Be Beautiful, Inside and Out

An Interview With Catholic Author, Teresa Tomeo

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By Traci Osuna

DETROIT, Michigan, OCT. 6, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Today, women are faced with the nearly constant bombardment of secular ideals and influences. Issues such as abortion, pre-marital sex and contraception are promoted through all forms of media, influencing the social, mental and moral wellbeing of women of all ages.

Teresa Tomeo, author and noted Catholic speaker, reflects on these challenges in her new book "Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture," which will be released Friday.

In this interview with ZENIT, Tomeo describes how she had succumbed to pressures of the secular society and what brought her back to the Church.  

ZENIT: What prompted you to write this book?

Tomeo: I have felt a need for this book ever since I published my first book in 2007, "Noise: How Our Media Saturated Culture Dominates Lives and Dismantles Families." In my research I began to see how women were being targeted by advertisers, programmers, and Hollywood to accept a certain lifestyle, one contrary not only to Church teaching but to common decency and, frankly, common sense.

Although women have made great strides, the onslaught of pornography, the promotion of sexual promiscuity, the push for contraception and abortion on demand have led to women being more objectified than ever before. This research, plus my own experience in being caught up in the culture, combined with countless conversations I have had with other women, are among the many reasons I felt I had to write "Extreme Makeover."

This book is filled with research concerning the many issues that affect women, including the connection between abortion and breast cancer, side effects of contraception, the latest statistics on sexually transmitted diseases, eating disorders, body image, and the testimonies of reverts and converts. I also give women hope and show them how the Church is a big "yes" and not a big "no." We have also included a spiritual makeover with really good suggestions on how to have true joy and be beautiful inside and out.

ZENIT: In your book, you described yourself as a liberal feminist who had fallen away from the Church…what made you want to come back?

Tomeo: I fell away gradually and came back gradually. As I discuss in "Extreme Makeover," the Lord had and still has a lot of work to do with me. I was on the fast track with my career for many years and, at one point, my professional goals and personal desires for success and money took over to the point where those desires almost cost me my marriage but, more importantly, my soul. It was a crisis in my marriage and a job loss that finally forced me to look at my life and revisit the Church in which I was raised. Maybe there really was something to the Sacraments and the teachings after all? And I found out the Church was, and is, right.

ZENIT: Secular society seems to hold the view that the Church is unfair to women and suppresses our freedoms; but you show that the Church offers women true freedom and equality among men. Can you expand on this for our readers?

Tomeo: Well, my story is a great example of how, as Blessed John Paul II said, "We don't find ourselves until we lose ourselves in Christ." I also think St. Catherine's saying speaks volumes when it comes to learning that Christ and the Church give us the opposite of what the world says: "When we are whom we are called to be we will set the world ablaze."

The world tells us it's about me, myself, and I. And we don't like to be told "no" even if it might be the best thing for us. When we are told "no" -- whether it has to do with sex outside of marriage, contraception, abortion, or the male priesthood -- we are like those little children in the grocery store who kick and scream and try to force Mom and Dad to give them the candy bar. We want what we want, and we want it now. A good parent will say "no" because they realize the sugar is not good for their child. The child is actually going to be better off in the long run with a healthy balanced diet. So the "no" is actually a big "yes" in the long run.

As I stress in "Extreme Makeover," if we look at the research and the harmful impact -- especially sexual promiscuity, the pill, and abortion have had on women -- it is pretty clear the Church teachings are spot on. And with the male priesthood it is not about breaking through the glass ceiling. It is about the Bridegroom serving the Church, His bride. It is about servanthood, not power. For me, as someone trained as an investigative journalist, once I started to really look at myself and how I almost ruined my life by trying to do it my way -- and once I took an honest look at the research and the fallout in a society that was far from God -- well, I finally realized in the arms of Christ within the Catholic Church is the best place a woman can be.

ZENIT: In "Extreme Makeover," you address mass media and how it is undermining the women of today. Why do you think such organizations as NOW and the NAACP stand for this kind of degradation, but yet speak out against the Church and pro-life causes that work to promote and support women?

Tomeo: I think in many ways it is a case of "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Many of those involved in organizations that promote pro-abortion policies and other policies that hurt women have not been exposed to the truth. Others have been given the truth but refuse to acknowledge it. Speaking from personal experience, it is tough to change lifelong beliefs. I didn't change overnight. It was little by little with the help of a lot of people and a lot of prayer.

The truth certainly does set us free, but the truth can be very overwhelming and hard to take, especially when we look at abortion and the impact on minority communities. We need to pray for those who haven't come to see the light yet and be willing to lovingly witness to them. If I can change any one can change. With God all things are possible.

ZENIT: You have worked as a journalist for many years…how do you feel about the way people today view the media or journalists, as promoting an agenda rather than reporting the news from a neutral point of view?

Tomeo: Research shows that the public is very tired of the news media in general and the ratings and circulation numbers back this up. While certainly the explosion of the Internet and other technology has definitely cut into the viewership and readership pie, the content is also a big issue. Media bias is a problem, but so are sensationalism and violent content.

Do we really need to see every car crash or every house fire? Do we really need the reporter asking someone how they feel about their son or daughter being murdered? Do we really have to see or hear about the latest scandal with a reality TV star? So it is not just claiming the promotion of a liberal agenda, but the bottom line is also the bottom line as in the push for higher ratings and more money.

As I suggest in "Extreme Makeover," I believe media consumers have to be media activists. They need to speak up when they don't like something but also when they see the media doing their jobs well. Both Pope Benedict and Blessed John Paul have addressed this in their World Communications Day statements.

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On the Net:

"Extreme Makeover": www.ignatius.com/Products/EM-H/extreme-makeover.aspx