In his 1973 essay ‘The Faith: The Nation, Prime Principles of Survival’, Frank Duff – the founder of the Legion of Mary, whose anniversary was on Saturday – observed that the faith of the nation was in a crisis. He likened the Ireland of the 1950s to pre-revolutionary France. Both appeared on the surface to be extremely Catholic societies, but in both this was only a thin veneer, a mask.
What would he say today? He described how the majority of the Irish had a mechanical goodness, that they attended the Mass and the sacraments but had no depth to their religion. He said that society was bringing forth little better fruits than a respectable paganism would. How right he was: how many Mass-goers in this country voted for abortion just two years ago? Mr Duff saw how a thin veneer of religion was not going to be able to withstand the onslaught of adverse influences. He said: “What really corrodes the Faith are the materialisms, the sophistries, the alleged science, the sneers which search out the weak spots and do the deadly work on people whose appreciation of the Faith is not sufficient.”
More than anything, we are experiencing a crisis of faith. True faith requires deep roots. It must be nurtured and cared for. True faith starts in the family. Root it out there, and the job is so much easier for religion’s opponents later on. Many rightly see abortion as an attack on the beginnings of human life, and an attack on the family. But what has really corroded the family stemmed from an attack at its heart, at motherhood. The influence of modern feminism on the family and in turn on society is all around for us to see.
Carrie Gress in her book The Anti-Mary Exposed draws a parallel between the anti-Christ and the anti-Mary. She regards this as a spirit, or movement, rather than an individual.
She highlights how many of the most influential feminists of the 1960s carried serious mother wounds in their hearts, leading to ruinous relationships with men, and an embrace of the occult, goddess culture and lesbianism as the highest expression of a woman’s sexuality. These feminists rejected men, but unlike the virgin saints who did so to give themselves to God, they embraced promiscuity and eschewed purity with a kind of aggression that mimicked the worst excesses of a ravenous male predator.
The hurts and resentments expressed by feminists are a rebellion against the words spoken by God to Eve in the Garden of Eden: “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).
Everything that feminism hates and rages against is summed up in those lines: childbearing, motherhood, a longing for a husband, and man as ruling over woman. Feminism’s ‘cure’ for these ills is abortion, a rejection of motherhood, of marriage and a desire to dominate men.
Girls are taught from an early age aggression, self-promotion, to look down on men and their weaknesses. They are taught the art of seduction for nefarious purposes and to dominate, to take without counting the cost.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that when a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her.
Sadly, the opposite is also true, the less noble, the less virtuous the woman, so will the man be: rather than trying to aspire to be worthy of her, he will do the opposite – he will debase her, put her down rather than exalt her, disrespect her and leave her longing for that which she really desires.
The men who do this are guilty of a hatred of womanhood – as are women who embrace the anti-Mary spirit, a kind of toxic femininity. In truth, modern feminism is rooted in misogyny, a hatred and abhorrence of what is good and beautiful and true about womanhood – and in particular about virginity and motherhood, both of which find their perfection in Mary.
Like so many apparent paradoxes that are found in Christianity, Mary shows us that it is in meekness and humility that strength and true power are found: the very things that feminism craves. Feminism is openly power-hungry. And yet where have women had the greatest influence – for good or ill – since the beginning of time? Within the family, the very thing they have sought to destroy.
For ill, it was Eve who whispered to Adam in the Garden of Eden. For good, it was Our Lady who whispered in Christ’s ear at Cana at the beginning of his ministry, asking him to do her bidding.
The thing is, even feminists acknowledge what they call women’s ‘soft power’ – the effect that a woman has on her husband and children, or those within her care. We are all familiar with the proverb: “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”.
That is why the destruction of the family signals the end of women’s ‘soft power’ and the loss of women’s influence – much of which has been brought about by the women’s movement in its rejection of ‘the patriarchy’, marriage and motherhood.
Feminism claims victory: its principles have become part of most programmes for government around the world. But how is this victory to be measured? By its spoils of course. In this case, the spoils are quite literally that: spoiled bodies, spoiled lives, spoiled families, spoiled societies.
With the family under attack and society debasing motherhood, faith has no fertile soil in which to grow. Feminists scorn the feminine virtue of mothering, or nurturing, but nurturing speaks to the deepest need in all of us to grow physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. The example offered to us by Mary, the pre-eminent mother, is the opposite: fruitfulness and the power that is found in humility and service.
Mothers nurture, and all women, by virtue of their womanhood, are called to motherhood – whether literally, in a physical sense, or in an intellectual, emotional or spiritual sense. It is up to each to find which it is that God is calling her to. The world, and our society, is sorely in need of maternal love. That is the key to rebuilding the family and providing the right conditions for faith to grow in society. Only then will we reap abundant fruit.