I recently read through several blog posts and watched three videos produced by the Fix the Family ministry, which is headed by two Catholic couples. I guess these people have good intentions and I actually agree with them on a few things. But they are dangerous, because they are envisaging a pre-50’s family in which “father knows best” and enjoys unquestioned obedience (including from the wife), in which husbands should chastise their wives and keep them in line because they are the morally more vulnerable sex, and in which all women should be stay at home mothers. They claim they are “100% faithful to the Vatican” yet many of their statements are so misleading, poorly reasoned, and unfounded that they’re honestly embarrassing in addition to being brutally wrong.
I would like to share this excerpt from an article by the one of the wives on why she is glad when her husband admonishes her:
“To be corrected by a husband is not a demeaning thing. Because we obey God, it becomes a wonderful thing. Many blessings and graces flow from this exercise of obedience, of human nature. This is the way God designed it. A playing out of this exercise is illustrated in Jane Austin’s Emma. The fallen human nature of a woman is displayed in Emma as she is a busybody in matchmaking and manipulation . . . Mr. Knightly scolds and corrects her. At the end, when they reveal their love, he tells her that she has borne his rebukes better than any other woman in London would have borne it! . . . I am glad that my husband is not scared of me. I am glad that he is man enough to make sure I keep my own spoon in my own pot! He protects me from myself, my fallen human tendencies as a female.”
Does her husband allow her to guide him on his path to heaven? The wife is holding on to a musty assumption that women are morally weaker than men, because Eve was the one to grab the apple. Similarly, the husband has a very dark view of paid work because he sees it as punishment for the sins of Adam.
I had never heard of this website before reading Dr. Greg’s critique of one of their more outlandish claims: parents shouldn’t send girls to college. Raylan Alleman, the head honcho at Fix the Family, gave these as the eight reasons we parents should deny young women a college education:
1. She will attract the wrong kind of men.
Summary: a man will marry her because she’ll be a good provider to him and he’ll end up being a lazy good for nothing.
My response: Um, ooookay. You shouldn’t go to college because some lazy men might like you? Lazy men are attracted to all sorts of women, but a well-educated woman will be more likely to see through him.
2. She will be in a near occasion of sin.
Summary: Too much sex goes on at college campuses. She’ll have sex and end up with the wrong guy because all that sex will blind her judgment.
My response: So it’s okay for the boys to be having sex? It’s okay for us to send our boys into these dens of iniquity? How about the many wonderful Catholic colleges that might nourish our children’s faith life, mind, and values? Even if our daughters attend secular universities, it does not follow that she’ll become prey to the hook-up culture.
3. She will not learn to be a wife and a mother.
Summary: College is a training for work, not for homemaking.
My response: Of course higher education prepares us for family life! It teaches us to consider and evaluate different truth statements, to defend our faith intelligently, to engage with the world, to awaken parts of ourselves left sleeping in girlhood. College is far more than preparation for paid work. By engaging in the ideas of history, we enter that “great conversation” with our peers, considering viewpoints with new rigor and awareness. That’s preparation for all of life, not just a job.
Also what if God is not calling her to be a wife and mother? What if she is called to religious life and her chosen order prefers a college degree? What if she is called to be a single tertiary? I am not willing to presume what God has planned for my precious girls.
4. The cost of a degree is becoming more difficult to recoup.
Summary: Cost of college is inflated.
My response: I agree with him. The cost of college in this country is ridiculous. But why wouldn’t this be an argument for NOBODY going to college — why women only? What about scholarships or state schools? What about attending college out of the country? Finally, perhaps to many young women, that cost is worth it.
5. You don’t have to prove anything to the world.
Summary: Women shouldn’t feel their worth is determined by their job or income.
My response: Going to college doesn’t make a woman feel that way; our culture does. Even if she doesn’t go to college, that message exists. If she goes to college she’ll be better able to assess the credibility of some of the cultural messages.
6. It could be a near occasion of sin for the parents.
Summary: If parents have to pay for every child for college, they’ll be freaked out about cost, so they’ll limit family size.
My response: If parents were willing to limit family size just because they fear college costs, they will limit family size for a host of other reasons: so they’ll have enough love “to go around”, so they can take more family vacations, etc.
7. She will regret it.
Summary: If your daughter goes to college she’ll be a career woman, never have kids, and will regret it later. Many women today are admitting they regret not having children or focusing on their families.
My response: Huh? He is making a giant logical leap: college leads to corporate climbing maniac leads to mid-life regrets. He points out how many women regret putting off having children. So true. But that doesn’t mean they regret going to college. Furthermore, there are many, many college educated mothers who love their kids and are so glad they went to college, too.
8. It could interfere with a religious vocation.
Summary: If your daughter’s debt is too high, most religious orders will reject her.
My response: Most religious orders prefer candidates with college degrees. Be careful about debt, but go to college. Furthermore, many women find their vocations in college.
This particular article gleaned more than 4000 comments on Facebook. 4000. Almost all of them were critical; those supporting him said things like, “What do you expect from liberals — of course they’ll criticize plain common sense.” I am not a liberal; and this stuff is not common sense. (And can I point out that many of the comments were from non-Catholics who may think these are real Catholic principles?) Clearly this website is receiving a great deal of attention and that concerns me. Clearly their message is problematic, but it’s keeping writers busy offering critiques. A professor in moral theology actually wrote an article critiquing their assertions about daughters attending college (it’s superb, check it out). Too bad she had to take time to write it. Too bad Dr. Greg had to do the same. Because while everyone is taking time to sift through the garbage, we are missing the opportunity to talk about real problems.
Moms and dads, these problems are important to me:
1. How do we deal with the bloated cost of a college education so that all of our children at every level of society can not only attend, but can go on to use their talents in the way they imagine? The answer isn’t to keep our girls home! It is to examine, assess, and scream if necessary.
2. Why do we think stay at home mothers aren’t working? Stay at home mothers WORK. We should value ALL WORK and ensure that the dignity of the laborers is protected. We need to have this discussion because our view of work demeans the contributions, creativity, and gifts of people who earn no or little paid salary.
3. Why do some folks (like Fix the Family) assume working mothers are abandoning their families? The Church does not require all mothers to stay home with their children. CAPC supports mothers who work for pay and those who are full-time mothers. We also support those moms who fall somewhere in between. (All of them are working!!) In fact, Pope John Paul II made it very clear that the unique gifts of women need to be felt not only in the home, but in the parish, in the boardroom, and in the public square. (Incidentally, you will far more effective at making that kind of impact if you are educated, informed, and articulate . . .) But in making these choices we have to use prudence and wisdom, and that means being informed about how our choices will affect the well-being of our children. THIS is what we should be talking about. We should love and support one another, especially mom to mom. We are sisters in Christ, on this thorny road to heaven.
4. How do we raise children who enter adulthood passionate about our Faith, confident in their own dignity, who easily live the virtues of mercy and justice in order to protect the dignity of others, including unborn children, women, and the poor?
5. How do we nourish the masculinity of husbands and the femininity of wives, while celebrating our shared dignity and our equal right to use our gifts and talents? I was reading some remarks from a theologian recently on how real love brings out the uniqueness of each partner. Love really isn’t blind. Sometimes we see beautiful things in our spouses that they can’t even see. Isn’t that amazing? God also reveals more of us to ourselves when we love our husbands and wives completely, when we seek mutuality and communion rather than domination.
Now this stuff is interesting, at least to me. What problems are important to you? Maybe today your biggest problem is getting toothpaste out of the toddler’s hair! But do you see what I mean? I think Fix the Family is dangerous because it distracts us from more productive and enriching dialogue.
I would like to share my story eventually about why I chose to stay home with my babies; why I chose to homeschool; why I don’t think you need to make the same choices that I did to be a wonderful parent. I want you to know me better, because I think we parents need to share our personal stories of uncertainty and confusion, and how we grappled with them in the arms of Jesus. Please share with all of us your journeys, too. Please write guest posts for CAPC about who you are and how you ended up in this virtual “corner” with the rest of us. All of our voices are valuable at the table.