Less than a month from now, Christians will celebrate Easter, our greatest feast. The resurrection is the most important thing we must know in our faith.

With whom did Jesus first share this most important news? Mary Magdalene, whom St. Thomas Aquinas called the “Apostle to the Apostles.”

St. John Chrysostom said the Lord’s first appearance “brings honor to women . . . honor to that sex which is most prone to be dishonored.”

The #MeToo Movement has cast a light in the dark corners of society where women continue to be dishonored. The church, following the witness of Christ, continues to speak out against the objectification of women, or any human being. Neither Judeo-Christian ethics nor a society guided by the principles of democracy can tolerate degrading attitudes and behaviors toward women. “The democratic ideal is only truly such when it acknowledges and safeguards the dignity of every human person” (St. John Paul II, “Evangelium Vitae,” 20).

Jesus commands us to love our neighbor in the second greatest commandment and makes no exceptions for women.

Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Beyond doing no harm, “the positive commandment obliges us to be responsible for our neighbor as for ourselves: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (EV 40). Women, and the feminine genius they bring into the world, are meant not to be exploited but honored. Woman is “equally noble in natural dignity” (St. John XXIII, “Pacem in Terris,” 89), and therefore reveals in her own person some of the very mystery of God.

Male or female, all are called to build God’s Kingdom here on earth, and in God’s kingdom of peace and justice there exists a perfect complementarity of the sexes. If members of one of the sexes is excepted, then it is our job as followers of Jesus to protect and uphold their dignity and value. Be it the right to equal pay and benefits, freedom from discrimination, or the ability to contribute to the common good with the gifts and talents God entrusted to them, women must be recognized not only as valuable, but as a gift to our society.

March 8 is International Women’s Day. On this day let us publicly acknowledge our commitment to the value of women. A day earlier, March 7, is the feast of Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, patron saints of expectant mothers. March 7 is a day to celebrate. Since the conspiracy against life produces a culture of death, it is a day to ensure that women are not penalized for being pregnant, but are respected and provided for now and in the future.

Everything is connected. When society rewards a woman for being a mother, that society becomes a culture of life that upholds the dignity of women by working to secure women’s rights. That society recognizes that women are exceptional.

Cato is director of the Archdiocese of Portland’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace. Fr. Libra is the archdiocese’s pro-life director and pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Portland.