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All About Mary

Balthasar--a Misogynist?

– Father Johann G. Roten, S.M.

In Mary for Today (1988) Balthasar purportedly showed once more how much of a misogynist he was. Proof-material for the accusation is a passage on p. 74 of the English edition. He states: "As a woman she (Mary) has her heart where it ought to be and not in the brain." This partial sentence is used, according to the accusation, to show that women are all heart and no brain or, in a somewhat tempered version, lack logic and reasoning.

Balthasar's statement appears on the last pages of his short characterization of Our Lady for today. The heading for this section reads, 'Her protective cloak,' the immediate context is that of Mary's role at Cana. What is her reaction to Jesus' abrupt brush off? This woman whom Balthasar addresses in the context as "seat of wisdom" and "valiant woman," and in whom "the heart of her husband" (Prov. 31:11) trusts--in reference to the creator, appeals to what is most profound in Jesus' own heart--namely his mercy. Is this a purely sentimental and brainless reaction? Not in the eyes of our author for he perceives in Mary's initiative a combination of simplicity and cunning. In his words: "Simplicity and cunning coincide when she penetrates from the level of justice in God to the more profound level of mercy." Is this act of penetration devoid of intimate insight in God's ways and intention? Is the reference to "cunning" still another masculine device to debase feminine dignity? For Balthasar the "Do whatever he tells you." is a mother's wise and loving conviction to do the right thing in all regards--rational as well as emotional. In fact, the appeal to the Son's affection prepares and accompanies the deeper insight in and reference to his mission--a mission of mercy. It is on behalf of the latter, the mission of Mary, that mention is made of Mary's heart which is not in the brain. If it were in the brain, her reaction would follow the dictate of "abstract justice" worked "out by men for their state." It is not, and Mary has excellent confirmation for her rightful and intelligent: "she knows that even a God who thought woman up and created her can have his heart in no other place." (Mary for Today, 74)


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