Bestselling authors Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., and Teresa
Tomeo will be giving talks this weekend in Washington, D.C., as part of March
for Life Weekend activities. They will appear at 2 p.m. on Saturday, January
21, 2012, at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (400
Michigan Ave., NE, Washington, D.C. 20017-1517). They will answer questions
from those in attendance and will be available for book signings immediately
after their presentations, and copies of their new books will be available for
I recently spoke with both authors, in separate telephone
interviews, about their books and their respective work in fighting the culture
of death, promoting a culture of life, and demonstrating that faith and reason
are not enemies, but the closest of friends.
Here, first, is my interview with Teresa Tomeo
, author of Extreme
Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture
, a syndicated Catholic talk show
host, and a motivational speaker with thirty years of broadcasting
experience in both the secular and Christian media. Her daily morning
program, Catholic Connection
, is produced by Ave Maria Radio and
syndicated through the EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network. She is also the
co-host of the Catholic View for Women
on EWTN. Her other books are Noise:
How Our Media-Saturated Culture Dominates Lives and Dismantles Families
and Newsflash: My Surprising Journey from Secular Anchor to Media
What would you like to tell potential readers about your
book that they might not know?
That the book
is not just for women; men should be reading it too, because men have been so
affected by the culture and have been so emasculated. And women have become
confused, which causes problems in relationshipsthe breakdown of
communication. I hear from guys all of the time who are asking how to deal with
their wife’s eating disorder, how to deal with their wife’s low self-esteem, and
so there all kinds of issues affecting men and their marriages that are
addressed in this book. This is a great book for couplesfor engaged couples,
for couples who may be struggling in their marriageto help learn about what
the Church gives us and the importance of sticking it out, which is part of my
testimony in the first part of the book.
Our culture is so opposed to the differences between men
and women, yet that not only goes contrary to Church teaching, it is opposed to
reality and common sense, isn’t it?
Yes. And I
deal a lot with male-female complementarity in the book, and I got much of that
material from the congress I attended as a delegate in 2008 when I went to the
Vatican for the 20th anniversary of Blessed John Paul II’s document on the
Dignity and Vocation of Women (Mulieris Dignitatem
). What I
really stress is that the Catholic Church embodies what a woman is supposed to
be, and really helps women to understand their dignity. Obviously the big thing
in the Church is to recognize the gift of motherhood, but to also know the
Church doesn’t put limitations on women. And just because women cannot be
ordained, that is not a limitation, but a reflection of the way we are made in
the image and likeness of God.
What do you think are the top two or three mistaken notions
or misunderstandings men have about women? What do men have to get right before
pursuing a deeper relationship with women?
have to not buy into what the culture and radical feminism are selling them
about men not being needed and men being dumb. Men have to make sure that they
don’t buy into that messagethat they’re not wanted, that they’re not
important, that they don’t have something to contribute. But our culture, so
deeply influenced by radical feminism, tells me that they really aren’t
neededthat women can simply go to a sperm bank!
It’s a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, isn’t it? Our
culture does so much to undermine men and marriage and authentic masculinity,
but then it complains when there are no good men and no stable marriages and no
ridiculous; it’s a schizophrenic approach. It’s just like the media, which are
the first to report on some shocking study about kids cutting themselves and
engaging in really risky behavior, but then turn around and promote risky
behavior all the time, whether it be drinking, partying, casual sex. Well, duh,
connect the dots!
It seems as though matters have changed dramatically in the
past twenty years; what has happened in the past two decades that has brought
us to this point?
confusing, I think, because young adults now have no clue about how to make
moral decisions. Many of them are mostly interested in having sex, making
money, and drinking. It’s sad, but that’s the way it is now. Where are they
getting the message and directives to live and think this way? Granted, we have
to look at the parents and the “role models” or lack thereof, but at the same
time, when we walk out the door of our homes, the media are in your face. It
used to be, 20 or 25 years ago, that we could live in some sort of seclusion,
but you simply cannot do that anymore. You have to be so diligent, especially
if you are a parent, in watching the stuff coming into the home. It’s
everywhere. The constant flow of information that is coming in is overwhelming.
And the content has changed, and mostly for the worse. There are so many more
agendas, especially sexual agendas, whether it be a homosexual agenda or a multiple
partner agenda; no one knows what a real relationship is.
It’s gotten so bad that we are now no longer even trying to
defend traditional understandings of male and female, and marriage; we are
having to explain what those understandings are in the first place. Are there
any positives, however, to this situation?
Yes and no. I
recently gave a talk on morality to an RCIA group, and it was amazing to see
that amount of confusion among those present about what I was presenting. I
felt like I was trying to cut through so much fog in their brainsand these
were people who were going through the trouble to going to RCIA and were
entering the Church or returning to the Church! I was amazed that I didn’t get
more of an energetic response. One woman did said, “I’m getting confirmed
because my daughter knows more about the Catholic Faith than I do”, which is
great, but the rest of the people were looking at me like deer staring into
headlights. I could tell they were so steeped in the culture, and that is what
really stood out to me. I could see they were overwhelmed, and didn’t know
where to begin in processing what I was telling them.
So, on one hand it’s good because we can go back to the
basics, but on the other hand it’s not as though you have a fresh, clear mind
to work with, as though you are working with a young child. These people have
had so much garbage go in, you have to clear out the garbage first before you
can really begin to build anew.
The challenge is getting people to love and desire truth
and to rely on reason to make sense of things.
Yes. And the
beautiful thing about using reason is that you don’t have to necessarily use
theology or Scripture overtly to back everything up; we can appeal to natural
law and commonsense. Yet people so often don’t even know how to think or to use
reason to process information. So I ask, as I do in the book, if everything the
world proposes is so wonderful, why is there so much misery and sadness? If you
sleep around, you are going to have problems. “Gay marriage” is going to cause
problems. Artificial contraception is going to cause problems. But people often
don’t think that way. And people often don’t want to change the way they live,
and they also don’t want to be seen as politically incorrect.
And Catholics have been so desensitized to so many things.
In fact, Catholics are often among the worst in dealing with these issues. I
meet so many Catholic parents who say, “Do I really have to tell my kids, ‘No’?
How do I say, ‘No’?” Well, it’s not that hard, it’s just that we’ve lost our
There are so many Catholics, it seems, who will go out of
their way to reject the teachings of the Church and the statements of the pope,
but will mindlessly take in everything fed to them by the media and the
what cracks me up, and it’s maddening. They take what the secular media says as
gospel, and they don’t look any further. I often talk to Catholics, or e-mail
with Catholics, who complain about the Church teaching about this or that
issue, but when I ask them what Church documents they have actually read, they
usually resort to talking about relying on their “conscience”. Well, what is
the conscience, and how do we get a well-formed conscience? But we’ve been so
dumbed down by the dominant culture.
Now, speaking sarcastically, don’t you feel insulted and
degraded, as a woman, that you can’t be ordained a priest, and so you have no
power or say in the Church?
Well, I have
a whole chapter in my book about that very question, which is one that really
drives me nuts. The Scriptures, first, show us that Jesus related to women in a
way that was different from the way other men of his time did; he was having
serious conversations with women, such as with the Samaritan woman. If the
apostles marveled that Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, how can we not see
that he was unique in how he related to women? And the conversations that he
had with various women were very serious conversations about salvation and
Secondly, if the Church is so oppressive toward women, why
do we love the Blessed Mother so much? How come she has such a high place in
the life of the Church? Besides, there have been so many women in the Church
who have important roles, not only in religious orders and education, but, for
example, in chancelleries. Just because we cannot be priests doesn’t mean we
don’t have a say in things. And there have been, ever since the Second Vatican
Council, so many statements about the vital role that women have in the Church.
So it’s not factual, but is based on what some people have stated in promoting
their agenda, not the agenda given by God.
These women treat the Church like it is the Ford Motor
Company, looking at it as a job. But it’s not a job. And they associate the
priesthood with power, but it’s not about power, but servanthood. It goes back
to the need to study, to pray, and to set your personal agenda aside.
We as Catholics have often been our own worst enemies,
whether it be through poor catechesis or the priest scandals, which were
handled miserably in the beginning. As Pope Benedict recently said, the main
thing we have to be concerned about is sin within the Church.
What are some signs of hope right now for women and for the
Church in general?
One is that
science continues to validate and uphold Church teaching about things such as
the beginnings and nature of human life. Another is the Catholic youth who are
pro-life, who are so visible at marches and events, and who are so articulate
and knowledgeable. And they are fed up with the genocide that has been going
on. And they are using the new media, and they are using it well. There is also
this explosion of Catholic media and Catholic apologetics, over the last
fifteen years or so, which has been phenomenal. Yes, we are small compared to
the secular media, but it is making a huge impact, and the Internet has really
had a big impact in providing information and sources, so people can go online and
look up Church documents. So there are a lot of different positive signs.
Here is my interview with Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.,
Ten Universal Principles: A Brief
Philosophy of the Life Issues
, and is a noted philosopher, educator, author and
former President of Gonzaga University. He is founder and President of the Magis
Institute, an organization dedicated to public education on the relationship
among the disciplines of physics, philosophy, reason, and faith. He is the head
of the Ethics and Performance Institute, which delivers web-based ethics
education to corporations and individuals. He is also President of the Spitzer
Center of Ethical Leadership, which delivers similar curricula to non-profit
organizations. His other books include Healing the Culture
Pilars of the Spiritual Life.
What will you be talking about at the Basilica during the
March For Life weekend?
going to be making three major points, all relating to the book. The first
point is that we need to get a real intellectual justification for the pro-life
position, because we as Catholics already have one. We have the whole of
history and all of the philosophical principles on our side, but what we need
to do is articulate it in a form in which people can make reference to it, and
know that there is a solid intellectual defense of the pro-life movement. We do
have some very good intellectual defenses, but it tends to be a bit prosaic. So
I’ll go through the ten principles in my book and show how they can be used to
make that defense.
The second thing is that of those ten principleswhich are
the major principles of all civilization, not just for the pro-life movement,
but for all civilizationsix of them originate with Catholic thinkers. They
include Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Augustine, and the Jesuit philosopher Francisco
SuÁrez, who discovered rights theory. And the golden rule, the rule of
beneficence, has its origin in Jesus, who of course was Catholic. And
Catholicism effectively baptized the three principles of rationalitythe
principles of complete explanation, noncontradiction, and objective
evidencewhich were devised by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, but basically
the Catholic Church brought them into modern Europe. So I’ll talk a bit about
our great intellectual heritage.
The last thing I’ll talk about pedagogy. If we going to
bring this even into our Catholic schools, we need to use the best strategy.
What principal or teacher is going to say, “I don’t want my students to know
the ten universal principles of civilization!”? [laughs]
On a practical level, what are the challenges of getting
people to consider these principles and to rationally consider the arguments
presented in your book? How do we open that door and get past emotional,
book I speak of the four levels of happiness: beginning with physical/external
stimulus and moving up to the fourth level, which is where we seek and live in
ultimate truth, love, and goodness.
My objective is to move people from level 2, which is characterize by
intense ego-gratification, to level 3, which focuses more on “doing for” and
“being with”. That’s not a movement of the mind, but of the heart and will;
it’s about identity. Essentially, if I can get them up to a contributive
identity, away from an ego-comparative identity, and I can show them what the
ramifications are for words such as “love” and “freedom” and “ethics” and
“personhood”, then they are on their way to getting the other nine principles
of civilization. There’s no way they cannot pass it up and avoid it by merely
How do we get
people to see that if they want to have all of their rights, that withholding
the right to life from the unborn is contradictory to their assumption of
a big question. People need to understand that “rights” is a reciprocal term,
and its reciprocal term is “responsibility”. Franciscio Suarez recognized that
the moment you have rights, then everyone has rights as well. Rights, by
definition, are what are shared by every human being. Therefore, what every
human being owes is a responsibility to every other human being. For every
right there is an obligation. And if you don’t want to acknowledge that fact,
then on what basis do you deserve rights? And that, in a sense, goes back to
the teachings of Plato and Aristotle.
What is the relationship between the philosophy and
metaphysics covered in your book and the historical basis and context? How
important is the historical rootedness of these things?
people to recognize that these ten principles are the basis for civilization,
and that prior to these principles being understood and acted upon, life was
much worse. The application of these principles paves the way from sophistry to
science, which is really significant. The three principles of ethics basically
defeated slavery, not only in the Roman Empire, but also in the New World.
These are so essential for the building of a civilization. The three principles
of ethics not only built Europe, but they built the United States. They are the
undergirding structure of both the Constitution and the Declaration of
Independence, which is really the founding document of the United States.
You begin your book by talking about sophistry, skepticism,
and cynicism. And while the meaning of those terms have changed a bit over
time, they are the three big enemies still today, right?
the three big enemies, and the enemies of rationality. And when they have the
upper hand, civilization declines. And when they are put in their place, then
What is a good example of sophistry in our own time?
the whole academic milieu that is enamored with postmodern deconstructionism,
and nothing can be more sophistical than that. It’s unbelievable. Basically, it
posits there is no truth whatsoeverthat every word we use is so laden with our
own agendas and cultures, that the minute we deconstruct it, nothing is left
but our agenda and our culture, so there is a despair of the truth. Why not
just deconstruct ourselves out of existence? That is what Derrida says. And
that perspective dominates the humanities. The scientists and the engineers
don’t go for this; they look at it and go, “Oh, wait a minute; that is the
demise of math, physics, and engineering. No, thank you!” They recognize that
without some recognition of objective truth, bridges collapse. You simply
cannot redefine the Pythagorean theorem and get away with it.
Deconstructionism is pure sophistry. Anytime the devil can
create a despair of the truth, he wins.
And sophistry and skepticism go hand in hand…
do. And sophistry just says that truth is false and falsity is truth, and
everything is reduced to rhetoric. Sophistry seeks to make an agenda seems
plausible. But like I said, the scientists and engineers and mathematicians are
standouts in the academic community: they don’t buy it and they can’t buy it.
They rely on a standpoint of objective truth.
You have worked with youth and college students for many
years. Where are we at today with young people?
are three things going on today with young people that are very significant.
The first thing is that there is a tremendous openness to
the pro-life position, on the part of young people, including non-religious
young people. They have a sense that there is real human life there, and one of
the reasons, frankly, is because of genomics. When you say that somebody has a
full human genome, a unique human being is there. Even though we know it has to
grow to maturity, all the requirements for full and unique manifestation are
Secondly, intrauterine photography, a step up from
ultra-sound, is stunningly good: no haziness, no shadows. While only the
pro-life clinics will use the intrauterine cameras and technology, the word is
getting out. Young people are already beginning to be aware of the vitality of
first-trimester embryos in utero, and that has an interesting effect because
the detail is remarkable. The Knights of Columbus, by the way, have been
funding these cameras in pro-life clinics because they are very expensive
still. The one thing that kids can do for other kids is to get them to see
their unborn baby using these cameras.
The third thing is the exposés of the horrors from within the pro-choice movement
itself. And you see more and more pro-choice doctors and personnel becoming
pro-life, such as Dr. Bernard Nathanson, for example. You can try to hide this
fact, but it is coming out. Look at the witness of Abby Johnson, the author
who was exceedingly troubled by what she witnessed and eventually left her work
at Planned Parenthood to become a pro-life leader.
I think more and more of these stories and facts are getting
out, and what is happening is that people, especially the young, are becoming
more and more pro-life. And that is a great foundation to build upon. I think
young people are open to a good case, made with good information. When they see
the similarities to slavery, it opens their eyes; it affects them. You have to
give them the intellectual case; you have to tell young people “why” and do it
in a way that is plausible. They are remarkably open, and that is a very good
This generation is more open to faith than my generation
was. If we feed them, they are going to run with their faith. I saw that at
Gonzaga again and again; it was not unusual to have half the kids going to Mass
each week. During my day as a college student, in the early 1970s, that was
impossible. There’s now an openness, and there are signs of great hope, and we
need to get our case built and get our case for faith and reason out there.