Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Incompatible with God's Design: A History of the Women's Ordination Movement in the U.S. Roman Catholic Church

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Incompatible with God's Design: A History of the Women's Ordination Movement in the U.S. Roman Catholic Church

Article excerpt

Incompatible with God's Design: A History of the Women's Ordination Movement in the U.S. Roman Catholic Church. By Mary Jeremy Daigler. (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, an imprint of Rowman and Littlefield Publishing. 2012. Pp. xiii, 201, $75.00. ISBN 978-0-8108-8480-9.)

This book is not an exploration of the theological, canonical, and social issues surrounding the question of ordaining women to Roman Catholic ministry. If this reviewer reads the author correctly, it appears that the ordination of women in the Catholic Church is, for her, a settled issue, a current reality waiting to reach full bloom, and a matter of justice. These are all givens in the book. What the reader will find is exactly what the author describes in the title: a history of the women's ordination movement in the United States.

Given those parameters, a few issues need to be raised with the work. First, the author seems to be at her weakest when trying to "connect the dots" in order to carry the women's ordination movement back through the centuries to the ancient Church. Based primarily on one archaeological work about Mediterranean frescos, she accepts that women were ordained to Catholic ministry throughout the Mediterranean world up to the ninth century (pp. 134, 187). In trying to weave a broad tapestry of cultural acceptance for women's spiritual leadership, Mary Jeremy Daigler may have painted with too broad a brush. A lot of interesting movements and individuals-Salem witches, the Great Awakening, Anne Hutchinson, the Quakers, the Iroquois, St. Joan of Arc and St. Thérèse of Lisieux-all seem to be co-opted onto the women's ordination movement. There are factual errors. Her statement that

[i]n 1704 the public practice of Catholicism [in America] was banned, churches were locked, priests dispersed and Catholic families began to rely on their women as spiritual guides, prayer leaders, and organizers of the very rare services of underground priests,

is not backed up by any sources and is misleading on several fronts (pp. 4-5). She has the Ursulines arriving "in the colonies" tangential to the Great Awakening, although it was French Louisiana, not the English colonies, that welcomed the sisters in 1727 (p. …

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