Catholic and Feminist: The Surprising History of the American Catholic Feminist Movement

By Mary J. Henold | Go to book overview

introduction

We affirm Jesus and His Gospel as our life focus and that being said, the
[National Coalition of American Nuns] puts society on notice that women
refuse to accept any longer the straw for bricks that we are forced to make.

— National Coalition of American Nuns

The National Coalition of American Nuns (NCAN) was not known for mincing words. In 1972, this organization of 1,800 women religious, probably the most radical collection of Roman Catholic sisters ever put on a mailing list, released its “Declaration of Independence for Women,” demanding “full and equal participation of women in churches,” establishment of new democratic church structures, abolition of the College of Cardinals, “reformation of the present economic and power systems,” and “complete equality for women.” They were so dedicated (and optimistic) that they felt sure they could make substantial progress on these goals by the time of the nation’s bicentennial four years later.1

As is clear from the opening salvo of their declaration, the sisters of NCAN were self-identified Catholic feminists, that is, women with a dual, integrated commitment to their Catholic faith and to the struggle for women’s liberation. And they were not alone. They were joined in the movement by Mary B. Lynch, a laywoman so devoted to the cause that over the course of eight years she moved six times to six different states to help the movement grow, each time with no viable source of income. The movement also included Elizabeth Farians, a theologian and activist who founded the National Organization for Women’s Task Force on Women and Religion and led it as a Catholic feminist for five years. Ada María Isasi-Díaz, once a

-1-

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Catholic and Feminist: The Surprising History of the American Catholic Feminist Movement
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Origins 13
  • 2 - Demythologizing Ourselves 35
  • 3 - No Cakes in Hands Unless Ideas in Heads 63
  • 4 - The Spirit Moving 83
  • 5 - The Love of Christ Leaves Us No Choice 117
  • 6 - Making Feminism Holy 137
  • 7 - A Matter of Conversion 167
  • 8 - Sustained Ambivalence 197
  • Epilogue- 1980–1986 233
  • Notes 245
  • Bibliography 273
  • Index 287
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