Jennifer Fulwiler
Jennifer FulwilerJuly 07, 2008

Jennifer Fulwiler’s article "A Sexual Revolution" has received dozens of comments and at 19,000 hits and counting is the by far the most-read article on America’s new Web site. This afternoon and tomorrow, Jennifer will be answering questions posed by readers. To ask a question of your own, post a comment below.

The first question is from Joseph Puglielli: "How did your pro-choice friends react to your first decision to forsake that ideology and how did they react when you converted to Catholicism?"

Jennifer: "To be honest, the issue of abortion rarely comes up in social settings. I do know quite a few people who are involved in pro-choice activism, and I’m still discerning what the best way is to start a dialogue with them about the issue. Since I spent most of my life with their views, I know exactly how the pro-life position sounds to them, and I realize that it’s not a conversation that can be carelessly jumped into if there’s any hope of a real exchange of ideas happening.

As for the conversion to Catholicism, we’ve gotten a pretty big reaction on that one. Our longtime friends know that we did not used to be religious people, to say the least (to give you just one example: we got married in a theater, wrote our own vows, and I wore a dark purple dress). The subject of our conversion comes up fairly frequently, usually as an extension of questions about the fact that we’ve had three children in three years. There is one reaction we get far more than any other: curiosity.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that our dramatic conversions to Catholicism almost always spark honest, thought-provoking conversation. Frankly, in these conversations at social events I think we’re all just relieved to have something interesting to talk about instead of the usual chitchat about the weather. At one recent party we attended, for example, we were there for six hours and spent approximately 80% of our time just fielding questions about Catholic teaching from friends who were shocked and perplexed that our lives and belief systems did such a 180-degree turn around."

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13 years 3 months ago
Can there be any doubt that our lives are, that life itself is, a gift from God?
13 years 3 months ago
Megan, As someone who has participated in both pro-life activities and in "progressive" causes, I appreciate the difficulties you face. For what it is worth, I have managed to find a place in different camps, but it is not always easy. Two entities (I almost hesitate to call them organizations) which I think you would find simpatico are Consistent Life (I think the website is and the Catholic Worker Movement which, despite its name is pretty ecumenical. You could also check out Feminists for Life. God bless. Jennifer, I also look forward to your response to Megan's question if you can get to it.
13 years 3 months ago
Jim Collins, Not quite. The majority of the theologians, who were then among the periti [experts] advising the cardinals and bishops, had argued that contraception was morally acceptable, and nine of the 16 cardinals and bishops agreed with their position. But virtually all the theologians and all but one of the cardinals and bishops also agreed that the pill was not morally different from other contraceptives, which had long been condemned. Regardless the Magisterium is not a commission and if we would have followed that commission we would have said yes to an abortafacient. Thank God the Church said no to a chemical that can cause children already conceived to starve to death because they can't implant in some cases. The Holy Spirit surely protected the Church on this through the Pope. The result of wide-spread contraceptions has done nothing but evil and instead of "freeing" women have made them all the more objects.
13 years 3 months ago
Your comment that"the Catholic ideal that we are always to treat the sexual act with respect and awe" does not square with my experience in the Church for the last 80 years. Sex has too often been treated as dirty or leaving one unclean as some of the most notable of the church fathers have expressed over the years. That of course served their purpose and exalted their own state of celibacy. Of course they had to grudginly accept marital sex as a necessity in order to populate the future church. However, I have often heard or read that outside of procreation married couples would really be more holy if they lived as brother and sister. The Vatican II commission on birth control and contraception overwhelmingly recommended a change in the church's postion despite attempts by vactican officials to stack the commission. There is value and grace in marital sex exclusive of procreation. The chair couple of the Christian Family Movement conducted a large survey of that membership for Vaticn II. Over 70 per cent said that the natural planning method or periodic absinence created considerable problems of stress, anger and frustration in their marriages. Another 70 per cent or more said that it just didn't work. Popes and vatican bureaucrats have insisted on the old position lest in admitting they were wrong (which is anathema in the vatican) they lessen their own authority and power.
13 years 3 months ago
Jennifer, thank you so much for this excellent and thought-provoking article. As a Catholic activist and a radical, I often deal with issues of imperialism, violence, economic oppression, and racism, and in these issues I have often worked closely with people who stand “across the picket line” from me on the issue of abortion. Many of my friends work as clinic escorts, convinced that pregnant women who are seeking abortions need protection from the violence of pro-life protesters more than they need protection from the violence of the abortion. The result is an absolute and irrevocable polarization into two "camps:" in their perspective, a crowd of insane, angry and dangerous people waving bloody signs; against the committed, brave and reasonable people who protect innocent women and their reproductive rights. This has made me extremely leery of describing myself to any of these friends as a “pro-lifer;” indeed, it has made me hesitant even to have the conversation. I have had people refuse to work with me in anti-war or anti-racism projects because I am pro-life. Similarly, I have had members of the pro-life movement refuse to include me in their pro-life work because I am outspoken on issues that they find objectionable: my opposition to the United States government’s imperialist motives in Iraq, for example. It is hard for either “camp” to recognize that ALL of my political ideas are rooted in one single, consistent commitment to Gospel nonviolence. I am sure you still have many friends and colleagues who are pro-choice, and I imagine there are many who have similar experiences. So, my question for you is this: in stating your pro-life and religious commitment, particularly publicly and in print, how do you handle the very real suffering and violence experienced by people on both sides of this debate? And, like me, do you find yourself questioning whether either “movement” has room for you? Thanks.
13 years 3 months ago
Jim, I hate to say it, but this view point sounds really... old. The ''birth control commission'' that you're talking about is from before I was born. And I've now been married for seven years in the Church, practicing NFP with my wife without excess ''stress, anger and frustration'', and have _never_ heard any priest or theology professor tell me that sex is dirty and only necessary for perpetuating the human race. Certainly, I'm aware that there are many people who identify as Catholics and refuse to follow the Church's teaching on birth control. (Come to that, there are many Catholics who commit just about any other sin you would like to name.) But the teaching is what it is, it isn't changing, and by choosing to be Catholic I've chosen to live by it and accept it as true.

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