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What Is My Body For?

A major theme of modern morals is the slogan, “My body, my choice.” But is my body just a thing for me to use as I please, or does it have a more glorious purpose? Stephanie Gray Connors joins us for a discussion of the Christian view of the body, rooted in the unshakeable truth that God is love.

Listeners can get a discount on Stephanie’s latest book, My Body For You, by purchasing at https://stpaulcenter.com/mybodyforyou and using the code FORYOU15


Cy Kellett:

Hello and welcome to Focus, the Catholic Answers podcast for living, understanding and defending your Catholic faith. I am Cy Kellett, your host, and here in the US we are in the post Roe v. Wade world. And we’re not all exactly sure what to do. As a matter of fact, it feels like a transition time in the pro-life movement. And one of the very best in the pro-life movement is Stephanie Gray Connors. She’s been doing this for a long time and so we talked to her a bit today about this post-Roe era that we’re in and how we are, maybe some new insights in how the pro-life movement can talk about things and emphasize things. Stephanie has been an author and a speaker and a presenter on pro-life topics for years and years. She’s debated lots of pro-choice people, including Professor Peter Singer. loveunleasheslife.com is her website, and Stephanie, welcome back. It’s nice to get to talk with you again.

Stephanie Gray Connors:

Thank you. It’s always great to chat with you, Cy.

Cy Kellett:

Yes. You were just showing us before we started recording that you are fully committed to the pro-life cause, thank you. Please don’t give birth during the interview, Stephanie.

Stephanie Gray Connors:

Fully committed, yes. And very, very pregnant. Looking more pregnant than I actually even am.

Cy Kellett:

I don’t even know how that works. All right, you have a brand new book called, My Body For You: A Pro-Life Message for a Post-Roe World. I cannot think of a less kind of politically correct phrase than, my body for you. That is not how a modern person is supposed to think.

Stephanie Gray Connors:

That is very true and it’s in direct response to what we heard when Roe v. Wade was the rule of the day, when it was overturned, the mantra of “my body, my choice, my body, my choice.” We’ve heard it for decades, it’s been amplified. Since that Matt Dobbs decision, overturning Roe v. Wade, and as I was really reflecting on what our messaging should be going forward, I thought we need to directly respond to that very self-centered mantra of my body, my choice, and respond with the words of Christ who laid down his life for us by saying, “This is my body given for you.” And that’s what all of us are called to, but a mother very uniquely and specifically does through pregnancy and mothering.

Cy Kellett:

First of all, when I saw the title, I was delighted that you had written it because you’re just one of the smartest defenders of life. But this is a message that not just needs to be like we’re going to slap down women who are pregnant in crisis or that kind of thing. This is the Christian message for everybody in the modern world that our bodies have a meaning that the modern world has misconstrued and even lied about.

Stephanie Gray Connors:

Absolutely. And that’s the first chapter of the book asks the question, what are our bodies for? And I begin to answer that by reflecting actually on my debate with Peter Singer, which I had just in the last few years. And one of the things he does as an abortion supporter is talk about how consciousness and the ability to suffer and think and feel pain are qualities that he deems worthy of protection under the law, worthy of being considered a person. And so would argue that pre-born children may be aborted because they haven’t quite achieved those levels of development that he deems necessary. But what I say is, well, what is our consciousness for? What is our self-awareness for? What are all of these things for? They serve a purpose beyond the obvious. They’re actually, our bodies overall are for love. We’re self-aware, so we can love others. We’re conscious, so we can love others, that at the end of the day we’re called to love.

And love is lived out by willing the others good, which means to a degree sacrificing ourselves. I mean, in some cases like Christ and others, and I use an example in my book, sometimes that means literally laying down our lives, but more it’s laying down our comforts, our conveniences, our times. And although that can be challenging in certain moments, it ultimately leads to our fulfillment and our flourishing.

Cy Kellett:

There you go, Stephanie, making a wonderful point, especially in this post-Roe era that there can be a way of talking about the pro-life movement or sharing the pro-life movement that is not really a call to people, but is more of a, I don’t know, sounds like setting a restriction on people. But what you’re saying is, let’s move to language of calling people, come up higher to a higher purpose, to the full purpose of their life.

Stephanie Gray Connors:

Yes, exactly. And that’s actually one of the points I ask in the book, is a question that we often overlook is, what is the human person at their greatest maturity ultimately made for? And I answer by saying motherhood or fatherhood, that we are made for maternity and paternity. And that isn’t always lived out biologically, right? You’ve got priests and other religious who don’t have biological children, but they are profoundly fruitful because they live out spiritual motherhood or spiritual fatherhood. So all of us, the greatest level of maturity are called to live out spiritual motherhood and fatherhood. And then a good majority of us are called to live that out also through biological motherhood and fatherhood. But once you start viewing your greatest maturity as mom or dad, that means, wow, I have to nurture others. I have to be attuned to others, I have to respond to others.

And this is a great calling, a grand calling, not something to be feeling overwhelmed or burdened by, but to be excited at the prospect that we have the opportunity to influence other people for the better by living out the characteristics and qualities of mother and father.

Cy Kellett:

Do you think that there’s something in us too, because I do, I’ll be honest with you, that responds to this call that wants to be called up to this? Does not want to be just left in, enjoy yourselves, don’t cause too much trouble, but actually wants to be called to be given away.

Stephanie Gray Connors:

I do. I mean, I think over time you can self-indulge only long enough and then find you feel empty even if you’re doing things that you thought were fulfilling. And again, it’s not that taking time to invest in yourself is bad. We’re to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. So we are called to love ourselves and we are called to image God because we by our very nature do that. So we’re called to be creative. We’re called to tap into unique talents God has given us that can be fulfilled outside of mothering and fathering. But at the same time, if our ultimate calling is to also reflect the image of God as father, and the catechism talks about obviously God is male, but yet reflects both the qualities of a mother and a father. And so when we live that out, we are ultimately, ultimately fulfilled.

And I found that even in my single years, in my single years, I really lived out spiritual motherhood. But there were times where I wasn’t as intentional about that. And I remember thinking, I feel like something is missing. And then becoming a wife and mother biologically has really blessed and improved my life in a way that I felt something was missing before having this experience.

Cy Kellett:

Did you also in the writing of this, consider the kind of way that we’re treating our bodies now in the sense of wanting a complete lordship over our bodies, wanting to be able to determine, and I don’t want to be cliche, but unfortunately it’s become cliche that it’s just generally viewed as acceptable to choose the sex of my own body, so to speak. To decide that this is not the body as donated, this is the body as completely dominated by the self.

Stephanie Gray Connors:

Oh yeah, that’s a great way of putting it. I mean, this is where we are as a culture. And again, it’s one of those things where people make these choices thinking that’s where they will be happy and find, quote, unquote, freedom. But now we’re seeing the fallout of that mentality where people are saying, “I actually don’t feel free when I dominate my body and think I can change the biological sex that developed from the union of the sperm and the egg.” And we see people, for example, who’ve gone through gender transitions who now regret that and realize they’ve been mutilated and can’t restore themselves fully on this earth to what they once were and who they actually are because of choices they made in the name of freedom, in the name of domination, thinking it was what they wanted, and then discovering it’s actually not.

So we ultimately need to realize that we find our happiness, we find our flourishing in submission to that higher power of God, of realizing we’re creatures under a creator and we image him and we reflect him. And there’s some really cool aspects of him that we can reveal through our own lives, but at the end of the day, we’re still creature and he’s creator.

Cy Kellett:

Okay, so you use that evil word, submission. And so what about the person then who says, “Look, Stephanie, you’re a tool of the patriarchy. I mean, you’re dressing it up in fancy language, but you’re just trying to drag women back to that subservient position that they’ve unfairly been forced to occupy throughout human history.”

Stephanie Gray Connors:

Yeah, I mean, when people say that, I think it’s always good to ask them, well, what does even submission mean under the mission? So what is the mission? And it gets back to what are our bodies for? And if our mission is to love, then just as a woman is called to love, a man is called to love as well. And we see this in the scriptures when people misrepresent what it means even for wives to be in submission to their husbands, is husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, which is the title of this book, My Body Given For You. So a man is called to literally lay down his life, to climb up on that cross and to be crucified in a sense, laying down his life for his spouse, for his children, and for all those around him.

And so I can totally get under that mission, but correspondingly I need to respond with loving as well, which is willing my husband’s good and willing my children’s good and willing the good of everyone around me. So it’s one of those things where people will throw out, oh, this is just setting women back and it’s patriarchy and all of this stuff, but when you break it down, it’s like, no, wait. We’re called to be in a communion of persons. We’re called to be in relationship and generally human beings are happy when we’re in relationship and it’s when we are isolated and when we are lonely and when we don’t have people who love us unconditionally that we become miserable. And why do we have all the problems we do today? Because people have fallen for the lie of quote, unquote, social media, which is anti-social media, that you’ve got all these people isolated, connected to devices when what we really need to be is united and connected to other persons who have souls.

Cy Kellett:

The subtitle of the book connects this all to the post-Roe world. First of all, do you accept my premise that it does seem that the pro-life movement is casting about a bit? It’s in transition now about what are we supposed to say now that we won the fight that we were trying to win for 50 years?

Stephanie Gray Connors:

I know. It is in transition. It’s one of those things where obviously the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade was something to be celebrated. It was something that was good. The way I’ve been describing it, though, is it was us winning a battle, but not the war. The war is still raging. And what has happened, which is what I feared, was that the battle would then go from a federal level to a state level where you have some states like my own in Florida, which have made advances in applying more protections for the youngest of our kind. But then you have states like Ohio, surprisingly, which just in the last few months changed its state constitution to support abortion and have more widespread access to it. You have California that did a similar thing. I mean, that’s more obvious than, we expected California to do that.

So what’s happening now is people are, oh, great, Roe v. Wade was overturned, but some people didn’t pause long enough to realize, but it doesn’t mean the battle or the war is over. And so now we have to look at a state level and work on protecting pre-born children state by state until that also moment I think should come where they should be protected federally. I’m not one to believe that abortion should be determined state by state because I don’t think rape should be determined state by state. I don’t think it should be legal to rape in one state and illegal to rape in another state. Rape is just so obviously wrong because it violates the life and the security of person of an innocent individual that it should be wrong at a federal level. It should be wrong across the board. And the same is true with abortion, which is just a type of homicide in the youngest of our kind. It shouldn’t be allowed in one state and not in another. It should be unlawful across the board.

Cy Kellett:

So in this kind of post-Roe world, then it does seem to me you’re trying to help us craft a message with My Body For You, with this book, My Body For You. So the person who’s listening to our podcast is often the person who wants help explaining and defending the faith. One of the qualities that’s obvious to anybody about the Catholic faith is that it’s a pro-life church. We belong to a pro-life church. So help us form that post-Roe message then. What’s the post-Roe message we should be building?

Stephanie Gray Connors:

Yeah, so in recent years, one of the things I was really reflecting is what is that main message that we want to get across? And one of the things I write about is I’ve always talked about speaking the language of my audience. So when I spoke at Google headquarters, it was a very non-sectarian crowd. I made non-religious arguments coming from a human rights, science based, philosophy based perspective. Then there’ve been times I’ve spoken to overtly religious Catholic, other denomination audiences and made references to the scriptures. And there’s still a place for both. But as time has gone on, I’ve realized, and also through my own lived experience of motherhood, of pregnancies that have gone to term as well as multiple miscarriages, is this realization, which I already knew, but life circumstances have really entrenched this realization in my mind, that this is not our home. We are pilgrims on a journey and our ultimate destination is heaven, and we need to get people there.

It’s not just about getting ourselves there. And Jesus has opened the door through the cross, but we need to let people know that. And so I just have been reflecting more and more and thought, really at the end of the day, the heart of our pro-life message is Christ’s example. It’s Eucharistic. It’s laying down our lives as he did as the lamb of God whose blood was shed. And as I write about in the book, once in the Old Testament where an actual lamb’s blood was shed with the Passover to save the firstborn Jewish sons from being killed, and they were saved by the blood of the lamb. We now are saved by the blood of the new lamb, which is Jesus Christ. And that’s lived out through his words, this is my body given for you. So I think we need to really use that language in that example.

And some people might say, “Well, if someone’s not religious, how can that resonate with them?” And I just say, well, let’s just think back to 9/11. Who do we celebrate as heroes? The firefighters and other first responders who were running into those burning, almost collapsing buildings, as everyone else was running out. Why do we celebrate those first responders? Because they were literally through their action of running into the building to rescue other people living out, this is my body given for you. They were willing to lay their bodies down, even if someone is not religious, there is this sense that when one human person sees the need of another human person who’s more vulnerable and says, “I’m willing to sacrifice myself for your sake and for your good.” There’s something true and good and beautiful and attractive and magnetic about that. And we see that in firefighters, but we also see that most obviously through Jesus. And then as we all try to model that through motherhood and fatherhood, then we will just be a happier people, a happier society.

Cy Kellett:

Wow. Stephanie, as you’re speaking, I’m thinking the big movie of the last year, it was Barbie and it’s part of a kind of trend in media over the last, I don’t know, 25 years or so of really, and even the filmmakers talk about it this way, of trying to encourage girls and build up girls’ confidence and almost have, you’re great as a girl, but that message is missing any connection to motherhood or very much of a connection to motherhood. It almost seems like the girl power that’s being promoted, is it ashamed of motherhood or just disinterested in motherhood? But you’re saying the message that you’re giving is motherhood. I don’t want to have a world where girls are not taught you’re great and God loves you and go do wonderful things, but I do want to live in a world that disconnects that from motherhood. Help me with that.

Stephanie Gray Connors:

Yeah, I mean, absolutely. This girl power mentality, you can climb the corporate ladder. You can be a CEO. You can be, I mean, in a sense, in the nonprofit world, I was that. I started a nonprofit pro-life organization, and I was the leader at one point of all male staff, and then eventually we got other females on staff. So I was that, but it’s not that my ultimate fulfillment was in leadership in an organization leading other people. It’s that I was applying the feminine genius and my female qualities to this particular leadership role, which involved in a way spiritual motherhood of my colleagues and within the pro-life movement of pre-born children and so forth.

So yeah, it’s not that we can’t encourage women to fulfill their very specific different talents that each woman has and grow into different leadership positions, but I think all of that should be seen as secondary to our ultimate nature of being mother, or in the case of men of being father, and that when you just talk about talent and skills and success without motherhood and fatherhood, then you’re going to find a whole lot of people that are just in a rat race and competing with one another and ultimately aren’t happy. And I mean, there’s been this whole thing, I mean, I’m not as into the online social media world as most, but I recently was watching some of these dink videos. Have you followed that trend? The dual income, no kid people?

Cy Kellett:

Oh, no, I have not. Dink, I didn’t know where we were going, but oh, no, I can’t follow anything on social media and it’s not a moral thing. My attention, I’m not smart enough to keep up with it.

Stephanie Gray Connors:

Well, you know what? So I’m not on social media anymore, but I was reading a news article about this phenomenon, which is funny because anyone who’s in the world with social media would be like, oh my gosh, you’re talking like you’re an alien. We all know about the Dinks, but they proudly call themselves Dinks, and they make these short TikTok videos where it’s this husband and wife that are walking along and they’re like, “Hi, we’re Dinks, and we sleep in on Saturday. We go out and eat out all the time.” And so they’re listing off all these things that they think are cool that they can do because they don’t have children. And I was reading actually a really good response to all these videos where this one woman has five kids, and she’s like, “Actually, I do a whole lot of the things those Dinks do.” And she’s like, “Except maybe I don’t sleep in.”

Cy Kellett:

We got to admit there’s going to be less sleep.

Stephanie Gray Connors:

Yeah, there’s definitely going to be less sleep. But yeah, so there is this, and then again, the way algorithms work, I guess, because I watched a couple of those videos and I started getting news stories about women who are in their thirties saying they’ve just decided they never want children and they’re happy with this decision. And so yeah, there is this trend, there is this movement towards, I don’t want what children will require of me. And I think that people are afraid of the challenges of what children require of us, and it is challenging at times. Sleep deprivation is not easy. Dealing with a really difficult toddler as I did today, who continually refuses her nap is not easy when you can’t have a rational conversation with her about how important it is to obey. So there are challenging times, but the ultimate overview of parenthood is one of joy and fulfillment.

So I think, yeah, we’re living at a time where people have lost sight of what we’re made for, what we’re meant for, and they think they’re happy, but even if they claim happiness now, I can tell you in a few decades when they’re in a care home with no one visiting them and totally isolated, they’re not going to be happy.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Yeah. I hate to say there’s a quite famous sociologist who said, we talk about the loneliness of the elderly, but nobody ever wants to talk about that they chose that. Some of them chose that. And it’s not everybody, it’s certainly not. But choices matter. And it’s the odd thing about in life, again and again and again, we hear the person who goes, “I said I was never going to marry or have children, and now I can’t imagine my life without my spouse and children.” But why do we not believe that story? Why do we not believe those people when they tell that story? That’s actually true that you’re following your nature, growing up, being married, having children, these are good things and they bring good things.

Stephanie Gray Connors:

Yes. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, again, it could be because we live in such a fast-paced world where so many things are accessible to us at our fingertips. We can look at different people’s lives online and paint a picture in our minds as a result of that that isn’t actually accurate, but then think, oh, well, their lives are cooler because they don’t have kids, or their lives are more difficult because they do have kids. Because we’re all, I mean, in a way, we’ve created a culture of stalkers.

Cy Kellett:

I never thought of that. Exactly right. It’s a culture of stalkers.

Stephanie Gray Connors:

It is. We’re just watching in a creepy way other people’s lives, and it’s first of all, that’s not fulfilling. But secondly, we’re not even getting the real picture. We’re not getting what it’s actually like. And that’s why it takes someone living it out and ultimately getting married and having kids and being like, wow, I can’t imagine my life without these beloved individuals in it. And again, not that it’s always easy. I write in my book how motherhood has been very challenging at times for me and very difficult. But the fact that something is difficult and challenging, it doesn’t mean it’s not good.

Cy Kellett:

Right. So the book is, My Body For You. I am very grateful that you took the time with us. You are just one of our most engaging pro-life voices. But I do come away from the book and from my conversations with you, with the sense that crafting the pro-life message is important. It’s not enough always just to have the facts marshaled, but also to have a vision of what a pro-life life is about. A life that draws its meaning from being given away to others is a beautiful vision. And we have to share that vision with people.

Stephanie Gray Connors:

Absolutely. And that’s why actually one of the groups of people that I featured in my book that I just hold such a special place in my heart for is the Sisters of Life, who obviously you know very well. But they live out spiritual motherhood so profoundly, so fruitfully. And what’s beautiful is not only do these religious sisters fulfill their nature as mother through being spiritual mother to so many, but then they empower women who are faced with crisis pregnancies, who are tempted to have abortions, who think, I can’t be a single mom. I can’t do this.

These sisters empower these women to realize, actually, I can do this with the support of the Sisters of Life in a broader community. I can fulfill my maternity, I can reject abortion. I can embrace this new life. And they just have story after story of women they have worked with who come alive and are more fulfilled and end up flourishing through their motherhood, which started unexpectedly in an unplanned pregnancy, but has led to these women’s ultimate fulfillment. So I think the more we present those beautiful stories, the more people will naturally be attracted to them because it’s the good, the true and the beautiful, which we’re made for.

Cy Kellett:

My Body For You. The book is out now from, is it a Emmaus Road? Publishing? Is that who the publisher is?

Stephanie Gray Connors:

It is.

Cy Kellett:

I highly recommend it. Get it, read it in the family, and everything that Stephanie does, I highly recommend to you. My Body For You, or check out loveunleasheslife.com, Stephanie’s website. Stephanie, thank you for the time.

Stephanie Gray Connors:

You’re welcome. Thanks for the interest in the book.

Cy Kellett:

Maybe we can make “Dilk” a thing. Dual income, lots of children, Dilk.

Stephanie Gray Connors:

Dilk.

Cy Kellett:

What do you think? Do you think we could make Dilk a thing? I don’t think I can make anything a thing.

Stephanie Gray Connors:

I think it’s more Silk. I think it ends up being Silk. If it’s lots of children, it’s probably going to be single income.

Cy Kellett:

Oh yeah. Silk, that’s a thing. Silk. All right. Well, that does it for us. Again, I’ll recommend the book to you, and I hope you will get it and read it and share it in your family, My Body For You. It’s Christ’s own prescription for a full life. He lived the fullest life any human being has ever lived, and he laid it down for those that he loved even before we loved him, he did that. And so if you’d like to get in touch with us, hey, send us an email, focus@catholic.com is where you can send that email, focus@catholic.com. Wherever you’re listening, wherever you’re watching, if you give us that five stars and a few nice words in your review that helps to grow the podcast. I am Cy Kellett, your host. We’ll see you next time, God willing, right here on Catholic Answers Focus.

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