Jim Graves is a Catholic writer and editor living in Newport Beach, California. He previously served as Managing Editor for the Diocese of Orange Bulletin, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Orange, California. His work has appeared in the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, Cal Catholic Daily and Catholic World Report.
I spoke with four practicing Catholic women, and asked them to share their thoughts on some hot topics of the day.
Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God, O.S.B., founder of Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel’s Hope (formerly Rosalind Moss), a religious superior and radio show host
What concerns do you have about family life in America today?
[The family] is God’s number one design to build His kingdom, and the Enemy’s number one target to destroy. This destruction seems to be happening at breakneck speed. When the Enemy destroys the family, he destroys society. This attack has primarily happened within the Church; as Pope Paul VI famously said, the “smoke of Satan” has entered the Church.
A Catholic who is not a priest or nun has the very first and most vital calling we have as human beings: to marry and multiply the kingdom of God on Earth. I accept that a religious calling is higher than marriage, but I cannot see anything more glorious than a man and woman joined as one in marriage. If they are truly open to life-giving love and living according to God’s design amid many trials, it is in a great measure to live heaven on Earth.
There is also a need to address the contraceptive mentality, which is depopulating much of the developed world.
Oh, yes. The people of Israel, for example, are putting themselves out of existence. The death rate is higher than the birth rate, and young couples are not getting married. This is true in many parts of the world.
The contraceptive mentality has had a tragic effect on society. But, many young people don’t have good examples to follow. The father is not living in the home because parents are divorced or never married; sometimes the mother is not involved. Young people don’t have examples of good marriages. We need the example of holy families, so we can build the domestic church.
Donna Steichen, author of Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism
What is feminism and how is it manifested in our society?
That’s a good place to start, because if you notice, feminism is rarely defined. In particular, the feminists don’t define it. It is to their advantage not to define it because most people interpret it as meaning you’re for women, or that they have a right to be educated or are just as smart as men.
But that’s not what it is about at all. Feminism is about overthrowing the structure of the family and society. It rose out of the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels [authors of The Communist Manifesto]. They saw that the family was at odds with their vision of society. Owning the factories is not enough. You can’t change society unless you get rid of the family.
When you attack the family, you attack society itself, including its institutions, authority and traditions, as well as the Ten Commandments and God. Religious feminists, and even secular feminists, want to overthrow God. The religious feminists have set about replacing the Trinitarian God with a mishmash of New Age spirituality, paganism, psychology, and anything that is not structured, that is not traditional, that is not Christianity.
Our society is in dire straits, and the past 50 years has been a terribly difficult period in history. Feminism has played a leading role in destroying our civilization. It corrupts a woman by creating contempt within her for her natural role. The major secular feminists believe that women should not be allowed to stay home and raise their children. The general tone is that having children and raising them is really a waste of a woman’s talents and education.
Feminist philosophy has saturated our society. For example, take the fact that relatively few families have a mother at home raising her children full time with a father working to support them. Women are expected to be employed outside the home and take care of their children in their spare time. And forget about having a large family. Since women are career-centered, they simply don’t have time to take care of eight or 10 children.
And the few children they do have suffer.
Of course, that’s the real tragedy. Go back in history and observe what happened when immigrant groups arrived in America. When they began they were often poor and living in slums. But, with two parents and the mother full time in the home, the children got an education and assimilated into society. That’s because they had their parents there to direct them.
But in single parent homes or two parent homes where the mother is often absent at work, the parents aren’t there to provide direction. So, the kids look elsewhere for the guidance they should be getting at home. This could be an inner-city gang, or a group of friends at the mall. Or, kids are left for hours in front of the TV, absorbing vile forms of entertainment. The TV set should be turned off and the parents ought to interacting with them.
Feminism is bad for women, bad for men, bad for children and bad for the family. It will never cease to be a mystery to me why so many people fall for it. I suppose it does prove what the Catholic Church has always maintained, we’re creatures flawed by Original Sin and prone to sin and foolishness.
But I like to remember that our side wins in the long run. We knew that from the beginning. God has promised He would not abandon us.
Alice von Hildebrand, retired philosophy professor, author, public speaker
For 37 years you were a practicing Catholic professor in an overwhelmingly secular college environment. Yet, you were among the most popular professors at the school. To what do you attribute this success?
I was successful because I was the only person in the department, if not the whole college, who stood for the objectivity of truth. When I taught, through much suffering and prayer, I was able to awaken in my students a longing for truth.
[Recently] it was my great privilege to receive three letters from former students of mine who are now in their 70s. I did not even remember them. They each had converted to Roman Catholicism. One was my student in 1952, and something I had said in the classroom had planted a seed that led to his conversion. I could not believe it, as I thought I was such an abominable teacher at the beginning.
Europe, including your native Belgium, was once predominantly Catholic. Today, that no longer is to be the case. What was the Catholic environment like when you grew up in Belgium, and what are your thoughts about the state of the country today?
[Growing up in Belgium in the 1920s and 30s] the country was very Catholic, and my family was very involved with the Church. My grandfather, in fact, was a very prominent Catholic in Belgium. He was the founder of a publication that Cardinal Silvio Oddi [1910-2001] once called the most Catholic newspaper in Europe.
I was blessed to go to the best Catholic schools, and was able to visit many magnificent churches in Brussels. The churches had such magnificent religious paintings; I learned much about the Faith by contemplating them.
I had access to the best Catholic textbooks as a child. I’d come home with a 450-page volume in small print and I knew the whole thing. I became a daily communicant as a teenager.
The country was as Catholic as it could be and I received a superb Catholic education.
… I can only tell you that [today] Belgium has apostasized from A to Z. I haven’t been there for 20 years. It would bring me to tears. I had a niece there that was given assisted suicide and afterward given a Catholic funeral Mass. If I were to go back, I would just shed tears from morning to night.
You have spoken often on the role of women, and have been a critic of modern feminism. What advice would you offer parents of girls about raising their daughters to be good Catholic women?
I’ll tell you my secret. It is incredibly important for parents to make their daughters realize what a great privilege it is to be a woman. There is a sacredness of the female body, for in it, God creates human life.
The husband plays a crucial, yet modest role. He gives the semen to the body of his wife. When the egg is fecundated, something amazing happens. God touches the body of the woman, and gives the life within her a soul. It is a personal connection between God and the woman. She must be conscious of this mystery, and understand its sacredness. And, possessing this sacredness, she should be properly veiled. This is something that has been destroyed in our society: look at how many women are dressed today!
I would also remind girls that the most perfect creature God ever created is a woman, the Blessed Virgin. But this is not something that should make us proud, but humble.
And, it’s important for men to show respect for the women in their lives.
Yes. I make a point of mentioning my father in my memoirs. He was a humble man, shy and reserved. He was a holy man, but some would consider him a failure. He never made any money.
But, I am forever grateful that he taught me the proper attitude men should have toward women. He recognized that there is a sacredness in women. And, he knew of the crucial importance of how a man treats his wife.
Lila Rose, pro-life activist, founder of Live Action
You have described Planned Parenthood abortion clinics as “dark” places. With so much in the news about what occurs in Planned Parenthood clinics, what do you think motivates people to keep working in them?
… they have had an abortion themselves, want to keep their jobs and keep the abortion revenue coming in, or have a political agenda: they strongly believe in keeping abortion legal. Whatever their motivation, they have a callous disregard for human life.
What motivates you and those on your staff to work full-time in the pro-life movement?
We want youth to understand the truth about abortion and to become advocates for the unborn. The odds may be against us, but we’re confident in the end that truth will win out.
You grew up in a Protestant family. What led you to become Catholic?
I wanted to receive Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.