August 20, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Helen Gurley Brown, who died last week at the age of 90, has been hailed by many as a role model for modern women, as she pioneered the now-common view that the way to women’s empowerment was through sexual license.
In 1962, at the age of 40, Brown wrote Sex and the Single Girl. In this sadly influential book, Brown told women that they could have it all - love, sex and money. She encouraged single women to have multiple affairs and even to pursue married men. She wrote the book at the suggestion of her husband who discovered some letters Helen had exchanged with a married man when she was a young woman. He encouraged her to write a book about how a woman would go about having an affair, in other words to engage in the sin of adultery.
Following the “success” of Single Girl, Mrs. Brown became the editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine, a position that she held until 1997. At that time, Cosmopolitan was the sixth most popular magazine at the newsstand and first in bookstores and college campuses. Her influence has been worldwide: there are 59 international editions of the magazine which has been characterized by many, including Victoria Hearst, an heiress of the Hearst Corporation which publishes the magazine, as pornographic.
Along with personalities such as Hugh Heffner, Betty Friedan, and Gloria Steinem, Helen Gurley Brown played an important role in the sexual revolution, which since the 1960’s has led to a huge increase in the numbers of divorces and abortion, along with many other social pathologies.
Surely her admirers would claim that women are freer and more powerful than before Mrs. Brown took the stage. But it is a curious kind of freedom and power that leave their bearers less free and less happy. Since 1960, the number of couples living together outside marriage has increased tenfold. The marriage rate has dropped 30% in the past 25 years. Forty percent of all births are to single mothers. Single mothers are likely to suffer many more problems, including poverty, than their peers. Since 1973, there have been over 54 million abortions in the United States alone.
Perhaps a poll could be commissioned asking women if they think such trends are empowering for women. Of course, we cannot lay responsibility for all of these evils at the feet of Helen Gurley Brown personally, there can be little doubt that she played a leading role in the degradation of family and women.
The death of any person should cause us to reflect on the different paths life can take and how each of us will eventually have to stand before God and give an account of our lives.
None of us is God and we can never judge another person’s soul, but we can and must judge actions. Some are good and lead us to heaven. Other actions are evil, separate us from God, and if allowed to continue, carry the ultimate punishment.
In his Letter to the Galatians St. Paul says:
Make no mistake: God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows because the one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the spirit will reap eternal life from the spirit. (Galatians 6, 7-8)
Unfortunately, the work of Helen Gurley Brown lives on. Cosmopolitan continues to publish pornographic articles and encourage women of all ages to vanity, selfishness and sins of the flesh. Can anyone imagine an ethos more at odds with the life of virtue we are offered in Scripture and in the teaching and history of the Catholic Church? One warning against the sort of life Mrs. Brown championed is from relatively recent history, and offers us a stark reminder of the costs associated with reversing virtue and vice.
In 1919, Our Lady of Fatima appeared to Jacinta Marto privately. One of the things she told her were “More souls go to Hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.” Many of the revelations given to her by the Blessed Virgin at Fatima anticipated the sexual revolution and emphasized the importance of chastity. Among other messages she gave to Jacinta were “Certain fashions will be introduced that will offend Our Lord very much.” Jacinta said the Virgin told her “Woe to women who are not modest.” Jacinta also said “The Mother of God wants more virgin souls bound by the vow of chastity.” Our Lady of Fatima also anticipated the priest sex scandal when she told Jacinta “Priests must be pure, very pure.”
One of Mrs. Brown’s most famous lines was “Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere.” To this we can add everywhere except heaven, unless they repent of their sins before their death.
St. Paul tells us that a Christian must always desire that all people be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved. (1 Timothy 2, 4) We must pray that the Lord will have mercy on Helen Gurley Brown, but she certainly should not be held up as a role model for young women. We must take note of the entirely predictable and devastating consequences of the widespread promotion of sexual license as a means to “empowerment.”
Let us also pray the prayer Our Lady of Fatima taught to Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta in 1917 “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy. Amen”
Father Peter West is the Vice President for Missions of Human Life International