A Woman and Catholicism|
by Sheclagh Conway
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|SACRED & SECULAR
by MARY FRANCES COADY
Catholic feminists don't have an easy time of it. Oppressive. anti-female forces are not only built into the structure of Catholicism, but are also subtly pervasive in the mindset of the clergy; the more sensitive a woman becomes to them, the more alienated she becomes.
Women deal with the problem in various ways. Some continue to struggle from within. Some become marginal Catholics or join "intentional communities" where they can express their faith in the midst of likeminded people. Others opt out altogether. convinced that such a patriarchal institution holds no hope for change. That is what Sheelagh Conway did.
Conway grew up within the confines of a rigid Catholicism in rural Ireland, where she saw the local priest quietly sanction the frequent beatings that her mother received from her father. After leaving school, she moved to London, discovered the feminist movement, and began to question the Catholic teachings that held such a tight rein on her life. She later settled in Windsor, Ontario, where, in the throes of a crumbling marriage, she was denied the solace she sought from her Catholic associates. Angry and disillusioned, she decided that the Catholic Church was simply not worth the struggle.
When a religion has shaped one's inner spirit as well as one's habits and sensibilities, a person risks the pain of rootlessness by walking away from it. Conway has also risked misunderstanding and further rejection by choosing to write about her experience.
Less breadth and more depth might have made the book more satisfying. It isn't necessary, for example, to be told of every oppressive experience Conway has ever had (in places, the book reads as if Conway is doing this). But she writes with an Irish sparkle, and many women will recognize their own experiences mirrored in her story.