Modern Catholic Women

    Contributor Convo: Notre Dame and the Contraceptive Mandate

    Contributor Convo: Notre Dame and the Contraceptive Mandate --

    Faithful Catholic feminists, discussing tough issues.


    Recently the Trump Administration rolled back the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate – allowing organizations to refuse “no questions asked” coverage of birth control on the grounds of religious freedom. The University of Notre Dame is among the most prominent organizations to announce it will be utilizing this religious exemption, and dropping birth control coverage for women without a medical need.

    THE PRO SIDE: Agreeing with Notre Dame’s decision to drop contraception coverage

    By Samantha Povlock 

    To start off, it’s important to note that there are a whole list of reasons why the so-called ACA “Contraceptive Mandate” is ineffective at promoting women’s freedom and health.

    But as a feminist, a Catholic, and an alumna of Notre Dame myself, I wanted to respond specifically to the discussion I’ve seen around the University’s decision, and to challenge the most common claims I’ve seen for why this decision is an attack on women.

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    From Resenting to Befriending Mary

    From Resenting to Befriending Mary --

    Though I was raised Catholic, the Virgin Mary has been a figure I have wrestled with throughout my life. Experiences of hurt and certain secular feminist perspectives caused me to question and even resent who I thought Mary was. Experiences of healing, prayer, and reflection ultimately revealed more about Mary, and led to a deep friendship with her and greater peace within myself.

    In order to explain the progression in my relationship with Mary, I need to share a bit of my own story. When I was a sophomore in high school, my mom and dad split up after my dad came forward about being unfaithful. Eventually, my dad moved out of state while I was still in high school and was financially unstable and inconsistent with any kind of support to my mom. My mom was a single parent, breadwinner, sole caretaker for my little sister and I, yet she was also going through her own anguish which I often bore the brunt of. My dad fell from the pedestal I’d placed him on, and my mom simultaneously modeled that she didn’t need a man (or couldn’t rely on one) and yet often shifted the responsibility (unwittingly) onto me to pick up her broken pieces.

    Understandably as a result of this, I learned to bottle up my emotions in order to be strong for others. I learned not to trust others to be there for you, especially men, and that women need to be strong for themselves. Both my maternal grandmother, and great grandmother were also single mothers with failed marriages.  I come from a line of women who are independent, strong, stubborn, resilient, gritty, and unorthodox. I also learned to downplay my femininity because it seemed to be so associated with a lot of negative stereotypes about women such as being less capable, less intelligent, and weak or easy to manipulate. In my desire to be treated as equal I felt I needed to embody more masculine qualities, and I resented my femininity and seeing others who displayed it.

    Yet, deep down, I longed for someone to support me, to be loved by a man in the ways my dad failed to love my mom and me. This longing was often manifested in unhealthy and codependent ways. I longed to not repress my femininity. So when I saw it so openly and freely expressed in others, my resentment was rooted partly in my own longing to be more feminine, partly in feelings of inadequacy – that I would never be feminine enough – that I could never embody all that consists of being the perfect, ideal woman.  

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    Modern Catholic Women

    A Mother for All Seasons

    A Mother for All Seasons --

    With my seven-months-pregnant belly leading the way, I headed into first day of level one Catechesis of the Good Shepherd training one muggy, Chicago summer day. The week that followed was thoughtful, “wonder”-full, and everything I hoped it’d be. I expected to have a deeper understanding of the child. I expected to have a more profound sense of the liturgy. I expected to be challenged to see the catechetical task differently. What I didn’t expect is how the friendships formed during our training opened up my heart to see motherhood in a new way.

    Our group of trainees came from all walks of life: mothers, grandmothers, single missionaries, teachers, stay-at-home moms, parish catechists. One woman, who I’ll call Debbie, is about sixty, and, at the time, was about to start her job as principal at a new school in the fall. I couldn’t help but wonder how this came to be. At sixty, I expect most people to begin considering retirement, especially from an all-consuming field like education. “I’m a mom to four children, proud grandmother, and have been teaching for over thirty years,” she told me. “This is where I’m being called now, though. It’s a strange thing. I’ve never had this type of role before, but I’m of the mind that as women, we have to look at life seasonally, and never have too firm an idea of what a season will look like.”

    This is where I’m being called now, though.

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    10 Ways Physician-Assisted Suicide Targets Women

    10 ways physician assisted suicide targets women --

    As our country considers new legislation on patients’ rights and healthcare, physician-assisted suicide will undoubtedly join the conversation.

    Physician-Assisted Suicide, or PAS, occurs when a doctor provides a patient with the means to commit suicide by prescription medication.

    It’s currently legal in California, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Colorado, Montana, and Washington, DC. 

    This isn’t just an ethical issue, it’s a feminist one.

    Most “right-to-die” legislation includes provisions to protect a patient’s autonomy in this decision — such as minimum age of 18, a terminal diagnosis with six months or less to live, multiple requests for assisted suicide, and a mental evaluation.

    When Montana legalized PAS, it was determined by the State Supreme Court (Baxter v. Montana), which mentioned “competent” and “terminally ill” in its ruling, but failed to define these terms or specify patient protections. With so little regulation, a patient might be more easily pressured into thinking suicide is her best, or only, choice.

    Ethical reservations about PAS include this concern, that external pressures could push patients toward an unwanted suicide.

    And several cultural norms in the United States indicate a woman may experience more external pressure than a man to hasten her own death.

    So this isn’t just an ethical issue, it’s a feminist one. Here are 10 reasons why:

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    Dear Edith

    Trusting Men Response #3 – Mary Ashley

    Dear Edith Trusting Men Response 3 Mary Ashley --

    Read the original question here.

    Dear Anonymous,

    First off, I want to say that I’m really sorry that that happened to you. There are few things more hurtful than being lied to and cheated on. I applaud you for moving on and even becoming best friends with the “other woman”.

    I’ve had several experiences where I felt hurt, betrayed, or let down by men, including my father, and healing from the resulting hurt and bitterness each time has taken a tremendous amount of time and effort. It is especially disheartening when we are deceived by someone who has all of the external signs of faith (and, we would assume, faithfulness and virtue), which leads us to a double distrust, both of men and of the signals we would normally cling to in order to evaluate someone’s character.

    It is especially disheartening when we are deceived by someone who has all of the external signs of faith … which leads us to a double distrust, both of men and of the signals we would normally cling to in order to evaluate someone’s character.

    I spent a long time in a similar state to the one you describe…in college, almost all of my friends were gay men, women, or my friends’ boyfriends, and most of my interactions with the opposite sex were hopelessly awkward. I had crushes from afar, but aside from a relationship that lasted for the first three months of my freshman year (one which certainly did not help my fears or ability to trust), I didn’t go on another real date until 7 years later, and usually ran away as fast as I could if someone showed any real interest. Since then, I’ve had more betrayals, even deeper hurts, and more healing to go through, and I don’t have the perfect answer, but at least I can confidently say that I’m finally at a place of being open and relatively at peace.

    So, my first piece of advice is to be kind to yourself. One day you might wake up and feel great, totally healed, and ready to take on the world, but then the next day something relatively small sends you backsliding into fear, bitterness, or anxiety. Healing is a process, and it’s likely that there are several layers to this wound that you might not uncover until later on. It’s normal to feel wary and unsafe in your shoes, and if there is any part of you that feels like you “should have already healed by now,” I hope that you can let that go.

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    What to Say when There are No Words?

    What to say when there are no words: Helping a friend through miscarriage --

    October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I never know what to say or feel when people mention this. I have had two miscarriages, and I still grieve them both, but I don’t know how to talk about them in public – or even if I want to. Those who have lost babies before they are born live in a strange middle ground: are we parents or are we not? Are we allowed to stand for the Mother’s Day blessing at church? Is it worth explaining to near strangers that I have three children on earth and two in heaven, or should I just answer “three” because I know that that’s what they’re really asking? Am I allowed to talk about the babies who were never born?

    One aspect of pregnancy loss that surprised me is how intensely personal it is. Before losing my babies, I thought I would be the kind of woman who would speak of something like that openly without fear and without shame – as if women who do not speak of it keep silent because of fear or shame. But I quickly learned that, for me, fear and shame have nothing to do with my silence. If I seldom speak of my losses publicly, it’s because the grief is more personal than I ever expected it be, partly because, unlike the loss of a grandparent, for example, most people don’t have a context for it. Most people simply do not know what it feels like to lose a child. How do you explain that you are a mother when no one else can see that?

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    Modern Catholic Women

    Women on the Battlefield of Mercy: You, Me, and Wonder Woman

    Catholic women reflect on mercy and Wonder Woman --

    As I read the news about the shooting in Las Vegas I was completely stunned and overwhelmed. My heart ached for the families that had lost loved ones, for individuals who could have had no idea their earthly lives would end that night. I felt outrage that justice could not be enacted and that we may never know what motivation was behind such an act of violence.

    Two weeks later I scrolled through my newsfeed shocked and heartbroken by countless #metoo posts. I came face to face with the acute reminder that acts of violence, and the deep pain and suffering that follow, are daily affecting people I know and love.

    In the midst of the now seemingly constant barrage of news about acts of violence it is all too easy to be completely overcome with emotion. We can hardly know what to think or even feel: outrage, anger, sadness, fear, pity, confusion, heartbreak. Even more overwhelming is the piercing desire to do or say something to make the madness stop, to keep one more innocent life from being lost, another family from being broken. What can be done in the face of such hatred and destruction? How do you and I, as women throughout the world, respond and make the change we so desperately long to make in the world? These questions are weighing on many of our hearts, so it’s no surprise how many people resonated with a character on screen asking these same things. Read more