By Ben Smith, Director of the Family and Life Office.
On 13 May, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.
The feast commemorates the appearances of Our Lady to three young children in Fatima, Portugal, from May to October in 1917.
One of the many messages Our Lady gave the children was that she wanted Russia to be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart otherwise Russia would spread errors throughout the world.
A few weeks after Our Lady’s final appearance, the Bolshevik revolution occurred in Russia and it became a communist country.
Apart from all the attempts of the new communist government to remove the influence of religion on Russia, two key legal reforms had a profound effect.
Firstly, in early 1918, Russia became the first country in the world to legalise no-fault divorce that could be initiated by the husband or wife.
Secondly, in 1920, Russia became the first country in the world to allow abortion in any circumstances. While the law was tightened at different times during the communist regime it had a profound effect on Russian women that is still being felt today.
According to the UN, in 2010 Russia had the world’s highest rate of abortions per head of population.
These legal changes were based on the ideas of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engel who were the intellectual fathers of communism. They believed that the traditional concept of marriage and the family was an oppressive structure for women that needed to be dismantled.
Radical feminists and gender theorists are continuing on this erroneous work in the 21st Century. One of the key assumptions of this new revolutionary group is that men and women are equal but apart from basic physiological differences there are no real differences between men and women.
Pope Francis commented recently in his General Audience on 15 April that “man and woman, as a couple, are the image of God.” He identified that the differences between men and women are “not for opposition, or for subordination, but for communion and creation.”
He stated that the work of gender theorists, who were aiming to cancel out sexual difference, “risks taking a step backward” as “the removal of the difference, in fact, is the problem, not the solution.”
Original sin has been the major cause of conflict between men and women as highlighted in Genesis 3. However, Genesis 3 also prophesised of a new woman who would bear offspring that would strike at the head of the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
This woman is Our Lady, the new Eve. Jesus Christ is the new Adam. They have shown us a new way for how men and women can relate.
Jesus’ crucifixion, which Our Lady also experienced like a sword through her heart, showed that obedience to the will of God and self-sacrificing love are the answer to sin and division.
St Paul in Ephesians 5 picks up on this theme of self-sacrificing love when he exhorts husbands to “love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church.”
Added to this extraordinary statement, St Paul encourages spouses to “be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.” St John Paul II interprets this passage in his apostolic letter, Mulieris Dignitatem, as a call for spouses to mutually subject themselves to each other through self-giving love.
Our Lady provides us with a great example of this love. She had a specific feminine sensitivity towards the human person which was highlighted in the role she played at the wedding at Cana in helping her hosts avoid an embarrassing situation.
In addition to this sensitivity, St John Paul II also points out in his encyclicalRedemptoris Mater that Our Lady exemplifies a feminine genius that all women share, that is characterised by: a strength that is capable of bearing the greatest sorrows, limitless fidelity, and tireless devotion to work and the ability to combine penetrating intuition with words of support and encouragement.
In his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, he calls on all women to tap into their feminine genius as the basis for a new feminism and reject “the temptation to imitate models of male domination.”
This new feminism should overcome all violence, discrimination and exploitation that reduce the human person at all ages to a mere object in our society.
This effort is critical to building a culture of life and love in our world. Men are also called to join in this struggle.
Our Lady, who was clothed with the sun at Fatima and in the Book of Revelations, we entrust this cause to your aid.