Goodbye to a Washington Legend and a Great Friend
When I set out to write about my friend Kate O’Beirne, it’s hard to avoid hyperbole. In my phone’s address book, she’s listed KATE THE GREAT. So, let me tell you about KATE. Because in the way she died, she put one final spotlight on what’s most important in life.
Kate O’Beirne, first of all, died on April 23, which happened to be Divine Mercy Sunday this year — a relatively new feast day in the Catholic Church treasured by Pope Francis, Pope Benedict and John Paul II. Three years ago, on the same feast day, Kate and I were in Rome with mutual friends. As always, there was a peace and grace and wisdom and wit about Kate that I prayed I might catch through osmosis.
Kate was someone who tried to make the world better for others, starting with the person right in front of her or the person standing on the corner or the one sitting quiet at the meeting table. She reached out to people who needed a lot of help and those who just needed a smile. She gave whenever the opportunity presented itself, and looked for ways to create such an opportunity wherever she went.
Kate was perhaps best known for being the Washington editor of National Review and a panelist on CNN’s “Capital Gang.” But to so many of us blessed to know her off the page or screen, she was a source of advice, support and ideas galore.
There was something different about the way Kate chose to express her conservative, often controversial, views. She’d articulate and defend them with substance, grace, wit and wisdom. She treated people as human beings, not opposing talking points. So, she established and maintained long-term relationships that grew into friendships, that made her views more compelling, but even more importantly, inspired and helped people see the beauty of the Catholic faith, which was the treasure of her life, along with her family.
This despite — or because of — being the author of a book called “Women Who Make the World Worse and How Their Radical Feminist Assault Is Ruining Our Schools, Families, Military, and Sports.” I say “despite” because the book certainly puts feminism as we conventionally know it on the defensive. But I put “because of” because, in many ways, it is of the same spirit. If feminists truly believe in empowering women, they’d rejoice in the example of Kate O’Beirne — pro-life, supportive of the traditional family, and determined to make people see that woman are complex, brilliant and able to think for themselves.
Kate’s book exposed the “modern women’s movement” as “totalitarian in its methods, radical in its aims and dishonest in its advocacy.” As she lays out her case — which was published in 2006 and stands the test of time — she shines an authoritative and motherly light, to stop the bloodletting in a culture that tends to pour salt onto open wounds and add misery upon miseries.
Her book is also resplendent with gratitude. “(L)ong before (the National Organization of Women) held its first organizational meeting, there were female role models who exemplified initiative, intelligence and independence. America’s first large network of professional women was Catholic nuns. In the 1900s, they built and ran the country’s largest private school and hospital systems. These women were nurses, teachers — and CEOs.” She would have loved that the Washington Post took the hint and mentioned these trailblazers in the first paragraph of their obituary of Kate.
In recent years, she spent more of her time with her beloved family and treasured her time with her grandchildren particularly. She was awed by their beautiful personalities and sensitive souls. Once described in a newspaper column as the “creme de la creme of Washington insiderdom,” she was every bit the same. You may have encountered her sharp political analysis, but what was life-changing was her confident, radiant faith. That was her greatest of many great gifts. And as she lay in her hospital bed in her last hours, although she could not speak, the message was clear: All is gift, all is grace. Make the world better and fall into the arms of the creator who made all that is good in love. And so she did and has.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. She can be contacted at email@example.com.