The Church of NPR: Mother Teresa's a Destroyer, Radical Feminist an 'Icon'

January 10th, 2010 8:30 AM

Even obituaries can inform the public what the leftists at National Public Radio consider admirable.When Mother Teresa died in 1997, NPR stood out with a vicious obituary from anchor Scott Simon noting her "tolerance of tyrants and criminals" and her theology of "destructive comfort to keep people poor." Christopher Hitchens, who wrote a book-length attack on her, was welcomed to kick dirt on the memory of her.

On Tuesday, by contrast, NPR celebrated the life of "Catholic" scholar Mary Daly. No one was welcomed in to savage her. It was completely one-sided. She was, instead, "for many women, such as Sister Joan Chittister, a prominent nun, Daly was an icon."

This was a bit different than even the AP obituary, which more accurately called her "iconoclastic" in tone:

Radical feminist Mary Daly, the iconoclastic theologian who proclaimed, ''I hate the Bible,'' and retired from Boston College rather than allow men to take her classes, has died. She was 81.

Daly died Sunday of natural causes at Wachusett Manor nursing home in Gardner, Mass., said her longtime friend, Nancy Kelly.

She passed away as a friend read to Daly from one of her own books, ''Websters' First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language,'' Kelly said Wednesday.

Daly's tumultuous career at the Jesuit-run Boston College ended after three decades when she refused to open her classroom to men, believing women did not freely exchange ideas if men were present. Men, she said, ''have nothing to offer but doodoo.''

These quotes about the Bible and "doodoo" did not make the warm NPR obituary by religion reporter Barbara Bradley Hagerty.

MELISSA BLOCK, host: A founder of modern feminism has died. Mary Daly was a radical theologian. She died on Sunday at the age of 81. NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty reports.

BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY: Ten years ago, in the twilight of her life, Mary Daly described herself this way.

MARY DALY: I am a radical lesbian feminist and it scares them.

HAGERTY: Them is the Catholic Church, Boston College, where she taught for three decades, and what Daly regarded as a male dominated society. But for many women, such as Sister Joan Chittister, a prominent nun, Daly was an icon.

Sister JOAN CHITTISTER (Nun): She shocked us into seeing old things in a new way. She made us understand that we were blind to half our world.

HAGERTY: The female half. She says Daly shook up Catholic theology, asserting that the Trinity, for example, was derived from triple goddesses in ancient culture. Daly also condemned male dominance in church, business, government and society. Here she is on KDVS Radio in 2006.

DALY: Almost everything has been stolen from us by the patriarchy. Our creativity has been stolen, our creative energies, our religion. I want it back.

Hagerty doesn’t grasp this occasion to wonder how "Sister Joan" can both be a nun and someone who thinks Daly helped her understand the Holy Trinity is a sexist construct ripped off from "triple goddesses in ancient culture." She doesn’t wonder how it is that Daly would be allowed to teach at a "Catholic" college with obviously anti-religious views. She wasn’t "shaking up" Catholic theology. She was lobbing bombs at it. But the eulogy continued:

HAGERTY: Daly defied expectations from the start. Born in Schenectady, New York of working-class Catholic parents she earned three PhDs before joining Boston College's theology department in the mid 1960s. Her first book called "The Church and the Second Sex" got her fired in 1969 until the then all-male student body protested and demanded the school hire her back.

Nevertheless, Daly avoided speaking to men and generally refused to attend department meetings. And after the college went co-ed, she almost always refused to let men into her classes. This decision ran her afoul of school policy in federal law. And in 1999, a male student sued the school. Daly said the student had not taken the prerequisite course. But she told NPR she found men disruptive.

DALY: I saw women that were repressed. When they're in classes with young men, they shut up all the time. They're laughed at if they have unusual ideas. They have to be sexy, then they can't really think.

HAGERTY: Lawrence Cunningham, who teaches at Notre Dame, believes Daly went too far. And in the end will be only a footnote in Catholic theological history. But he says she was a huge voice in one of the most influential movements of the 20th century.

Professor LAWRENCE CUNNINGHAM (Theologian, University of Notre Dame): You could kind of describe her as the gold standard for absolute feminism. I mean, everybody, at least in Christian circles or feminist circles would kind of measure their feminism against the standard that Mary Daly set.

HAGERTY: And Cunningham says the female students he teaches today are the prime beneficiaries of Daly's radical life. Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR News.

Then came the final insult to Bible-thumping Christians. The melody of "Rock of Ages" swelled up to move listeners on to the next news story. As if Daly was a reverent Christian instead of a self-declared pagan who wrote an "Intergalactic Wickedary."