An Heroic Woman

November 18, 2019 at 5:43 pm | Posted in feminism, Global justice,, women | Leave a comment
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This is a review of the biography of Anne Hope, a South African leader of the International Grail whom I was blessed to know. The review appears in recent issues of Gumbo, the newsletter of the Grail in the United States, and EqualwRites, the newsletter of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Women’s Ordination Conference.

 

Anne Hope: The Struggle for Freedom: the life of the visionary co-founder of Training for Transformation. By Stephanie Kilroe. Darton, Longman and Todd. 139 pp.  $17,99

Feminist scholars have been documenting for some time now that women are consistently left out of historical narratives. One of the books that brought that home to me was Katherine Harmon’s There Were Also Many Women There, which explains in detail how my ecumenical women’s community, the Grail, had been excluded from the history of the liturgical movement.

Some of us—my co-author, Mary O’Brien and I, for example, in our 2017 volume on sixteen founders of the International Grail–have been trying to undo this injustice. Now South African writer Stephanie Kilroe has joined the effort with her splendid new life of South African anti-apartheid activist and Grail member Anne Hope: Anne Hope: The Struggle for Freedom.

The story begins with Anne’s birth, the middle of three children, in 1930 Johannesburg, South Africa, and traces her lineage back through her distinguished forebears. I personally was astounded to learn that someone who had spent much of her life working and fighting for the poor was descended from so many members of the British peerage and widely respected South African professionals. Anne continued these traditions, raised as she was with flawless manners and morality, and educated at a distinguished boarding school and eventually Oxford University.

Yet the suffering and loss that marked Anne’s life also began early with her father’s death in battle at the very end of World War II, when she was fifteen. And her horror at the poverty of a black South African township even before her father’s death went on to shape her lifelong to commitment to justice, as did her early election to the steering committee of Pax Romana, the International Catholic Student Movement.

It was, in fact, at a Pax Romana meeting in Montreal in 1952, that Anne met a group of young US Grail women, and then, back in Africa, the founder of the US Grail, Lydwine Van Kersbergen. Van Kersbergen arranged a scholarship for Anne to come to Grailville, the US Grail’s farm and national center near Cincinnati. Anne’s years there changed her life, or at least brought together many of the desires and commitments within her. After four years at Grailville, Anne spent four more years in Uganda at a Grail women’s secondary school. Her further work there starting women’s clubs in Ugandan villages was one of the foundations of her later work with Training for Transformation, an international education program for community organizers

Then, at the age of 32, Anne was named president of the Grail in South Africa where she spent seven years leading significant efforts with the Grail and other groups organizing against the apartheid government’s crack-down on the African National Congress and other liberation efforts. It was through some of these groups that Anne met Steve Biko; her collaboration with him later forced Anne to flee South Africa, not long before his murder by the South African government.

One of the most engaging plot threads in Kilroe’s carefully woven narrative of Anne Hope’s life and emotional/spiritual development is the story of her relationship with Sally Timmel. Initially, the celibacy requirement of the Grail leadership group, the nucleus, held little appeal for Anne; she had expected to marry and have children. But her engagement at Oxford ended over the Catholic/Protestant divide between her and her fiancé. And when a young South African man she had known wrote to propose to Anne during her time at Grailville, Lydwine Van Kersbergen, the head of the US Grail, blocked her from receiving the letter, because she believed Anne was called to nucleus leadership. And Anne did, eventually, join the nucleus.

But soon after leaving the South African Grail presidency, in a scholarship-funded master’s program in adult education at Boston University in 1969, Anne met and fell in love with Sally. Their work together developing adult training programs, including DELTA (Development Education and Leadership Teams in Action) and Training for Transformation, based in the pedagogy of Paulo Freire, transformed the lives of countless people in diverse African countries and elsewhere. The story of their years of collaboration, and the strains on their relationship as they were sometimes stranded on different continents, as well as their struggle over Anne’s nucleus commitment in her other family, the Grail, comprises a galvanizing trajectory through the second half of the book.

Some, however, will find the final chapters of Anne Hope equally absorbing. Here Kilroe describes with considerable nuance Anne’s retirement, during which, through prayer, psychotherapy, and deep encounters with the earth itself, she come to terms with her own deepest identity. I was especially moved by the details of Anne’s death at the age of 85 at Pilgrim Place in California where she and Sally had retired, and the burial of her ashes back in South Africa.

Of course, writing a book, especially a non-fiction book, is hard work. A few errors always slip though, as when Kilroe states that Anne’s dear friend, Eva Fleischner, was a convert from Judaism when it was her father who converted. Or when she refers to the theologian of the cosmos, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, whose work influenced Anne enormously, as “de Chardin,” when the proper shortened version of his name is “Teilhard.”

Of perhaps more concern is the genre, so to speak of Kilroe’s work. As she explains in her afterword, the initial primary source for her research was Anne’s self-published 2013 autobiography, A Life of Hope: The Story of My Life. But Kilroe found the autobiography too objective, even stilted in parts. When Sally shared with her Anne’s “morning papers,” the journals Anne had kept over the years, as well as many of Sally’s own memories, Kilroe was able to focus on the “transforming struggle of Anne’s inner life…” As valuable as the results of such a focus may be, this means that Anne Hope is more a spiritual narrative, or even a mediated memoir, than a biography.

We see some of the implications of this focus in Kilroe’s discussion of the “trouble” Anne and Sally experienced at the end of a 1979 six-week advanced training course for forty experienced Kenyan trainers they had worked with successfully for years. Suddenly we learn, “the group reacted against colonialism, against white leadership in the church, and against Anne and Sally…accusing them of domination (and) of imposing Western values.” These accusations devastated Anne in particular.

Kilroe introduces this conflict with a paragraph comparing it to a child who while becoming an independent young adult experiences hostility toward their otherwise good parents. She quotes one of Anne and Sally’s African “colleagues” to justify her use of the comparison, assuring us that she does not mean it to be condescending.

I leave it to you to decide whether a white writer comparing Africans to children when they protest white dominance is condescending, but it is also the case that a competent biographer would have interviewed some of the Kenyan trainers involved in the conflict before evaluating it.

These limitations, however, ought not to deter us from reading Anne Hope with enthusiasm and gratitude. It is a well-written and absorbing book. Rarely are we gifted with such a poignant and inspiring portrayal of the inner life and accomplishments of an heroic woman—a portrayal that strikes one more blow against the exclusion of women from history.

 

Revisiting Dorothy Day

July 9, 2018 at 2:31 pm | Posted in Catholicism, feminism, war and violence | 4 Comments
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Because of my half-century of participation in the Grail movement, I have always felt related to Dorothy Day. The first recorded contact between the Grail and American Catholics was a 1936 letter to her from the co-founder of the US Grail, Lydwine van Kersbergen. In 1943, with the Grail planted in the Midwest, Day, on sabbatical from the Catholic Worker, participated in a three-week Grail program on rural living, liturgy, and the women’s apostolate. Later she made a silent retreat at Super Flumina, the Grail’s farm in Foster, Ohio.

My personal contacts with Day were limited. She spoke at a meeting of the Catholic Art Association—or maybe it was the Catholic Art Guild, since the Art Association shut down in 1970––during one of the summers that I spent at Grailville, the Grail’s farm and conference center near Cincinnati, when I was still a fourth-grade teacher. Her talk followed the showing of a short art film, “Two Men and a Wardrobe.”* My recollection is that Day was quite dismissive of the film, something that led me to categorize her as a crabby, old-fashioned Church type; I was in my mid-twenties at the time and not very forgiving.

I also wrote to Day in 1975, after I had become a full-time member of the Grailville staff, asking if she would send me a copy of the Muslim “Ninety-Nine Names of God” that another Grail member, recently home from Egypt, had given her. She responded,

Sorry. Those 99 Names have disappeared from my treasure box, though the beads remain. My bedroom is always used in my peregrinations, so things disappear, are ripped off, liberated, to use the language of the young. My love to all there. –– In Christ––Dorothy.

The message came on a postcard bearing the kind of dramatic woodcut, this one by Antonio Frasconi, that appeared frequently in the Catholic Worker. Eventually I had the postcard framed archivally, to preserve it. When I show it to visitors I tell them that if Dorothy is canonized, it will become a second-class relic, a comment that baffles most of them.

All the rest of my “encounters” with Dorothy have taken place since her death in 1980. One was reading the letter from Cardinal John O’Connor to the Vatican nominating Day for canonization. It highlights, as a reason for her canonization, Day’s repentance for the abortion she underwent she became a Catholic. Later, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, at an event in Day’s honor at St. Joseph’s in Greenwich Village, the church where Day was baptized, described her as an “obedient daughter of the Church.” I was well past my mid-twenties by then, but my responses to these statements were still not very forgiving. With regard to Day’s obedience to the Church, for example, I thought: except for the cemetery workers’ strike, where Day and her Catholic Worker colleagues picketed against the strike breakers brought in by the Archdiocese.

Most recently, my encounters with Day include reading Jim Forest’s biography, All is Grace (Orbis 2011). I have had it in my head for years to write a book about Joan of Arc, Thérèse of Lisieux, and Day, because of the strong but seemingly unlikely connections between them––Thérèse the ascetic having written a play about Joan the warrior, and Day, the pacifist, devoted to Joan as well, then writing a book about Thérèse. Forest’s book is part of the material I’ve been accumulating for the project.

Forest is a terrific writer, and I learned a great deal from his biography that I had not known about Day. For one thing, I learned that she really was in many respects a traditional, if also utterly committed, Catholic. She was also a fairly judgmental individual, a sin she confessed again and again. So my evaluation of her in the 1970s was not entirely mistaken.

I also learned that Day really was an obedient daughter of the Church, frequently following the directions she received from bishops and priests—though she was by no means naïve about the sins of the institution.

I even learned that Day really did seriously regret—repent of—her abortion, though whether she would want to be remembered for that before anything else is another question. Indeed, she objected strongly to any suggestion that she was a saint, believing it undercut the Catholic Worker’s fundamental commitment to egalitarianism and denial of self.

Perhaps the most important insight I took away from reading Forest’s biography, however, is that precisely because of her high level of Christian commitment and the strength of her positions, Dorothy Day may well be exactly the kind of role model needed in this difficult time. In the midst of the environmental crisis that engulfs us, for example, I look around our apartment and wonder why in hell I ever bought all these clothes, these books, those items of kitchen ware, and I find myself deeply inspired by Day’s poverty and self-abnegation.

As I observe the chaos that paralyzes many of the groups I belong to, underpinned by the individualism and expectations of gratification by so many in my generation, I find myself profoundly challenged by Day’s concern with and obedience to authority, however communal her understanding of it was.

And when I am too lazy to turn out for public demonstrations, or too afraid of being arrested, I remember Day’s endless commitment to social action, and her many stays in jail.

Could it be, I find myself wondering, that the woman I once dismissed as too traditional a Catholic and too judgmental a person is exactly the model––the saint––we need as we face the crises that confront us?

 

Versions of this post appeared in EqualwRites, the newsletter of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Women’s Ordination Conference and Gumbo the monthly publication of the Grail in the US.)

 

WWJD?

November 27, 2017 at 12:23 pm | Posted in Aging, Climate Change, Environment, women, world water crisis | 2 Comments
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No, not what would Jesus do. What would Jane O’Donnell do?

Jane O’Donnell was part of the generation ahead of mine in the Grail, the international women’s movement I’ve been active in since my senior year in high school. Many of the women in that earlier  generation were utterly amazing. I would not be who I am without the example they set for me.

Jane O’Donnell was a native Philadelphian (as I am), and came to the Grail through the Catholic Worker. There was a close connection between the US Grail and the Catholic Worker from the outset; the Grail founders corresponded with Dorothy Day before they came to the US in 1940, and Day later made several  retreats at the Grail’s house near Cincinnati. And from time to time over the years, Day sent women to the Grail who seemed more suited to us than to the CW. Jane was , I believe, one of these.

Jane lived most of her adult life in Grail communities, and did amazing work with the poor. One story I heard involved her leaving a Grail Christmas celebration to take food to a family that was without any.

I knew Jane mostly from Grail meetings, but perhaps we lived together at Grailville, the Grail’s southern Ohio farm and conference center, in the 1970s. In any case, I have to confess, I mostly found Jane baffling. Eventually I read in an introduction to the Myers-Briggs test that extroverts are people who determine what they think by talking about it, and this helped me understand Jane a bit better. Suffice to say that in my family of origin, editing before you talk was a highly valued, not to say required, practice.  So I often had a hard time understanding what Jane was taking about.

I am thinking about this now because once, toward the end of her life, when we were both at the Grail Center at Cronwall on Hudson, Jane said to me that she had decided that it doesn’t really matter whether there are dirty spots on your clothes; you should just wear them that way. Striving as I was then to move from my working class background into the professional-managerial class as a professor, I thought once again: What is this woman talking about?

In recent years, however, I have been using my professorial skills to research the impending climate catastrophe. In a review of a book on the gargantuan increase in consumption since World War II, I read that after the war something like 70% of Europeans wore their socks two days in a row before washing them , but today, virtually nobody does. Since then, at the end of the day, I have been hanging my socks over the edge of my sock drawer and wearing them again– though my post-working class try-not-to-smell-like-a poor-person tendencies make it hard for me to admit this.

I am also trying to get myself to wear clothes that have spots on them. It would save water, because I would wash them less, and put fewer soap chemicals into the water system. Doing this is made easier by the fact that our fist-floor west-Flatbush apartment is a bit dark; sometimes I go out and see spots that I had missed when I got dressed (or see that I am wearing clothes a different color from what I had intended!)

In any case, there’s one thing I am fairly sure of: I know what Jane O’Donnell would do.

 

Catholic Women, Liturgy, and the Transformation of the World

May 1, 2017 at 2:39 pm | Posted in Catholicism, feminism, women | 3 Comments
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Those of you who read my blog with any regularity may have come across my references to the Grail, an international women’s movement that I have been active in since my senior year in high school (fifty-two years, in case you’re counting). The Grail is not very well-known these days, at least in the U.S., but it played a significant role in securing a place for lay women in the Catholic Church in the 20th century. The following is a revised version of my review of a book that explores the place of the Grail in one aspect of Catholic modernization in the twentieth century, the Liturgical Movement.

There Were Also Many Women There: Lay Women in the Liturgical Movement in the United States, 1926-1959 by Katherine E. Harmon (Liturgical Press, 2012). 412 pp. Paperback: $39.95 (but on sale right now for $25.97 at https://www.litpress.org/Products/6271/There-Were-Also-Many-Women-There); eBook, $31.99.

Despite the positive impact of the women’s movement over the past half century, many kinds of sexism continue.  One is the omission–exclusion–of women from histories of various developments and movements.

One history from which women have been significantly excluded is that of the liturgical movement in the Roman Catholic Church. In There Were Also Many Women There, historian Katharine Harmon examines the influential and largely undocumented role that women, that is to say, laywomen played in the Roman Catholic liturgical movement in the United States. (All Catholic women are considered laywomen, even nuns, because women cannot be priests). To do so, Harmon first explores the European origins of the liturgical movement, and then focuses on the liturgical movement in the U.S. The Grail movement, the women’s community in which I have spent my entire adult life, figures significantly in both sections of the book.

So what is the liturgical movement, and why is it important? Begun in the 1830s, the liturgical movement was an effort to reform the worship practices of the Roman Catholic Church. Some consider it an attempt to return to the romanticism of the Middle Ages, but Harmon demonstrates that the movement was, from the outset, a profoundly social development. It was social because it moved Catholic worship beyond the isolation of the Latin Mass, where individuals had engaged in private devotions like the rosary and encouraged instead responding to and singing together during the Mass. In effect, the goal of the movement was to make the liturgy a socially unifying experience, so as to bring the liturgical participant “into union with the Christian community and, thus inspired, to expand this spirit outward for the renewal of society.”(11)

Launched in Benedictine monasteries in France, the liturgical movement took on new energy after the catastrophic effects of World War I. Active, intelligent liturgical participation in the oneness of Christ’s body would enable God’s grace to permeate and redeem the world. Not coincidentally, the Society of the Women of Nazareth, the group which became the Grail movement, was itself founded in 1921, to convert the world from the callous and demoralizing values evidenced by the war.

Harmon acknowledges that the Women of Nazareth and the Grail Youth Movement they launched in 1928 were not explicitly part of the European liturgical movement. But she argues that the massive colorful religious performances that the Grail staged with thousands of Dutch girls in stadiums beginning in 1932 was “one of the most courageous and public realizations of Catholic Action (the lay Catholic turn to social justice) in the years between the world wars.”  She also quotes an early article about the Grail in a publication of the US liturgical movement stating that the Grail movement was paradigmatic of the essential relationship between liturgy and lived Christianity: The Grail seemed “to be enlivened with a living appreciation of liturgical life and an active understanding of the real meaning of the lay apostolate.” (45).

After the Grail’s arrival in the U.S. in 1940, the liturgical dimension of the movement became even more explicit. U.S. co-founders Lydwine van Kersbergen and Joan Overboss attended and spoke out at national liturgical meetings, and nationally recognized leaders of the liturgical movement led courses and celebrated the Eucharist at Grail centers. And in the U.S., as much or more than was the case in Europe, the Grail celebration of the liturgy, including the singing of Gregorian chant, the creation of other chant-based liturgical music, and liturgical dance, was inextricably connected to the Grail’s commitment to Catholic Action—social justice—and the fostering of an integrated life on the land.

Lydwine van Kersbergen stressed that “the first principle in the training of lay apostles is the understanding that the experience of the sacred liturgy is the integrating center of life” (224).  The great Catholic social justice activist Dorothy Day made retreats with the Grail outside Chicago and at Grailville and commented enthusiastically on the unity between prayer, singing and action in the Grail. For Day, this same integrated vision was at the center of the Catholic Worker movement. And as Harmon demonstrates, thousands of other U.S. women also took their Grail liturgical training back with them to parishes and lay groups across the country.

So why does this matter? Because the liturgy, and especially liturgical singing, were fundamental to the formation of the generations of Grail women who helped the change the Catholic Church and the wider society in which that church played an influential role. And many of these women went on from that formation to engage in amazingly hard, brave, and even heroic work to establish what they understood to be God’s kingdom on earth. I am thinking here of the Dutch Grail women who continued to hold underground meetings during the Nazi occupation of Holland, although they knew they would be sent to concentration camps if they were caught. And others who stayed at their mission stations in Africa and Latin America in the face of horrifying violence—in one case, remaining in central Africa even after a Grail member was murdered in her bed in the next room during a tribal civil war. And then there were the women who worked their entire lives for subsistence at the Grail’s farm and national center in southwest Ohio and other Grail centers.

The Grail is currently active in eighteen countries around the world. Over its near century of existence, it has supported, enlivened and educated thousands of women and girls, running schools and hospitals, leading pioneering programs in progressive education, feminist theology, social transformation, and agriculture. And for many years the Roman Catholic liturgy was at the heart of such action for social change. What will provide the foundation for desperately needed action in 2017, in the face of the rise of nationalist populism and religious wars around the world?

Catholics and Contraception: A Page Turner

June 28, 2014 at 2:52 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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A while back, I mistakenly thought a Catholic Studies scholars’ group I belong to was going to read Leslie Woodcock Tentler’s Catholics and Contraception: An American History (Cornell 2004) so I sent off for a copy from Amazon.  (Someday I am going to analyze my addiction to Amazon Prime, but not today.) The brand new hardback copy of Catholics and Contraception (C&C) that I received cost $2; lucky Tentler and I aren’t in this business for the money.

Truth in advertising requires me to admit that I spent most of the 60s and 70s in Catholic women’s schools and then living in residential communities of the Grail, an international women’s movement; we had  more arguments about lesbianism than about contraception, and I was more upset by the Vatican rejection of women’s ordination in 1976 than by Humanae Vitae, Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical condemning artificial contraception  When I finally got married, at the age of 47, I had already undergone a complete hysterectomy. Of course, I had school friends with seven or ten or twelve siblings, and I got to know the mothers of such families in the Grail. But generally speaking, contraception was not my issue.

C&C examines contraception in U.S. Catholicism from 1873 to 1970, with an epilogue addressing the following three decades. My initial inclination, after finishing the book, was to go on a rant about how these men–popes, bishops, and priests for the most part, along with the occasional male lay leader– could have dared to tell married couples, and women in particular, what they must do with their sexuality. But this would have been a projection of the current situation onto the past. The striking point I took away from C&C  is how very much has changed in an astonishingly short period of time. As Tentler notes, according to a study done in 1970, fully 78 percent of U.S. Catholic women aged twenty to twenty-four were limiting their families by a means other than abstinence or rhythm; during the controversy over the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptives mandate, I in turn read that 97 percent of Catholic women surveyed reported having used artificial contraceptives at some point in their lives. But before the 1960s, this was much less the case.

A good deal of this change Tentler attributes to the “non-reception” of Humanae Vitae by the vast majority of American Catholics, (as well as the Vatican II emphasis on freedom of conscience, and the sexual revolution). Not all aspects of these changes were positive, in Tentler’s estimation, leading as they did to sexual promiscuity, high rates of divorce, and out-of-wedlock births. Ultimately, we learn, the Vatican decision to condemn contraception based on little more than the pope’s “no” undercut massively the church’s own authority. More’s the pity, Tentler suggests, since many of the positive aspects of Catholic teaching about sexuality and marriage went down the tubes along with the ill-advised encyclical.

Yet it’s not only what Tentler says about the effects of Humanae Vitae that I found fascinating. I also learned much that I had not known about Catholics and contraception in the century before that encyclical. I had no idea, for example, that a number of moral theologians had initially condemned rhythm–the only contraceptive method (besides sexual abstinence) that the church eventually allowed to couples attempting to limit the size of their families. These earlier moral theologians believed that even the rhythm method would create a “contraceptive mentality” in users. And Tentler would seem to agree; after the failure of rhythm, Catholic couples often did move to the pill.

I was also initially annoyed by Tentler’s extensive attention to the experience of priests and bishops regarding contraception. The first five chapters draw to a considerable extent on interviews Tentler did with these men, as well as on archival material by and about them. “A book about contraception according to Catholic priests. Thanks a lot,” was my first response. Yet Tentler’s research on the clergy demonstrates what a mess the question of contraception was for almost the entire American church, not married couples only. Many priests were reluctant at best to question laypeople in confession about their use of contraceptives, even when bishops demanded that they do so. And Humanae Vitae only exacerbated the crisis of priestly morale and identity that occurred after Vatican II, especially among younger men; fully 50 percent of American priests disagreed with the substance of the encyclical. This surely contributed to the departure of a large number of American men from the priesthood in the decades that followed.

But Catholics and Contraception does more than fill readers in with details about the past. It also provides an essential context for the current, seemingly endless disputes over the contraceptives mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Indeed, the Supreme Court is expected to issue their decision on the Hobby Lobby case any day now. But the context Tentler provides is particularly important in relation to the claims of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other conservative Catholic groups that the contraceptives mandate is a violation of Roman Catholic religious freedom.  But it’s not only non-Catholics working in Catholic institutions who will be deprived of free contraceptives under the ACA if the mandate is gutted; most sexually active U.S Catholics working in those institutions will be as well. The Roman Catholic religious freedom under consideration in these cases is that of the 447 Roman Catholic bishops in the U.S. and the relatively small number of priests, nuns and laypeople who agree with them on this issue. The institutional church has never afforded the vast majority of Catholics “religious freedom” regarding the use of contraceptives. Most days I doubt it ever will.

“Pink Smoke Over the Vatican”

April 16, 2011 at 9:02 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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Lately people I know have been going to a film about the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican.” This week a member of the international women’s movement to which I also belong, the Grail, posted a request for the rest of us to donate money to make it possible for this film to be shown more widely. Here’s my response to her request.

Dear friends:

I would like to say a few words about this film, “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican.”

As some of you may know, I have been active in the movement for Catholic women’s ordination for almost forty years. Along with Grail members Eleanor Walker and Janet Kalven I attended the first meeting of the Women’s Ordination Conference, in Detroit, in 1975. I served on the national board of the Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC) , the primary US organization working for RC women’s ordination, for five years, and as president of that board for two years. I have collected signatures outside churches for women’s ordination and addressed national assemblies of the wider women’s ordination movement.
The Roman Catholic WomenPriests (RCWP) movement, of which the women in this film are, I believe, members, is one phase of the movement for Catholic women’s ordination.  RCWP began with ordinations on a boat in the Danube some years ago, and members of the group are ordained regularly as priests and deacons here in the US and around the world. Their members have also been ordained bishops.
But nothing is simple. We never just wanted women priests. We wanted what Elizabeth Schuessler Fiorenza calls a “discipleship of equals,” in which laywomen and ordained women would not be assimilated into the same clerical hierarchy that has characterized the Catholic Church for centuries. And of course, there were ordained Catholic women long before Roman Catholic WomenPriests became, ostensibly, the Catholic women priests. My good friend Judy Heffernan was ordained by the Community of the Christian Spirit (CCS) in Philadelphia in the early 1980s and has been celebrating the liturgy with that group since then. But CCS did not ordain any bishops.
I am wary of the arrival of official women priests and  bishops in the women’s ordination movement. When I gave the keynote address for the 30th anniversary of the Women’s Ordination Conference in 2005, one of the RCWP bishops, Patricia Fresen, was the other keynoter. Afterwards WOC, the organization whose board I had served on, and for whom I had raised money, published Patricia’s talk  but not mine. Maybe it was an oversight. Or maybe talks by bishops are just more worthy of publication than talks by laywomen.
Because “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican” focuses on women priests and bishops, it risks re-inscribing the clerical hierarchy that some of us have been fighting to change for decades. If you see the film, I trust you will keep this in mind. Also,  another way to support women’s ordination is to make a donation to the Women’s Ordination Conference at http://www.womensordination.org/component/option,com_frontpage/Itemid,4/

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In 2007 I also wrote an article for The Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion on ethical questions related to the Catholic women’s ordination movement (and RCWP in particular). It expands on some of the points I make above and also raises questions about the whiteness of the women’s ordination movement overall. If you’d like to have a copy you can drop me a note at New York Theological Seminary, 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 500,  New York, NY 10115 with your email address and I’ll send it to you. Or if you have my email address, feel free to write to me.

P.S. I have no idea why this post appears in different sized fonts on my actual blog page. When some younger people come for my birthday party tomorrow maybe one of them can fix it for me! Sorry.

 

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