Catholic Women Confront Their Church: Stories of Hurt and Hope


Product Details

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Publish Date
6.2 X 0.8 X 9.0 inches | 0.9 pounds
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About the Author

Celia Viggo Wexler is a lifelong Catholic and an award-winning journalist and nonfiction author. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Columbia Journalism Review, and The Nation. She is also a blogger for The Huffington Post.


The courageous Catholic women profiled in this timely book have issued a clear call for the transformation of the institutional church. Their faith is profound; their voices are strong. Their message has the power to change hearts, minds, and hierarchies.--Joan Connell, former editor of Religion News Service
In Celia Wexler's meticulously assembled inquiry into the state of mind of contemporary Catholic women, we hear from nine different subjects, each as riveting and articulate as the next, calling for compassionate and heartfelt change. The result is a stunning choral effect, worthy of being heard in the sacristy and in the streets, by men and women alike. Wexler's prose reads with the clarity and conviction of a beautiful prayer.--Madeleine Blais, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, University of Massachusetts Amherst
For most of modern history, Americans have been religious outliers--we're the rare society that's both prosperous and devout. In recent decades, however, a growing number of Americans, especially the young, have drifted away from organized religion. This is a complex phenomenon with multiple roots. Celia Wexler has summoned her impressive journalistic skills to tell one aspect of this story with great insight, empathy, and humanity.--Paul Taylor, Pew Research Center, author of The Next America: Boomers, Millennials and the Looming Generational Showdown
This well-reported story of smart, committed, progressive Catholics proves that women are church. In light of the corrupt, often-criminal institutional Roman Catholic Church, Frances Kissling, Diana Hayes, Teresa Delgado, Marianne Duddy-Burke, and the others profiled in this book model the best of the Catholic tradition--faith, primacy of conscience, social justice work, and dedication to equality. Ironically, these women who are variously mistreated and dismissed give Catholicism a good name.--Mary E. Hunt, Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER)
Celia Wexler explores an important question for many modern women of faith: Is it possible to be a professional, independent thinking woman--who believes in gender equality--and still be a Catholic? Through the personal stories of ten notable women, herself included, Wexler navigates the clash of traditional Catholicism and the realities of twenty-first century womanhood with wisdom and insight. A must-read for any person of faith living in today's secular world.--Joanne Bamberger, author/editor of Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox
Award-winning journalist Wexler tells the stories of 10 women (including herself) of various ages, ethnicities, and life experiences who have wrestled with their Catholicism and the institutional church's approach to women. Each finely crafted profile includes a biographical story interwoven with a faith journey in progress, all of which include a strong sense of a call to service. Certain themes recur: the question of women's ordination, ordination in general, issues of social justice, and a commitment to a 'faith that transcends the institutional church.' Those profiled include Sister Simone Campbell, of 'Nuns on the Bus' fame; Barbara Blaine, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests; and Marianne Duddy-Burke, 'a full-throated advocate for gay Catholics.' Wexler quotes liberally, conveying the women's own voices; for example, Frances Kissling, longtime president of Catholics for Free Choice, says, 'Abortion is very serious for me. It is a moral issue'; Diana L. Hayes, an African-American womanist theologian and adult convert, says, 'God knew not to ask me into this church prior to Vatican II.' These thought-provoking profiles brim with hope and concern for the future of the Catholic Church.--Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
An award-winning journalist and lifelong Catholic, Wexler presents the stories of nine Catholic women who have navigated Catholic identity in the last 50 years. The women profiled represent a range of races, classes, and economic strata. Readers may recognize media-savvy women like Simone Campbell (executive director of NETWORK, a Catholic social service lobby) and Frances Kissling (one-time president of Catholics for Choice). The stories are linked by the women's defiant positions in relation to the church: love and resistance intermingle in the way these women say 'I am Catholic.' For example, Teresa Delgado's desire to be an agent of change from within the church inspires her Catholicism. In the same spirit, Gretchen Reydams-Schils insists that no one can take her Catholicism away from her. Wexler's book is also a history of Catholicism in North America since the Second Vatican Council. Referencing key critical issues surrounding female theologians, Catholic feminism, LGBTQ and sexual ethics, the sex-abuse crisis, the Catholic Worker Movement, Catholic education, and the papacy in recent years, this book is a story of Catholic women figuring out how to be both women and Catholic and also a portrait of a changing religious landscape. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; professionals; general readers.--CHOICE
Wexler, a journalist and lifelong Roman Catholic, offers 10 biographical portraits developed from interviews with women who continue to practice Catholicism-or have returned to it-in spite of social, political, theological, and psychological issues they have faced with the Church. In addition to the well-known Sister Simone Campbell (Nuns on the Bus), the subjects include Sharon MacIsaac-McKenna, present at Vatican II before leaving the religious life; Marianne Dudldy-Burke, active in the American Church's LGBT DignityUSA; women who have persevered in Catholic academia in spite of its sexism; and those who have suffered deeply and personally through abuse by clergy or racial injustice. Each woman's story of internal conflict, theological development, and spiritual growth is, of course, unique, and yet together they form a nuanced account of women in the American Church today and offer models for those who experience both deep belief and religious structural doubt.--Booklist
Through reading Wexler's book, you'll feel like you had a place at that dinner party, getting to know nine women -- 10, including Wexler herself -- and come away with a deeper conviction that there is a place for visionary feminist women in the church. Wexler's book deserves to be read widely, especially among parish-based women's groups and young women who struggle with their Catholic faith.--National Catholic Reporter
This [is a] well-reported story of smart, committed, progressive Catholics [who prove] that women are church. In light of the corrupt, often-criminal institutional Roman Catholic Church, Frances Kissling, Diana Hayes, Theresa Delgado, Marianne Duddy-Burke, and others profiled model the best of the Catholic tradition--faith, primacy of conscience, social justice work, and dedication to equality. Ironically, these women who are variously mistreated and dismissed give Catholicism a good name.--Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER)
Catholic Women Confront Their Church includes a valuable list of resources (with links), ranging from Call to Action and Catholics for Choice to WATER-Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual and the Women's Ordination Conference. She provides careful Notes for each chapter, as well as a helpful Bibliography.--Catholic Books Review
The stories of these modern women (brought to life in this exceptionally well written book) who continue to challenge or institutional church (and all of us) to open our eyes to the universal truths of Christ's message of acceptance, healing, understanding, love and salvation.... [This is a] well referenced book.... I can truly say that no matter where you are on your faith journey, you will find so much truth in this book. You will be able to identify with the hearts of all these women. You will find the grace that fills your soul with the eagerness to be part of this time in history when we can bring to the 'institution' what the Church is truly called to be for all eternity.--EqualwRites
While there are in the United States alone thousands of women similar to the ten whom the author describes, fewer are as perceptive, well educated, and articulate as those whom Celia Viggo Wexler chose to interview for this book.... The focus on details of each woman's life is appropriate, for in them the reader will see and learn the power of each individual's decision-making. And that is precisely the point of Wexler's research: the hope that these women offer the world is the possibility of personal change, not necessarily of institutional reform. This book is in many ways an easy read and it draws the reader in by its clear structure, human stories, and comprehensible rendering of ecclesial and spiritual concepts... [It] deserves and will find a welcome place on college reading lists and library shelves. Even more likely is the market that should develop among general readers and book discussion groups who have an interest in the contemporary Roman Catholic Church. After all, Wexler does state that one of her purposes in writing the book is to address the lack of conversation about the issues among like-minded women.--American Catholic Studies