Sunday, September 13, 2009

Because Catholic Women Seem Happy

The four most important people in my life are women: Katie, our two daughters, and my recently widowed mother—three generations, with correspondingly different outlooks. What do I wish for them? Happiness.

It is logical to me, then, to judge the Catholic Church by this criterion: Are Catholic women happy?

I thought of this tonight while reading the new print edition of First Things which has not yet appeared on the First Things website. In it there is an article by Mary Eberstadt as provocative as its title, "What Does Woman Want? The War Between the Sexless." Using as a springboard two essays by women, one in favor of and the other against traditional marriage, Eberstadt draws a dark picture of contemporary marriage, in which overworked wives and undersexed husbands grow tired of one another. Or as a blogger she quotes has it in an essay title, "For Many, Marriage Is Sexless, Boring, and Oppressive: Time to Rethink the Institution?"

Pictured with me here is my mother, Nan Bull, and I shudder to think of the arguments I'll be in as soon as she reads this post. We may be smiling in the photograph, but we won't be once the donnybrook ensues. (Note to sisters: Please, please don't pass it on!) As the mother of four daughters, in addition to two sons, Mom is a cantankerous proponent of women's rights, and she would not take kindly to a self-righteous, know-it-all male heir telling her what will or won't give women happiness!!! (Triple exclamation point!)

But Mom, peace, that's not my point here. I have just read an article that describes married women as unhappy, and while you may not plan to remarry, the other three women in my life are either married (Katie) or would like to be so and happily (Martha and Marian). And the evidence is not encouraging. "Two charges," Eberstadt notes particularly, are "made repeatedly, almost always by women and with many echoes elsewhere in contemporary sources: first, that the combined pressures of motherhood and marriage and breadwinning are just too much to bear; and second, that many of today's marriages—that is to say, marriages made among enlightened, older, educated, sophisticated people—are a sexual desert."

I won't spoil the ending of Eberstadt's article. (It's spicy! . . . Or quite sad.) I am left only with a question: Are Catholic women happy? Because being a Catholic is the most important factor in my life, and if Catholicism somehow contributed to women's unhappiness, I would be sorely troubled.

Are Catholic women happy? I would defer to Catholic women for a definitive answer. Please note the comment box at the bottom of this post. My own, probably biased and purely anecdotal judgment is that, yes, the Catholic women I know seem very happy indeed. I suggest that you come around St. Mary's Star of the Sea Church and meet some of my female friends. There are ten masses a week to choose from, not to mention sixty hours of Eucharistic Adoration where I share time with such people as Pat, Martha, Jackie, Connie, and Paula, and meetings of such ecclesial organizations as Communion & Liberation, where I have the pleasure to know the likes of Carol, Ellen, Julie, Elizabeth, Deb, Heidi, and Jenny. These and other Catholic women I know strike me as quite happy indeed.

Is there a connection between Catholic social teaching and the happiness (or not) of Catholic women? Again, there is a comment box at the bottom. I don't want to get in any more trouble with my mother than I'm already in.