Mary Daly — Her Influence on Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza
by Eamonn Keane
Fr. Manfred Hauke points out that in the index of persons section in one particular German dictionary of feminist theology, the name most frequently cited after Jesus is that of Mary Daly.160 For many years up until the late 1990s, Daly taught theology at Boston College. She was finally dismissed for refusing to allow men to enroll in her classes. Reporting on her dismissal, Professor James Hitchcock stated that for many years Boston College had defended Daly "against charges that she was undermining Catholic doctrine in her courses and her writing."161
In speaking of the New Testament theme of "Antichrist", Daly says: "What if the idea has arisen out of the male's unconscious dread that women will rise up and assert the power robbed from us?" She adds, "the Antichrist dreaded by the Patriarchs may be the surge of unconsciousness, the spiritual awakening, that can bring us beyond Christolatry into a fuller stage of conscious participation in the living God."162 In this perspective, says Daly, "the Antichrist and the Second Coming of Women are synonymous" whereby "this Second Coming is not a return of Christ but a new arrival of female presence, once strong and powerful, but enchained since the dawn of patriarchy."163 Finally on this point, Daly posits that this "Second Coming" of women "means that the prophetic dimension in the symbol of the great Goddess ... is the key to salvation from servitude to structures that obstruct human becoming..."164
Fiorenza acknowledges her debt to Daly for having arrived at an understanding that the "imposed submission" of women to men in "Christian patriarchy" is responsible for "turning women against themselves" and condemning them to live as "marginal beings."165 In 1996, in challenging women to "break the silence" in regard to all the ways that patriarchy has "excluded" them "from defining the world and the meaning of human life and society," Fiorenza repeated Mary Daly's rallying call that women must reclaim "the power of the naming that was stolen from us."166
Reminiscent of Simone de Beauvoir, whose work exercised a formidable influence on her, Daly's first major publication was titled The Church and the Second Sex. Here, Daly followed de Beauvoir in asserting that one is not conceived and born as a woman but rather becomes one in response to environmental influences.167 To suit her theological purposes, Daly plays off one Scriptural passage against another—e.g. Jesus against St. Paul—as though there was no inner harmony in the message of the Bible.168 In her book Beyond God the Father, Daly claimed that the Bible was irredeemably sexist. She said: "If God in `his' heaven is a Father ruling `his' people, then it is in the `nature' of things ... that society be male-dominated."169 In 1974, Daly summarized"the significance of the women's revolution as anti-Christ and its import as anti-Church."170
160 Fr. Manfred Hauke, God or Goddess?: Feminist Theology : What Is It? Where Does It Lead? Ignatius Press, San Francisco, p. 78.
161 Professor James Hitchcock, Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 3, Summer 1999, p. 27.
162 Mary Daly, Beyond God the Father: Towards a Philosophy of Women's Liberation, p. 96.
165 Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Discipleship of Equals, op. cit. page 58 (including note 9) as well as page 61 (note 16).
166 Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, The Power of Naming: A Concilium Reader in Feminist Liberation Theology, p. 168.
167 Cf.The Church and the Second Sex, p. 71-71.
168 Cf.The Church and the Second Sex, p. 77-81, 198.
169 Mary Daly, Beyond God the Father, op. cit. p. 13.
170 Mary Daly, Beyond God the Father, p. 140.
Excerpted from A Generation Betrayed by Eamonn Keane. Available from Amazon.com.
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