On the death of Kate O’Beirne, April 23, 2017
(Portions of this essay are published on National Review Online, as part of the symposium to honor Kate’s memory.)
Kate O’Beirne, a noted conservative leader and exemplary Catholic woman, passed away at noon on Divine Mercy Sunday, after a months-long battle with lung cancer. A striking blond, tall, polished and poised, Kate stood out in a crowd. She knew everyone. Her laugh was contagious and instantly drew others in. Kate was like a warm fire in the center of the room, crackling with humor and wit. She gave off sparks of energy, and her light radiated outward, seamlessly connecting everyone within range. When the time came, her fire here on earth flickered and went out, but I expect she’s lighting up the Communion of Saints in much the same way.
I knew of Kate before I knew her. I admired her clear thinking, her crisp writing, and her tell-it-like-it-is political analysis. But, perhaps unlike most people in Washington, D.C., I got to know Kate first in a “mom-to-mom” context. Our sons became close friends in high school and later, with a group of great guys, shared a house after college. During those years, even as Kate was taking on liberal commentators on CNN’s Capital Gang and crafting conservative messages as National Review’s Washington editor, our conversations–on soccer sidelines, at school events, and DC social gatherings–centered mostly on the people she loved so dearly, her husband and sons, and then later her daughter-in-law and grandchildren. She was a feisty political player, but even more, she was a woman who fiercely loved her God, her family, and the Church.
As the years passed, our work overlapped in shared zeal for the Church and concern for the culture. Her analysis of ways that the feminist movement went in the wrong direction were spot on, and drew the ire of progressives like Ana Marie Cox, who reviewed Kate’s 2006 book, Women Who Make the World Worse, for The New York Times. Cox derided Kate’s analysis as appealing to “simplistic caricatures.”
“According to [Kate O’Beirne], ‘feminists have been peddling the message that women should count on the workplace for fulfillment,’ ‘classrooms have been turned into feminist re-education camps to stamp out all sex differences and smother the natural attributes and aspirations of girls and boys,’ and (as she puts it in her chapter on the military) ‘a woman being brutally killed alongside men is a long-awaited feminist dream of equality.'”
Far from being caricatures, Kate’s examples from nearly 12 years ago were in full bloom under the Obama Administration, as it imposed gender ideology under the guise of “gender equality.” Kate saw things clearly, and was unafraid to call them as she saw them.
Kate’s wisdom and experience were deep, both politically and in terms of judging human nature. Three attributes in particular stand out. First, she was a talent-spotter. Not just in the usual way of recognizing and nurturing a fresh young writer, for example, or a young conservative eager to change the world, but in a richer sense: She unfailingly looked for and encouraged the specific gifts of the people before her, whether a mom at home raising great kids, a priest ministering to the spiritual needs of many, or the law enforcement or military person steadfastly doing his duty.
Second, she was a champion promoter—of others. In a city too often characterized by the twin sisters of ambition and envy, Kate was the exception. She promoted others’ good works as if they were her own, boasting of their achievements and taking delight in bringing good people together. Her life was a happy witness to her belief that by connecting good people, even more good would happen—a belief that I try to put into practice with the Catholic Women’s Forum.
Third, she was straightforward, unflinchingly so, on matters of faith. What “everyone” thinks matters very little, if we don’t get things right with God. Kate had the confidence of one who knows that the only audience that really matters is an audience of One. And she got that right.
I had the absolute joy of spending a week in Rome about a year ago with Kate and about a dozen Catholic writers, plus several journalists of other faiths. Kate and her dear friend, Ann Corkery, generously and deftly knit our group together, as we discussed the Church, spiritual challenges, the history of the Church and Rome itself, and our own journeys. Kate, who must be one of the funniest women God has ever created, always had a story to tell, and pointed questions for our dinner guests. We learned so much because of her willingness to pull aside the curtain of superficial conversation with penetrating questions on thornier topics. But she was also the gracious hostess, the life of the party, and the fervent pilgrim. I will be forever grateful for that time together.
Kate O’Beirne was a wonderful woman, a faith-filled Catholic, and a loyal friend. Loved by many, she will be dearly missed. Please keep her soul in your prayers (she would insist upon that!) and pray for the Lord’s consolation for her husband Jim and her entire family.
May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace, Amen.