I am a writer and scholar of religion specializing in contemporary Roman Catholicism, that is, Catholicism since Vatican II. From 2000 to 2009 I was on the faculty at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA, where I taught contemporary Christian theology and American religion. Now I’m Research Professor of Catholic Studies at the Center for World Christianity at New York Theological Seminary in New York City. My husband and I live in the amazing culturally and religiously diverse Flatbush section of Brooklyn where you can walk in ten minutes from mosques to Orthodox synagogues to Pentecostal store fronts to Haitian/Chicano/Caribbean Catholic churches.


The purpose of this blog is to continue and share with friends the conversation I begin in my book, Tracing the Sign of the Cross: Sexuality, Mourning, and the Future of American Catholicism (Columbia University Press, Gender, Theory and Religion Series, 2009). In that book, I consider the ways in which the Catholic culture wars, especially over sexuality and gender, have protected many American Catholics from engaging and working through the losses they and their church sustained during the last third of the twentieth century. I do this in a series of close readings of novels, memoirs, and essays by four American writers with “distinctively Catholic imaginations”: James Carroll, Mary Gordon, Donna J. Haraway, and Richard Rodriguez. 


As I work my way through these texts, I find that by “tracing the sign of the cross” in their writings–engaging with and mourning loss–these authors point the way toward a more faithful and productive American Catholic future. I also conclude that for myself, the path beyond the Catholic culture wars moves inexorably in the direction of the church “in the Global South,” in its multiple manifestations, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and indigenous. Also, as Pope Francis indicates in his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’, the future of Catholicism and everything else is integrally connected to the current environmental crisis. If we fail to act on that, the rest is window-dressing.


Please join me, then, as I blog my way from twenty-first century American Catholicism to global Christianity, the climate crisis, sex/gender issues, and a whole lot more. And please comment whenever you are able. The conversation is what counts.



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  1. my dear
    glad to find you again. will try to foillow your thoughts as you share them in your blog
    stay well
    advent blessings


  2. I too was disappointed in the program, “God in America”. Our country and our people have not yet discovered the femenine of God. The male hierarchy have absolutely forgotten that we women are in the image and likedness of God too! Though perhaps the American Indian had an incline toward the Great Mother. People close to the earth are usually right-brain. In future all human beings will awaken to the femenine of God, if people will just be given a hint that this is not only possible but very real.
    Just to share my own experience/insights…

    Woman of Wisdom

    You flow through my thoughts Mother mine.
    I heard and saw you in my mind.
    And there, O powerful beauty I beheld
    a vision so wonderful, of what you are
    forever, an immense elegance,
    illuminating imagining.
    Oh, sweetness of life, to savor
    your pleasantness brings a rising joy.
    Your innocence germinates gentle wonder
    and a bud of bewilderment blooms.
    Oh, Woman of Wisdom be my consolation.
    I know you well and dearly.
    I know your innermost soul.
    Ever shall I hold you
    by purity of heart.
    You are triumphant woman of wonder
    with lively expressions so tender,
    ever awakening, stimulating, exhilarating
    life to lofty heights alluring.
    You are a pleasure to ponder.
    Your Presence humbles the heavens.
    and earth is struck with awe.
    Blessed is the eternal womb
    birthing Christ from above.
    Spirit of Love, Woman of God, Mother mine,
    you are
    ever our beloved.

    Margaret Barry



  3. Dear Marian,
    I just discovered your blog and appreciate what I’ve read of it enough to sign up for your posts.
    Thank you!


    • Thanks, Elaine. I hope you’ll comment from time to time.



  4. Hi Marian,

    I just found you through Religion Dispatches–great piece on Dolan. As always, you are insightful about reading between the lines of what is said to what is meant. You are also giving me courage to think again about starting a blog! Hope all’s well. Blessings,
    Joyce Mercer


  5. Dear Marian,

    Fr. Perry ask me to be in touch with you. Could you please contact me through my email.

    Thank you.



  6. Ms. Ronan,

    I am trying to contact you regarding a permissions request for “Wisdom’s Feast”. I would be happy to email you the request if you could provide me your email. I can be reached at acomstock@xanedu.com Kindest Regards, Amanda Comstock


  7. Marian:

    I saw your name on the missing list of St. Joe’s 50th reunion. So if you are interested get back to me. It is Thanksgiving weekend.



  8. Hi Marian! I’m sorry you’re in NY; I thought you were in California and imagined a wonderful reunion someday! Still a possibility but more unlikely I think. Every once in a while I think I’ll try to reconnect with former classmates at ND – but haven’t so far. I’m living in Beaverton, outside Portland, OR, and still playing catch-up with things I haven’t gotten to do yet. 3 sons; moved out of my “big” house and am settling in to a smaller place. Hope you’ve kept in touch with former classmates, as I’d love to catch up with you and hear about them. And, hope you’re well. Best, cmb


    • Carmela, I don’t know if I ever responded to this post on my blog page. If I didn’t, I’m sorry. I’m writing now to say that there’s a celebration of the 50th anniversary of our 1965 graduation from Notre Dame next October 10th at the CConcordville (PA) Best Western. And some of us who hung out together are going to have a mini-reunion beginning the night before. If you get this, write back, and I’ll send you more details. We would really love to have you join us. Xox, Marian


  9. Hi Marian,
    I am reading your blog with interest. Ginger told me about it – having met up with you again at Mary Louise Birmingham’s memorial. I will read your book – Tracing the Sign of the Cross. Intriguing title.

    Ann Pearson


  10. Marian, thanks for this wonderful blog and for the opportunity to become part of the conversation.



  11. Hello Marian, so great to see you on your visit to Clearwater! And so glad you told me about your blog! I’m enjoying reading your blogs! So very interesting! Hope you enjoyed the rest of your visit! Take care, Nicole (aka Jeff’s wife and Drew’s mommy)


    • Nicole:

      I know who you are!! Great seeing you and the boys yesterday. We hope to see more of you (and Betty) as Keith is cutting back on his hours.Let’s keep in touch. xox.


  12. Dear Marian,
    I am a convert to Catholicism with a degree in Art and Religious Studies, who at 58 years old became a lay missionary to the Catholic Diocese of Nnewi in Nigeria. In my years of work there I have not experienced what your analysis and references on the issue of the ‘Global South’ Catholic Church represents. In fact, I have traveled widely and also have Catholic friends on every continent (except Australia). I think that your perspective is of the thoroughly postmodern, progressively secular ‘inculturated’ Church of the United States. This is not representative of the greatest part of the Catholic Church, which I believe aligns itself more with the perspective of the Cardinal from Slovenia. Fortunately, Holy Mother Church is tolerant of many different perspectives, for She draws Her strength and longevity from Jesus Christ who promises to build His Church… through the Sacraments… One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.


    • Dear Ms. Malavasic:

      Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Blessings on your efforts in Nigeria.


  13. Marian,

    I’ve been reading your blog for a few months now and must say that I love it! I have recently renewed my Catholic faith and have been going through RCIA for several months now (almost done!) What I’m struggling with is that I love the faith but I find it difficult to be a liberal woman as a part of this faith. I’m pro-choice in cases of rape or incest only, I’m pro-gay marriage, and now this contraception thing has thrown me for a loop. At first, I was of the mind that I understood the Preisdent’s decision but that he did need to consider religious freedom and liberty and should allow the church to opt out. Now I’m not so sure I feel that way. Anyway, it’s a comfort to me to know that I can be Catholic and be liberal and it is ok. Any advice?


  14. A friend of mine suggested your blog and I really love what I’m reading. The latest flare up has got me really down on Catholicism and religion in general. I couldn’t figure out why because I know that the Church has not really changed any of its position. But, now I realize it’s the grotesque politicization of these issues that has me feeling really marginalized. I am really struggling and your perspective and those of some of the commentors makes me feel less alone. Thank you.


  15. Marian-I’m so glad to know that we can again have something like those lovely porch talks where we planned women’s worship in Bowling Green!

    I trust your next blog will be about the Vatican’s criticism of women religious in America. How dare you have a mind of your own!


    • Indeed it will be about that. Maybe the next. Three. I am seriously pissed.

      Yes, we had some wonderful days in Bowling Green, didn’t we.

      Coming to NYC one of these days.

      Sent from my iPad


  16. Marian, I found your articles on the Vatican’s effort to muzzle the Nuns fascinating. Your article of April 24th and 29th are straight as an arrow. I too attended a convent school through 8th grade. My sister and I were latch key kids and got almost all of our Catholic instruction from the nuns. My sister, who lives in another state, both agree that this action by the Vatican makes our blood boil. Keep at your guns, and we shall pray for the nuns.

    Owen Duffy


    • Thanks so much, Owen. I hope you’ve seen my second post as well…


  17. Hi Marian– a voice from your long past past… Here I am a former SND and your friend and former teacher so pleased to read what you’ve written. I’ve been outraged by the Vatican war on women and pasted many articles on my FB blog.
    So glad you are a strong voice– yes the boys don’t know what they are in for….
    warm hugs to you


  18. Am trying to continue to worship as a Roman Catholic in Brooklyn. Where do I go to find a more progressive parish?


  19. Dear Professor Marion Ronan,

    I have initiated an online petition through http://www.change.org in order for Pope Benedict XVI to authorise an independent, international, commission of inquiry concerning the global clerical sexual abuse of children, which is plaguing the entire Roman Catholic Church. If you agree with the sentiments of my petition, which includes the reform of sexual doctrine, and for the development of global policies and regulations, to protect all children and vulnerable people from potential abusers, through new articles of Canon Law etc., can you please consider adding your signature to it? Can you also pass on my petition to any other person or group of people who might be interested in its aims? Can you place the petition on your blog?

    I would be very appreciative if you could do this for the promotion of the petition. Please click on the link below to view the petition. Thank you very much for your time.

    Sincerely yours, John Candido.



  20. Marian,

    We have chatted via email in the past and I wanted to check in with you again because I am, again, conflicted. I’m from the Detroit area. I’m not sure if you are familiar, so I will link you to a story about our Archbishop Allan Vigneron : http://www.freep.com/article/20130408/NEWS05/304080041/Detroit-area-Catholic-leaders-urge-gay-marriage-supporters-to-skip-Communion

    In summary, he has announced that Catholics who support gay marriage and are pro-choice should be skipping communion. What happened to conscience? It is heart breaking for me to hear something so harsh coming from a faith that I love so much. I don’t expect the Catholic church to begin marrying gays. I understand that the church has a right in that position. I don’t agree with it, but I respect it. But the church has no right to dictate the laws of the land, last time I checked. In fact, last time I checked the church wasn’t paying taxes. I am a good person and a good Catholic and I am appalled at this sweeping judgment. I want to keep my Catholic faith, but not at the expense of my conscience. I would love your perspective on this.


  21. I have just come to know of your blog. I read about you in “Equal Writes”. I think I shall enjoy reading and exploring the topics.


  22. I just discovered your blog. Wonderful. I liked your piece on contraception. How do I subscribe to the blog? What was the religious name of your friend who died? I must have known her? Are you on Facebook?
    I just had my 80th birthday in March! So glad Keith is ok. That was scary.


  23. Dear Marion,
    I have written an open letter to the Women (and Men) of the Church setting forth the biblical and historical reasons why Mary, The Blessed Mother, should be considered the first priest of the Church. I have submitted the same to the National Catholic Reporter in the hope of getting it printed. However, I realize that they may wish to have the ideas presented therein expressed by a person possessing more gravitas. Briefly, I will state that I was a judge for more than 40 years and held other elected or appointed offices.
    The thrust of my “open letter” is to urge His Holiness to convene an ecumenical council on the subject of the necessity or extending the priesthood to women. If there is an email address to which I could send a copy of the letter I would be more than happy to do so.
    Richard Montes

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Hi Marian,
    I know you are a friend of Carolyn Gratton. I work at Crossroad Publishing Company and we publish Carolyn’s book Art of Spiritual Guidance. We sent out her royalty statement and it came back to us wrong address. I wonder if you know anything about her Estate. Where do we send her royalty statement and check. I tried contacting Friends of Silence but no response yet. I wonder if you can help us.


    • Joe, I’ll check with a friend in Toronto and get back to you with an address.


      • Joe, here is the name and address of Carolyn Gratton’s attorney. If she isn’t managing Carolyn’s estate, I am fairly certain she will know who is: Miriam Kelly, 159 Heath St. E. Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4T1S6. Good luck.


  25. Marion,

    I think I was in your freshman class at Notre Dame in Moylan. I now live in Mendocino, California and would love to know. I graduated in 1965 but from the Sacred Heart school in Elmhurst, Rhode Island. If you are the Marion I remember we used to hang out in Sr. Maura Anthony’s class after school.


    • Kate, I am definitely the MR who was at Moylan with you in 1961. I’m thrilled to hear from you. I hated it when you left NDHS. Want to talk on the phone sometime? I’d love to hear about your life in the 58 years since then!! Xox.


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