By Lisa Everett
NOTRE DAME — Final preparations are under way for the upcoming Diocesan Marriage and Family Conference on Saturday, March 20, at the Notre Dame Conference Center. Professor Janet Smith will be one of the main speakers at the day-long event, delivering a keynote presentation on “Life-Giving Love” and an after-dinner address on “Seeking Holiness in Marriage and Family Life.” Professor Smith holds the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. She is the author of “Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later” and editor of “Why Humanae Vitae Was Right: A Reader.” Smith also has two new books — one on bioethics entitled “Life Issues, Medical Choices, Questions and Answers for Catholics,” and “The Right to Privacy.”
She speaks nationally and internationally on Catholic teaching on sexuality and bioethics, and currently is serving a second term as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Family. Over 1 million copies of her talk, “Contraception: Why Not?” have been distributed via audiotape or CD. Today’s Catholic recently interviewed Smith in anticipation of her upcoming visit to the diocese.
TC: You have been involved in promoting the Church’s vision of sexuality for over a quarter of a century, beginning when you were on the faculty at Notre Dame in the 1980s. Have you seen a change in the level of receptivity to the Church’s vision during that period?
Smith: Yes, over the years the crowds certainly get bigger at all my talks! I get fantastic feedback from those who hear the talks and am always amazed at how many college students have heard the CD. Someone is doing a good job of getting the CDs out there. Certainly more and more priests are preaching against contraception and supporting NFP. Every year seminarians are more zealous about the life issues and sexual morality.
TC: Which arguments, insights or evidence do people seem to find most persuasive?
Smith: The social science data on the connection between contraception, unwed pregnancy, STI’s, abortion, divorce and poverty is powerful. The fact that couples who use NFP almost never divorce provokes many to take a look at NFP. The evidence of the bad health risks of contraception including increased incidence of breast cancer is unnerving. The evidence that hormonal contraceptives impacts how males respond to females and how females respond to males — to the point of which individuals they prefer as mates, is striking. People seem to like my argument that “Green Sex is Best”: contraceptives leave a huge carbon footprint and they are damaging to the environment. And, of course, John Paul II’s theology of the body provides the ultimate arguments — the arguments from the very nature of the human person and sexuality. We are meant to be affirming gifts to each other and contraception stands in the way of making that affirmation.
TC: While at Notre Dame, you also founded the Women’s Care Center — which has now grown to over a dozen centers and spread to other states. To what do you credit this phenomenal growth and success?
Smith: I credit it to Ann Manion, her “imperialist” tendencies and brilliant management of the WCC and, of course, the staff she has assembled and that has been with her for years. The vision of the care center was solid — it was the result of many good people in addition to myself, and it has proven to be a vision that works for reaching out to women. The vision is largely that we address the multiple needs that a woman has — material and educational and ultimately, spiritual. The results of the WCC are phenomenal — success breeds success!
TC: What connection do you see between the Church’s teaching on sexuality and the challenge to build a culture of life?
Smith: Teaching and living by the Church’s teaching on sexuality is the only way to build the culture of life, to build a civilization of love. Harry Knox, President Obama’s advisor on Faith-Based Initiatives, accused Pope Benedict of “hurting people in the name of Jesus.” How blind can one be! If people were living by the Church’s teaching on sexuality — say just one of them, the teaching that sex outside of marriage is irresponsible, exploitative, unloving and thus immoral. Think how the world would change! No babies born to poor struggling single mothers, no poor struggling single mothers trapped in poverty, no lonely men living apart from their children, no abortions, no STI’s … I could go on and on and on.
To register for the March 20 conference, go online to ww.cce.nd.edu and click the events calendar. You may also register with the center by mail or fax. The registration fee of $35 per person for the day conference includes the plenary and workshop sessions, conference materials, continental breakfast, a boxed lunch and afternoon snacks. The evening banquet is an additional $25 per person. College or graduate students are welcome to attend any of the plenary or workshop sessions at no cost. For more information, you may call the Notre Dame Conference Center at (574) 631-6691 or the Office of Family Life at (574) 234-0687.
9 a.m. — Registration and continental breakfast
10 a.m. — Welcome, Fred and Lisa Everett
— Plenary Session One: The Vocation of Marriage, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades
10:50 a.m. — Break
11:15 a.m. — Workshop Session One: Introduction to the Theology of the Body, Lisa Marino; Dealing with Infertility in Marriage, Dave and Suzy Younger; Marriage and Finances: Setting a Solid Foundation, Harry Verhiley; Parenting Teenagers in the Virtues, Cindy Black; La Vocación al Matrimonio, Father Glenn Kohrman
12:05 p.m. — Lunch
12:55 p.m. — Plenary Session Two: Life-Giving Love, Professor Janet E. Smith
2 p.m. — Break
2:25 p.m. — Workshop Session Two: Building a Culture of Life through the Theology of the Body, Tom and Mary Akre; NaProTechnology: New Hope for Couples with Infertility, Brad Ferrari, M.D. and Mary Ramsey, PA; Communication and Intimacy in Marriage, Lisa Everett; Challenges in the First Years of Marriage, John and Monica Sikorski; La Teología del Cuerpo, Margarita Rodriguez
3:15 p.m. — Break
3:40 p.m. —Workshop Session Three: Theology of the Body: What the Pope Couldn’t Say, Father Bob Lengerich; Spiritual Parenthood, Bill and Elizabeth Kirk; Communication and Intimacy in Marriage, Lisa Everett; Pearls of Wisdom: What 46 Years of Marriage Have Taught Us, Dan and Annette Stobierski; Comunicación en el Matrimonio, Fred Everett
4:30 p.m. — Day conference concludes
5 p.m. — Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Bishop John M. D’Arcy
6:15 p.m. — Social with cash bar opens
7 p.m. — Banquet and talk by Professor Smith: Seeking Holiness in Marriage and Family Life
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