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St. Hildegard Condemns Women
Dressing Like Men

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Dear Dr. Horvat,

Sometime ago, on a traditionalist Catholic Yahoo! group that I subscribe to, there began a fierce discussion (altercation) about whether women may wear trousers. Then someone posted to the group the text of a letter from London opposing your article on the three photos, followed by the text of your response to that letter. I noticed that on the precise issue of women dressing like men you quoted only Deut. 22:5, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Cardinal Siri. So, I am appending below the text of a post of mine to that group that provides another ecclesiastical source for a prohibition on men and women dressing alike, in case it may be of service to you in the future.

By the way, on the questions of dating, marriage, when to begin having children, working mothers, etc., I think you may find a number of pre-conciliar books and pamphlets that you agree with - and with many wonderful quotations to cite by searching for "marriage" in the documents section of the online library at EWTN. I fully realize that in recent years EWTN has more and more been promoting strange teachings, but these documents, like many documents there containing works of the Church Fathers, were placed into the library 10-15 years ago, and Scott Hahn and that crew have not gotten around to expunging them yet.

And on the subject of good books for Church History, for those who can read French I recommend for starters the 14-volume Histoire Universelle de l'Eglise Catholique (beginning with the creation of the world) by Fr. René Rohrbacher, which is available for free browsing or downloading at Gallica.

For more detailed works, the Internet Archive has most or all of the volumes of the English translation of Msgr. Hefele's History of the Councils (not just of the oecumenical councils), not to mention Montalembert's multi-volume The Monks of the West, some historical works by Hilaire Belloc, and quite a few volumes of the History of the Popes by Ludwig Pastor (an Austrian Catholic). And of course the Internet Archive has hundreds of other old Catholic books available for free downloading; searching there for "Benziger," "Burns Oates," or "Herder" will bring up about a thousand books, including missals, saints' lives, catechisms, decrees of Trent, and books of dogmatic and moral theology.

  Sincerely yours in Christ,

     C.P.V.

PS: Below I am sending to you the objection that triggered my entering into that discussion and my answer to it.


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Objection

If the writings of the Popes and saints don't make the point for you, I suppose nothing will. The crux of the issue is gender-bending.


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My Answer

Precisely.

Up until yesterday I was reading this thread with growing disgust, as it seemed to me that I should feel ashamed if any Protestant might happen to be reading this thread, since all of the arguments in favor of women having a right to wear men's clothes, and some of the arguments against, were of a decidedly Protestant flavor.

Each one was arguing for himself, and until the introduction of the text by Cardinal Siri and the OLRL argument mentioning Deut. 22:5, nobody was bothering himself about Church tradition. But yesterday things took a turn for the better.

Someone has given in full here a text coming from a high ecclesiastical official, namely Cardinal Siri. So, I dare to hope that I will not be censured if I venture to post a text which a large number of Catholics living in more faithful times took as coming from a still higher ecclesiastical official.

I am referring here to the Revelations of St. Hildegard of Bingen, a Benedictine Abbess born about 1099 and deceased ca. 1179. These revelations, which she collected in a work known as Sci Vias or Scivias ("know the ways"), were approved by her close correspondent St. Bernard of Clairvaux, at whose urging Pope Eugene III had them read out for consideration at an ecclesiastical council held at (H)eims in March 1148 in the presence of numerous Cardinals and clerics, whereupon the Pontiff approved the revelations and ordered that they be given a wide diffusion. The people of that time, and of subsequent times, accepted these revelations as coming from God, and the narrated explanations contained in the revelations as having been dictated by God Himself, some of them by God the Father and some by Our Lord Jesus Christ.

On the Internet in the public domain I have only seen a part of the Scivias translated into French, and nothing in English (though Paulist Press published an English translation in 1990 that one can buy). So I will give my own rather literal translation of the relevant sections here, with the original Latin at the end of this post:


Text of the Revelations of St. Hildegard

Sci Vias [Know the Ways], or
The Three Books of the Visions and Revelations of Saint Hildegard

"And after these I saw, while the Son of God was hanging upon the cross, that the aforesaid womanish image, by ancient counsel coming closer like a bright light ... And again I heard a voice from the heights of Heaven, saying to me, "With Christ Jesus the very Son of God hanging upon the wood of the passion, the Church in the secrecy of the high mysteries associated to him is endowed with his purple blood. ..."

[The voice is of God the Father, and it continues to explain the brief preceding vision for many, many pages. In the midst of the explanation, we find the following:]

"Women too should not approach the said office of my altar, since they are a feeble and weak vessel, established that they may give birth to children, and diligently bring them up once they are born. But the woman conceives an infant not by herself but from a man, just as the earth is not ploughed by itself but by a farmer. Wherefore just as the earth cannot plough itself, so too the woman is not to be assimilated to a priest in the office of consecrating the body and blood of my Son, though she may give voice to the praise of the Creator, as the earth accepts the rain for the watering of its fruits.

"As the earth brings forth every fruit, so too in the woman every fruit of a good work is carried to completion.

"How? Because she can receive the high priest as her bridegroom. How? The virgin betrothed to my Son receives him as a bridegroom, because she has closed her body to the carnal man; and hence in her bridegroom she has the priesthood and every ministry of my altar, and with it possesses all of its riches. But also the widow can be called a bride of my Son, [because] refusing a carnal man, she flees under the wings of His protection. Just as the bridegroom greatly loves his bride, so my Son most sweetly embraces his brides, who diligently run to him out of a love of chastity.

"But also on no account should a man put on feminine clothing, nor a woman use the clothing of a man, so that in this way the person of each may be discerned, that is to say, that the man display manly fortitude, and that the woman show in herself feminine weakness. This has been in my disposition from the beginning of the human race, unless either the man be in danger of death, or the woman in danger of [a violation of] chastity. Then if for a peiord of time either a man after the manner of a woman, or a woman after the manner of a man, should have humbly changed [his or her] clothes out of fear of death, then when they seek my mercy regarding this fact, they will find it, because they did this not out of rashness but in peril of their safety.

"For the same reason that the woman should not be dressed in manly clothes, so also she should not approach the office of my altar, for she will not show [herself] a manly person either in her hair or in her clothing.

"Those who approach my altar should appear in my sight in chastity; not only them, but all others who desire to receive the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of my Son, lest they cast themselves into a downfall of ruin" (Book II, Vision VI).
Posted November 2, 2007

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