Thou doth protest too much

By Teresa Tomeo
Eye on Culture

If ever we needed another example of how society has hit rock bottom, well, look no further than the “outrage” expressed very aggressively toward Vice President Mike Pence.

Based on how quickly the story went viral, one would think Mike Pence was involved in some major scandal or committed a serious crime. Then again, given the sorry state of our culture, apparently, that’s exactly what happened. He not only stood accused, but was found guilty as charged and went – what many believe – was a well-deserved public flogging.

What was the vice president’s shocking offense? The answer can be found in a statement he made many years ago during an interview with The Hill: a statement that was revisited in a Washington Post profile story. He explained that he never eats dinner alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events where alcohol is being served without his wife by his side, either.

Imagine that.

Yet instead of being met with appreciation for taking steps to protect his marriage, he was immediately mocked with negative comments. Some referred to him as a religious zealot. Others said he must have some sordid activity in his past, since he is obviously afraid of being alone with a woman other than his wife.

One woman commented on my Facebook page that he is actually discriminating – yes, discriminating – against women politicians because it means that all the male power brokers in Washington will have better and more frequent access to the vice president.

Might this be the same group that organized the women’s march in Washington, took to the streets – although in much smaller numbers – to conduct their A Day Without a Woman protest on International Women’s Day? Wasn’t it those same protestors who expended most of their energy on March 6, railing against – among other things – the objectification of women while pointing directly at the White House? Weren’t they demanding more respect in the work place and in the home? Where are they now? Why aren’t they coming to the vice president’s defense?

At the same time the vice president was being criticized for cherishing and protecting his marriage, Pope Francis addressed the importance of married couples, as well as families, learning how to be less selfish and more sacrificial. His comments were made in his letter outlining the theme for the World Meeting of Families taking place in Dublin: “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World.”

I wish to underline how important it is for families to ask themselves often if they live based on love, for love and in love. In practice, this means giving oneself, forgiving, not losing patience, anticipating the other, respecting. How much better family life would be if every day we lived according to the words “please,” “thank you” and “I’m sorry.”

The vice president’s approach to cherishing and protecting his marriage is a wise one that more than just devout Christians would do well to embrace. We don’t need to look very far to find all sorts of scandals involving those in the spotlight. These scandals that often dominate the headlines continue to derail our barely-civilized society by promoting and often justifying immoral behavior. That’s why it’s no small matter when it comes to public persons maintaining a certain sense of decorum, as well as restraint.

Could it be that those who mock him or disagree with him are in some way being convicted of their own lack of discretion? Maybe thou doth protest too much?

But as Pope Francis said in his letter, it’s never too late. Even if mistakes have been made, we serve a merciful and loving God and a little humility and self-reflection versus projection and deflection can make all the difference.

Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio, Sirius Channel 130, and Channel 88.1 FM KFHC, Sioux City and KOIA, Storm Lake.

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