Just what I wanted to do with my life — expend a lot of time debunking academic urban legendry that has been circulating since the 1950’s. Anti-Catholic urban legends, at that.
Once upon a time, there were two Dominicans who got paranoid and weird and misogynist, and wrote the Malleus Malificarum – the “Hammer for Witches.”
And once upon a time, there was an extremely weird ex-Anglican ex-seminarian who claimed to be an ordained Catholic priest but was hardly celibate or chaste — the famous and infamous Montague Summers, who translated the Malleus Malificarum into modern English.
That’s where this misogynistic meme list came from.
One chapter of Malleus Malificarum includes a list of quotes, ostensibly from the Fathers, about how bad women are. Montague Summers translated this without explanation or criticism, AFAIK, and he did not discuss the fact that it was cherrypicked from other medieval books with quotes on various topics. Nor did he discuss whether these quotes were about “women” or “wives,” since mulier, femina, and gyne can mean either one.
This is very messily formatted and incomplete, but I wanted to put it up before I forgot about it. (Previously, I strained my eyes and a bunch of other things happened, and I did forget about it.) So here it is.
St. Clement of Alexandria:
“Let us set women on the road to goodness by teaching them to display submissiveness.” (Handout, Theology 1000, Fordham. An allegedly Catholic institution.) CANNOT FIND QUOTE.
“A woman should cover her head with shame at the thought that she is a woman.” Also found as “Every woman should be filled with shame at the thought that she is a woman.”
St. Clement’s book The Paedogogue/The Tutor, Book II, Chapter 2, 2. MISTRANSLATION.
It talks about Christians and drinking. And after a lot of talk about men drinking being okay but not getting drunk, he mentions women getting drunk. And then he mentions that women drinking in a chug-a-lug way is not a good idea, either, even if they don’t actually get drunk. And he also chides Christian drunken women for stripping naked and throwing up, “just like men, or rather, like war-captured slaves”, and then falling down on the floor. Hiccups are mentioned.
He adds, “For to a man with reason, clatter is nothing properly homey; and how much more does clatter only carry disgrace for a woman, who is to know herself for who she is.”
After this, St. Clement just tells women not to strip down in public, not to seek out glamour chugging cups but to just use the normal winecups, and not to burp and hiccup loudly. (And later on, Clement tells men that it’s immodest to prop yourself up on your elbows or your hand.)
So… yet another startling modern twisting of an iffy Victorian translation of the Greek. I mean, maybe I’m misreading this, because I’m not a Greek or Classics major… but honestly, a lot of the original Greek seems to be much nicer than how the Victorians took it.
“The judgment of God upon the female sex endures to this day, and with it inevitably endures their position of criminal at the bar of justice. Women are the gateway of the devil.”‘
Chittister 1983 version: “Woman! you are the Devil’s doorway. You have led astray one whom the Devil would not dare attack directly. It is your fault that the Son of God had to die; you should always go in mourning and rags.”
Fordham 2019 version: “You [women] are the gateway of the devil; you softened up with your cajoling words Adam, whom the devil could not attack directly; because of you the Son of God had to die.”
Ruggiero 2019 version 2: ““God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you . . . You are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God . . . Because of the death you merited, even the Son of God had to die . . . Woman, you are the gate to hell.”
Mary Magdalene First Apostle version: ““Woman is a temple built over a sewer, the gateway to the devil. Woman, you are the devil’s doorway. You should always go in mourning and in rags.”
Tertullian quoting Marcion: “a sewer of the illustrious animal.”
Allegedly Tertullian, or maybe Boethius: “A beautiful woman is a temple built over a sewer.”
De Cultu Feminarum, book I, 1-2?
Against Marcion, book 3, 8.?
Roger Pearse quoting Vita Latina.
St John Chrysostom:
“Woman is a foe to friendship, an inescapable punishment, a necessary evil…” QUOTE BUSTED! http://www.tektonics.org/af/bogusq.php It comes from Sprenger and Kramer, Malleus Maleficarum, and it is their own work, not a quote.
Barbara Cartland version: “…. a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic peril, a deadly fascination, and a painted ill.” Still by Sprenger and Kramer.
Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew? Did not find citation. Closest I found was a letter to Theodoret, urging him to quit trying to marry a pretty girl named Hermione, and go back to monk life. Theodoret eventually became a bishop and famous Bible commentator. Comments on how women are a bag of blood is typical Stoic/Neo-Platonist line about all human beings not being something to lust after.
“Among all savage beasts none is found so harmful as woman.” – DEBUNKED! Part 1, Part 2. Not by Chrysostom, not in Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, not associated with the other quote.
“The female sex is weak and vain, and here this is said of the whole sex.” On the Epistle to the Ephesians, 42, 148?
“Women are the gate of hell.”
“Woman is the gate of the devil, the road to iniquity, the sting of the scorpion, in a word, a dangerous species.” – NO SOURCE FOUND at Tektonics. Earliest quote in 1992?
Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex version: “Let us take ax in hand and cut off at its roots the fruitless tree of marriage.”
“Women are not made in the image of God.”
Fordham 2019 version: “Woman together with man is the image of God, so that the whole substance is one image. But when she is assigned as helpmate, which pertains to her alone, she is not the image of God. However, man taken alone is the image of God just as fully and completely as when he is joined with the woman.”
Ruggiero 2019 version: “Woman together with her own husband is the image of God . . . but when she is referred [to] separately . . . then she is not the image of God . . . [But the man] is the image of God as fully and completely as when the woman too is joined with him in one.”
De Trinitate, book 12, 7? Book 7, 8? Literal Commentary on Genesis?
Gregory of Nazianzus:
Repeated attribution version: “[Woman is] a foe to friendship, an inescapable punishment, a necessary evil.”
Pope St Gregory the Great:
“Woman is slow in understanding, and her unstable and naive mind renders her by way of natural weakness to the necessity of a strong hand in her husband. Her use is twofold: animal sex and motherhood.”
St John Damascene:
“Woman is a sick she-ass . . . a hideous tape-worm . . .the advance post of hell.”
Also quoted as “sick-ass”. Yeah, that doesn’t sound modern at all. In fact, it sounds like a Reddit bot.
Muslim-used version: “Woman is the daughter of falsehood, a sentinel of hell, an enemy of peace.”
Cardinal Cahal Daly’s response to the meme list, as set out by Fr. Sean Fagan in the Irish Times in 1998 letters to the editor. Also includes a short list from a professor of all the times that St. Thomas Aquinas explained the humanity, full personhood, and dignity of women.
O Sister Where Art Thou? Tertullian’s Wife Part 2: Lots of good info on these slides.
Tektonics Bogus Quotes: More good info. Unfortunately the Tektonics website proprietor has “closed his canon” and will only be doing his YouTube channel from now on. His Tekton TV “Bogus Quotes” playlist is here.