From Me to Pope Francis: Remember the Ladies


“Remember the ladies.”

Abigail Adams to her husband John

Abigail Adams spoke up for women at America’s founding. “Remember the ladies,” she wrote her husband, John Adams. “Be more generous to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power in the hands of your husbands.”

Unfortunately, John didn’t listen to his wife, such notions being “too radical” for a nation founded on the equality of all men. About a hundred years later, the men of that time didn’t listen to the women who had fought gallantly in the abolitionist cause, either. “It is the black man’s time,” they said, when the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments were drafted. In essence they advised the women who had sacrificed so much to end slavery to, as women are often told, “wait your turn.” Subsequent Supreme Court rulings specifically said that the amendment did not include women.

Adams’ plea to her husband notwithstanding, it took 170 years of marches, speeches, arrests, forced feedings, mob attacks and an entire, separate, Constitutional Amendment to give half the people in this country the simple right to vote.

My grandmother, who was born on the Kansas prairie in 1886, was 34 years old before she had the legal right to vote.

Even today, women are bought and sold like chattel. They are sexualized, degraded and trivialized in our media and even by some “civil rights” commenters. Women are raped, beaten, tortured and murdered at high rates all over the world, including right here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

We accept this as natural and the way things are. Half the people in this country are told to be careful what they drink when they go to parties because it might be drugged and they could end up being gang raped for fun by the men at the party. Half the people of this country are told to go out in pairs at night for their own protection.

We make the sadistic rape and torture of women into our entertainment. How many millions of men support an on-line porn industry that pumps these hideous images of women being used, abused, beaten, raped and reduced to things into their homes so they can be titillated by it?

And yet,

And predictably,

The press buried the Holy Father’s statements about women. After all, gay is soooo much more important.

I’m not going to quote the Holy Father’s comments except to say that he didn’t open any new theological ground. You can hear what he said without any filters from me here.

Personally, I want to see the Church begin to preach and teach that violence against women is a sin with the same vigor that it preaches and teaches that abortion is a sin, and for the same reasons. Whenever any group of people is singled out for violence, abuse and murder, that is a deep social sin. We have laws against killing women, while we have laws allowing the murder of the unborn. But in actual practice we live in a world where violence against women is our entertainment.

I once helped organize a meeting of the various heads of Oklahoma’s denominations in an attempt to get them to acknowledge the seriousness and the evil of violence against women. The response was heartwarming, but, the fire went out after the meeting was over. My personal reason for doing this was simply because I had been sitting in pews for decades and I had never once heard a single sermon or homily in which anyone said that rape is a sin.

All I know is that I’ve worked decades of my life on this one issue, both as a lawmaker and as a private citizen, and it seems that violence against women is worse now than ever.

We’ve had talks on this blog about papal encyclicals we’d like to see. I’ll add my hope to the list. It would mean more than anything to me if the Holy Father would write an encyclical condemning the endemic, worldwide and historic violence against women for the great evil that it is.

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  • Suzanna


  • TheodoreSeeber

    I always get Abigail Adams and Abigail Scott Duniway mixed up. The later had considerable more success with suffrage here in Oregon, and is buried in the same cemetery as my in-laws.

    • FW Ken

      Now I want to go see a production of 1776. Great on stage, terrible movie.

  • Rebecca Fuentes

    *Standing ovation* And maybe those sermons against rape could include, “Not blaming the victim for how she is dressed, past actions, etc.” NOBODY, anywhere, ever asks to be raped.

  • jenny


    ” I want to see the Church begin to preach and teach that violence against women is a sin with the same vigor that it preaches and teaches that abortion is a sin, and for the same reasons.”
    I totally agree.
    If abortion is a sin associated with women, than, what is it called the sin of a man who puts his child in the womb of the woman and than disappears ….?
    Just because the woman has a womb, should not make her the sole responsible for the child placed there by a man ( I am talking about rape).

    • TheodoreSeeber

      ” what is it called the sin of a man who puts his child in the womb of the woman and than disappears ”

      Abandonment. It used to be more illegal than abortion at one time in our distant past.

  • Maggie Goff

    Thank God we have you, Rebecca.

  • FW Ken

    I guess I’ll be the bad guy here, but I think the reason violence against women doesn’t get the same intensity as abortion and same-sex issues is that nobody worth mentioning says beating, raping, and exploiting women is not a sin, but a constitutional right or an innate drive. The Church teaches clearly that apart from carefully circumscribed circumstances, violence is sinful, and an encyclical won’t be read by the rednecks and entertainment elitists who are ok with hitting women and exploiting that hitting. Although to be honest, when I see violence against anyone on TV or in the movies it’s not anything but a sorrow and a crime.
    What will help? I think the pope is onto something : A well-developed theology of women would set the problem into the context of ascribing dignity and worth to the female of the species. Slightly less than half of aborted babies are girls; if dignity is ascribed to women, might that impact abortion? Not only by making abortion repellent, but also my helping women who despair from their perceived need to abort their child. It seems to me that a woman who sees herself as a child of God with inherent worth is less likely to feel a need to kill her child.
    I think a theology of the family that describes mother, father, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc in terms of love (caritas) rather than “roles” might help. For 30 years or more, we have as a culture been stuck in the mode of women and power: political power, power in business, women in professions. On a slow news day, you can count on a story about a “glass ceiling” or “gender gap”. I’m not speaking against that, but what if it were gathered up (so to speak) into the context of the network of the family. It might be helpful if the Church spoke some against violence, but more helpful to talk about love.

  • Imelda

    From your mouth to God’s ears, I pray.

    I was nearly scared to look at the transcript of Pope Francis’ recent statement about gays that the media blew out (of proportion). I was so glad when I saw the full text of his statement – there was truly nothing new about it. Any Catholic will understand that no one can make judgments about the state of soul and the salvation of anyone, gays, murderers, adulterers, thieves, and all sorts of sinners (meaning all of us, really). Anyway, I am ranting about something that may be off topic.

  • jenny

    “….I had been sitting in pews for decades and I had never once heard a single sermon or homily in which anyone said that rape is a sin….”
    When the Pope recently talked about our obsession on abortion, contraception, etc., I think he was inviting us to make a shift – instead of being obsessed with abortion, let’s start to be obsessed with the cause of abortion.
    And as rape is one of many causes of abortion, do we have homilies, books, marches for life, healing prayers specifically and exclusively for men who abort their unborn babies ?
    Maybe priests should also ask men in the confession if they had an abortion? ….I mean, when men kill their unborn children by starvation and lack of emotional care … ? Placing the child in the womb of the mother, and nothing else after that, leads to the death of the unborn child … why there is no word defined yet for man’s abortion?