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Helen Alvare, a law professor at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School in Arlington, Va., speaks at a May 31 event titled "The #Metoo Moment: Second Thoughts on the Sexual Revolution." The conference was sponsored by the Catholic Women's Forum and the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture. It was co-sponsored by the Catholic Information Center, the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the Archdiocese of Washington's Department of Life Issues. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard) 

Mary Rice Hasson, director of the Catholic Women's Forum and fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said at a May 31 conference that "it's no secret that for many months the #MeToo movement has sparked widespread outrage over sexual harassment and a culture that condoned and excused it."

She made her remarks at the "#MeToo Moment: Second Thoughts on the Sexual Revolution" conference sponsored by the Catholic Women's Forum and the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture. The event's co-sponsors were the Catholic Information Center, the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the Archdiocese of Washington's Department of Life Issues.

The event brought together panels of experts from the fields of education, faith, law, medicine and the social sciences. Drawing on the papal encyclical "Humanae Vitae" and on past and current events, panelists offered their "second thoughts" on the consequences of the sexual revolution as manifested in #MeToo movement.

"Importantly for us here today, it has created space for us to consider some of those questions and whether these harms might share a common root in the sexual revolution," Hasson said. "We step into that space today to begin that larger conversation."

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, the conference's keynote speaker, spoke about the shift in values caused by the sexual revolution. He noted the widespread acceptance of secularism, the diminishing of and dismissal of Catholic teaching, especially with regard to sexuality, and the re-evaluation of the effects of sexual activity.

"Up until this sexual revolution, this cultural revolution, the so-called moral revolution ... there was constant, consistent and accepted reference to morality, and such assurance of a moral reference," Cardinal Wuerl said. "We knew there was a moral compass in life. Today that's been greatly undermined, and it's a result of the sexual revolution."

The cardinal pointed out that "we live in this heavily secular world in which the reference point does not include a transcendent point," he said.

He also noted that "beginning in the '60s, beginning with the so-called sexual revolution, was this increasing acceptability of dissent from papal magisterium."

Cardinal Wuerl said that a "healing process" to counter this would include not just repeating the same language many people do not understand, but through engagement, encounter and accompaniment, drawing people back to the unchanged truths of the Catholic faith as passed on through the magisterium.

"You and I in all our efforts to address the second thoughts of the sexual revolution, need to keep one hand on that (Petrine) rock," Cardinal Wuerl concluded.

Mary Eberstadt, author and senior fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute, examined the sociological, psychological and medical evidence of the revolution's fallout. She said her hope was that the conference would be "a flagship" of that examination.

She touched on various truths of the #MeToo movement "that expose the shifted cultural plates of the last half century, and the way in which this shift has changed our families, workplaces, romances and lack thereof, politics and culture."

These truths included how private acts have massive public effects seen in the loneliness epidemic, the harms of pornography and the preying of the strong on the weak. Quoting Russian author Leo Tolstoy, Eberstadt said, "'we cannot pretend we don't know these things.'"

The time has come, Eberstadt said, for "a deeper understanding of what a real pro-woman agenda might look like. The time for magical thinking about the revolution is over."  She said that a "wider rethinking begins with understanding things we now know, and the fact we can no longer pretend to un-know them."

At the conference, a panel of female doctors discussed evidence and concerns about the sexual revolution from the standpoint of women's health.

They were: Dr. Monique Chireau, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University Medical Center; Dr. Marguerite Duane, executive director of Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science, known as FACTS, and adjunct associate professor at Georgetown University; and Dr. Suzanne Hollman, dean and program chair in clinical psychology and assistant professor at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences at Divine Mercy University.

The doctors spoke about the increases in sexually transmitted diseases and other health risks the pill promised to solve, the beauty and effectiveness of fertility-awareness-based methods, and the psychological and emotional trauma of the "hook-up" culture and abortion, especially on women.

"The pill really was the fuel for the sexual revolution," Duane said. She noted how the conference was taking place on World No Tobacco Day, observed every May 31. She said the estrogen-progesterone birth control combination -- just like tobacco -- is a group 1 carcinogen.

"I wonder if we'll have a No Pill Day soon," Duane mused.

Another panel spoke to how the exploitation of women through surrogacy, human trafficking, prostitution, and pornography is growing in our culture today because of the money behind the industries.

Jennifer Lahl of the Center for Bioethics and Culture, spoke on exploitation of women through the fertility industry of surrogacy, egg freezing, in vitro fertilization and more, which has "divorced sex from procreation."

"Children are made and not begotten," Lahl said. "We ought to think about limits to what we can and cannot do to our future progeny."

In her lecture about prostitution and human trafficking, Mary Leary of the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America quoted a sex-trafficking survivor: "'Prostitution is #MeToo on steroids.'"

Leary said sex trafficking and prostitution is a $40 million industry in D.C. alone, and pointed out that in the exploitative elements of the sexual revolution, women are seen as one-dimensional objects -- commodities -- to be bought and sold in this "modern-day slavery."

"We're regressing to a time in our history where (it was) socially acceptable that people can be bought and sold in a public space," Leary said. "If you're an object, you don't have a dimension at all, and can be cast away without any concern."

Mary Anne Layden of the University of Pennsylvania warned of the culture of porn and the violent "sexual tsunami" coming out of this.

Helen Alvare of the Scalia Law School at George Mason University concluded the conference by speaking about the power of women's voices in this arena.

"It really did take some decades to have this many qualified women" who lived through the sexual revolution, Alvare said. "We could not have had such a conference 30 years ago." She said she hopes this conversation will begin "an honest dialogue based on well-sourced facts had by honest women."

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Sister Lea Hunter
4 years ago

""an honest dialogue based on well-sourced facts had by honest women" of the Reform of the Reform Evangelical Catholic positions. Yet were any Vatican II women theologians, doctors, etc. invited to the conference? Were there any dissenting opinions or other perspectives available? Perhaps the title of the conference made clear that replies to the question were the result of foregone conclusions about the #MeToo Movement.

Robert Klahn
4 years ago

The teachings of the church before the sexual revolution were simple, "Sex is dirty". Sex was so dirty you weren't even supposed to think about it. All the sexual revolution did was abolish that rule, but the Church was too wrapped up in that to address the problem seriously.

Instead of dirty sex became sacred, which is no difference at all.

"exploitation of women through the fertility industry of surrogacy, egg freezing, in vitro fertilization and more, which has "divorced sex from procreation.""

How does that exploit women? Trying to patch things together which have very little connection just weakens your credibility.

Do you realize how little of that actually goes on? Only the wealthy can afford it.

When was the pill ever promoted as a preventative for sexually transmitted diseases? Oh, and sexually transmitted disease rates are lower today than they were in the 1940s.

" in the exploitative elements of the sexual revolution, women are seen as one-dimensional objects -- commodities -- "

There is nothing in the sexual revolution that leads to that. Though that has been the thinking throughout pretty much all of recorded human history. Or do I have to remind you that women were sold as wives in the Old Testament, as well as servants used by the masters as such. That is as old testament as you can get.

"The time has come, Eberstadt said, for "a deeper understanding of what a real pro-woman agenda might look like. "

A real pro-woman agenda would be the same as a real pro-life agenda...

Eliminate poverty and hunger and homelessness. Provide full education and health care and opportunity to all.

Until that becomes the front line position of the church don't expect the church to get much credibility.

In her lecture about prostitution and human trafficking, Mary Leary of the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America quoted a sex-trafficking survivor: "'Prostitution is #MeToo on steroids.'"

Lisa Weber
4 years ago

Humanae Vitae is widely ignored by the laity because Catholics use contraception, and the same types of contraception, as the general population. The Crieghton method should be taught to all young women simply as "owner's manual" information more than as a method to control fertility. The Creighton method would be a satisfactory method of controlling fertility if it were paired with barrier contraception during a woman's fertile days.

The "sexual revolution" can be seen as a part of the feminist movement. The feminist movement of the 1960's and 70's was the adolescence of women - hypersexual, rebellious, and exploring new frontiers. The question now is "What does the adulthood of women in the community look like?" We have yet to answer that. And we haven't even reached the adolescence of women within the Catholic Church. Women are still treated like children - to be seen and not heard, though women should be adult enough to mind the coffee pot and the dusting without being told.

Nora Bolcon
4 years ago

j

Nora Bolcon
4 years ago

Heaven forbid even Catholic women speak the truth about women's health, women's history, the sexual revolution, sex trafficking, abortion, or apparently anything at all in the world. This is a truly sickening article to read. Every sentence practically is full of lies. Let us start with abortion which in our country, presently, is at the same rate as when abortion was illegal, and that is based on the stats that drs. kept records of when it was illegal in the U.S. so it probably was much higher than what we have now because there is likely a huge unreported amount from the time it was illegal. Abortion is highest, percentage wise, per pregnancies, in countries where it is illegal and this has been true for decades. This is primarily true due to those countries being both conservative and poor countries that don't supply birth control, like the pill. The pill and other non-abortive birth control have likely been the largest reason our abortion rates in the U.S. and Europe are not much higher than they are. You can THANK the sexual revolution and the makers of the pill for that fact.

Women were constantly harassed on the streets daily in the U.S. and around the world and it was acceptable until only recently (due to the sexual revolution). It is generally poor, uneducated, nations who sell their women out for sex trafficking and forced marriage so again - educating women more, as the sexual revolution demanded we do, lessens these horrible crimes.

Pornography is on the rise because it is easier to reach people with porn by computer and it is free on many sites. The sexual revolution had nothing to do with that.

Women have been able to become Drs and lawyers and scientist etc. because they can choose when they want to have children and fit family making into their career schedules due to the pill or birth control. The sexual revolution supporting the education of women, and demanding legally enforced equal employment opportunities for women also made this freedom for women to use their God-given talents available.

So I am extremely thankful for the sexual revolution. I am not surprised however that a church leadership that refuses to admit it uses women like slaves in our church, by always keeping them voiceless and voteless, while treating them as less sacred by keeping sacraments from them which it allows access to by men, is unhappy with all the great things, freedom especially, that the sexual revolution gave to women and men.

We have more divorce now but statistically those who are married are happy in their marriages. Our church didn't care that half the marriages in the 50's stayed together even though both of the people were miserable. And we already know many husbands and wives cheated just as much during the decades before the 60's so this idea that adultery was happening less is nonsense.

When women are raped in and out of marriage now they are taken far more seriously than in the 50s and before. Women can do any career they want now unlike in the 50s when they were extremely restricted.

Sexism, which is merely the treating of women differently than men, has already been proven to cause poverty, terrorism, forced illiteracy, child abuse, disease, sex trafficking, sex slavery of both women and children, forced polygamy, war, genital mutilation of women, suicide, drug addiction, and other evils on a global scale. The most heinous form of sexism is that found in religion. This form tends to cause the greatest damage to women's self esteem and sense of worth while causing the majority of secular sexism's ills as well.

What a sad woman this speaker is. How truly manipulated by lies. Articles like this one show young women there is no reason to join Catholicism while they prove what a brain duller our church can be. I am just incredibly saddened by this article. We have become a church of depression and manipulation and I can't find Jesus in anything written here.

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