Respecting women is respecting life

Woman, you are a gift! From the first presentation of woman to man in the Garden of Eden, the gift … Continued

Woman, you are a gift!

From the first presentation of woman to man in the Garden of Eden, the gift of who you are is nothing less than “wow!” Your dignity comes from the gift of your being, and the gift of your being created feminine.

Man saw your profound and complementary gifts right away, and rejoiced. In God’s first act of blessing humanity, the creator smiled upon and blessed the union of the first couple, encouraging them be fertile and multiply (Gen 1:28).

Their loving union was a blessed gift to each other, and their offspring, delivered through woman’s maternity, was designed to be a visible sign of that blessing; another gift.

Then sin entered the world. For their failures the woman and man suffered grievous losses, and because we are their progeny, our own pains followed.

Tragically, humanity has habitually lost sight of the true gifts we are to one another, and the treasure of maternity was rarely appreciated as the blessing it is, until Jesus; the savior of all was born of a woman.

In and through Mary, the world heard once more: Woman, you are a gift!

Blessed John Paul II was especially eager to teach that women, by the beauty of their physiology and God-given design, are particularly well-disposed to seeing, comprehending and loving human persons. This is our “feminine genius.” This particular strength of woman bears repeating and rediscovery, as we survey the political rhetoric of the day that tends to degrade maternity, especially as the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade comes to pass.

The late pontiff’s major treatise on women, Mulieris Dignatatem, exults in the dignity and beauty of femininity. The gift of maternity, he wrote is a strength, not a weakness.

There’s no mistaking biology. Womanly bodies are wonderfully made, and purposefully created with an empty space of a womb carried under her heart.

A woman’s womb, her uterus, signals that she is made for something and someone more than herself. This reality touches a woman at her very core — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The womb’s raison d’etre illuminates this gift that welcomes and receives the life of a child, sheltering and nurturing it, until finally, a woman gives birth. We even use the expression — giving birth — denoting the gift that it is. The maternal gift ought to be honored and celebrated.

What’s more, a pregnant mother is entrusted with carrying an immortal soul besides her own — a soul that is destined for eternity. That’s why a woman really needs to be aware of the dignity of her feminine creation, and the sublime gift of her maternity, so she can confer that dignity on her child, and upon others through her love of life.

The gift of maternity is inherent in all women. They are predisposed to motherhood by their design. Yet, as we know, not all women bear children. Even if a woman never gives birth, a woman’s life is still inclined toward mothering. All women are entrusted with the call to care for the people within their sphere of influence. This broadens our ideas of maternity beyond gestation and lactation.

A woman’s relationships with others, even though they may not be fruitful biologically, can be fruitful spiritually. Therefore a woman’s life–her feminine genius–is characterized by physical and/or spiritual motherhood.

When the gift of a woman’s fertility and maternity are devalued, they are misinterpreted as liabilities or threats to a woman’s potential happiness, or earning power, or freedom.

Both women and men are crippled when disrespect for any of the gifts of the other are ignored, stifled, abused, or rejected. But women are demeaned when this precious part of them is reduced to a faculty to be managed, rather than a capability to be treasured.

Our beautiful maternity, and the lives and loves that issue forth from it, is why the church continues to stand in defense of chastity and marriage, along with its opposition to the use of contraception, abortion of the unborn and any other threat to human life.

Finally, dear woman, here’s something else the church teaches: If we’ve failed to live up to this teaching on maternity, if we’ve disrespected or abused the beautiful gifts of our womanhood, we can make our way back. The gifts of grace and forgiveness through the sacraments provide that path.

Let us trust that grace. Let us be gentle and generous in dealing with our own failures as regards our sexuality or our maternity. Jesus wants us to be healed, and especially to be healed of wounds related to our sexuality and maternity.

Let us come to him with our brokenness, and the sins against our genius of maternity, no matter how grievous or painful.

Let us come to know this God who came through the womb to save us.

Pat Gohn
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  • Catken1

    Yes, women! Your womb is a marvelous gift, meant to be used as a tool to bear and bear and bear until you die of it, with no concern whatsoever for anything else you might do with your life, for your ability to care for those children, or for what it costs you or your existing family! We’ll give lip service to your selfless devoted work raising all those kids (assuming you have any energy left after bearingbearingbearing until you die of it), but we won’t actually allow you any discretion as to how or when or how often to do it, not unless you want to swear lifelong celibacy (and can get your husband to approve).

    Your brain, ignore and throw away in favor of mindless obedience. Any other gifts you might have, throw away in favor of mindless and continual morality. You are a breeding machine – this is a marvelous thing to be! Cherish it! Love it! Never ever dare to do or want anything other than motherhood, because your womb should be in charge of your life, not your mind or heart or talents.

  • liee

    Yeah, because the woman who wrote this, she’s managed to get educated, have a career and still have children. Imagine that. It is possible to be a “fulfilled” woman without subjecting yourself to having a vacuum shoved inside and having your baby ripped out.

  • Maribe

    Wow, you guys. This is a pretty important conversation…the whole premise of it is dignity, don’t you think? Perhaps starting with dignity for all women (and men) on both sides of the fence.

    The author never said women had to give up careers or their brains. She also never said anything about bearingbearingbearing children until one dies. So don’t put words in her mouth.

    And she didn’t judge anyone either.

    She did say we could approach each other, and ourselves, with gentleness and generosity. I’ll bet we could have a really meaningful conversation that way. Don’t you? Let’s try.

  • Catken1

    But it is not possible to be a full human being when you are relegated to the status of another person’s property on a regular basis, to be used without concern for your wishes or for what happens to you. And if another human being is inside your body, and you do not want them there, it is still your prerogative to evict them, as with every other human person who owns their own body.

    And most of us adult women do need and use birth control, in order to live a decent human life in the modern world. The vast majority of us can no longer afford to have our married life revolve around bearing 10-12 children until we die of exhaustion, and the vast majority of us can no longer afford to care for that many children (since now, thankfully, most of the children we do bear survive to adulthood, and thankfully, child labor is no longer acceptable, while, less thankfully, education costs have skyrocketed).

    Most real women’s lives before birth control were not models of fulfillment or idealized maternity, by any means.Take a look at actual history without the rose-colored glasses on.

  • liee

    Just sad.

  • Maribe

    “But it is not possible to be a full human being when you are relegated to the status of another person’s property on a regular basis, to be used without concern for your wishes or for what happens to you.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more. But please explain, what modern woman allows herself to be used without concern for her wishes or what happens to her? Many people are surprised to learn that the Church finds this deplorable and against human dignity. That’s why this conversation is so important. NO ONE should be treated that way.

  • Catken1

    ” But please explain, what modern woman allows herself to be used without concern for her wishes or what happens to her? Many people are surprised to learn that the Church finds this deplorable and against human dignity. ”

    Until she gets pregnant, at which point all her wishes and all her consequences cease utterly to matter to the Church. At that point, she is property, and if she is permanently mutilated or dead as a result, that is only her duty. The Church denies a pregnant woman the right to an abortion for any reason, even if she was raped and did not provide consent to the use of her body in the first place, even if her circumstances change drastically, even if the pregnancy leaves her a permanent cripple or dead.

    “She also never said anything about bearingbearingbearing children until one dies.”

    That was the standard fate of women before birth control and abortion. Without the ability to regulate one’s reproductive life through any means other than celibacy (not something most married people can sustain, not something that is good for most marriages or for the existing children of those marriages who depend on a strong emotional bond between their parents), it is very, very difficult not to be drawn into a repeated

  • Catken1

    Sorry, hit submit too soon. To finish, it is very, very difficult not to be drawn into a repeated cycle of birth and birth and birth, to the eventual serious detriment of one’s body, one’s family, and one’s ability to do anything else.

  • Catken1

    And when the Church denies a woman even the right to say no to pregnancy through any means other than lifelong celibacy (and avoidance of rape, since that, too, results in a woman being deemed the property of her rapist’s fetus), and then tells her that once pregnant, her body is no longer her own, but her fetus’s, then yes, the Church does seek to relegate most adult women to the status of subhuman property, on a regular basis.

  • Maribe

    Thanks for raising these points, Catken. I think they are pretty representative of what a lot of people (some women, especially) feel.

    Can we, for the sake of talking about dignity, leave the rape scenario for a different response. I think everyone can agree that rape is terrible, wrong, and so damaging, even without the conception of a child.

    Let’s talk about the other things. The last point is probably easiest. The Church does not deny the right of a woman to say no to pregnancy. You are mistaking chastity with celibacy. Celibacy is a choice (this discussion is about choice, after all, isn’t it?). Some people do indeed choose celibacy, which is not engaging in any sexual activity. That is the choice made by many Catholic religious brothers, sisters, and priests. That’s what the Church also asks of single persons. Incidentally, this isn’t a uniquely Catholic choice. Other religious denominations recognize this as a healthy choice. Choice, of course, being the operative word. Chastity in a marriage means engaging in the sexual relationship in a healthy way, which, among other things, is strongly based on mutual consent and respect. That human dignity thing from above.

    A couple can choose to monitor their fertility and simply abstain during those periods of fertility if they feel they should not bring a child into the world. It’s about self-control and temperance, not about property or misrepresented power struggles.

  • Sandra19

    I’m confused — why can’t you pursue higher education, a career and a family life? Why is it an either/or for you and not a both/and? I’m an educated woman, I stayed home to raise my children AND I have a successful career. I don’t think I’m particularly driven or ambitious. Seems like most of the women I know (not all Catholic, probably not even mostly Catholic) have managed to do the same, or are doing the same. Seems silly to suggest once a woman has children, that’s all she’ll ever do and then she’ll lay down and die. That’s kind of backwards, uneducated thinking, IMO.

  • GordonCash

    Horrible. Horrible. Words fail me.

  • cricket44

    A gift is not forced. It’s that simple. Denying a woman the right to care for her body as she sees fit is to degrade her to less than a person. It is not a “gift” to force childbirth on someone unwilling. All the pretty words in the universe won’t make it so.

  • cricket44

    And there is ZERO respect towards women in the forced childbirth stance.

  • Sandra19

    Who’s forcing childbirth on anyone? Are you talking about rapists?

    So don’t have children. Just don’t tell me the only reason I had children was because someone forced me to.

    Why are you forcing childlessness on others? There’s ZERO respect towards women in the forced childlessness stance.

  • WmarkW

    This is your brain on Catholicism.

  • cricket44

    You seem kind of confused, Sandra. I am not forcing anything on anybody. If someone is pregnant and wishes to terminate and is thwarted by harmful legislation or the coercion of others, then she is forced to continue a pregnancy against her will. There is no respect in that. Nothing is a gift when forced.

    By far the best way to prevent abortion is *comprehensive* sex ed and access to all contraception.

  • cricket44

    I respect that people choose to follow it. I don’t respect it seeping into public policy. People have the right to follow their OWN conscience.

  • Sandra19

    Even if their OWN conscience tells them it’s okay to, say, own slaves…? Rape women…? Shoot up a school…?

  • Sandra19

    Not confused. Just throwing your own words right back at you.

    Sorry if other people’s OWN conscience tells them that abortion is taking human life and they follow their OWN consciences and lobby for laws that protect that life.

    I guess the only people who are allowed to follow their OWN consciences are people who think exactly like you.

    The best way to prevent an abortion is not to have one.

  • cricket44

    None of those things have any equivalency to the topic of reproductive rights but if it makes you feel better, here:

    People have the right to determine what happens TO and WITHIN their own bodies according to their own conscience.

  • cricket44

    Um, yes, all that business about forcing childlessness and whatnot, you are definitely confused about my statement.

    Your conscience rules YOUR body and no one else’s. The laws you advocate do not protect life and, in fact, harm people.

    You *absolutely* have the right to not have an abortion. Congrats!

  • Sandra19

    Human life is human life whether it’s inside or outside a woman’s body. My conscience dictates that I work to stop the killing of the unborn.

    God, the coldness, the glibness with which you insist you have the right to kill a child is frightening. So cold. So hard and dead and cold and selfish.

  • Sandra19

    Sweetie, it was me throwing your words in your face. You’re clearly not the brightest bulb on the porch. You’re so flat and one-note and hard and cold and nasty.

    My conscience tells me I should fight for the powerless, the voiceless. Yours tells you you should fight to kill the powerless, the voiceless.

    Good God, but you are a murderous little icicle. How many of your children have you already killed?

  • cricket44

    Again with the name calling. You really ought to pray to stop doing that. Abortion is not the killing of a child. A biology book might help you.

    Prevention of unintended pregnancy is best. So comprehensive sex ed and access to contraception are the better bets.

    Women have the right to physical autonomy and that right does not vanish upon the instance of a fertilized egg.

  • cricket44

    Punkin’ pie, I really doubt Jesus is telling you to launch personal attacks so really, what do you think engenders this viciousness from you?

    You know nothing about me but I get it. It’s the typical anti-choice assumption, projection and hysteria playbook.

  • Sandra19

    Pointing out my visceral reaction to your words is not name calling. It’s describing the effect of your words on me.

    All parents give up autonomy when they have children. At least the responsible, mature, grown-up ones do.

  • cricket44

    Yeah, you’re not so much on the looking honestly at yourself, are you?

    We’re not talking about parenting. We’re discussing reproductive choices. Two different things.

    ” At least the responsible, mature, grown-up ones do.’

    Uhh, is there any need to point out the irony in you writing that?

  • Sandra19

    Jesus isn’t telling me to do anything.

    You started with the attacks when you made your false claims about the Church.

    Oh, puhleeze….”anti-choice”…? And you talk of a typical playbook…? Grow up.

    You’re clearly here to praise abortion and to shout with joy about your right to kill your babies. You are defined by your need to kill your children in your womb. Lovely.

  • Sandra19

    No, you’re just not so much on the reading comprehension thing.

    No, “reproductive choices” and parenting are not two different things. They’re part of the same thing.

    You’re spouting the same dreary rhetoric and sarcasm that your sort always does. You think it makes you look clever. It merely makes you look ignorant and shrewish.

    I get it — you define yourself through your legal right to kill your unborn children. Charming.

  • cricket44

    You get…nothing. Gotta say, though, what a *stellar* example you are setting for how not to behave. Let’s hope there are 5 adults who learned manners elsewhere.

    Malice…the Christian “value” most on exhibit in this thread.

  • cricket44

    “You’re clearly here to praise abortion and to shout with joy about your right to kill your babies. ”

    What a fevered imagination you have!

  • Sandra19

    Nope. I got what you’re all about alright. You brought the malice with you, not me. I just gave back what you brought.

    Your manners have been nothing short of appalling from the get-go. What goes around comes around. Deal with it.

  • Sandra19

    Nope. That’s what you’re putting out there. Not my fault if you can’t see that.

  • cricket44

    Well, Ms.Gohn, I look forward to seeing some of that “grace” because there sure is none on display from your followers here.

  • Secular1

    This writer betrays his/her profound ignorance of the scientific developments of the past 30 centuries. With comments like, “first presentation of woman to man blah, blah”, “the gift of who you are ….”, Your dignity comes from the gift of your being”, “being created feminine” and so on. Only the deluded would consider typing such puke worthy garbage.

    “Man saw your profound and complementary gifts right away, and rejoiced. In God’s first act of blessing humanity, the creator smiled upon and blessed the union of the first couple, encouraging them be fertile and multiply (Gen 1:28).
    Their loving union was a blessed gift to each other, and their offspring, delivered through woman’s maternity, was designed to be a visible sign of that blessing; another gift.
    Then sin entered the world. For their failures the woman and man suffered grievous losses, and because we are their progeny, our own pains followed.” What an utter blathering idiocy is this. I thought the so called “Sin” entered when Eve got hungry and ate apple with Adam, before Abel or Cain were born. How do you read this nonsense and then fawn with dreary eyes. The bets we can say is that some idiots thought this whole universe is a puppet show of their sky daddy (every one in is a puppet). That begs the question “who is this show for?”.

    Get over it people we all evolved out of great apes, and those evolved from amoeba. Morals are what we make of it, with the progress of time. Yes Morals and Ethics are evolved human memes. Some perish and some survive, and new ones evolve, from the ashes of older ones sometimes. So far the ethical evolution has been more and more inclusive. Sticking to decrypt scripture is trying to freeze the ethical memes to a place in time. That is sad. Ethical meme of “in-group nepotism & out-group hostility”, has given us Slavery, Genocides, indentured labor. Whithering away of out-group hostility has eliminated Slavery for most part, reduced genocides considerably.

  • lepidopteryx

    I have several objections to the use of the word “gift” when it refers to people.

    I am not a gift to another person. A gift is property transferred between two parties. I am not property. I am a person. I am no one’s to give or to take.

    A gift isn’t forced on the recipient. When someone offers me a gift I don’t want, I say “No thank you.” If they insist on leaving it with me, I dispose of it.

    I have a daughter whom I adore. Her conception was NOT a “gift” from any deity. It was the result of birth control failure. Her gestation was not a “gift.” It was the result of a deliberate decision on my part after carefully evaluating my physical, monetary, ad emotional resources to determine if I could reasonably expect to be able to support and rear a child. Her birth was not a “gift.” It damned near killed us both. God didn’t “give” her to me – her dad and I made her.

  • Secular1

    To be fair lepidopteryx, the author was really saying was women are gifts themselves – you are a gift to yourself just for being born, additionally you are gift to yourself because you are a women. Now, I really feel cheated that you get two gifts, while people of my gender only get only one gift. And people of your gender constantly complain that the sky daddy and the society treat you unfairly. See, people of your gender start of your lives with two gifts as opposed to us with only one gift. We all should be so lucky.

  • Christine Falk Dalessio

    Thank you. It is a gift in itself to read these encouraging words of John Paul II, in all their iterations, and you have said them so well. Thank you for using your feminine genius to nurture that fullness of life in and for your readers.

  • lepidopteryx

    Sec, I am not a gift to myself, nor does my sex constitute a second gift. i simply am, just as you simply are.
    I have the capacity to give gifts to others, should they desire to accept them.
    As for complaining about how society treats us, I don’t see anyone attempting to force you to make your bodily functions available for the support of another life form for the better part of a year, even if you don’t want it.

  • GinKirk7256

    This essay is absolutely beautiful! It makes me proud to be a woman! Thank you, Pat, for sharing your wisdom, which only comes from knowing Jesus, with us!

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