I count many of you among my closest friends. Your presence in the world–and in my world–has at times turned many a dark day into praise and thanksgiving to God for having crafted you so well mentally, emotionally, and yes physically also, as the Biblical “helpmate” to men. You can enliven a room with your laughter, counsel work groups with your insight, attend wounds to body and heart, feed an army of kids and even command them (in my paraphrasing) to sit down, shut up, and listen! Amazing! And how do you do it? Partly, because you are different from men and are complementary. But mostly, because you care. It is your greatest gift that you can love so much.
Reflecting on this most beautiful of Divinely ordained pairings and its associated relationships, the recent #MeToo conversation on Twitter draws my attention as has no other trend in recent history. Hearing so many stories about harassment, assault, and abuse grieves my heart. What can I and others of my gender who feel the same do to make things better?
Yes, we can put aside what we were working on in order to focus entirely on hearing what you are trying to say–we have and we will continue to give you our undivided attention whenever you need it. But, after it has been our turn to “sit down, shut up, and listen,” we men have to act, not just understand. We have to formulate advice and plans. Sometimes you don’t want to hear how our concern for your welfare is being processed, but please, acknowledge that problem solving is our gift. With this as the context, a number of thoughts come to my mind which I can share in a letter like this.
– First, because the offenders will seldom apologize, I can stand in as proxy. Please accept this sincere apology for those of my gender who have maltreated you, disregarding the true beauty of your inner self, in some desperate attempt to force what can only be given as gift–the gift of yourself in love.
– Second, I must point out that all men of good will are united with me in this apology. Why don’t they say it to you? For one, they most likely don’t know you have suffered in this way. Please take this #MeToo attitude to the men in your lives whom you know do love you and ask them to listen to you.
– Third, the root of the issue–the offender’s inability to consider how anyone other than he himself feels–is worsened by the prevalence of pornography. Even secular psychologists are now calling the use of pornography damaging to social development and the learning of appropriate interaction between men and women. We must ALL voice criticism when mediums–from print to motion picture, from YouTube to electronic gaming–promote sexual fantasy or celebrate sexual perversion. To this end, you, and the men in your lives who care about you, should join groups like the Parents Television Council http://w2.parentstv.org , the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (formerly Morality in Media) http://endsexualexploitation.org , and Fight the New Drug http://fightthenewdrug.org
– Fourth, because society has lost much of its understanding of the dignity of women, we must recommend to everyone admirable sources of learning and moral formation. For adults, whatever else is included, I think the following works by Pope Saint John Paul II stand out in this field:
– “Mulieris Dignitatem” (The Dignity and Vocation of Women), 1988,
– “Letter to Women”, 1995, http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/letters/1995/documents/hf_jp-ii_let_29061995_women.html
And if anyone doubts what an old, celibate male might have to say on the topic, here is a woman’s voice expounding on his teaching:
Mary Rousseau, “Pope John Paul II’s Teaching on Women”, 1990, www.catholiceducation.org/en/controversy/feminism/pope-john-paul-ii-s-teaching-on-women.html
– Fifth, pray for those who have sinned against you. These men have seriously offended God as well as you. Without your prayers they might well end up in Hell.
– Sixth, realize that the “gift” of yourself to the world and to men is not entirely subject to your own freedom and the desire to bestow it upon someone. It belongs to God, to you, and to your actual or future husband. In other words, this Twitter campaign rightly calls out the immoral behavior of men inasmuch as they have failed to appreciate who you are. But don’t let you fail to appreciate who you are either. Society wants to tell you that fornication, adultery, and divorce are okay as long as it is what you want. This is not true and the threat of Divine judgment hangs over these immoral behaviors, also. Just as it is wrong for any of these to be coerced from you, so too is it wrong for you to waste the gift of yourself in any of these ways, voluntarily.
– Finally, seventh, know that, though you might be feeling powerless because of what someone has done to you, this feeling does not fully describe the situation. The fact is, truth is on your side. What truth–that this happened and that the guilty party can be shamed? No, a greater truth: The Truth that you are a daughter of God, made in the image and likeness of God. Let this be your inner strength and let this be what you lead with in your relationships with men. Otherwise, this Twitter conversation is just the appearance of another aggrieved class on the political scene, potentially demanding investigations and reparations that, if they ever come, will surely not give satisfaction much less inner peace.
These are my initial thoughts. Be assured that I shall continue to ponder how I can better value you and appreciate the gift that you are to the world and to me.
With sincerest apologies, respect, and admiration, I wish you peace and God’s blessings,