Alvare: Society needs church's 'gorgeous prescriptions for human love'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Dan Rogers

By Valerie Schmalz

Calif. (CNS) — Americans continue to pursue “this ridiculous path” of “unlinking
sex and marriage and kids, while calling what is actually falling apart ‘flying,'”
said one of America’s foremost Catholic feminist thinkers.

“All the
while (they’re) hurtling toward a collision with the ground,” said Helen
Alvare, founder of the activist movement Women Speak for Themselves and a law
professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School in Arlington, Virginia.

“Kids are hitting rock bottom
with suicide and opioid use” as serial cohabitation and plummeting numbers of
marriages signal the disintegration of a relational society, she said in a talk
July 12 at the Napa Institute’s eighth annual conference in Northern
California’s wine country.

But there are signs of hope in
the “huge growth of hashtags, movements ‘ straining toward solidarity,” Alvare

“There are opportunities for the
church to narrow the gap between our current contemporary situation and the church’s gorgeous prescriptions for human love,” she

Movements such as Black Lives
Matter, those that work for immigrant rights and #MeToo demonstrate we live in
a “society that wants diversity and solidarity next to each other. I hope we
can see these are a reflection of the radical need for solidarity, the need to
love — a message we can endorse,” Alvare said.

“Where do we get the first
message about solidarity and diversity? I don’t know — Genesis?” said Alvare,
referring to the creation of man and woman in the first book of the Bible.

Effective Catholic communication
needs to meet people where they are and it must discard “church talk,” arcane terms
such as “procreative and unitive,” Alvare said in her keynote address at the
July 11-15 Napa Institute conference.

“We have to give plainspoken
answers,” for instance, about contraception, said Alvare.

“If you disassociate where God
chose to put babies” from a committed marriage, “do you realize what that does
to the relationship between you and the man — it severs tomorrow,” Alvare

“Contraception severs sex from
tomorrow and that’s why we oppose it,” said the law professor. She noted that
in reversing the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate, the Trump administration
lifted 30 paragraphs of her law journal article disproving the factual
underpinnings of the mandate.

Alvare’s audience included German
Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, who was prefect of the Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith from 2012 to 2017; John Garvey, president of The Catholic
University of America in Washington; and Bishop Steven J. Lopes of the Houston-based
Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, the Catholic Church’s U.S.
ordinariate for former Anglicans.

The Napa Institute was formed to
help Catholic leaders face the challenges posed by a secular America, according
to its website. Alvare’s talk was inspired by the day’s theme of the 50th
anniversary of Blessed Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, “Humanae Vitae.”

There are signs all around that
people are concerned about the fallout from the sexual revolution, Alvare said.
“The sexual revolution is not itself a reasoned revolution. The people who
invented it did not invent it out of reason,” said the married mother of three
children, now teenagers and young adults.

“Children are speaking up,” wearing
T-shirts “My Daddy’s name is donor,” she noted. “Hook-up” books are a genre of
teen literature that talk about how bad it feels, she said.

Both the left-leaning Brookings
Institute and the conservative Heritage Foundation acknowledge the harms of
family instability, she said. “Too many smart academics have pointed out that
family structure ‘ is actually the largest part of the social and economic gap
between rich and poor, between white and black,” and even between men and

Several recent academic studies
indicate boys suffer more than girls if raised by a single mother, said Alvare,
citing separate works by economists Raj Chetty of Stanford University and David
Autor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Autor found that especially
black boys raised by a single mother in a poor neighborhood tend to fall behind
their sisters by kindergarten and the achievement gap widens as they go through
school, Alvare said, surmising “girls are looking at Mom and seeing Mom does it

“Today we are seeing that
Americans are not willing to adopt the claim that the sexual revolution was a
complete hands down win,” Alvare said. “Nobody thought we would reach the
possibility of a fifth justice with as much of the country on our side as we
have,” Alvare said.

She was referring to the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Circuit, to replace U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony
Kennedy, who is retiring.

To counter the falsehoods of the
sexual revolution, “the winning argument is relationship,” Alvare said. To say:
“You think that is the way to get there, but this is not going to get you
there.” That is because, Alvare said, “ultimately our desire is for the love of
an infinite God.”

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