An Open Letter to Harrison Butker

On May 11, 2024, Harrison Butker, a kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs, gave a commencement address to the graduates of Benedictine College located in Atchison, Kansas.  His presentation was thoroughly Catholic, but the backlash was extreme, some calling for his dismissal.  While an editor might have modified some of his phrases and points of emphasis, his presentation did not warrant the unfair criticism it triggered.  I have sided and sympathized with Mr. Butker as indicated below.

Bravo!!  You have just kicked the equivalent of a 75-yard field goal!  Not too much to the left nor too much to the right, but right down the middle.  Strength and accuracy, two highly esteemed qualities on display for the world to see, marvel, and appreciate.  As Frank Leahy, former football coach of a champion Notre Dame squad used to say, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”  As you are well aware, the Church is going through a tough time, a time that elicits a response from the best of its members.  And you answered the bell.

You are right on, when you say that feminists have lied to women.  Consider this comment from arch-feminist Betty Friedan in her book The Feminine Mystique, a veritable instruction manual for housewives that sold over a million copies: “It is not an exaggeration to call the stagnating state of millions of American housewives a sickness.  The problem—which is simply the fact that American women are kept from growing to their full human capacities—is taking a far greater toll on the physical and mental health of our country than any known disease.” 

This statement is more than a lie.  It is Mendacity with a capital M!  And it is not an exaggeration to say that it is diabolical.  And yet, it was well received and widely promoted.  A lie, according to a Russian proverb, can get around the world before you can get your boots on.  But, as you know only too well, it is the Truth that makes us free. 

Another person of insight and vigor, Winston Churchill, said this about the family as a training ground for a better society: “There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of human society, are created, strengthened, and maintained.”  And that great lexicographer, Samuel Johnson stated that “To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labor tends, and of which every desire prompts the prosecution.”  In the twilight of our lives, we will not look back and say, “I should have spent more time going to committee meetings or selling used cars, or cleaning other people’s homes, or working for the Democratic Party.”  Robert Frost once said, somewhat facetiously, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”  The family is permanent; success is fleeting.  Worldly success is not self-generating as is the family that proceeds from marriage to children to grandchildren and down through the corridors of time. 

If some of your misunderstood words have won you enemies, that is the inevitable sign that you stood up for something important.  You are accustomed to opposition on the gridiron, an opposition that makes victory, when it comes, all the sweeter.  Recall the words of St. Paul in 2 Timothy 4-7:  “I have fought the good fight.  I have refinished the race, and I have kept the faith.”  With allies like St. Paul, you are in good company.  Christ had His enemies and commanded us to love them.  Our enemies can make us stronger.

The ironic factor in playing the game of life, to put the matter in football terms, is that even the referees are against us.  The media does not always play fair.  But then, again, God is on our side.

Do not let the criticism from the nuns upset you, though I am sure it does not.  It is hard to understand how they seemed to have ignored the salient fact that Mary was a housewife.  Christ returned to the Father at 33, but only 3 of those years were spent outside the household in public ministry.  Mary, the Mother of God, raised the dignity of the housewife to an unparalleled level.  As she stated in her Magnificat, “From this day all generations will call me blessed.”

God must love housewives as He loves the poor since He made so many of them.  Indeed, He loves everywhere but holds a special place for housewives, and housewives who become mothers and grandmothers.  The succession of generations far outweighs in importance any series of promotions in the workplace.  It is incontestable that worldly success is overrated, while the family, and especially the duties of the housewife are unjustly maligned.

Your commencement address was intended to reach a relatively small audience, but, as it turned out, you were delivering a message to the whole world, and one that it desperately needs to hear.  God provided you with a high-powered amplifier.  No other commencement address received nearly as much publicity.  The repercussions will no doubt be more positive than negative.

May God continue to guide you, for you are on the right path.  Prayers and peace to your wife and two daughters.  May they be imbued with your faith and your courage.

Photo by Dave Adamson on Unsplash

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Dr. Donald DeMarco is Professor Emeritus, St. Jerome’s University and Adjunct Professor at Holy Apostles College. He is is the author of 42 books and a former corresponding member of the Pontifical Academy of Life.  Some of his latest books, The 12 Supporting Pillars of the Culture of Life and Why They Are Crumbling, and Glimmers of Hope in a Darkening World, Restoring Philosophy and Returning to Common Sense and Let Us not Despair are posted on He and his wife, Mary, have 5 children and 13 grandchildren.  

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