Gender and Christianity in Modern Europe

Gender and Christianity in Modern Europe: Beyond the Feminization Thesis

PATRICK PASTURE
JAN ART
THOMAS BUERMAN
JAN DE MAEYER
LEEN VAN MOLLE
TINE VAN OSSELAER
VINCENT VIAENE
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Leuven University Press
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qdx6z
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  • Book Info
    Gender and Christianity in Modern Europe
    Book Description:

    Since the 1970s the feminization thesis has become a powerful trope in the rewriting of the social history of Christendom. However, this ‘thesis' has triggered some vehement debates, given that men have continued to dominate the churches, and the churches themselves have reacted to the association of religion and femininity, often formulated by their critics, by explicitly focusing their appeal to men. In this book the authors critically reflect upon the use of concepts like feminization and masculinization in relation to Christianity. By presenting case studies that adopt different gendered approaches with regard to Christian, mainly Catholic discourses and practices, the authors capture multiple ‘feminizations' and ‘masculinizations' in Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries. In particular, it becomes clear that the idea that Christianity took on ‘charicteristically feminine' values and practices cannot withstand the conclusion that what is considered ‘manly' or ‘feminine' depends on time, place, and context, and on the reasons why gendered metaphors are used.

    eISBN: 978-94-6166-104-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-5)
  3. BEYOND THE FEMINIZATION THESIS: GENDERING THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY IN THE NINETEENTH AND TWENTIETH CENTURIES
    (pp. 7-33)
    PATRICK PASTURE

    The origin of this book lies in a collective research project aimed at developing a gender perspective on socio-religious history. The project focused on Belgium, a country that was relatively understudied - although an extensive literature exists on the social and political aspects of Christendom in Belgium, gender was (and arguably still is) hardly used as a research perspective¹ - but particularly interesting because of the dominant position of Catholicism and the country’s geographical position between Germany and France. At the time, the project was conceived in the perspective of the ‘feminization thesis’ that seemed to be becoming an alternative...

  4. THE CATHOLIC POOR RELIEF DISCOURSE AND THE FEMINIZATION OF THE CARITAS IN EARLY NINETEENTH-CENTURY GERMANY
    (pp. 35-55)
    BERNHARD SCHNEIDER

    When one intends to investigate “Christian Feminization and Masculinization in Europe” - as was the subtitle of the original workshop in which a first version of this text was discussed - one should certainly include taking a closer look at German Catholicism. In doing so, I would like to follow up on my current research project within the special research areaFremdheit und Armut(Strangeness and Poverty) at the University of Trier.¹ This project investigates the Catholic poverty discourse² in Germany as well as its contribution to the construction of a Catholic identity following secularization until the middle of the...

  5. CELIBATE OR MARRIED PRIESTS? POLEMICAL GENDER DISCOURSE IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY CATHOLICISM
    (pp. 57-71)
    ANGELA BERLIS

    Throughout history, we have known of many conflicts within the Church and of the tendency of the parties involved in such conflicts to malign each other or brand each other as heretics during the course of the dispute.¹ This would often occur when one party would popularize stereotypes of the opposing party. Polemics in unstable times are nothing new in the history of the Church; polemical treatises have often been used in such times, in order to pointedly develop theological positions.² What insights have they yielded, however, with regard to the historical understanding of a certain period?

    During and after...

  6. THE CULT OF THE VIRGIN MARY, OR THE FEMINIZATION OF THE MALE ELEMENT IN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH? A PSYCHO-HISTORICAL HYPOTHESIS
    (pp. 73-83)
    JAN ART

    If one extends Freud’s ideas beyond the point where he himself drew the line, it may be said that to indulge in the study of history means to enter into a rivalry with past generations that have drawn the veil of secrecy over so many happenings that, nonetheless, have managed to exert their influence upon our minds.¹

    One of the clearest indicators of the expanding influence of the female element within Roman Catholic worship during the nineteenth century and the preconciliary twentieth century is the growing significance of the devotion offered to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The French historian Etienne...

  7. THE ‘SPORTSMAN’ AND THE ‘MUSCULAR CHRISTIAN’ RIVAL IDEALS IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY ENGLAND
    (pp. 85-105)
    HUGH MCLEOD

    In Thomas Hughes’ novel,Tom Brown’s School Days, the classic text of ‘muscular Christianity’, the villain Flashman and his clique are described as “fast sporting young gentlemen”.¹ At first sight this might seem surprising as the novel is famous (or, in the eyes of some readers, infamous) for its extended accounts of football and cricket matches, bare-knuckle boxing and many other forms of sporting encounter. Moreover, to call someone a ‘sportsman’ was for many people of the time the highest form of praise. Hughes clearly could not object to Flashman’s interest in sport. The critique focused on four main points....

  8. LIONS AND LAMBS AT THE SAME TIME! BELGIAN ZOUAVE STORIES AND EXAMPLES OF RELIGIOUS MASCULINITY
    (pp. 107-119)
    THOMAS BUERMAN

    Within my PhD research, as part of a project examining the feminization of religion in Belgium, I spent considerable time seeking a suitable angle to tackle questions about the difficult relation between masculinity and religion in the nineteenth century. As it turned out, I settled on Catholic secondary schooling. While I was doing what historians do, mostly reading and looking for primary sources concerning one’s topic, an interesting subject for looking into Catholic manliness suggested itself: the papal Zouaves. I understand that the link between Catholic secondary education and the soldiers of the Pope does not seem clear-cut. Working from...

  9. ‘FROM THAT MOMENT ON, I WAS A MAN!’ IMAGES OF THE CATHOLIC MALE IN THE SACRED HEART DEVOTION
    (pp. 121-135)
    TINE VAN OSSELAER

    The exclamation “From that moment on, I was a man!”¹ is doubtless not the most frequently used description of a religious conversion. Still, in an article published in 1936 in the FlemishMessengerof the Sacred Heartof Jesus², this phrase perfectly covered its central theme, the blending of masculine and Catholic identity. This discourse on ‘masculine Christianity’³ will be the central theme of this article. More specifically, the focus will be upon the discourse on men and masculinity in the Sacred Heart devotion.

    This cult offers an interesting case for studying gender roles as there is some discussion on...

  10. REPERTOIRES OF CATHOLIC MANLINESS IN THE NETHERLANDS (1850-1940) A CASE STUDY OF THE DUTCH DOMINICANS
    (pp. 137-155)
    MARIT MONTEIRO

    In 1923 the Dominican painter Raymond van Bergen (1883-1978) finalized a triptych depicting the three stages of spiritual development leading towards the union with God. Three friars posed consecutively for the panels reflecting the stages of purification (via purgitativa), illumination (via illuminativa) and union (via unitativa). These stages were originally introduced by the neo-platonic philosopher Pseudo-Dionysius (about 465-490). The Dominican Thomas Aquinas would later associate them with the spiritual progress of the soul.¹ Van Bergen’s impressive work of art, measuring over two metres in width and about eighty centimetres in height, is preserved in the Convent of Saint Thomas in...

  11. THE BOYS OF SAINT DOMINIC’S CATHOLIC BOYS’ CULTURE AT A MINOR SEMINARY IN INTERWAR HOLLAND
    (pp. 157-171)
    MARIEKE SMULDERS

    In 1927, the Dutch Dominicans opened a modern boarding school complex in the village of Neerbosch just outside Nijmegen, in the southeast of the Netherlands. It provided accommodation for an expanding group of minor seminarians. The original Saint Dominic’s College, built in 1856 in the centre of Nijmegen, no longer met the standards of a modern educational institute, necessitating the move to the new college in 1927.

    In 1930, in a brochure for the parents of prospective pupils, the Dominicans presented their institution as a modern school with the latest in technical equipment and facilities. Central heating throughout the building,...

  12. FEMALE SOLDIERS AND THE BATTLE FOR GOD GENDER AMBIGUITIES AND A DUTCH CATHOLIC CONVERSION MOVEMENT, 1921-1942
    (pp. 173-189)
    MARJET DERKS

    In 1937, Father Jacques van Ginneken S.J., an internationally famous and acknowledged psycholinguist and ethnologist who was also a religious radical, addressed a group of women. They were young and highly educated, some of them even to postgraduate level, and they were the leaders of the so-called Women of Nazareth. Van Ginneken had founded this conversion movement in 1921 and acted as its spiritual guide, even though his involvement was restricted after a series of collisions with the bishop of Haarlem, under whose diocesan authority the group fell, and with other members of the clergy. In a typical display of...

  13. A FEMINIZED CHURCH? GERMAN CATHOLIC WOMEN, PIETY, AND DOMESTICITY, 1918-1938
    (pp. 191-211)
    MICHAEL E. O’SULLIVAN

    In the middle of an interview with an elderly member of a rural Kolping Association, I asked about the role of women in the Catholic Church during the 1930s. He smiled broadly and called to his wife in the kitchen: “The women are always more fervent, aren’t they?”¹ His comment typified both popular and scholarly attitudes about the religiosity of women in modern German Catholicism. As one well-respected scholar argues, the ‘feminization of religion’ has become a “frequently cited topos”.² While several essays engage the ‘feminization’ of German Catholicism during the nineteenth century, more empirical analysis of the theory is...

  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 212-235)
  15. INDEX OF PERSONS
    (pp. 236-238)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 239-240)