Book Review: Style, Sex, and Substance

Edited for snark and tone on 4/27/2012 — not because I’m a nice person, but because I do understand it’s the right thing to do. 

You’d have to not read Catholic Mom Blogs or popular Catholic publications to not have heard of the new Catholic women’s book Sex, Style, and Substance, edited by Hallie Lord and published by Our Sunday Visitor. Seemingly, everyone who’s anyone in the world of popular Catholic bloggers has read and reviewed the title and given it ten thumbs up.

I give it props for having a super-cute cover.

When I looked for reviews of the book that made substantial criticisms, I couldn’t find any. Not one. In fact, the gushing over SSS has been louder than Igazu Falls.  Now, no book is perfect, and no book is positively 100 percent adored by everyone who reads it. Not even the works of Dickens enjoy that kind of popularity. After reading yet another rave review last week, I ordered a Kindle copy to satisfy my curiosity.

I have to admit I have found the title off-putting from the start. I simply don’t like Catholic advertising that aims at being on the relevant/edgy side. I know, I know, you get folks who would never read something called, perhaps, “Modesty, Married Love, and Faithfulness” to crack the cover and change their lives. You gotta “meet your readers where they’re at.” But it seems to me that splashing the word “sex” into the title of a Catholic book is just a bit too coarse.

Speaking of meeting your readers, one of the biggest flaws of the book from an editorial stand-point (aside from the odd overuse of the word “jettison” in the first couple chapters) is a failure to give a consistent sense of “audience.” There’s one chapter for the single woman but the other 70-90 percent of the book is aimed at married women. Who’s going to buy a whole book for one personally relevant chapter? Perhaps, they’re thinking married women can pass on that chapter to their single friends?

I also couldn’t tell if the book was written for very devout and knowledgeable long-time Catholics or newbies. The majority of the book was a bit too basic for more devout and informed Catholics. But certain newbie chapters toss in Catholic words such as “magisterium,”  which would probably best be footnoted with a definition for folks just coming to the Church or thinking about it.

The very last chapter by Barbara Nicolosi seemed randomly tacked on without any sense that it belonged in the same book with any of the other essays. Oddly enough, it was one of the better written articles in the book (even if I somewhat disagree with Nicolosi’s premise). I wish Nicolosi had chosen or been given another topic, as she’s covered Catholics in the media amply elsewhere and frequently.

This book has more serious problems, though. While there’s nothing in it that a person can point to and say: “A-ha! Here! This contradicts Catholic teaching!” there seems to be a failure to synthesize traditional Catholic teaching with traditional Catholic sensibilities. There’s a little too much “of the world,” not just “in the world” throughout the book, beginning with the Introduction where Hallie Lord casually makes reference to the movie Bridget Jones’s Diary.  A movie that merits an L (limited audience – a rating just below “you’re going to hell if you watch this”) — from the rather liberal movie reviewers at the NCCB. I could see how it would happen that someone could see the movie by mischance. But when writing something for a Catholic publication, I’d hope one’s “Catholic filter” would keep her from making a casual allusion to this R-movie. At the very least, if I felt quite compelled to make reference, I would tag on the parenthetical “a movie I don’t recommend you ever see” caveat.

I could go through each chapter and pluck out items that made me vaguely uncomfortable and outright cringe-y. I have dozens and dozens of underlines and scribbled notes throughout the book. But so I don’t beleaguer my few readers too much, I’ll try to hit the most problematic areas. (I’m still not promising this will be short.)

Let me start with the positives: Simcha Fisher’s chapter on Motherhood and Danielle Bean’s chapter on Marriage. I found their perspectives real, accessible, appropriate and insightful. Bean offers simple, culturally controversial (speaking of secular culture here), but fully Catholic advice on how to bring peace and healing into struggling marriages. I also liked Karen Edmisten’s chapter on making time for prayer. Though, I’d quibble with the section “Dance in the Kitchen.” I found it a little…odd. It’s a personality thing, maybe. Suggesting that we dance to Rock or Jazz or whatever other kind of music so long as it makes us think of God…as prayer? Meh. Not so much.

I wanted to like Jennifer Fulwiler’s chapter more than I did because I love so much of her other work, but I found her experience of finding the modern Mary a little too open for misunderstanding. The sort of thing that leads to art where Our Blessed Mother is depicted in modern times wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I also found her language and examples intended to parse sins from quirks which are part of our personal uniqueness much too vague to be truly helpful. Sometimes what people perceive as “quirks” that are to be, according to Fulwiler, “embraced” are not sins but faults to be overcome.

Now for the not-so-great:

Hallie Lord’s chapter on Style — which includes the topic of modesty. Her bottom line is that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to modesty, and it’s up to each person’s individual conscience to decide upon the specific details of modesty for herself. (Having done a little experiment on my Facebook page, I can say Catholic women’s personal perceptions of what is modest are ALL OVER the spectrum.)  Lord mentions that the saints and leaders in the Church have had guidance to offer on what modesty looks like, but does not drop any names or documents for the reader to follow-up on. That would have been much more helpful than a vague allusion to these writings. The general “rule” she offers her readers is that a dress should be tight enough to show it is a woman wearing it, but loose enough to show she is a lady. Catholic women need a little more guidance with regard to modesty, not to be restrictive, but ultimately to free us — of scruples and misguided perceptions of “modest” attire.

And, while I recognize the essence of what Lord tries to express in the section of her chapter entitled “Taking Care of You,” there is something in the way she expresses herself that makes me uncomfortable, and leaves me wondering how mothers who were saints would advise women on the notion of “self-pampering.” And, how many women do we know who insist on their own “me time,” while never considering their husband’s need for down time from obligations?

“What Works for You”  by Rebecca Ryskind Teti touches on a topic I’ve written about before.  Her thesis is that it doesn’t matter if you’re a SAHM or a mom who works outside the home, you gotta do what you gotta do and whatever you want to do is great, there is no ideal. I disagree. Sometimes mothers have to work for financial reasons. But staying home to raise your own children is the Catholic ideal. No, there’s no document stating it’s a sin not to stay home, but there are plenty of popes who iterate that a mother’s fundamental job in normal circumstances is to be in the home taking care of her kids.

Like Pope Pius XI:

Mothers, concentrating on household duties, should work primarily in the home or in its immediate vicinity. It is an intolerable abuse, and to be abolished at all cost, for mothers on account of the father’s low wage to be forced to engage in gainful occupations outside the home to the neglect of their proper cares and duties, especially the training of children. 

Anna Mitchell’s chapter on marriage and the single gal is okay, but she hits a sour note when she says women should not judge a potential suitor based upon “marriageability.” She goes on to say you shouldn’t reject an upstanding guy because you cannot immediately imagine him in a tux standing next to you in a white dress. I’m not really sure what this means practically speaking, but the whole point of dating is “marriage.” A guy should be “marriageable” in some basic respects, at least within the foreseeable future, before getting too involved an an exclusive relationship. Since Mitchell admits giving advice on courtship and dating as a single, she peppers her chapter with “my friends say … ” That explains her, at times, rather inexperienced/immature perspective. I think this chapter would actually have been better written by a married person.

Rachel Balducci’s chapter on Friendship is rather basic and includes too much pop psych talk for me. Any time someone speaks of “toxic relationships” or “setting healthy boundaries,”I think: Secular self-help book.  I don’t believe friendships should be judged by whether or not they “bring us down;” the merit of any friendship is based upon whether or not it brings us closer to Christ or further away — that can take the form of sacrifice in friendships that are one-sided. If there’s little in the friendship for you, that’s called “true charity.” Friendships that lead you to sin –to gossiping, to feelings of vanity, to worldliness, or to developing negative attitudes about men or your marriage — those are the ones you should avoid.

The inclusion of Elizabeth Duffy’s chapter titled Sex, Passion, and Purity, makes this book, which has some truly laudable elements, something I could not honestly recommend. The chapter started out good and solid and then took a nosedive because of the nature of the humor and coarseness of language. I was encouraged when a friend sent me a link to Duffy’s blog in which she writes that she was disappointed with her chapter. I started to feel relieved, maybe she realized she got carried away trying to be “relevant,” then she fleshed out why she was disappointed:

With my own chapter, I felt a bit of disappointment. Even my mom said, “It contained more restraint than I usually associate with your writing.” And I thought, “That’s no good. It’s the sex chapter. It’s supposed to break through the membrane of silence that surrounds the sex lives of Catholic women.”

Oh, boy. Again, there was nothing in it that specifically contradicted Catholic teaching. It was meant to be “fun” and “honest”  and approachable so a nominal Catholic wouldn’t think orthodox Catholics have to be all stodgy about the topic of sexuality. But thinking about this chapter reminded me of something Scott Hahn once said to my Freshman theology class back at Steubenville: “Sex is not ‘good;’ Campbell’s Soup is ‘Mm-mmm good.’ Sex is not ‘great;’ ‘Tony’s Frosted Flakes — They’re grrrrrrr-eat!’ Sex … is holy.”

Duffy on how Catholics ought to speak about sex:

In many Catholic books that discuss sex, you’ll find words like “connubial embrace” and “marital act,” — words that elevate sex to heavenly heights no mortal can breach. While sex is no joke, let’s also not take it too seriously. Any time two adults proceed in a game of Twister, they’re going to need a sense of humor. Here are some ideas to put fun back in the funny business.

Since I think her message is influenced by the spirit of Christopher West’s “Theology of the Body,” I will preface some of the other objectionable quotes from the chapter with a quote from Alice von Hildebrand’s critique of West:

The French have a wonderful word to capture the veiling of one’s intimate feelings, out of a proper sense of shame—pudeur, a “holy bashfulness,” so to speak. Seized as he is by what he regards as his calling to evangelize a new generation with this theology in “modern” ways they can supposedly better understand, West practically ignores the importance ofpudeur, and, by his imprudence, winds up undermining his own message.

It is holy bashfulness and reverence which creates the “membrane of silence” Duffy decries in her regrets. I’m only going to use a few examples to illustrate the sort of thing in Duffy’s chapter I found deeply objectionable:

Before marriage I thought that sex was a right for married people, an all-you-can-eat sex buffet. My husband and I gorged at that buffet for the first two years of marriage, and then we felt sick. I resented him because sex didn’t have the same risks for him. … I often put him in the position of begging for sex that I made clear that I was in no mood to enjoy (“Mind if I read a book while you do that?”)

I’ve concluded that many of us downplay the importance of our own pleasure in the married relationship. It’s easy to do. At the end of a day spent meeting the needs of our children or the demands of our jobs, our husbands can seem like one more person who wants something from us. We may feel tempted to fake climax, or to give up and get it over with. But we’re not running a sex charity here…

Though there are times in life for the occasional ‘quickie,’ giving up on finding our own pleasure in sex is not an option. … Repeatedly omitting our own pleasure in sex is a tacit consent to being used…

Whatever her good intentions are in being helpful to Catholic couples, Duffy undermines the reality, beauty, and transcendence of Catholic teaching on human sexuality by speaking so crudely and so openly her personal experience.

My friends, I am disconcerted that this book has reached such an exalted state of popularity among serious Catholic women. While there are certainly praiseworthy elements, there is much in it that should send the red flags up. Yet, not a word of criticism is offered from any corner. That’s odd and upsetting to me.

I am concerned with what I perceive to be a central group of influential Catholic female authors who are shaping Catholic culture.  I  do wonder if some of the authors of this book lack a sense of the cultural traditions of femininity/motherhood/marriage within Catholicism, or are they engaged in actively “updating” tradition? I truly hope that they are not agitating for “changes with the times,” having been influenced by secular feminism. Perhaps, they believe Pope John Paul II’s ideal of the Feminine Genius heralded a call for such changes in Catholic thought. My hope is that there can be a revitalization in Catholic women’s culture by a rise in popularity of Catholic writers who respect the traditions and advice of popes and saints through the ages…and make those accessible to average Catholics.


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44 Responses to Book Review: Style, Sex, and Substance

  1. Just to reiterate what I said on FB:

    Thank you, Suzanne…this is the review I’ve been waiting for. Not that I’m looking for a “slam dunk” to take down a popular tome…no…I have a great deal of respect for the writers…they have made themselves vulnerable, exposing bits and pieces of heart and soul in their writing…yet, this is exactly why words matter. I will read this book now. I will read it because it has finally recieved the only truly critical review I’ve come across. We must all be brave enough to share honestly. I have no intention of offering my own review…I’ve had enough controversy to last a long time…yet I do applaud you for stepping into the fray and using your gift of words and wisdom to reveal troubling elements. Writing is risky business. One simply can’t do it well without revealing one’s heart and soul. For Catholics, everything is “soul business” and as the mother of 5 young women and 4 young men, I’m charged with the monumental task of guarding not only my soul, but those of my children. Thanks for a charitable, informative and fair review.

  2. I have not read the book but the instances and quotes that you mention would have me uneasy, too.

    My goal, which I struggle towards, is to follow the example of Christ. Did Christ model self-pampering and pleasure seeking? Our Lord, the Way, said, “I came to serve, not be served.” In Him we have an example of +sacrifice and serving+ which I believe also relates to parenting. In sacrificing to stay home and to serve our children we mortify our will. There is often less money, less accolades but as Catholics we know that mortification is good for the soul. It is as Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must *deny himself* and take up his cross and follow me.”

    In taking up the cross, I certainly struggle to meet these requirements for heaven, but I know we ARE all called to be saints. I don’t think I’ve read about any saints who sought their gratifications in pampering, sex and modesty. So what I need is a motivation that calls me to be better, to try harder to think not so much about myself.

    The kind of thinking I need to be doing about myself is how to be not-of-this-world. As a person who also struggles with being crass…at times…I am sensitive to how wrong it sounds. How it brings me and society down. How it is not who I want to be. So the use of sex in the title and the discussion that you quote isn’t elevating me like the writings of Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand on the topic. The world is obsessed with sex and portrays it in the basest of ways. The Catholic discussion of it needs to be the opposite, done with gentility, reverence.

    These are smart women, good writers and I wish them success…but not worldy success. How hard it must be to get published and purchased in this sex-soaked society where anything goes. Your review doesn’t make the book appealing to me…but I have faith that these writers love their faith and struggle …like me…to serve the Lord. May God strengthen us for the challenge.

  3. Barbara Nicolosi says:

    Thanks for a thorough review. I feel compelled to respond to your unsupported accusation that you had read my chapter somewhere else. You haven’t. I wrote it in ten days for the deadline that Our Sunday Visitor gave me. If it sounded familiar to you it is probably because the topic is one that I have been speaking and writing about for fifteen years. Perhaps you don’t realize that in suggesting that material in a book has been lifted without reference from some other source, you are accusing the writer, publisher and editor of a failure in ethics. That is, if you are incorrect, as you are in this case, you are putting calumny out there. I would kindly ask you to amend your post accordingly.

    I do think you make a salient point as to the nature of the audience for whom the book is intended. My sense is the book is for younger Catholic women who didn’t have the great grace of sitting in Scott Hahn’s class as you did. That is not to say that the material is heretical, but that in areas which are more complex theologically, the book will be unsatisfying to those who are more aware of the complexity.

    Of course, I think you are being much too harsh, and really inaccurate, in insinuating that there is content in the book which conflicts with Catholic teaching. Our Sunday Visitor is a very reputable Catholic publisher and the folks there take very seriously their mission of furthering the Catholic message. They are not a theological house, but they are absolutely orthodox and in accordance with Church teaching. Again, you might consider being careful when you throw around accusations of unorthodoxy. The people at OSV are certainly as smart as you and as passionate for the Church.

    My feeling is that you don’t like the tone of the book which is admittedly meant to be more “average Mom to Mom” than scholarly. Your objections with the lack of more reverential nuances in the work are interesting, but again, this seems to me a question of tone. It is fine for you to not like the book and to have found it unsatisfying. But this doesn’t make the book dangerous.

    God bless -

    • Ann says:

      Barbara, I appreciate your response. Every Catholic publisher has the obligation to voice TRUTH in a way that the audience can both relate to and be challenged by. If there are readers of this book who are spurred on to read more in depth treatments of Catholic morality and doctrine, those are certainly available in the marketplace, but those whose main exposure to Catholicism is an occasional reference on “The Sopranos” or other such popular secular media would find the book informative, entertaining and enlightening. I appreciate its availability, and thank you for helping produce it!

  4. Suzanne says:

    Thank you for taking the time to respond, Barbara. I didn’t accuse anyone of lifting any material that was not already their own. Absolutely not. I know the authors are all too faithful to do something unethical like that! I think you are right that because you have been writing on this topic, and I’ve read your writing elsewhere, that it all sounded very familiar to me.

    Also, if you re-read my post, I say specifically that “unorthodoxy” is not the problem with this book. The theology of the book is sound. But I do think the tone and cultural references reflect a failure to look at long-standing tradition and advice in terms of Catholic culture. And, I think the section on sexuality very problematic in terms of appropriate sharing on a very delicate topic. It’s not really so much an issue of tone. A person can be orthodox in her theology while inappropriate in her personal expression illustrating that theology.

  5. Beth says:

    Personally, I don’t enjoy the writings via blogs of most of the women you mentioned, so I doubt I would enjoy the book. I find the blogs of most “cool Catholic mothers” to be pretty trite and lacking in real substance. I find them to be like “teen masses”, meant to inspire and fill me up but really, just leave me felling eh and needing a steak.

    On the other hand, I find the writings of Dr. Alice von Hildebrand and Blessed John Paul II on authentic femininity to be very filling and inspiring. A quick glace at something written by Blessed John Paul II will carry me for days. :)

    Regarding what you said about “Friendships that lead you to sin –to gossiping, to feelings of vanity, to worldliness, or to developing negative attitudes about men or your marriage — those are the ones you should avoid.” – So very true. Before I was married, before I met my husband, I promised to never say something negative about him to another person. Seven years later, I haven’t and I think it makes things better for our marriage, because I could name a bunch of things I don’t like BUT instead, when talking with other women about him, I accentuate the positive. (Trust me, there are tons of positives :))

    Was there anything in the book uplifting, or that you said to yourself “I needed to hear that!”?

    • Suzanne says:

      Yes, I did find some very uplifting parts in this book! I absolutely needed to read Danielle Bean’s advice. It was so simple, but it was so, so perfect, and just what I needed to hear and when I needed to hear it! I don’t want to get specific, because I don’t want to give it away. But it was positively inspired. Just what a “new” wife needed to…read. :D

      I was also so impressed by Simcha’s chapter on motherhood. She is at her finest when speaking on that topic. With eight children of her own, she gives such beautiful spiritual perspective and, yet, not untouchable.

      The section on prayer was really challenging to me, because it’s something I struggle to fit in, even while I realize how critical it is to everything I do!

      And, I agree on JPII — I think sometimes his writing is misunderstood, though, and used to support things I don’t think he really would. That’s what I meant when I referenced his Feminine Genius writings in my post. ;)

  6. Keith says:

    I admit, I am baffled as to the books–the Catholic books–that have been coming out in recent years. The impression I get is that there is a group of Catholics who want to be worldly, but also Catholic. Suzanne’s review is exactly on target. Quite simply, there are no Saints who spoke the way these books do. There seem to be a lot of people who want to follow in the footsteps of Christopher West, to name one popular name, who’s writing is so graphic, his understanding of John Paul II’s Theology so off base, that I wonder why any Catholic seriously interested in holiness would read it. Alice Von Hildebrand’s article on this matter says it all. And if one wants to understand purity, in all its ramifications, her husband Deitrich Von Hildebrand’s writings are a good place to start.

    There also seems to be an obsession with sexual matters in certain Catholic groups. I know, the point is to take the sewerage the world is heaving at us and put it in a proper Catholic context. But it’s not working. It can never work. Obsession with sexual matters is an obsession, however you slice it, whether it is handled in a Catholic venue or not. The over-emphasis the world puts on it is still an over-emphasis when Catholics write books, and books and books–some with obscene material (Gregory Popcak, Christopher West)–about it. Can you imagine Our Lady giving these books even a passing glance?

    As to modesty–the last era that really seems to have experienced it, on a general cultural level, was the very early 1900’s. As my friend recently told me, “I’m tired of seeing body parts wherever I go.” Modesty is simple, reasonable, and objective. The Muslims take it too far, to be sure. Our culture cares not a whit for it. But look at how women–and men–dressed in 1912. They are covered. You can see their beauty in their faces, their personality shines. But as soon as you remove the layers, you start seeing not people, but parts of people.

    There is so much more that can be said about all this! Suffice to say, these new Catholic books on sexual matters reveal a sexual obsession and a worldliness that is, while not an outright denial of Catholic Teaching, not how Catholics ought to live, either. I mean, if the obsession were instead about food, we would surely be looked at as gluttons. If it were an obsession with sleep, lazy. And an obsession with sex? What is that? An obsession with that appetite is OK?

    Let me end with this, given the last sentence, above: St. John Vianney said that we are more susceptible to sins of the flesh than dry hay is to fire. What then are all these books but fire with some gasoline thrown in? Just a little bit of sexual material can throw a person into trouble…and so we sit about constantly thinking about it, writing books on it, giving talks about it? And then many Catholic women walk around–as any man can attest who goes to Sunday Mass–like they’re heading for the red light district, and I say that as a fellow who goes to a very conservative, orthodox Dominican parish. What kind of sense is this? Is it at all prudent? It’s no way to become a saint, or, God willing, a Saint, not for women, and not for men. I recommend modesty in dress, and by that I mean being generally mostly covered, modesty in speech, modesty in writing, modesty in the music we listen to, and modesty in the games we play. Oh–one last thing–as for the game Twister, which was mentioned–is that really a game that should be played by anyone other than little kids? Am I the only one who sees in that game a near occasion of serious sin, at least for young men? I mean, come on, if we saw people acting like that away from the Twister board we would put an immediate stop to it.

    So I wonder–have people just gone insane? Have we, as Catholics, just become blind? Do we really want to be like Our Lady, or St. Joseph, or any other Saint? Or…purest of the pure–Jesus? Read about what St. Gemma Galgani was told by Jesus, Mary, and her Guardian Angel. It was the opposite of ‘listen to rock music, play twister, read books about sexuality, wear clothing that shows off your legs,” etc. We may never be canonized Saints, but we should live as though we could be. Books like the one here reviewed are a good way to not live in a canonizable way.

  7. Barbara Nicolosi says:

    Thank you for the clarification, Suzanne. I still wish you would edit the above to be clear you are not implying what I wrote in the book was taken from some other previously published material.

    Keith – If there is an obsession in the Church about sexuality, it is only because there is an obsession in the culture, and we Catholics living in 2012 are part of this culture. (Which was, kind of the point of my chapter in the book.) The Sexual Revolution has ravaged the people of our time and very few families even deep, deep in the Catholic sub-culture end zone have escaped the tentacles. My circle tends to be very devout, Biblically traditionalist families – but we have our share of relatives struggling with same sex attraction, Internet porn addiction, and other kinds of sexual sins. There are divorces because of affairs and unwed pregnancies and all the sufferings that these things wreak on human beings.

    I think, yes, we are all a little crazy right now in modernity, in the way that sin makes people crazy. Add to that the flight in the corporate Church from handing on the deposit of faith in catechesis and you have sheep bleating around frightened or running loose far from the pasture and the Shepherd.

    Every so often it is probably good to bemoan these things with others who understand, but we have to be careful of doing it in a way that suggests we ourselves are not also patients in the hospital of the times. As Em Forester said in Howard’s End, what good is a higher intellect or understanding if it does not act as a bridge to others who don’t have those gifts? I would say the same thing about theological understanding.

    God bless -

    • Keith says:

      Hi Barbara,

      No one has escaped this culture with out any wounds at all, that’s for sure! Even a soldier who sustains little in the way of wounds will have a few bruises and scratches. I’m not picking on anyone, truly. I just don’t think that the way out of the culture with which we’re surrounded is to be obsessed with sexual matters in a way that brings the Faith into play, but is nonetheless an obsession. We can talk about SSA disorder, or addictions to impurity, without being crass or blatant in our language, or going on and on and on about these things. The way that wounded people come out of this obsession with sex is surely not to obsess more. Saints and saintly writers of the spiritual life tell us that when it comes to temptations to sin, the way to overcome them is not to focus on the sin, but on it’s opposite virtue. They go on to single out matters of impurity, however, saying that with this area, one simply has to flee! While one can think about, say, anger, even call to mind what caused the anger, in order to deal with it, one cannot do this with impurity, since it draws us deeper into danger and sin to ponder it. Again, there is one recourse–flee. Recently I asked my confessor about this, and he said this is quite the case. The book entitled The Spiritual Combat, by Dom Scupoli–a book that St. Francis de Sales carried with him for over 15 years–speaks of this strategy.

      And there is, after all, no rule that we have to listen to the horrible music that is played on the radio, or watch TV, or watch movies that have impurity and unnecessary violence in them, or dress immodestly. I’d like to add that, romantic movies, which many women are naturally drawn to, are often filled with impurity, at least in talk and topic, if not with anything else. It takes very little for us men to be tempted. Anyway, it seems to me that one can–to some extent, and I think to a useful extent–withdraw from the world, and from worldliness, without living in cave. Somehow we have gotten the idea that we must participate in all the world has to offer–but instead of watching another movie, what about one of the myriad books on Saints? Adoration? A board game? Wii Sports? There are a million alternatives, good alternatives, that can get our minds off of this obsession with sexual issues, and to better things. The more one thinks of God, the more one’s focus is turned from sex, the more one is brought out of –I know it’s a word I’ve almost overused–obsession.

      I think to the degree that we withdraw our minds and hearts from worldly things and sex, the more will we be drawn to holy things, and the sooner healed.

      We’re all I think trying to reach the same goal–to become saints, and even perhaps Saints. But we disagree maybe with the way it is to be done.

      Oh, one more point. Reading about the family of St. Therese it becomes quite clear that they were not the normal family. Why? They refused to participate in the worldly things that even most Catholics of the time did. This is the late 1800’s, and they avoided that life! They didn’t hide exactly–they had businesses to run, they went to parks and to the ocean, but they were largely focused on holy things, and considered the Catholics that wanted to be Catholic but also to enjoy what the world had to offer not the best companionship. They avoided them, for the most part. Her parents are, of course, Blessed. There, perhaps, is the example for us in our days to follow.

  8. Patty says:

    Several years ago I took a writing class. It wasn’t easy to have my work critiqued by classmates who didn’t know me but everyone respected each others’ opinions and listened as we shared what we thought were the strengths and weaknesses of the essays.

    Suzanne, I think the review you’ve written does that: tells the strengths AND weaknesses of the book. I think a lot of people want to like a book and they like the individual(s) who write the books so they overlook problematic elements when writing reviews. I think this does a disservice to the authors.

    Thank you for writing this review. I hope I see this on tomorrow. :)

  9. Mike says:

    First off, Suzanne, thank you for the informative review.

    Barbara – When an author draws on the same pool of stock quotations in order to clarify their point or give it greater weight, it becomes difficult for her readers to recall differences between individual pieces. (“Oh, I see, in this one the Flannery O’Connor line about innocence came *before* the Dostoevsky misquote about truth.”) Also, though she may change the words, if she doesn’t change the “tune,” her audience ought to be forgiven for thinking it was the same song.

    Just saying.

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  11. JoAnna says:

    Caveat: I haven’t yet read the book.

    However, the entire tone of this post seems very “holier-than-thou.” I give you the benefit of the doubt that you didn’t intend it that way, but that’s how it’s coming across to me.

    • Suzanne says:

      Want me to shock your socks off? I re-read this tonight and have to admit I agree with you. It absolutely does. A wiser writer would have let this post sit longer before re-editing and posting. My substantial criticisms stand, but my personal snottiness unfortunately bleeds through. I regret the tone of this post hugely.

      • Lisa says:

        Is that your way of saying that in your infallible view it’s still a terrible book that damages the Body of Christ but you wish you’d pretended that you were a nicer person then you really are when you were sharing this fact with the world?

        I’m sorry, but this implication that all the people who enjoyed the book simply aren’t as brave as you are (and are essentially liars) is the height of arrogance and hugely insulting to both the other reviewers as well as the ten women who poured their (albeit less holy than yours) hearts into this book.

        As for your Facebook status that says that if you were a “known blogger” you would be “tarred and feathered” for this review, all I can say is that the only people I’ve seen tarring and feathering anyone are you and your commenters.

        • Ellen says:

          That’s not at all how I took Suzanne’s comment, Lisa, and I think it’s natural for a writer to review and reconsider how they’ve written something. Someone who thought they were infallible wouldn’t do that.

          You know, I think a lot of people did enjoy this book, and many people reviewed it on their personal blogs. However, an honest review would point out both the strengths and weaknesses of a book, not just gush and gush. I find it hard to believe that women reading this book only had wonderful things to say about it; it was written by 10 women, so it would be more believable to say that you liked some parts more than others, and to break those down a bit. Anyone who shops online, say for example at Amazon, often relies on reviews to help them decide whether or not to purchase a product, and it would be a large disservice to not talk about both the positives and negatives in a review.

          Disagreeing with someone, and writing about the subjects you disagree with them upon, is not “tarring and feathering”. You’re never going to agree with anyone on 100% of anything, so there is always going to be discussion and disagreement.

  12. Thanks so much for your candid review of this book.

    Just to give my two cents: I have not gone to counseling, but if I had I don’t really see what the problem would be! Sorry if my terms seem to betray me, but I think some of that terminology is just that — phrases that help say exactly what I’m trying to say.

    As for your other concerns about my chapter, just wanted to add that I touch on those very themes — the importance of friendships being Christ-centered. I definitely don’t encourage only being in a friendship for what you can get out of it. That’s certainly not a Christian ideal. But I do think that women tend to put themselves in harm’s way when they are tying to be a “good friend” and instead wind up depleted and exhausted in doing that. Sometimes we need permission to step away from a friendship that’s actually not a friendship at all.

    Thank you again for reviewing this book.

    • Suzanne says:

      Rachel — I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to imply that there was anything wrong with counseling or that you personally were betraying having gone. In the past, I’ve known a number of folks who peppered their speech with certain common terminology. Later I found out that their commonality was counseling or having read popular self-help books.

      Whenever I hear (or see) someone use the terms “toxic” and “healthy boundaries,” in reference to personal relationships it really does come back to my experience with self-help speak — often also used by some counselors. But I do recognize that that kind of talk is so common now, many folks assimilate it without knowing its origins.

      I find the use of the terminology frustrating, because like other expressions that have become cliches, the particular meaning the author (or speaker)is trying to express gets lost in sort of a “group speak” where the author assumes a certain cultural understanding. Does that make sense?

      I do understand what you are saying about friendships. I guess I feel that even if a friendship is exhausting, or isn’t really a friendship, sometimes some of us are called to give ourselves to these poor souls who do need someone. Now, I could have backed your sentiment if you had said something like — if the friendship takes away from meeting the needs of your family or spouse because it is too time consuming or eemotionally draining, if you find yourself more prone to sins against charity or patience because of this person, then you need to find some way to kindly diminish this person’s involvement with you.

      • I think if the chapter is taken as a whole — read everything from the chapter and not nit-pick line by line, that is precisely what I’ve said.

        Either way, it’s fine. It just seems to me like you decided there were no negative reviews of this book and there should be, no book is perfect and I’m going to show you why this one is not!

        It’s fair to point out the flaws, but for the sake of proving that that everyone else is on some bandwagon? In the end I feel like some of your “issues” with the book aren’t really a fair take.

        • Suzanne says:

          You didn’t use “virtue” and “vocation” language, Rachel. That’s my essential point. I think that is critical when writing a chapter to Catholic women, or it really does sound like another secular “take care of yourself” self-help book.

          I did not decide there were no “negative reviews” of this book, but no critical reviews highlighting its strengths and weakness, every book has them. I also noted that it was a group of blogger friends patting each others backs and talking about how great “we all are.” I found that unflattering, as did some other Catholic women I know — who refused to read the book for THAT very reason.

          You can feel like it was not a “fair” take, or you can simply think I misunderstood or was mistaken. If that is the case, then you are free to correct, as you did in your original post so politely and commendably, where you think I was off the rails.

          • Suzanne,

            Thanks for the discussion. I reread what you wrote and while I don’t agree with parts of it, I do realize that you were setting out to write a “critical review” vs. a “negative review” and I’m sorry for taking you to task for that. I misread what you wrote.

            As for all the other points and issues I do just want to close with one thought which is this: none of the women who had a chapter in this book saw herself as having “arrived.” Each time this book was discussed on any one of these writer’s blogs (mine included) we were kind of in awe of being grouped in with these other, much better writers. I only say that for those out there who get this impression that we’re all sitting around patting ourselves on the backs for how fabulous we are. I am honored and humbled to be in the mix — and I won’t lie, it’s not easy to have your stuff assessed or to read things like “I don’t like any of those women’s blogs,” etc. I get that it goes with the territory but still, ain’t no fun.

            Anyway, I’m not trying to play my wee little violin here, but trying to show that it’s not really some Popular Girls Club that people have alluded to.

            And the last thing I want to say is: I’m sorry if you felt beat up in the midst of that. Yes, when we dish we have to take (I’m talking to myself here as well) but in the end, I’d like to see the world of Catholic women grow stronger through healthy discourse and no one walking away with battle scars. That does nothing for our efforts to draw each other closer to Christ.

            • Suzanne says:

              Thank you, Rachel. Heading off to bed now. But your words mean a whole lot. Pray for me, and I’ll keep you in mine as well. I hope one day we’ll all meet — even if we have to wait until the “other side.” (Hopefully, that’ll be up for all of us, not down! ;) )

  13. Suzanne says:

    @Lisa — I never said I was a nice person. I’m perfectly aware of my pride and failures in charity. I confess them regularly. I do try and I still fail. I’m almost afraid to type or say anything anymore for fear that it will be purposely misconstrued and used to hurt me.

    It’s one thing to criticize a ideas thoughtfully, even if forcefully — which I think is what my commenters have done and what I intended to do. I was mocked and made fun in public by popular Catholic “role models” for this post in the nastiest, most vulgar expressions and conversation I’ve ever had the misfortune to see written by Catholics about a fellow Catholic. My comment on Facebook when I posted this came from the fact that I know other bloggers/writers who dared criticize the cliquey Catholic establishment were similarly made fun of publicly. Were they similarly called on? Was my person or reputation defended by anyone? Nope. Not even by folks from whom I expected so much more who are in “The Popular Girls Catholic Clique.”

    I have tried, despite my deep-down uncharitable hurt and angry feelings, to respond in a mature, Christian way and accept fault where I see it needs to be accepted. And, then I find the response to that is another nastygram left on my blog for me. In all honesty, I just want to close up shop and stop trying if that’s going to be the response. I’m so disillusioned right now.

    • Lisa says:

      Oh, come on now, Suzanne. If you are going to dish it, you need to be able to take it. You wrote a review that was snarky, mean-spirited, and holier-than-thou. Maybe even worse than that, you review was misleading. Honestly, I might even call it calumny for the way you misrepresented what the authors were saying. You started this, Suzanne. I think critical reviews are wonderful, but yours was just mean.

      As for the Facebook discussion that took place, I saw it and, aside possibly from the second comment left, it was a very fair rebuttal to your uncharitable review. And again, the conversation that took place on your FB page was pretty scathing. I think it’s time you took the plank out of your own eye.

  14. Kimberly says:

    Friends…please. I’m trying desperately to understand why adult women cannot take constructive criticism regarding their work. I haven’t read this book yet…I waited for a single, truly critical review. This was the first. I’ve been sucked in before by gushing blogger reviews, only to end up with a book that wasn’t worth the $1o I shelled out for it. This young woman is a writer, thinker, studied Catholic theology and knows what she likes and what she doesn’t. She is one of the most well-read and articulate people that I have the privilege to know. Having read the review, I felt more inclined to read the book myself, based on her extreme thoroughness. I will read this book…but you can bet your boots I’ll never review it. Never have I read such an all-out attack as what took place of Facebook last evening among supposedly faith-filled, faithful Catholic women. Yes…I’ll read it. But I’ll borrow it, I won’t pay for it. I won’t finance this kind of nonsense. My prayers are that a true spirit of charity and acceptance permeate this discussion. I’ve only read one “mea culpa” and it is from the one who had the absolute right to express her opinion. I’ve read not one, single acknowledgment from any of these writers that affirms her right, only anger and defensiveness. One simply must be able to take the bad with the good…this is how we grow as writers and as faithful women…

  15. Lisa says:

    Get back to us when you’ve actually read the book, Kimberly. Suzanne read the book, projected her own hang-ups on to it, and wrote a review that was misleading and uncharitable. Obviously Suzanne is a friend of yours and you feel defensive of her, and that’s fine, but if you’re going to enter into this debate at least have some knowledge of this issue at hand. That’s only fair.

    • Keith says:

      Lisa, if you want to see mean spirited, re-read your posts. Mean spirited? Suzanne’s points were right on the money. Even if anyone disagrees, why on earth call her mean spirited? She thought there were serious issues with some of the content. She can’t say that? Can’t say what the problems are? How is it mean-spirited to have that opinion? And goodness, if you’re going to write a book, there will be people who don’t like it, and will say so. She didn’t say ” you people who like this are going to Hell,” As far as I can see, she was simply honest. She also mentioned the parts she thought were good.

      These recent comments are really astonishing if you ask me. Most of the recent comments that show true humility are Suzanne’s! And as far as horrid comments–my guess is she didn’t publish those– I’ve seen those kind of comments, and they can be truly shocking.

      It was a well-written post, she shared her opinions, anyone can agree or disagree, but once we’ve each said our two-cents, well, there it is. What more is there to go on about? Why the hurt feelings all around? It’s getting so that if you’re not “nice,” people get mad. How about kind? Kind is not always nice. Was it kind that Jesus called some people “Whitened Sepulchres?” Yes. It was for their benefit. Was it nice? No way.

      Suzanne, you wrote something that needed to be said. This whole blasted nonsense that one should never criticize or be totally honest that something, such as this book, has serious moral issues, is insane. There was not one part of your critique that was rude. These days any time anyone says something is seriously wrong they’re called “judgemental” or “rude” etc. It’s not wrong to say that certain things are seriously wrong. It would be wrong to say to those people “you’re in mortal sin.” Only God knows that. But judging actions, books and the like is something we do every day, and have to.

      Again, the book had good points. Suzanne said that. The problems she pointed out are truly problems. Anyone who has a strong background in the lives of the Saints and the Teachings of the Church can see that there are serious moral issues with the book. If some people cannot see them, then catechises has surely gone off the rails somewhere.

      So, if you don’t like it, go read a blog that goes on and on about how great the book is. But goodness, can’t people just say their two-cents without getting all bent out of shape? Or maybe what Suzanne said bothered the conscience of some people…

  16. Simcha Fisher says:

    Frankly, this whole thing is silly. I’ve already apologized to Suzanne privately and deleted the stupid Facebook thread, after admitting that it was stupid and mean. As for you others who were scandalized by what you saw for the ten minutes that that post was up: Anyone who takes me as a role model and then is disappointed only has herself to blame. I make it very clear that I’m a writer who plays with words and ideas, not a spiritual guide.

    As for the review itself, I actually would be very happy to have more critical reviews. I agree that it looks odd when there are only good reviews — although the book has only very recently come out, and these things take time! (It took me several weeks to get around to reading it myself.)

    Some of Suzanne’s review was helpful and accurate, but overall, it could be boiled down to the words, “I don’t like things like this.” But she manages to imply that there is something morally objectionable going on, while protecting herself, with equivocal language, from being the one to actually make that accusation. She implies there is some universally agreed-upon standard of what Catholic culture (whatever that is) ought to be, and that Hallie, Rachel, Betty and others stray from this standard. In fact, all they stray from is Suzanne’s individual personal Catholic culture.

    Suzanne, you say “I do wonder if some of the authors of this book lack a sense of the cultural traditions of femininity/motherhood/marriage within Catholicism” — and seem totally unaware that your life (like that of 99% of American women) is most likely knee deep in practices that would have scandalized women/mothers/married Catholics one hundred years ago. When you say “cultural tradition,” you mean that you’ve chosen some of your favorite things from the past that suit your temperament, mixed it up with some conveniences of the present, and called it tradition — and then criticized other women who use different proportions in their recipes. Bah, humbug.

    • Suzanne says:

      Simcha — I accept your apology. And am about to shoot off a personal note to you. But, I want to say that whether or not you see yourself as a role model, you are. You may not be a “spiritual guide,” but you need to understand that you are known and looked up to, precisely because you produce so much valuable work for the Church. You can’t just “step away” from your responsibility when you speak/write/act in public and then wash your hands of it saying folks shouldn’t use you as a guide for their own behavior. If you don’t want that responsibility, that’s understandable, but then choose step out of the limelight.

      We disagree about Catholic cultural tradition. I don’t, in fact, just put out there what pleases me or suits my temperament. The Christian life isn’t about what makes us comfortable. We both know it’s about wrestling with the meaning of truth, goodness and beauty, and trying to conform our lives to be a mirror to that. I’m certainly not perfect. This idea that I think I’m holier than anyone because I hold up certain high ideals, which I am striving toward but fail to meet, is just judgmentalism of a different stripe.

  17. Simcha Fisher says:

    Obviously I’m only speaking for myself, and not speaking for any of the other authors.

  18. Jennifer says:

    Full Disclaimer: I am a friend of Suzanne’s. I read her blog as I do several other friends. Suzanne and I disagree. A lot. But she is consistent. And she is kind. She may not think she is nice, but she is.

    I’ve been following all of this hub-bub, and all I can say is, if a book is public and someone reviews it, well, that’s a good thing for the authors. And if a person disagrees with the book or thinks it’s not a good role model for Catholics, that’s the person as reviewer’s opinion. It’s not like she said the authors were fat, or that they were hideous, or that their pants were ill-fitting and their homes ugly. These were not personal attacks!

    Of course, books on faith will always carry with them a more personal resonance, but really, I am flummoxed by all the insinuations here that Suzanne is somehow tanking all of Christendom with her take on these essays. She apologized for perceived snark, edited her original post, and moved on.

    I’ve read and enjoyed some of the authors in this collection. I haven’t, however, enjoyed the comments from some of them here. (Simcha, I didn’t see this post in question but I’ve been there, done that, on posting while angry before. It happens to the best of us) I assure you, however, that my friend here practices what she preaches. She hasn’t blended a convenient mix for herself – it’s not my way/belief, we in fact disagree about A LOT, but she is consistent, sincere, and above all else, kind.

    Disagreeing with an author/blogger/reviewer is one thing, but hammering her (and anyone who may agree with her) with such personal attacks as projecting her own hang-ups and calling her insincere is hogwash.

  19. Hallie Lord says:

    Hi Suzanne,

    I’m guessing that you’re ready for this debate to wrap up but if you’ll allow me to offer my brief 2 cents, that would be awesome. 

    I have no problem at all with critical reviews. None. The only thing about this particular review that I objected to (and there have been other reviews that offered criticism) is that I felt like you misrepresented some of us a bit. 

    For example, you talk about how the section in my chapter about self-pampering made you uncomfortable. You wondered about women who insist on “me time” without considering their husband’s needs. The thing is that I stated several times in that section that I advocate for women taking time to care for themselves precisely so that they will not burn out and will have more to give to their families, their friends, and their communities. You may disagree that women need that, but I thought it was unfair of you to criticize my advice without stating why I recommend that women do that. I realize that you cannot cover every last little detail but that point is central to the “Taking Care of You” section of my chapter. Your review implied that I want women to be self-indulgent for self-indulgence’s sake. That was not at all what I was saying and I believe I made that very clear.

    I know I already mentioned this to you, but I wanted to give your readers a little more insight into why some people are upset by your review. We don’t mind the criticism, we would just like our work to be accurately represented. 

    Take care,
    Hallie Lord

    • Suzanne says:

      Hallie — Haven’t had a chance to reply to your email today. But let me try to touch on a few things here since you’ve posted your thoughts on the blog:

      First, if there are misrepresentations, it is because there have been misunderstandings — and, perhaps, on both sides. I did not intentionally misconstrue any of the authors. I will own responsibility for a snarky tone in some of my original commentary, and say that is probably the reason my words and thoughts were given the worst possible interpretation.

      I actually wanted to comment more at length about that part of your chapter and actually cut out text that did explain the point that women need to take care of themselves so they can take care of their families, Hallie. But it got chopped down and replaced with: “while I recognize the essence of what Lord tries to express…”

      What made me “uncomfortable” was the list of “if you…you have a problem.” Why? Because I feel *many* of those things right now in my life.

      I am sleep deprived because my 11 month old hasn’t had a good night since October (and by “good” I mean a night when he *only* woke every three hours). I am 40 lbs overweight (just typing that number makes me want to cry) and have been since I weaned my 3-year-old. My husband works full-time and then some, in addition to taking classes full-time.

      To the best of his ability, my husband helps me as often and as much as he can. He’s truly terrific. But if I took the time I needed to exercise and rest to the extent that I need it to feel comfortable in my own skin, insisted on it because it is “essential,” I know I would have no time to pray, and it would also be unfair to my husband and my family. (Which is where my aside musing on women who insist on “me time” but don’t give any to their busy husbands came in — I was feeling guilty because of the time he does sacrifice for me, knowing *I* haven’t thought often enough about letting him get down time. I also thought then that NO woman I’ve ever read has called attention to this fact that men need time, too. They can’t just work all the time, spot us when we need it, and get no time of their own. I didn’t intend it to reflect on your writing.)

      My comment that I wonder what the saints would say about this was truly a personal “I wish I could get advice from a saint” (or a spiritual director) about this. (Note to self: Check on it next Confession.) Right now I’m hoping that a diet (which I totally blew today because of the stress of this mess), and working really hard to pack up my home and continued hard housework will help me shed the pounds. And, I’m just praying for the little guy to sleep with some semblance of regularity before he kills me.

      A friend of mine in a post completely unrelated to my blog, addresses her thoughts on this issue…they more closely reflect mine and why I feel uncomfortable and don’t totally agree with Hallie on the topic of “self nurture”:

      I really hoped and believed that anyone who took issue with what I posted would do what Barbara Nicolosi did and address me and my post here or via email, directly, instead of how this eventually all came to pass. We all mess up. I understand that. I do. All the time. Obviously, I’m far from perfect, even when I’m honestly trying to be good, my pride still manifests itself. (Can I blame the sleep deprivation — a little?)

      Also — to Lisa who said the words on my FB about these ladies was “scathing” — I went back and reviewed it. Talk about calumny. Cheez whiz. I affirmed the ladies who wrote this book and acknowledged their vulnerability and personal good intentions and faithfulness over and over in that thread.

  20. Rebecca Teti says:

    Hi, Suzanne. Thanks for the review. I stumbled upon this post while googling for a different review after your re-write. I’m unaware of any earlier unpleasantness.

    I simply wanted to state for the record that I do not hold nor is it remotely the thesis of my chapter that anything a girl wants to do is hunky-dory. The bulk of the chapter is spent defending the stay at home mom on economic grounds and showing how narrow and materialistic our understanding of both economy and women has become. Along the way I also try to show how and in what sense a childless woman is not a second-class Catholic and, doing a close reading of a letter of Cardinal Ratzinger about women, how and under what conditions a woman might think about work outside the home. I spend some time encouraging young women in particular to put more trust in God and to live their lives one step at a time, assured that by doing their best to please Him today, they will find grace and insight about what to do tomorrow.

    You may think the chapter is so poorly written that doesn’t come across, which is fair enough. But I don’t want to be enshrined as a heretic in cyberspace.

    • Suzanne says:

      Rebecca — Thank you for stopping in to comment on the review. There were a few statements in your chapter that gave me the sense that while you defended the dignity of the stay-at-home-mothers’ choice to stay at home, you felt that there was no reason for any woman to feel she *had to.*

      For example, you wrote:

      “Raising a family is vitally important work toward which society as a whole is ordered. It does not follow, however, that a fertile woman should be prohibited from doing anything else, or that work outside the home isn’t a legitimate way for her to contribute to the good of her household. We need look no further than the book of Proverbs’s idealized description of the good wife to find a woman who is an excellent resources manager, with a savvy eye for both business and real estate, bringing the household profit, not loss.”

      And, while you go on to underscore the fact that women need stronger boundaries with employers to protect the good of their families than do men, you go on to encourage women in the workforce saying that society needs women there. But you don’t differentiate between the kind of women who are best able to meet that call to the marketplace.

      You go on to write in that chapter that women who have heads for business should no more feel compelled to take up something like “knitting.” While you don’t write “shouldn’t feel compelled” to stay at home, that’s the sense that paragraph imparts to the reader — particularly those moms who want to justify working for the love of what they do at their jobs rather than actual financial need.

      And, the section you wrote on trusting God more is addressed to both working women and moms, saying that God desires to give us the longing of our hearts. I guess it seemed so open-ended to interpretation to me that a working woman could find justification in it for working without true financial necessity, as well as the SAHM in staying at home.

      While you affirm that the vocation of every mother is to do as Our Lady did and bear Christ to the world, your suggestion that this is done in any number of ways fails to underscore the primacy of place that the choice to stay at home with children should take among a mother’s choices. This is what I felt failed to be communicated in the chapter as a whole. It seemed to me that you were being so careful not to step on any toes that the message of how important it is for moms to be at home even at the cost of great financial sacrifices never came through.

      I don’t think you’re a heretic. This is a cultural issue. But I do think it a cultural issue to which the Church speaks pretty clearly and loudly — at least in the past, that Mom, under most circumstances, is needed by her children at home.

  21. Pingback: fake “catholic” mombies « notagoblinbutatroll

  22. Faith says:

    I appreciate this review! I also looked at the 100 percent positive reviews and thought, “hmmmm..”– really, when I looked on amazon there was not one critique! I hope you are not getting too shaken up by the controversy- it’s a leeetle off putting to me that so many of the authors would rise up and hammer you. I am thankful that these amazing woman are putting their talents to work for the church, but to truly be salt and light for our age we may need to take some different tactics- and that is up for discussion and debate; so thank you… not making much sense, here– I’m about to give birth any day! You’re in my prayers, Suzanne- you are a fabulous person!!

  23. Kelly says:

    Wow. Okay. Well, I have loaded this book onto my Nook and will be reading it soon. I like to make up my own mind. That’s just how I roll. But, seriously? I am amazed at what some of the responses have been to this honest and obviously well considered review. What happened to being able to have differing opinions and still treating each other with respect and charity? Is rational debate a disappearing art form?

    • Suzanne says:

      Sadly, Kelly, I think the Internet format is killing kindness everywhere. It has taught me the importance of graciousness in discussions where there are opposing views being expressed. I had a dear aunt who excelled at that art. I’m going to try to imitate her more in these situations in the future.

      Some sweet Catholic women have chosen to avoid areas of contention all together. I find that understandable and also disappointing, because I do enjoy a thought-provoking discussion. I’ve found that it seems to be more characteristic of women than men to take intellectual disagreement very personally, so the conversations seem to get all bent and ad hominem very quickly. For better and sometimes for worse, I guess it’s part of feminine nature to view and feel all of life very personally.

  24. Maggie says:

    I’m astounded that you found it unacceptably “coarse” for a book written by women, for women, to touch on sensitive sexual issues. Where else should these things be discussed – nowhere? Or with a male priest? (That’s SUPER modest! And of course, priests have repeatedly proven themselves ABSOLUTELY IMPERVIOUS to sexual temptation.) Or should they never be discussed at all? People should just fly blind?

    I strongly suspect that your objection to the book’s comments about female sexual pleasure don’t really have to do with “breaking the membrane of silence” as such – after all, you yourself found it not too coarse to quote verbatim on the internet – but with the substance of what it says. Namely that female orgasm is a normal part of sex and cannot be chronically neglected without endangering marital intimacy. I would also add that a wife creates an occasion of sin for both her husband and herself if she tolerates sexual habits that only resolve his sexual tension, never her own. Do you believe, or suspect, that female orgasm is inherently sinful or “selfish”? Or only permissible if it happens to happen in the course of whatever the man happens to enjoy? I also attended FUS and in our graduate moral theology class (crosslisted PHL/THEO), which drew on very rigorous traditional sources, Dr. Lee was careful to explicitly state that nothing in Catholic moral teaching should be construed to disparage a woman’s marital rights or make it impermissible for a husband to do “whatever he needs to do” (his words) to ensure his wife’s satisfaction. But I guess you probably think he’s obscene too.

    • Suzanne says:

      Maggie — I did not argue with the substantive point made in the section I quoted, but I took issue with the casual language and style by which that content was conveyed.

      Also, there is a difference between publishing a book featuring, thereby tacitly endorsing, that kind of overly casual talk about sexual matters and quoting the content to critique its style and tone. If the essay had been lascivious, rather than irreverent, it would have been inappropriate to quote on my blog.

      Thanks for stopping in.

  25. Josh says:

    “It’s the sex chapter. It’s supposed to break through the membrane of silence that surrounds the sex lives of Catholic women.” Did that actually make it past an editor? I have absolutely no issue with sexual double entendres–I embrace them on principle–but that is just awkward and kind of gross.

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