Monday, June 20, 2005

Ordained Protestant feminists convert to Catholicism?!

The Catholic Mystique: Fourteen Women Find Fulfillment in the Catholic Church. Edited by Jennifer Ferrara and Patricia Sodano Ireland. Our Sunday Visitor Books. 299 pages. No price given.

Here is a book to inspire the faithful and curdle the blood of most feminists. The book consists of 14 essays, each by a contemporary woman recounting her journey of conversion to the Catholic Faith. They come from diverse religious backgrounds. Some of them, ironically, from very liberal feminist backgrounds. Some were even Protestant ministers -- yep, ordained Protestant women -- before finding their way into the Catholic Church. Beware of exploding dissident heads around you! Most priest wannabee Catholic feminists simply won't be able to fathom the perspective of these writers.

Ann Barbeau Gardiner has a great review of this book, which can be found here. She groups the themes of the writers around three points: (1) their courage, (2) their sense of a need for ecclesiastical authority, and (3) their discovery that holiness is itself a journey. A few excerpts:

"First, the courage of these women is remarkable. It puts many a cradle Catholic to shame. One of them was obliged to run a gauntlet when her Lutheran and Catholic friends asked how she could convert to a Church that did not ordain women. She confides that she was once a 'feminist liberal' too. Sadly, Catholics zealous for the feminist cause still see her as a 'traitor.' Another woman tells us that she hesitated on the edge of conversion because of her attachment to her congregation and her own sister’s accusation of 'disloyalty,' but in the end bravely resolved that 'natural' loves have nothing to do with truth. Yet another recounts how she went through an 'Oh No!' phase that lasted a couple of months, during which she faced, one by one, all the losses her conversion would entail: She foresaw that she would have to tell her family and colleagues something they did not want to hear, that she would worship alone without her immediate family, and that she would lose 'the professional gains' of a decade just before applying for tenure. Each 'Oh No!' raised the question, 'Is it worth it?' But at the close of this searing ordeal, she found there was nothing left but 'Yes' and a deep sense of 'peace and joy.' ...

"Two of these women were married to divorced men at the time they sought to convert, so they had to wait for years for the matter to be settled; nor was there any certainty that an annulment would ever be granted. One of them says that she and her husband lived two years under 'the cross of chastity' as brother and sister, until the annulment finally came and they could be married in the Church. A striking example of courage, sacrifice, and grace! ..."

Again, perhaps as ironic as anything else in this volume, the following observation: "Patricia Sodano Ireland tells of attending a 15th-anniversary celebration of the ordination of women in her former Church and finding it a 'lamentation orgy' about the 'suffering of female clergy at the hands of men,' without a single 'satisfied woman.' Evidently, ordination had not brought them happiness."

Read more of Anne Barbeau Gardiner's review article, entitled "Goodbye, Proud World, I'm Going Home."

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