Saturday, August 01, 2015
Women in Media
Interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez
For Altcatholicah, Gayle Trotter interviews Kathryn Jean Lopez, syndicated columnist and editor-at-large of National Review Online.

GT: Do you see America as a nation on the rise or in decline?

KJL: I think the answer depends on the decisions we are making now, each hour of every day, in our personal and in our civic lives.
Legal abortion does not bode well for a nation. And the pushback can never be merely legal or political. It’s an issue of integrity: Are we being who we say we are?

So many of us, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, like Mother Teresa. We admire her. But what do we do with that besides buy the stamp? She had a lot of challenges for us. Our Lord thirsts for us. Are we going to Him? Are we treating people as we would treat Him? Or do we treat them like we in our sinfulness treat Him?

As we confront crucial stewardship issues, the answers lie in an integrity we don’t always have. Not only as a nation founded on belief in a Creator and liberty to pursue life with Him, but in our individual lives.

GT: What motivated you to study philosophy in college?

KJL: Even my politics classes—I studied politics and philosophy—would tend to be more ethics and philosophy. Really working with the primary texts of the classics—even some of the moderns—is a good intellectual workout.

It can teach humility, too.

GT: Do you think today's politicians are ignorant of the thinking of history’s great political philosophers?

KJL: I think we’re all so busy and have so many pressures that sometimes we forget there is actually nothing all that new under the sun. Even if we’re confronting ideas while on an iPad now. Mary Ann Glendon has a terrific new book about the struggles of some of the more philosophically inclined political figures—people like Edmund Burke. There are pros and cons to being too eggheady, of course. Prudence is the virtue in politics and everywhere else. I think it’s always good to walk into things with a good education, and keeping your mind aware of the history and the philosophy that have lessons to offer. It’s part of knowing who you are and where you came from.

GT: Who was your favorite interviewee among the fascinating and powerful people you have interviewed for National Review?

KJL: One is blessed to have access to so many beautiful people. It’s a continuing education you get paid for, in a way—with the power to ask anyone a question anytime, as your job.

Going to the White House and asking the president a question or two is always a privilege, of course. But not only because it’s the president and the White House. It’s a reminder he’s a man, going through so many of the same struggles we all do. Balancing our duties. Only with the whole world watching and the whole world commenting and more lives affected by your decisions—especially ones involving the military—than mercifully most of us will ever have to face.

But I so love sitting down and talking to the good people around this country who just reach out to neighbors in need. Whether it be a crisis-pregnancy worker, a teacher, a priest, a nun, a mom with her kids . . . a Tocquevillian approach to America!

The gals at Ave Maria in Florida are just spectacular. Wanting to be fully engaged in the world around them while being authentically Catholic, authentically feminine. I love talking to young people the most—there are so many yearning for only the good. And we should all ask questions of those who have lived more of life than we have. Who have learned. Who have battle scars. Who’ve carried their own Cross, for themselves and even others. It’s such a blessing to be able to listen.

So many highlights. Just thinking of Clarence Thomas’s laugh . . . if a man can teach with a laugh—one that echoes with authority and experience and yet faith and humility, he does it. This fall is the 20th anniversary of his swearing-in on the Court, so I have him on the mind.

But there have been so many I’d love to mention. So many beautiful books have been written, and it’s always a gift to be able to dig deeper and highlight some of the great work authors have done.

GT: A new study has found that 81 percent of women who have had an abortion face an increased risk for significant mental-health problems. Is abortion itself a health risk for women?

KJL: I don’t have a medical degree, but how can it not be poison? There is the life that has ended but there are all the relationships it affects as well. I love the work Michaelene Fredenburg does. is her website. There is such pain. These poor mothers who feel one way or another like they have to end their child’s life. We are trained to shove her “choice” and all its repercussions under a dirty rug. However you rationalize it, it never makes sense, as people who do post-abortion healing work can tell anyone in doubt, many of them post-abortive themselves.

GT: What's the number one thing the American people can do to strengthen marriage?

KJL: Support one another. Offer to babysit your sister’s kids so she and her husband can have a date night. Bring food over to the house of a friend with four kids so she can have more energy to spend with her husband when he gets home from a late night at the office tonight. Listen. Compliment. Be a joyful, helpful presence. We all go to weddings. But like with funerals, too, we often walk away until the next milestone. We can strengthen marriage by strengthening it in our own lives.

I find it an effective talking point when same-sex-marriage advocates point out that real marriage is suffering. While family tax credits and other helps are important, the answer goes deeper than politics.

GT: What are the unique challenges faith-filled women face when they contribute to the national political discussion?

KJL: Again, I think it is simpler than we usually make it out to be—which is not to ignore obvious challenges and differences. But I think it comes down to authenticity. No war-of-the-sexes nonsense, no gender trump cards, but an appropriately motherly, sisterly, feminine presence. That feminine genius that Pope John Paul II talked about.

GT: If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you do?

KJL: Whatever God wanted, I hope. And I’d hope that would be a Catholic school teacher. Just like my parents.

GT: What Catholic doctrine or discipline do you find the most difficult to live out?

KJL: I sometimes—every seven days—wish the whole Catholic world didn’t eat meat on Fridays. I’m in the Archbishop Dolan camp of thinking it’s a good outward sign we should bring back. Actually, in New York, the late Cardinal O’Connor suggested we do so until abortion was no more. So I try to have that in mind. But then people are always serving meat on Fridays, because we’ve lost that. I’d love to go the way of the English Catholics here. Because it’s a good little sacrifice—really a little one for most of us—and well, selfishly, it would make my life easier as I try to do it anyway. Hmm. Which means I would need another sacrifice to make up for that easing up!

I always want to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet but unless I’m on hold for a radio interview on Relevant Radio or Ave Maria Radio or whichever one it is that actually does an on-air observance, I’m pretty much doomed.

GT: When did your faith come alive for you?

KJL: The Christian life is continual conversion.

I remember getting to school early as a child and praying in the little chapel to Our Lady of Lourdes at Guardian Angel Church in Chelsea, Manhattan. I wanted to know and love and serve, however that might be. I’ve had varying degrees of clarity since!

I had a dramatic, at the time, test of courage of conviction in college, battling some Catholic-identity-type issues there. It was important not because I was particularly courageous, but it was an early demonstration of how silly and confusing and painful even the smallest-seeming battles can be. Battles people all over the world are fighting every day without, in most cases, too many people knowing the full extent of it. We must remember to pray for them, all those people we pass on the street who are in the throes of spiritual battle. And for all those like the Catholic girl killed in Pakistan earlier this month or Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s minister of minority affairs, who was assassinated in March—fellow Christians who insist on living the Sacramental life, and die for doing so.

There have been so many moments of vivid palpability of God’s love, of the desolation that can come with trust. But that’s the Way of the Cross and the only road to redemption. Thanks be to God for that.

I think an important reality of the Christian life is to know when you become complacent, when you feel like your heart is completely converted, you’re in a danger zone. Consecrate every moment to God’s will, that should be the goal, right?

GT: What would you say to a Catholic who no longer sees the value in attending Mass or reading the Bible?

KJL: Go to the Blessed Sacrament. On Morning Joe, of all places, a few weeks back, Mika Brzezinski talked about taking her daughter to a Catholic church on one random weekday. Just for peace. You don’t have to call it adoration to get started. . . . If you believe at all that there’s some good in it, that there’s some truth in it, there’s a light there, stick with it.

Watch Father Barron’s remarkable series. Go to a class. Be around people who love their faith. See if there isn’t something beautiful there.

GT: What do you find most valuable about your faith?

KJL: How do you narrow it down? It’s everything. It’s hope and change. It’s the beginning and end. It’s Christ voluntarily on the Cross. How can you not face anything, knowing that if you just surrender yourself to Love itself, you will be fine, however deep the pain may be at times.

GT: Are there Christian women in public life whom you admire? Why?

KJL: I hate to single anyone out because there are many. I very much admired the witness Michele Bachmann gave on Meet the Press the morning after the Iowa straw poll—and wrote about it for the National Catholic Register and Catholic Vote at the time. It was Sunday morning—of all times—and she was offered the opportunity to explain away her faith as but “a sense of comfort and safe harbor and inspiration,” but she didn’t.

GT: What is the greatest lesson your parents ever taught you?

KJL: To stop. To reflect. To talk. To sleep. Absolute beacons of dedication. But you want to live to see another day, and clearly. I haven’t always taken that lesson.

GT: How have you taught this lesson to others?

KJL: My number-one piece of advice to college kids is to take full advantage of the vocation of the student. I did way too much in college. For a résumé, or because I had to help save the world now, or because it was exciting. But learn what you can. Wherever you are, be in the community you are in. Be a fully human person, fully engaged with the people you’re around. It’s become a joke that I can’t remember half the stories or people from my college years when visiting with a friend I’ve stayed close to. I regret that. Never to be too busy to be a brother or sister in Christ to those right around you. To be fully present.

Gayle Trotter is a tax and small business lawyer in private practice and a mother of six children. Gayle blogs at, and she is a contributor to the Evangel blog at First Things.

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