To Women: A Call to Arms

It’s understandable that advocates of the Obama administration’s HHS mandate framed opposition to coerced coverage of abortifacients as a “war” on women:  mobilizing a coveted group of voters is good politics. Mandate fans even brought their their red “Stop the War on Women” signs to celebrate the Supreme Court’s approval of funding for the Obama healthcare plan, though the mandate itself wasn’t under review. Damsels in distress again? The phrase “sore winners” comes to mind.

When Catholic bishops had the mettle to resist the state’s clear attack on conscience rights, mandate advocates sought to further the damsel drama by employing crude references from days gone by. Maureen Dowd mentioned chastity belts in her New York Times column. Nancy Keenan elected to use colonial imagery in mocking the “Fortnight for Freedom,” the US Catholic Bishops Conference’s  prayerful focus on religious liberty. “An event with a name like that,” she mused, “makes me think of a time when women wore corsets, couldn’t vote and didn’t get much say over their lives.”

Enough! An election approaches, and with it, increased opportunities for impugning Catholic clergy. It’s time for Catholic women to energetically exonerate the bishops targeted in the fight for freedom of conscience. Women who love the Church and have found happiness following her counsels have been quieter than the sign-waving crowd during the decades that “reproductive rights” were secured, and that’s unfortunate, because now, after having won everything they said they wanted, the supposed victims of the war on women are grinding stiletto heels into the faith that forms millions of us at our deepest level of identity.

Following the Fortnight, Archbishop William Lori assured supporters, “this is just the beginning.”  The faithful are counting on it. But Catholic women must become visible and vocal in this battle or the maidens and matrons feigning frailty will continue accusing our shepherds of devaluing the feminine members of their their flock.

As the political season heats up, we must unrelentingly assert that the real war is not against women, but against life and liberty. The President made his attitude regarding Catholics explicit in  extending the definition of health care to include contraception, sterilization and abortifacients. Expansions of abortion funding and fresh attacks on religious liberty will follow. Even if conscience protections are secured by a future reform, we know where we stand with with him:  he promised Cardinal Timothy Dolan there would be conscience protections in the healthcare law. There were not.

The faithful are called to be “innocent as doves,” and the beauty of purity appeals to our hearts. But Christ also wants us “shrewd” as serpents. Where was this virtue when the man who gave us the mandate admitted the question of when life begins was “beyond his paygrade,” that he wouldn’t want his daughters to be “punished” with a baby or that working class voters “cling to their…religion”? Do we see more clearly now that his supporters mock men with the mantle of Christ?

The “war on women” was framed the moment Capitol Hill feminists chanted “Where are the women?” as the House Oversight Committee denied a platform for law student Sandra Fluke to plead for free contraception. This fall, when the campaign boils and the bishops are subjected to new barbs (as they surely will be), the feminine faithful had better ask ourselves, “Where are the Catholic women?” Where are the women who, “shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves,”  will let the world know that we have the bishops’ backs?

It’s time we employ what Blessed Pope John Paul II called “the feminine genius,” a woman’s gift for giving, guiding and guarding. We have some wonderful examples in law  professors Mary Ann Glendon and Helen Alvare, whose advocacy for the bishops is insistently eloquent.

But this election is too critical for the rest of us to cheer from the sidelines. An uninformed public snickers dismissively when words like “chastity belt” and “corset” are thrown into shots at Catholics bishops. If we don’t defend our shepherds every time this occurs, at ball games, bus stops and break rooms, our complacency makes us complict in the crime. Whenever bishops are jeered as bullies and family-friendly lawmakers called “male” as if that’s a bad thing, we must immediately rise and reiterate that these men are not alone. Our brave bishops never declared war on women, and the feminine faithful must insist that the so-called “war on women” has us seeing red.


Peggy Haslar has written for a variety of publications, including The Denver Post, Touchstone and Discipleship Journal.  She is a school counselor in Colorado.

Peggy Haslar


Peggy Haslar is a school counselor in Monte Vista, Colorado. She has written for a variety of publications and is a catechist at St. Joseph Catholic Church.

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  • Pargontwin

    I read an article some time ago that the chastity belt, in actual fact, never existed, though jokes about it have been around as long as the belt is supposed to have been.  I don’t know how true it is, but I’ve always tended to doubt its existence even before I read that article.  The concept of such an item just never made sense.  If a man were to lock his wife into one of those things when he went away, he’d be a widower by the time he returned.  And, as much as modern women abhor them, the function of corsets was exactly the same as the brassiere; that’s why the former disappeared when the latter was invented. 

    …Oh.  I forgot.  The radical feminists abhor brassieres, too; that’s why they burned them forty years ago.  Let’s face it:  They even hate being women.  They’ll deny it to their dying breath, but they still try to act and dress as much like men as they can, at least in the professional sphere. 

    The very earliest “feminist” movement – women’s suffrage, in the late 19th and early 20th century – was a great good, but it also allowed the devil himself to get a foothold on the gender he hates most.  As has happened nearly every time man has overcome some institutional evil, the baby got thrown out with the bathwater. 

    Today’s news carries a story about a group of people dressed as zombies who held a counter-protest against the Westboro Baptist Church, whose members  were demonstrating at a memorial for the victims of the Aurora shootings.  The “zombies” carried signs that read, “Drink the Kool-Aid, already!”  Were they telling them to “drop dead,” or to “get with the program”?  Either way, the message is chilling.  That metaphorical drink will bring death to our souls as surely as the real one did to the bodies of Jim Jones’ followers.

  • Aquinas2008

    Imagine, Ms. pro-abortionist, that you are in your mother’s womb.  Somehow you are able to understand her mind and pick up on her emotions.  Additionally, you can speak to her.

    One day you hear her considering “terminating her pregnancy.” 

    What, oh women’s rights to her body proponent,  would you say to her, if anything?

    Phil Ferguson, O.P./Lay

  • ck

    You really “hit the nail on the head” with this article. Proud
    faithful Catholic women—where is your voice?


    [To all fellow Christians] We must stop putting our heads
    down and being afraid to make waves.  The
    truth is not mean or ugly – it is the truth. 
    There is nothing more disappointing or frustrating than fellow Catholics
    who believe and agree something is wrong, but keep silent.  Talk to your families, friends, coworkers, etc.  Firmly and politely express what is
    wrong.  Some will listen, other will
    not.  But say it nonetheless. At some
    point we all have to take a stand and risk something.

  • silicasandra

    I agree with what you’re saying, but I do think I should point out a small (ironic) error in your post. Bra burning is a myth, too (if it has happened recently, it happened based on the myth.) Bras were thrown in trash cans 40 years ago, but not set alight.

    As a woman, and even when I thought I was a feminist, I never understood why bras were regarded as a symbol of oppression – I do think some lingerie styles definitely objectifies women, but the entire existence of supportive undergarments isn’t to blame for that! For some women, wearing a bra is an absolute relief.

    (For the record, I quit considering myself a feminist in the contemporary sense of the word when I realized, as you point out, that I had to deny my womanhood to be one. I have been trying to work out where my voice is and how to use it, but it is a slow process. Especially considering my feminist and liberal friends and in some cases former friends think I must have been brainwashed so my views are easily tossed aside. But I keep trying!)

  • Dmaldonado

    I am no longer silent.  I speak up loud and often and I won’t stop until the world becomes sane again.