She wanted to give Catholic women a voice and show the public that there is “real freedom” in the Catholic Church’s natural law approach to human sexuality.
“Breaking Through” offered the opportunity to do that. The book recounts the personal stories of nine Catholic women grappling with the demands of their faith and ultimately finding freedom in embracing the Church’s teachings.
Since it touches on a range of topics including contraception, materialism and community, Alvaré hopes the book will be a “service” to other women who can relate to the stories and struggles it contains.
Mary Hallan-FioRito, executive assistant to Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, spoke at the book launch from her experience of 25 years working for the Catholic Church, in areas including inner city schools, pro-life efforts, the chancellor’s office, and now the cardinal’s office.
“My own experience in the Church has been so vastly different from what’s being portrayed in the media,” she said.
Hallan-FioRito said that she finds it “particularly troubling” in the current political discussion that “so much of what the Church does for women is either belittled or is ignored altogether.”
Throughout the course of history, the Catholic Church has been “a consistent voice for the dignity and the equality of all women,” she stated.
The Church opened many roles of “authority and influence” to women long before they were open to women in secular society, such as presidents of hospitals and universities, she said. And in many countries, the Church is still “the single largest educator of women.”
In her professional life, she added, “the Church understands my vocation as a mother is as important as my vocation as a Church worker.”
Kim Daniels, a religious liberty attorney and the director of Catholic Voices USA, emphasized the importance of rebuilding “a rich and rooted everyday culture.”
While court cases and legislation are important, she said, there is an ultimate need “to rebuild an idea of culture as a set of shared habits and understandings and affections, rooted in a particular place, giving a particular shape to family, to friendship and to daily living.”
Individual women must work to engage the culture in their own daily lives, she said, using their “prudential understanding” in determining how this is best achieved for them.
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“I’m not going to say that every woman should be out tending home and hearth and forsaking the professional world,” Daniels said.
However, she observed, much of the important work of building up the culture is done through the families, parishes and friendships, and these are all important ways in which women can contribute to the betterment of society.
Dr. Marie Anderson, medical director of the Tepeyac Family Center in Fairfax, Va., explained that there is a need to break through “the culture’s definition of freedom” as the license to do whatever one wants.
Anderson said that she bought into this mindset as a young doctor but only found emptiness.
“I was unhappy. I was restless. I had lost my purpose in life,” she said.
In her practice, Anderson saw the “unintended consequences” of a contraceptive mindset that “takes sexual activity as a given, both in and out of marriage.” In addition to infertility and sexually transmitted diseases, she saw broken relationships and broken hearts.
“I realized that women were helping to break their own hearts, and that was probably the hardest thing,” she said.