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Among Women 235: Women Speak for Themselves, with Helen Alvaré

Among Women 235: Women Speak for Themselves, with Helen Alvaré

This is the episode that almost wasn’t! Hope you don’t miss this latest episode of Among Women. 

After a tech failure and a long-awaited repair to the recording, I dive into a discussion with Helen Alvaré, law professor from George Mason University, and founder of Women Speak for Themselves and Reconnect Media. We enjoy a very engaging conversation on a variety of subjects including improving our public discourse on pro-life issues and so much more: #MeToo, love, sex, marriage, contraception, and making a positive impact on the culture.

Plus, in this episode we look at the life of St. Prisca, a married woman from the first century church, and her witness and service to St. Paul and others.

Listen here!

Helen Alvare in action before a Congressional Committee reviewing on H.R. 7, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.”

Women Speak for Themselves (WSFT) is a pro-woman, pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-family women’s advocacy group I’ve recommended to my readers and listeners before. More recently here.

Please make yourself familiar with it on Facebook too.

Here’s a video below of WSFT founder Helen Alvare as she testified today at the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice hearing on H.R. 7, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” This legislation would make the Hyde amendment permanent and government-wide and would stop funding abortion insurance coverage in the “Affordable Care Act” (P.L. 111-148).

Professor Helen Alvare, from George Mason University, in action.

This makes me think… how ‘a new feminism’ called for by Bl. John Paul II is a forerunner to Francis’ call for ‘deeper theology of women’

Almost by definition, the overarching goal of any feminism is to realize — in action, in the world — the dignity of the human person who is female. In Evangelium Vitae, the Pope [John Paul  II] refers to this when he says that feminism acknowledges and affirms “the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society.” The marks of a new feminism, a Christian feminism in service to life, are distinctive, however. Women’s well-being is not pursued in isolation; rather, our well-being, dignity, and freedom are always related to the well-being, dignity, and freedom of others.

As the members of the human race who bear the next generation, who have a special relationship with new life, we must never forget that all freedom is relational. As the Pope states: “You are called to bear witness to the meaning of genuine love, of that gift of self and of that acceptance of others which are present in a special way in the relationship of husband and wife, but which ought also to be at the heart of every other interpersonal relationship. The experience of motherhood makes you acutely aware of the other person.”

Thus, we must bring to every struggle undertaken in the name of a new feminism an acute sense not only of women’s rightful place but of the well-being of others. While wholeheartedly supporting true equality for women in all arenas, we must also attend to the needs of those who are affected by our actions — most especially the needs of children. As relatively powerless people, children merit our special care and concern to ensure that their needs are not trampled upon. New feminism, for example, must honestly confront the moral dilemmas faced by the working mother, something old feminism never adequately addressed. Caught up in a fight to allow children to be “disappeared” by abortion, old feminism could never quite bring itself to grapple with what mothers owe their children.

New feminism must also remember that men are profoundly affected by the path of women’s lives. It never adopts an “in-your-face” attitude but remembers that true freedom for women respects the dignity of males as well. Think of the progress that could be made in respect for women if men were seen always as partners, not adversaries! And every woman with a supportive husband or a father who is sure his daughter can do anything understands what I’m talking about.

A new feminism also remembers that it is a waste of time to rail against objective truths. Trying to be free of our bodies’ reproductive abilities or of the emotional consequences of promiscuity is as futile as trying to be free of gravity.

We need to jump off a building only once to know that we cannot escape the reality of gravity. True freedom with respect to our sexual selves respects our God-given nature to give ourselves sexually only within the lifetime commitment of marriage. Giving ourselves in any other context gives too much away that is never retrieved.

Finally, and most importantly, a new feminism, a Christian feminism, remembers God. How can we fail to understand the dignity with which we’ve been endowed if we remember the One who created us and why. The beauty of the story of women’s creation and the dignity and holiness of Mary and of the other women in Scripture — in the Old and New Testaments — speak volumes about who women were created to be. Throughout the New Testament in particular, Jesus’ respectful encounters with women were as noteworthy in that day as they ought to be in our own. A new feminism must remember that God will never underestimate women’s potential or the gifts we can bring to private and public life. At the same time, it remembers that, like Jesus — the model for humanity — and like all human beings, we are created to serve others. Such a feminism will leave no victims in its wake. When we embrace a feminism that remembers God, we will reject abortion, we will not taunt men, we will not abandon our families.

-Helen Alvare-

A 1997 piece. “A New Feminism” from Liquori, found online elsewhere.

Here’s some media follow up on the “Women Speak for Themselves” rally in DC

Some of you may have heard about the Washington DC rally, hosted by Women Speak for Themselves held yesterday. While I did not have the luxury of attending, I really support this message, so I just wanted to add a few related articles that I came across in the aftermath of the event.

By the way, you can still sign the letter to President Obama voicing your objection to the mandate.

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In other news, you may be wondering why I’ve not posted anything yet on Pope Francis’ remarks regarding the need for a deeper theology of women in the church. I have a piece that I’ve written and when it breaks online, I’ll let you know. Maybe this Sunday night/Monday morning. We’ll see when. I’ll also be discussing it on a future Among Women podcast.

RALLY THURSDAY in Wash DC: “Women Speak for Themselves!” Can’t go? Sign this letter!

RALLY THURSDAY in Wash DC: “Women Speak for Themselves!” Can’t go? Sign this letter!

600221_360170150776326_1642435042_aIn the past year, I’ve been watching the growth of “Women Speak for Themselves”, led by Helen Alvare and Kim Daniels, on the question of religious liberty and HHS Mandate. (Previously I’ve posted on it here, and on my former blog, here. You can also read my review of “Breaking Through”, edited by Helen Alvare.)

There are two things you can do right now: 1) Plan on going to the rally, and/or 2) sign their letter to President Obama.

RALLY: A grass-roots style rally is being planned at 11am on Thursday at Lafayette Square,  H St. between 15 and 17th Sts. NW, Washington DC.  More details, if you are going.

LETTER: If you can not attend the rally, by all means, SIGN the LETTER to President Obama decrying how this HHS mandate threatens our religious freedom. Or “like”the Women Speak for Themselves Facebook page, and follow them on Twitter.

Information on this issue: (What follows is reprinted from the WSFT website):

1. What the fight is about:

Our objection to the “preventive health care” mandate is not about making contraception illegal. Birth control is legally protected by the Constitution itself.

It is not about whether the government will continue to fund it; both federal and state governments will continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually to provide free or low-cost contraception to American women annually.

It is only about whether the government can force religious institutions and individuals to provide contraception, sterilization and abortifacient drugs to our employees via health insurance.

2. The mandate burdens our religious freedom:

Forcing educational, health care or other religious institutions to provide their employees something which directly conflicts with their religious teachings is a straightforward burden on the free exercise of religion. When religious people gather together to provide care for our “neighbor” as commanded by Jesus’ teachings in the Good Samaritan parable, they are no less “exercising” their religion than when they pray or worship God with their fellow believers. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est:

Love of neighbour… is …a responsibility for the entire ecclesial community at every level….. As a community, the Church must practise love. Love … needs to be organized if it is to be an ordered service to the community.

He added:

 The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in exercising the ministry of charity

3. The mandate burdens our religious freedom even if the government claims that insurance companies or third parties will “pay for” the services which violate religious conscience

The federal government is proposing to amend the current mandate (after the Fall 2012 election) so that religious institutions will not be “cooperating” in the provision of objectionable services. Insurance companies or third parties would arrange to provide and pay for contraception. There are two problems with this proposed amendment.

First, insurance companies will simply fold the costs of contraception into the price of insurance charged to religious institutions.

Second, no matter how the accounting looks on paper, the fact remains that this proposal allows the government to reach into the internal affairs of religious institutions and restructure the terms of employment. More, to change it from a workplace and a ministry that embodies and defers to religious witness…to one which is indistinguishable from any other private or public institution.

4. But Didn’t President Obama “Accommodate” Religious Employers?

He promised he would but he didn’t. Instead, he extended the deadline (to August 2013) for religious institutions to figure out how to violate their consciences, or face legal penalties. The originally proposed rule – requiring religious hospitals, schools, social services, etc. to cover contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can act as abortifacients – is presently in force.

5. Should it matter that many Catholics disagree with the Church’s teachings on contraception?

Several responses are possible.

First, remember that the rule also mandates coverage of drugs that can act as early abortifacients.

Second, the government is constitutionally forbidden from reaching into religious institutions and telling them to comply with the preferences of members who disagree with the institution’s religious doctrines.

Third, many Catholics and non-Catholics who don’t understand or who haven’t accepted Catholic teachings on contraception are upset at the government’s attempting to dictate the behavior of religious institutions, and grateful at the Catholic Church’s critical stance toward the medical and social effects of contraception.

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Related reading: An opinion piece, “Religious Freedom is about More Than Religion”, by Robert P. George.

The 7 Best Books for Women by Women (and one Priest) from 2012

The 7 Best Books for Women by Women (and one Priest) from 2012

(Okay, so that’s really an 8-book list.)

If you listen my podcast, Among Women, you know I have a passion for three things: first, to encourage women to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and their Catholic faith; second, to celebrate the beauty and genius of their womanhood; and third, to call women to serve others with love. With those three goals in mind, let me share with you my top picks for great reads from 2012, and the some of the podcasts that highlighted them. These books are grouped by the three aforementioned themes, and not ranked by priority or preference. They are ALL good, that’s why I’m sharing them.

(For the men reading this, you may enjoy these titles too, or give them to the women in your life! That book from Fr Gaitley, 33 days to Morning Glory, is for all, not just for women! Most especially, the books from Helen Alvare, Mary Eberstadt, and Colleen Carroll Campbell, have mass appeal as well.)

 

Books that build your faith:

 

He Speaks to You, by Sr Helena Burns, FSP (Pauline Books and Media) 41Bo2LdjiPL._AA160_

Though released in 2011, I didn’t catch this title until 2012. The publisher describes the book this way, and its spot on: “What is my purpose in life? How do I best utilize my gifts and talents? How does God call upon me as a young Catholic woman? Discerning your vocation can be difficult. But endowed with the spiritual guidance contained within this daily discernment book and Jesus as your lifelong coach, you’ll be on your way to self-discovery rooted in faith.”

So, with that said, JESUS is the “He” in the book title. This is a great book for women in their 20s and 30s… but even though I’m no where near that age category anymore,  I loved, loved this book… for its page-a-day wit and wisdom, and its great suggestions for daily prayer and Christian action. I think it could also be a good fit for women in high school.

This is a book to pray with; it’s a faith-builder for sure. Check it out. Give it as a gift.

Listen to the author — the energetic Sr Helena Burns, who has a spitfire faith-and-media blog named “Hell Burns” — chat with me on Among Women 143.

 

33 Days to Morning Glory, by Fr Michael Gaitley MIC (Marian Press) 51SKa-8TITL._AA160_

Though released late in 2011, this book didn’t catch fire until this past year, so like Sr Helena’s book, I’m including it. This book is a four and a half week retreat for your soul. What I love about it is that it is an updating of the tried-and-true Consecration to Jesus through Mary that I’ve been doing for many years. So if you’re ready to entrust yourself to Mary, and become her daughter in a meaningful way, or you want to increase your devotion to the one who is most blessed among women, here’s a good book to help.

(Through the years, I’ve privately used the formula found here by St. Louis de Montfort. Some people have mixed reactions to it, since its a bit “old school” in its language and approach to the daily prayers. I still like it, but that’s me. Blessed John Paul II recommended it, so that was enough for me to trust its efficacy.) However, I also like this new book on Marian consecration and let me tell you why.

I’m grateful for Fr Gaitley’s approach, because I think many more people will consecrate their lives in this way, using this book, with its updated language and friendly sensibilities as a spiritual guide. What’s more, Fr Gaitley introduces Montfort’s method essentially, but then incorporates wisdom from other modern Marian-devoted saints, (beyond the 18th century “classic” notes of St. Louis de Montfort), thus widening and deepening the wisdom pool that he draws from. It’s a beautiful, easy-to-read result. Besides Montfort, Gaitley also explains the Mariology of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and Blessed John Paul II.

You can do the consecration using this book on your own, or with a small group. I enjoyed doing it with a small group last Lent, and will renew my consecration later this year, either privately or corporately.

Finally, and this is worth noting: This book does not stand alone; it is part of a new parish-based initiative known as HAPP (Hearts Afire Parish Program) that you can look into.

So go to it. I’m here for conversation on this subject, if you choose to take on the 33 days.

Books that capture the feminine genius, as applied to women’s issues:

 

Breaking Through, edited by Helen Alvare. (Our Sunday Visitor) 41i1YszbbuL._AA160_

For years, I’ve been reading articles and insightful commentary from Helen Alvare on the sexual politics in our culture, law, religion, and family life. Most recently, in light of the controversy surrounding the HHS mandate in relation to Obamacare, she became the co-author of an open letter on women and religious freedom that has thus far attracted over 37,000 women’s signatures, including my own. (See womenspeakforthemselves.com). Breaking Through, grew out of that effort, and contains a series of essays from nine women who take on the myths and media messages that often malign Catholic women today, or that tries to squeeze women into a one-size-fits-all caricature. Topics include:

    • Navigating dating and sexpectations
    • Feminism, freedom and contraception
    • Children versus a “better me”
    • Being Catholic in light of the sexual abuse scandal
    • Faith, psychology and same-sex attraction

 

Adam and Eve and the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolutionby Mary Eberstadt (Ignatius Press) 41IXPzjMADL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_

This book has one of my favorite titles of recent memory. But besides its pithy headline, this book has excellent social, religious, and political commentary on its subject matter, which is, what the sexual revolution hath wrought. Critically and intellectually, this is a tour de force, not to mention it is superbly written and researched. In light of the present testimony presented, Eberstadt asks probing questions, as she proceeds to answer them, such as: Is food the new sex? Is pornography the new tobacco?

This book stretched me and forced me to think deeply, as it gave me hope in light of the problems it examines. I agree with NRO Editor Kathryn Jean Lopez’ assessment that Eberstadt’s book “is a treasure and a resource and a cultural catechesis.”

(I had hoped to interview Mary Ebestadt on Among Women last fall, but Hurricane Sandy pre-empted us. We’ll see if we can re-book the professor at a later date.)

 

My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir, by Colleen Carroll Campbell (Image Books) 51jyrsFYD+L._AA160_

This well-told memoir from Campbell, a popular journalist and EWTN host, plus a former White House speech-writer, describes her quest for meaning in light of her Catholic faith and contemporary feminism. Her story is woven with wisdom from St. Teresa of Avila, St. Faustina Kowalska, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

When I was reading this book, I felt like I was reading about my younger sisters and younger friends, who like me, have waded through much of cultural feminism’s promises and been found wanting.*

Campbell is a masterful writer, and given all the lives of the saints that I’ve profiled over the years on Among Women, you know that I appreciate when someone integrates their saintly wisdom with care and modern application. As for the writing craft, this is probably the most well-written book on this list.

Books that serve others with love:

 

After Miscarriage: A Catholic Woman’s Companion to Healing and Hope, by Karen Edmisten (Servant Books) 41Vt+aDDqrL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_

When something like one in four pregnancies can result in miscarriage, you know this is a sad event in the lives of many women. There is an amazing amount of comfort packed into this little book of 120 pages. Stories, theology, prayers, comfort aids… just good, solid help and a come-alongside attitude to soothe the hurts on multiple levels that accompany miscarriage. Every Catholic family should have this book as a resource. Give it to your parish priests or your parish library. This kind of love-in-action book needs wide distribution.

I highly recommend my two-part conversation with Karen Edmisten about this book. Part one is on Among Women 129, and part two is on Among Women 130. 

 

My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saintsby Dawn Eden (Ave Maria Press) 51G1xpQt1RL._AA160_

Many women, and countless listeners of Among Women, have suffered from sexual abuse and trauma. This podcast featuring my interview with Dawn Eden was in the top three downloads of Among Women in 2012. That alone tells me this book is a needed resource. Of course, I give the author props for utilizing the lives of the saints as source material, but the book is that and more. Eden tells of her own path to recovery as she shares her conversion to Catholicism and through it, her on-going healing from sexual trauma, thanks to the graces of the sacraments and the wisdom of the Faith. I won’t say this is an easy read, given the emotionally-tender content, but it is accessible and practical. Listen to Dawn Eden’s visit on Among Women 140.

 

The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years: The Nuts and Bolts of Staying Sane and Happy While Waiting for Mr. Right,

by Emily Stimpson (Emmaus Road Publishing) 416bhJ+7DWL._AA160_

This common-sense title says it all. With passion, intelligence, wit, and beauty, Emily Stimpson – who also writes for numerous Catholic publications and websites – puts it all together with prayer, excellent facility with theology of the body and the feminine genius in particular, and profound honesty and care for her reader. (Yes, this little book touches all three categories of this blog post.) Stimpson tackles a variety of topics with nerve and verve: vocation, dating, sex, finances, work, depression, and more. You’ll enjoy her candor and stories on Among Women 144.

Note: If you choose to purchase these books through the links provided above, a small portion of your purchase will benefit the ministry of SQPN.

*(If you choose to read my book in the coming year, you’ll see what I mean. I concur with many of Campbell’s conclusions.)