The genius and gift of womanhood is astounding to me. The dignity and the rights of women must be protected. I have given retreats for women using Saint John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” often beginning the retreat by asking forgiveness on behalf of men for any way that the women have been abused or felt used or disrespected.
The result is usually tears and deep prayer. Therefore I supported my sister when she decided to participate in the Women’s March Jan. 21 in Washington, D.C. She is a woman with a deep compassionate heart and I prayed for her and all women that were marching for a peaceful and full expression for the dignity of women. The numbers astounded me (though the March for Life — one week later — had some large numbers).
It was troubling, however, to read that the Women’s March removed the group Feminists for Life from its official partners.
Feminists for Life is a women’s organization that views abortion as a true betrayal of womanhood. That the Women’s March rejected their participation was a sign that the march had a particular message: Some women were not welcome.
As I watched the march on TV there were some clever signs but others were rude and demeaning. I looked for the signs that would state, “I am thankful to be a mother” or “Motherhood is a gift.” I didn’t see them. The video coverage was extensive as were the photos.
I am sure there were mothers praising their motherhood and love of their family, but I saw mostly anger and demeaning caricatures of women. Please God, no woman thinks Madonna represents the best of the feminine genius in her crude and angry remarks.
I had marched twice in the March for Life in D.C. and the overall feeling was joy. Such a contrast to the many photos shown on TV of the Women’s March. The phrases I heard and read over and over again: “My body, my choice” and “This is My Body.”
As I heard this last phrase, I suddenly realized Jesus said something similar. As a priest, I pray these words every time I celebrate the Eucharist: “This is my body.” But Jesus continues, saying that it is “given up for you.”
Those at the Women’s March meant something very different. “This is my body, so don’t interfere with it. It is mine so I can do what I want even if it takes a life inside me.” The same words with the absolute opposite meaning.
Christ gives up his body that others may live. The other holds onto her body even if others will die. The very essence of the Gospel opposes this posture. The reason Christ came was to give up his life. He gave himself away. The strange idol we have raised up in our hyper individualism resounds in this phrase “My body. My right. My choice.” When you say “me first” friendship collapses, marriage collapses and, finally, you collapse in on yourself.
However, when we put other first, friendship flourishes, marriage grows and we become our true self. I know there is terrible abuse of women in the world. So where is the indignation against sex slaves or child brides or social restrictions of women in other countries? Where is the indignation against movies that promote vulgarity and demean women? Where are the feminists who oppose the horrible industry of pornography, which is the worst of the worst in objectifying and using women as mere objects? Where are the signs and statements saying, “I hate pornography — don’t use my body this way?”
I pray the Eucharist differently these days. When I pronounce the words of consecration I realize it is not a coincidence that these words are controversial. There is a spiritual battle going on for the souls and bodies of us all. The way of salvation is to follow the one who said, “This is my body given up for you.” She who gives up her life finds it and she who holds onto to her life loses it.