John Paul II, a papacy that will be discussed endlessly as the centuries pass. In the far future Jimmy, if historians will recall you at all, it will probably be because you were president at the start of the pontificate of John Paul the Great.”

  • Shakespeare66

    Jimmy Carter is so much more than a Christian than this women will ever be.

  • disqus_PxMGbpLOCq

    There can be a big difference between what one pope in Italy in the past said, and what is actually practiced in churches throughout the world including the USA, so his comments may be referring to actual practice. I know staunch US preVatican and post Vatican Catholics who believe a woman should be in the home, not working, only married if she intends to have children and a nun if she remains single. Other Christian demoninations do not interpret Christ’s apostolic choices as prohibiting females from becoming priests, so it is an area of disagreement, and a point upon which others may encourage more equity.

    Other demoninations do not view conception as the point where life is life (versus quickening, pain, breath of life being mentioned in the bible in several areas) and/or a life or even a soul in need of protection as the embryo and early fetus have no brain or heart or CNS to really care whether it is born or not, and there is no clear biblical evidence to the contrary, The body is provided with an overabundance of ova and sperm because conception and birthing are all a bit chancy with many spontaneous abortions, ectopics and stillborns. In biblical times as well as current times, the unborn were/are not counted in the census, and in biblical times, not for a period after birth. Abortions were performed in the bible to weed out the sinner mother from the pure, etc. Because of this lack of biblical, religious or biological consensus, and a certain amount of rights of the woman to plan what happens with her body over 9 months, and not be forced to carry and deliver every pregnancy that she either chose, messed up or had forced on her, we have personal choice around abortion rather than forced laws, which did not prevent abortion in the past, and do not still in other countries who have these laws. They often produce(d) more abortions than in legalized countries with wide access to birth control and healthcare, and more carnage with home/blackmarket botched jobs and maternal demise. Part of the equality of women issues with the church as opposed to other denominations may also be related to the church’s official stance on contraception and family planning that would prevent unwanted or unplanned pregnancies and abortions. So while others are not for baby killing, they are supportive of family planning, reliable contraception given human fallacy (something the priests should well understand by now), and making tough choices about when to terminate and when to protect life, based on biological facts and personal morals and ethics, with God being the final judge of us all…

  • Chris

    When I was 12, in the lead up to the 1980 election, my dad would just rail against Jimmy all night and that really left me with a real resentment for the man. Well over the years, observing him in retirement and hearing his comments at important points in time, I come to…….dislike him even more . The man cannot open his mouth without saying something that makes me want to gag and go dig up old Reagan speeches as an antidote.

  • Leila Miller

    Oh, Jimmy, you make me cringe and wince. It’s so sad. A smart man who is so willfully ignorant. Thank you, JoAnna, for calling him out.

  • Estelle

    What of his actual organization? Isn’t that a little bit redeeming at least?

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  • kcard82

    Well done, JoAnna!

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