Women, What-did-you-say?, and the Church

Sex. Yes, sex. You'd think it near impossible to get more controversial than that. But the funny thing is that as a topic, sex has lost its shock value. It used to be that such subjects were considered lewd and inappropriate locker room talk. Practically no one ever mentioned sex. Certainly women didn't.

Females were universally embarrassed by the slightest hint of an innuendo. Those who weren't never had the guts to admit otherwise.

Remember when people claimed to have "virgin ears"? Now, it seems everyone knows everything and everybody talks about it. To really get someone's attention today, you'd have to do something other than just talk about sex. You'd have to have a completely new take on it all; something substantially more revolutionary and risque; something like challenging contemporary wisdom by linking women and sex with the Catholic Church.

That is precisely what the collaborating authors of "Women, Sex, and the Church" have done. Editor Erika Bachiochi and seven other highly educated and professional Catholic women have revisited the Church's most difficult teachings on how women are called and created to live their sexuality. They have done so in the light that can be shed only recently by decades of mounting statistics. The bottom-line, it is said, does not lie. Hence, the numbers which reveal what has happened to women as a result of what was once billed as the "sexual revolution," tell a story worth hearing.

It will not surprise any practicing Catholic in union with the magisterium that following "traditional" values in the area of sexual morality is genuinely good for women. It will, however, come as a surprise to everyone else. Women who are chaste; who marry men; who are respectful of the rhythms of their fertility; who give birth to the children they conceive and seek life-affirming and natural means to address issues of infertility; women who come to treasure the unique feminine genius they possess; and who strive to contribute what they can to their families, the Church, and the world in a way that affirms their feminine identity: these women lead far happier, healthier, and more prosperous lives than their stressed-out, often angry, but oh-so-chic and modern counterparts.

But to those sad women who think of themselves as "feminists," the results of our "liberation" over the past 50 years have been jarring. For them, the data demonstrating that the substance of Catholic teaching on women and sex has turned out to be the most feminist, the most pro-woman body of thought, is intellectually and sociologically disorienting. What's a feminist to do? Well, real feminists, it seems, become practicing Catholics.

I have to say that feminism represents -- at least partially -- the route I took into the Church. When I was reaching adulthood, "glass ceilings" weren't much of a concern. They were still concrete. I would have done almost anything to simply see the sky. I couldn't have been anything other than a feminist. It was simple. I didn't want to be relegated to making coffee all my life. I didn't want to be pigeonholed, or limited, and I dreamed of being well-educated. More than anything else, I wanted to be taken seriously. In grasping for all that, though, I discovered that what I truly wanted wasn't to be taken seriously at all, but to give myself totally. That desire led me into the fullness of faith.

The serious gift of self is what Church teaching always proclaims, and also where it leads, because that teaching is modeled on the sacrificial life of Jesus Christ. If you know a woman who has become frustrated by the search for self, one who may be doing everything in her power to avoid the hunger pangs of meaninglessness, "Women, Sex, and the Church" may be the best and most freeing book she'll pick up this year. That is, if someone else hands her a copy.

Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.

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