April 05, 2005

Good Catholic Girls: How Women are Leading the Fight to Change the Church


I have an outsider's love-it-or-leave-it attitude towards orthodox Christianity. When Latter-Day Saints ask on group blogs, "When is it possible to criticize the clergy?", I mentally respond that Martin Luther answered that question a few hundred years ago for all of us. I therefore approached the women portrayed in Good Catholic Girls with some suspicion. As soon as they have decided that The Hierarchy Is Wrong, I thought, they aren't really Catholics anymore, since a tenet of Catholicism (to my nonexpert eye) is obeying the clergy and viewing them as instruments of the divine. "Why aren't these women Protestants?" I asked myself for most of the book.

Author Angela Bonavoglia, in this survey of women around the world who fight to soften the Catholic Church's positions on myriad issues, addresses this question occasionally throughout and then in depth, and almost satisfactorily, in her last chapter. Bonavoglia's chapters range over such topics as women's ordination, lay ministers, the history of the recent church reform movement, the priest sexual abuse scandals, and the Church's views on abortion, AIDS, and divorce. Each chapter reviews the protests for change, but also involves some measure of the author's fawning praise of reformers, and earnest, sometimes cloying observations of her own feelings during interviews and protests.

She finishes the book with reflections on why she and other women stay Catholic. I would have preferred some speculation on the future of the Church. She keeps saying that these women are an unstoppable force for change. How will the Church change, then? Can she extrapolate from current events?

Posted by kshaw at April 5, 2005 08:41 AM