Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Jesuits, nuns, and Germaine Greer

In the book There's something about a Convent Girl (Bennet, J., & Forgan, R., eds. London: Virago Press, 1991), Germaine Greer of The Female Eunuch fame writes (p.92): "To be a Catholic is one thing. To be a convent girl is another. You might not even be a very good Catholic because the nuns were dreadfully incompetent at teaching Catholic philosophy. The Jesuits on the other hand are very good at it, and if I'd been taught by Jesuits I'd probably still be a Catholic. But I was taught by nuns and they blew it." I wonder how the Jesuits will take this, coming from none other than a once firebrand feminist. As a compliment? As an insult? Although Greer suggests here that she is no longer a Catholic, elsewhere in the same article she says she is a Catholic--at least when it suits her, as for example, when confronted by a Jehovah's Witness or by a Protestant pastor seeking funds (p.93).

Looks like Greer is writing at least some parts tongue-in-cheek. No doubt, she has got gripes about the Catholic Church, convents, nuns, Catholicism, and the Catholic morality taught by them. On the other hand, she is also very frank in praising the formation she received at a convent school and the gentle and understanding way in which the nuns treated her. Her article is not entirely an attack on religion or the nuns; it is rather a confused set of reflections including both compliments and complaints. She has sentences like (p.93): "I am still a Catholic. I just don't believe in God. I am an atheist Catholic--there's a lot of them around. I don't want to escape from it. I'm very glad to be Catholic." Then there's her last punch (p.95): "I think there's something to be said for nunneries. I'm not sure that there's anything to be said for Catholicism. That's the problem." Even though the book is not about religion or Catholicism, she takes potshots at both almost on every page!

Last year, someone wrote a fake obituary of her, an extract from which follows: "Germaine Greer the author of controversial books was found crushed under a pile of her own articles that had lost balance.... Greer had a habit of adding to the pile even after being advised that there was a serious risk of the owner being infected by the toxins in the ink. A condition sometimes referred to as poison pen or poison letter addiction.... Death was instantaneous but neighbors were only alerted when her articles stopped piling up.... Her controversial style made her a hero to those people who like controversial styles. Her controversial advice was extended to every one from Mother Theresa, to The Australian Male, The Australian Lifestyle, The Crocodile Bloke, and everyone else that she could think of.... Some people believe that Greer had a desire to destroy people so she could remain in the media spotlight."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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- Thomas