Poem: In These United States- The Court Supreme By Marie Cartier

We have nine justices usually but one of our most beloved, and notorious,

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, RBG, has gone to the Summerland, across

the Rainbow Bridge, to the afterlife—wherever that is for her, she’s

gone there. May her memory be a blessing. May her memory be a revolution.

And we are left with eight, five conservatives and

three liberals. RBG was liberal. Our current Pennsylvania Avenue occupant has already

nominated someone to replace RBG. This someone believes that god

speaks to the wife through her husband, the wife is submissive to the husband in all things,

she must submit in all things to her husband.

Sigh. As someone joked, this someone is walking through and slamming shut,

all the doors that RBG kicked open.

This nominated replacement believes that a woman has no choice in the matter of pregnancy,

and being gay is (once again) a sin in the eyes of the law, as well as her church.

This RBG replacement is Catholic, I guess.

I’m Catholic, too.

Maybe you’ve seen that meme on social media?

“I’m Christian. Oh…classic Jesus or Republican Jesus?”

That’s a joke: Ha. Ha.

Continue reading “Poem: In These United States- The Court Supreme By Marie Cartier”

A Sword Will Pierce Your Own Soul by Mary Jane Miller

On Holy Ground is a collection of icons for this age of climate change. The collection of iconography opens with an image of Mary of Swords inspired by the number seven. This sacred number is associated with intuition, mysticism, inner wisdom, and a deep inward knowing. The ancient church speaks of seven deadly sins and seven holy attributes, and seven sacraments. The composition places the planet Earth beside Mary as she bows her head having been told, “ a sword will pierce Your own Soul ”
Mary of Sorrows or in this case, Mary the softener of Evil Hearts tilts her head lovingly towards our planet Earth. Seven swords pierce her heart; indicating the fullness and boundless sorrow, pain and “sickness of heart” that would have been experienced by Mary the Mother of Jesus at His crucifixion.
Muslims pilgrims circle the Kaaba in Mecca sevens times, and Egyptians had seven gods.

Continue reading “A Sword Will Pierce Your Own Soul by Mary Jane Miller”

The Feast of Santo Tomas by Sara Wright

This morning I went up to the village plaza in Abiquiu to watch the dancers parade around the church with their saint who is also honored at this village festival held every year at the end of November.

This is one of the two Native American festivals that is honored each year by the genizaros who are mixed Spanish and American Indian people who embrace and practice the Catholicism that was once forced upon them.

This eclectic community is made up of descendants of Native American slaves. Those captured in warfare were brought here, converted to Catholicism, taught Spanish and held in servitude by New Mexican families. The young women and female children endured the usual atrocities perpetuated on captive females including rape at the hands of their captors. Some New Mexican male genizaros gained their freedom by serving as soldiers to defend frontier villages like Abiquiu from Indian raids. By the late 1700s, genizaros comprised one-third of the population of New Mexico. Ultimately these non – tribal peoples were assimilated into New Mexican culture.

The dances are beautiful to witness with the smallest female children dressed in predominantly white regalia some wearing a rainbow of ribbons, the young girls were dressed in red and white and had red circles of war paint inscribed on their cheeks, some of the older women also wore red, many carried turkey or eagle feathers in their hands. Most wore face paint.

Continue reading “The Feast of Santo Tomas by Sara Wright”

Mother – Daughter Betrayal by Sara Wright


Today is my mother’s birthday and although she has been dead for more than a decade I still think of her almost every day. At the time of her death I had not seen her for twelve years. Not by choice. After my father’s sudden demise my mother chose my children, her two adult grandsons to be her protectors, and dismissed me from her life, permanently.

When she died, my mother divided her assets evenly between my children and me, forcing her only daughter to live beneath the poverty level for the remainder of her life.

The final betrayal.

At the time of her death I was teaching Women’s Studies at the University.

Continue reading “Mother – Daughter Betrayal by Sara Wright”

It’s Time for Nuns on the Bus to take to the Road Again: Getting Beyond Being “Pro-Birth” to Protecting all at the Margins by Dawn Webster

Author and daughter, Dr. Sheela Jane Menon, Assistant Professor at Dickinson College, PA

The country desperately needs to see the Nuns on the Bus on the road again. I just watched Radical Grace, nearly three years after my daughter and son-in-law gave it to me as a Christmas gift. My tardiness made me feel guilty, but despite the passage of time, the film still feels very timely.  Three years after the cancer that is 45 entered the White House; three years after the corruption and cruelty he unleashed has metastasized into key branches of government; three years after Catholics  have witnessed the heart of the Gospels ripped out the way children have been ripped from the arms of their parents at the southern border, this documentary about how a few nuns risked their place in the church to fight for justice tells me we need the leadership of the nuns more than ever.

Catholic voters from the heartland gave 45 the keys to the White House.—60 percent of them voted for him. Many justified voting for a man with Donald Trump’s appalling sexual, business, and racist history by pointing to his supposedly “pro-life” stance. Continue reading “It’s Time for Nuns on the Bus to take to the Road Again: Getting Beyond Being “Pro-Birth” to Protecting all at the Margins by Dawn Webster”

Pro-Choice and Christian: Reconciling Faith, Politics, and Justice BOOK REVIEW by Katie M. Deaver

In 2015 Kira Schlesinger wrote piece for Ministry Matters about how her own pro-choice stance on abortion had become more complicated the more she explored the issue of abortion. The article was widely read and shared, as well as hotly debated by many. You can read this article and the many comments here. Out of the response to this article grew Schlesinger’s Pro-Choice and Christian: Reconciling Faith, Politics, and Justice.

The book does a great job of walking the fine line of being both academically engaging and an easy enough read to engage a book or Bible study group as well. Schlesinger uses the first couple of chapters to dig into the history of abortion, listing recorded examples of the process as early as 1300 BCE. From there she briefly walks the reader through the roughly 100 years (Comstock Act in 1873 until Roe v. Wade in 1973) during which abortion was illegal in the United States. Finally, she wraps up this beginning historical section with details about the generations after Roe v. Wade up to our current reality.

Continue reading “Pro-Choice and Christian: Reconciling Faith, Politics, and Justice BOOK REVIEW by Katie M. Deaver”

May is the Month of Mary by Mary Jane Miller

 Mary Icons

There are three classic prototypes of Mary Icons, their collective messages point toward a new contemporary kind of trinity. Perhaps the concept of Mary is still undeveloped, as our society has changed her message is still provocative and meaningful. It has been through contemplating her image, and painting icons of her that I have come to realize a deeper mystical message. Her popular iconography may have the keys to how we are to care for creation and one another in the world.

Mary Icon of the Panagia

Mary looks directly at the viewer, beckoning us towards poised stillness and constant prayer with palms extended outward in total surrender to what she receives. She contains the Creator of the Universe in her womb.

Mary Icons of the Theotokos

She is the feminine energy which tenderly nurtures Jesus to become a teacher, rabbi, master and lord. She is the icon which reminds us to love one another, to love life, and to love creation.

Mary Icons of the Hodegitria

Mary becomes a mystical location where we can be taught to give ourselves to God and one another. There, held by the church tradition, we like Mary are called to release to the world what we most love and cherish.

Continue reading “May is the Month of Mary by Mary Jane Miller”

Open Letter to the Pope and all the King’s Men by Natalie Weaver

Dear Sirs,

It breaks me down.  My anger, my revulsion, my powerlessness.   I have been searching for the way since I was a child old enough to remember my mind.  For a time, I thought Jesus was a white guy knocking on my door after having seen a religious pamphlet placed under our windshield wiper.  I’m not sure he has blond hair anymore, but I still feel him knocking.  I have been in love with him for as long as I have been a self, so much so that I baptized myself as a little girl.

Somewhere along the way, I figured my little, lonely way wasn’t good enough, and I wanted a church home.  I finished a doctoral dissertation trying to find some place I could hang my hat.  I picked the Roman Catholic Church, despite what I knew of it and what I had to defend about its patriarchy and history to family and friends.  I loved the conversation, the so-called “Catholic Intellectual Tradition.”  I always felt myself to be a covert, a conversa, a definitive outsider, and someone not to be trusted entirely as a cradle Catholic might be trusted, yet I tried to be family. I’ve been bringing up my kids in the Church, volunteering, working in Catholic education, paying the boys’ tuition.  I do work-arounds, making excuses for the exclusion of women, defying the Church’s stance on sexuality with a critical repertoire of cross-disciplinary scholarship.  Lord, I even had to help my Seventh-Day Adventist mom with a hostile annulment process that was dropped on her unsuspecting by a horrendously insensitive marriage tribunal.  It wounded us all. Yet, here I have sat, until this.

Continue reading “Open Letter to the Pope and all the King’s Men by Natalie Weaver”

Catholic Bishops: Corporate Executives or Prophets? by Dawn Morais Webster

Dawn Morais Webster, the Pope off to his summer palace, Castel Gandolfo. He tells the world he will now become just a “humble pilgrim.”

This is a moment to drive the merchants of hate out of the Temple, as Jesus did.  But will the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) bear prophetic witness? Do they have it in them to proclaim the Gospel?

I am a Catholic from Malaysia who has lived in the United States for nearly two decades. I became an American citizen two years ago.  Every day I look for two of the Big Ideas –Catholicism and American democracy—to which I am forever tethered, to be rearticulated by new, principled leaders. And they are: not by those who command the pulpit or political power but by those who live the Gospel through their faith-inspired service to the community.  People like Sister Erica Jordan who asked House Speaker, the conspicuously Catholic Paul Ryan to explain how he translates Church teaching into health care and tax policy. He could not.

Continue reading “Catholic Bishops: Corporate Executives or Prophets? by Dawn Morais Webster”

Contemplative Resistance by Esther Nelson

I recently arrived in Las Cruces, New Mexico, after driving across much of the country from Richmond, Virginia. It’s the second summer I’ve driven this distance (2,000 miles) so I varied my route a bit from last year, stopping at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky, for a short visit. This is the place the popular and prolific monk, Thomas Merton, also known as Brother Louis, called home for twenty-seven years (1941-1968) . (Merton was accidentally electrocuted by an electric fan in Bangkok while attending a conference—December 1968.)

The grounds are verdant, well-kept, and peaceful. Visitors are free to wend their way along various paths on the property, attend any (and all) of the services held in the church, and watch a film on (male) monastic life (running continuously) in the visitors’ center. The gift shop sells books (many authored by Merton), fruit cake and fudge made by the monks at the Abbey, and an array of “stuff.” Accommodations for retreat are available by reservation.

Some time ago, I audited a class that included readings by Thomas Merton. During the semester, the professor mentioned a book titled, At Home in the World The Letters of Thomas Merton & Rosemary Radford Ruether, Edited by Mary Tardiff, OP (1995). Ruether (b. 1936) is a feminist scholar and Catholic theologian. She is also a prolific author and popular speaker. Continue reading “Contemplative Resistance by Esther Nelson”

Sexuality and Spirituality: Convergence or Alienation? by Stephanie Arel

stephanie-arelI just finished reading for review The Bloomsbury Reader in Religion, Gender, and Sexualityedited by Donald L. Boisvert and Carly Daniel-Hughes. Targeting an undergraduate audience, the text explores ways that religion, gender, and sexuality intersect and interact in a variety of religious traditions.

The book’s essays traverse a wide sampling of religious inheritance including indigenous traditions, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and various Asian religions. The topics examined range from the culture of male love in Japanese Buddhism to various themes of love in Haitian Voodoo, from sexual desire in Beguine communities to Gandhi’s experiments in sexual chastity, and from the passion of St. Pelagius to the transgender performance characteristic of the Hijra identity in India. Among other things, the book offers a wide array of interpretations regarding how sexuality emerges in particular traditions and contexts. One is left with a feeling that nearly anything goes depending on which set of rules or religious mores a particular group of people follow. The variations presented in each chapter related to the interpretation of sexuality’s embeddedness in spiritual expression problematize the notion of the “normal” emerging in sexual desire and expression. Continue reading “Sexuality and Spirituality: Convergence or Alienation? by Stephanie Arel”

Remembering Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s Life and Legacy: Champion of Universal, and Non-Human Rights November 12, 1648/51 – April 17, 1695 by Theresa A. Yugar

She studies, and disputes, and teaches,
and thus she serves her Faith;
for how could God, who gave her reason, want her ignorant?

—Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Villancico, or, “Carol”, in celebration of St. Catherine of Alexandria (1692)

05.Yugar 1The reason for this blog, and for writing it on this day, is to celebrate and remember the life and legacy of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.

In 1994, I was exposed, by chance, to the life and writings of 17th century Novohispana feminist Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. I am the product of twelve years of Catholic education, eight years of which were in an all-women setting. Again, by chance, I learned about Sor Juana in a liberation theology class while studying feminist theology at Harvard Divinity School. In this class, I learned about Sor Juana’s bold advocacy of the right of women to be educated. This spurred me to learn more about this Catholic Latina theologian whom I would later discover was the last great author of El Siglo de Oro (Spain’s Golden Age), recognized in her era as an esteemed poet, mathematician, astronomer, and more. This was the beginning of my life-long passion to reclaim the legacy of Sor Juana and her-story within the Christian, non-Christian Western tradition, and in Spanish and Mexican history. Continue reading “Remembering Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s Life and Legacy: Champion of Universal, and Non-Human Rights November 12, 1648/51 – April 17, 1695 by Theresa A. Yugar”

“Tricolor Mary: Encountering Three Faces of the Divine Feminine” by Simone Grace Seol

simone-graceI always felt curiously distant from the figure of Mary. I always sensed that there is so much there and yet, I could never connect to it emotionally.

The foil to Eve, vessel of Love, suffering mother. I wanted to love her, I wanted to feel her, I wanted to feel drawn to the mystery of Marian devotion. But I felt alienated by the vision of the feminine that she seemed to project: the pure, immaculate, virginal, submissive, obedient, quietly suffering.

Most days, I feel like the opposite of every single one of those qualities.

It’s exactly the kind of feminine archetype I don’t really relate to — the kind of person about whom people say, “oh, she’s really nice” as if yielding compliance and non-offensiveness are her primary attributes. The kind of woman who fades into the background, whose worth lies only in her utility to the patriarchal narrative. Continue reading ““Tricolor Mary: Encountering Three Faces of the Divine Feminine” by Simone Grace Seol”

Honoring St. Mary of Magdala by Gina Messina

Gina Messina-Dysert profileWhile I am joining the conversation a bit late, I find it necessary to comment on the significance of the “upgrading” of the celebration of  St. Mary of Magdala to a feast – on par with the male apostles.  While such a day that honors her is quite overdue, I am grateful to Pope Francis for acknowledging this incredible woman and her leadership in the Christian movement.

As we know from the Gospels, it was Mary Magdalene who stood at the foot of the cross with Mary the mother of Jesus, during his crucifixion.  When the male apostles ran in fear – and rightfully so – Mary of Magdala stood with Jesus refusing to disavow him and was a face of love for him to see during his darkest moment.

It was Mary of Magdala who was the first witness of Christ’s resurrection.  The very first Easter began with her and she was commissioned by Jesus to go and share the good news – to tell the other apostles – and that is why she is known as the apostle to the apostles. Continue reading “Honoring St. Mary of Magdala by Gina Messina”

Nobody’s Disciple by Maeve Rhuad aka the Celtic Magdalen via Elizabeth Cunningham

Elizabeth Cunningham headshot jpegSince beginning her posts for FAR four years ago, Elizabeth has featured an excerpt from my chronicles each July in honor of my feast day on the 22nd.  At least I thought it was my Feast day. It has been brought to our attention that Pope Francis only recently elevated the 22nd to the status of a Feast. Before that, it was merely a Memorial of me as a saint, whether optional or obligatory I am not sure.  The only thing more elevated than a Feast day is a Solemnity.  (Needless to say my mother-in-law, aka the Blessed Virgin Mary, has one of those.)

You may not know me as Maeve, the Celtic Magdalen. Mary Magdalen, who she was (or is) should or could have been is a highly charged subject. Not very much is known about me, really, which is why  legends, novels, and films abound. I’m a storied woman, to borrow Natalie Weaver’s term. There are fourteen references to me in the Gospels. I am associated with the non-canonical Gospel of Mary (I believe the credit for that should go to Mary of Bethany whom many people conflate with me). Pope Gregory is largely responsible for my lugubrious image as a penitent prostitute. Continue reading “Nobody’s Disciple by Maeve Rhuad aka the Celtic Magdalen via Elizabeth Cunningham”

The Francis Blindspot by Gina Messina-Dysert

Gina Messina-Dysert profileThe day Pope Francis was elected is a memorable one for many Catholics, myself included.  Watching our new pope walk out on to the balcony of the Vatican and bow to the crowd left me in tears.  It seemed in Pope Francis we would have a leader who recognized the full humanity of every person in the community; and in asking the people for their blessing, he acknowledged the role we all play in the ministry of Jesus.

Named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, boasting an astronomical approval rating of 90% among American Catholics, and more than 12 million Twitter followers, Francis has taken the papacy to a new level. People around the world continue to be mesmerized by his acts of kindness and mercy.  His commitment to social justice for the poor, simplistic living, welcoming message to persons of all faiths, and proclamation “Who am I to judge?” is refreshing to say the least.  Nonetheless, this does not mean Pope Francis does not have blind spots, nor that we do not have a responsibility to remind him of them. Continue reading “The Francis Blindspot by Gina Messina-Dysert”

Feminism and Faith by Judith Plaskow, Rosemary Radford Ruether, and amina wadud

Foreword Image.001 (1)“Feminism saved my faith” is the concluding phrase of one of the writers in Faithfully Feminist, and though not everyone would say it that way, most of these women have found feminism and faith vibrantly interrelated. The contributors to this anthology articulate a range of reasons that feminists might choose to remain within a patriarchal religious tradition. They also remind us that women reconcile their faith and feminist identities in diverse ways. This volume testifies to the dynamism within the religious communities of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the United States, and to their internal diversity. This diversity allows for the contributors to engage in a process of their own development as feminists of faith that interacts with similar processes of development going on in their religious communities.

The overriding common bond for these women of faith is the shared conviction that the conflict between religion and feminism is real— even when it is generated by other people’s expectations that those two identities are separate and irreconcilable. Once each woman arrived at a place where she no longer felt an imperative to abide by an either/or dichotomy, she was able to define the terms of her religion and feminism for herself and to own both identities as significant.

Multiply the individual accounts in this volume by tens of thousands, and the effect of these women’s decisions and the concerted actions for change that have flowed from them has been enormous. For example, feminism has profoundly altered American Judaism in the last forty-plus years. Women are ordained in all branches of liberal Judaism and, in all but name, in modern Orthodoxy. New denominational prayer books written in English use inclusive language and incorporate writings by women. Feminists have written Torah commentaries, designed rituals for important turning points in women’s lives, and created new scholarship on women that contributes to a fuller history of the Jewish people.

Likewise, Christianity has been significantly impacted by the work of feminist theology. While some branches continue to refuse leadership roles to women, many others have acknowledged that every person embodies the spirit of Christ and have embraced the ordination of women. In 2006 the Episcopalian Church ordained its first woman bishop, the highest office in the church. Inclusive language has found its way into the prayers and rituals of many churches and feminist commentaries have shifted thinking on scriptural interpretations. Dialogue within and across branches of Christianity are expanding borders, and movements like Woman Church and online feminist spaces have created opportunities for women to claim agency and participate in roles that have been traditionally withheld.

In the long road to Islamic feminism, women have sometimes lacked agency to define either Islam or feminism. Traditional definitions of these words which operate as a constraint on work within Islam towards justice, equality and dignity; feminism was connected to Western imperialism and invasion into Muslim-majority nation states, and centuries of patriarchal control and interpretation stifled women’s efforts to claim Islam for themselves. This is changing, aided by campaigns such as the 2009 launching of the Musawah movement for equality and justice in Muslim family law. A new freedom is emerging that allows Muslim women the dignity and honor of defining Islam and feminism for themselves—no matter how little they might know of global discourses and historical traditions. All that was necessary was to, identify as a believer and expect a life of justice within that belief. Islam has also witnessed women-led prayers and a move toward inclusive prayer spaces.

The profound changes feminists have inspired and worked for do not mean that all problems have been solved and that women’s subordination is a thing of the past; there is plenty of work for a new generation. The difficulties with overcoming the glass ceiling and balancing work and life that women within the larger society face also bedevil women in all three religious communities. Panels, boards, and publications often exclude women’s voices completely or have only token female participation. Ordained women in Judaism are paid less than their male counterparts and rarely become senior rabbis in large or prestigious congregations. If women “choose” to serve smaller synagogues —the explanation often tendered to explain these gaps—that is partly because the expectations surrounding the rabbinate have not kept pace with its changing demographic, and women who want to combine rabbinic work with raising a family face considerable obstacles. Christian ordained women face similar obstacles within the priesthood and continue to be denied leadership roles in some branches, including Catholicism and Mormonism. Similarly, Muslim women are often excluded from panels at religious conferences and are underrepresented on the boards of religious institutions. The idea of women leading Muslim prayers remains controversial. And too often, discussions about women’s role in Islam still revolve around the issue of hijab, or covering.

The challenge for feminists today is passing on feminist insights and gains to the next generation. Is women’s history being incorporated into elementary and high school texts, or are students being taught the same parade of male names and faces? More particularly for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, when a girl or woman wants to mark some nontraditional ritual occasion, is it clear where to turn for resources? Do most Jews, Christians, and Muslims even know that it is possible to create new rituals that feel deeply meaningful and religiously authentic?

Finally, when teachers—and parents—talk about God, how is God imagined? Are children still growing up thinking about God as a distant male figure, or are they offered a range of images, and emboldened to create their own? Are children being encouraged to talk about and challenge passages in and interpretations of the Torah, Bible, and Qur’an that are misogynist or otherwise unethical? Are they developing critical tools that will allow them to engage with and transform difficult parts of tradition?

The next generation of feminists should consider a move beyond rhetoric and terminology towards substance and personal affirmation. Identifying as feminists of faith helps forge global alliances towards meaningful dialogue across difference—even the differences within. It is only when these deeper levels of change are addressed that the question, “Why stay?” will cease to be relevant.

FF_front-cover_FINALThis essay is the Foreword for Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay edited by Gina Messina-Dysert, Jennifer Zobair, and Amy Levin.  

For more on Faithfully Feministclick here.

Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtags #FaithfullyFeminist and #WhyIStay.

Related Articles:

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Why We Stay

Judith Plaskow is Professor Emerita of Religious Studies at Manhattan College and a Jewish feminist theologian. Co-founder and co-editor of the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religionshe is co-editor of Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions and author of Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective and The Coming of Lilith: Essays on Feminism, Judaism, and Sexual Ethics 1972-2003.

Rosemary Radford Ruether, Ph.D. is Professor of Feminist Theology at Claremont Graduate University and Claremont School of Theology.  She is also the Carpenter Emerita Professor of Feminist Theology at Pacific School of Religion and the GTU, as well as the Georgia Harkness Emerita Professor of Applied Theology at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary. Rosemary has enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a scholar, teacher, and activist in the Roman Catholic Church, and is well known as a groundbreaking figure in Christian feminist theology.  Ruether is the author of multiple articles and books including Sexism and God-TalkGaia and GodWomen Healing Earth and The Wrath of Jonah: The Crisis of Religious Nationalism in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Her most recent books include Catholic Does Not Equal the Vatican: A Vision for Progressive Catholicism(2008), Many Forms of Madness: A Family’s Struggle with Mental Illness(2010), and Women and Redemption: A Theological History, 2nd ed.(2011).

amina wadud is Professor Emerita of Islamic Studies, now traveling the world over seeking answers to the questions that move many of us through our lives.  Author of Qur’an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective and Inside the Gender Jihad, she will blog on her life journey and anything that moves her about Islam, gender, and justice, especially as these intersect with the rest of the universe.

Faithfully Feminist by Gina Messina-Dysert

Gina Messina-Dysert profile“Why do you stay?”  It is a question I am often asked when I reveal my Catholic feminist identity.  It is not lost on me that such a question is one that is often posed to women in abusive relationships.  First, let me say, I don’t ever think it is appropriate to pose such a question to women experiencing domestic violence.  This said, I also want to be clear that I in no way view my relationship with my faith as abusive.

Yes, the Vatican is patriarchal and it is true that women are relegated to the underside of dualism in the Church. There are so many ways that women are oppressed in Christianity and there are many issues that need to be reexamined – and from a non-male perspective. Nonetheless, I believe that the foundation of my faith offers a very different message; one that is liberating and honors my gifts as a person and as a woman.

Working on my latest project, the anthology Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay, has been an incredibly rewarding experience.  First, co-editing alongside Jennifer Zobair and Amy Levin has been truly a gift.  And then, to have the opportunity to engage the stories of so many amazing women has been powerful, heartbreaking, uplifting, and so much more.  It is in one another’s experiences that we see ourselves and find that we are not alone and that has certainly been my experience with this project.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMb1UkkZsR8 Continue reading “Faithfully Feminist by Gina Messina-Dysert”

Hail Mary: The Rosary and Why I Keep Praying by Marie Cartier

MarieCartierforKCETa-thumb-300x448-72405My mother-in-law is currently in hospice and expected to cross over any time now. My wife is with her. Those two sentences alone—since I am a woman writing this blog—signify historic/herstoric change. I am a woman and I am writing about my mother in law and I am writing that my wife is with her. We are in a sea change regarding gay marriage. I will be allowed bereavement to go with my wife, when the time comes, for the services.

What has not changed in my life is my dependence on traditional prayer. Although I am a witch/Wiccan, have done all kinds of meditation from Transcendental Meditation, and Buddhist chanting, to visualization, spell work, and New Age affirmation—when push comes to shove as they say, I get out the Rosary.

Why? Continue reading “Hail Mary: The Rosary and Why I Keep Praying by Marie Cartier”

The Nuns Jumped Over the Wall by Dawn Morais Webster

Dawn Morais Webster, the Pope off to his summer palace, Castel Gandolfo. He tells the world he will now become just a “humble pilgrim.”

One of the most prized dishes in Chinese cuisine is called “The Monk Jumped Over the Wall.” The name comes from the folk belief that the monk was unable to resist the aroma of this delicious dish and jumped the wall in search of it.

Reading Jo Piazza’s If Nuns Ruled The World: Ten Sisters on a Mission, it is clear that these nuns, and others like them, have been drawn by people’s needs, to jump the walls of patriarchy and prejudice.

And there’s no putting them back behind those walls.

Just ask media maven, Sr. Maureen Fiedler: “After all, Jesus was a feminist, and we claim to follow him.”

One nun, though, has accepted being put behind bars for literally breaking through the fences around the nuclear facility in Oak Ridge,Tennessee. Sr. Megan Rice is unfazed by clerical disapproval.

“I don’t believe in excommunication,” she says, “because I don’t see the institutional Church as the real Church.” Continue reading “The Nuns Jumped Over the Wall by Dawn Morais Webster”

Right to Life vs Right to A Life: Abortion & The Death Penalty by Marie Cartier

MarieCartierforKCETa-thumb-300x448-72405Earlier this week I went to hear Sr. Helen Prejean speak about the death penalty. You will remember, if the name does not immediately ring a bell, that the amazing movie Dead Man Walking (dir. Tim Robbins, 1995) was about her and her ministry to provide solace and closure with God to those inmates on Death Row. In the film, Sr. Prejean was played by Susan Sarandon. Dead Man Walking, a phenomenal hit, chronicled her first attempt at this ministry—her trials and limited success—in helping Matthew Poncelet come to grips with what he had done, ask forgiveness of the victims’ parents (because he was complicit in the murder of two teenagers) and face his death with dignity.

dead man walkingIn addition to teaching Gender and Women’s Studies, I have also been the screenwriting professor at University of California Irvine since 1992. I have used the screenplay for this movie (adapted from Prejean’s book and direct interviews) almost since it was published. It’s a great example of how research, interview, and authenticity can make a movie work—rather than “making it up.” Even the title was new to most of America- “Dead man walking!” refers to the last walk an inmate makes as he (or she) walks to his (or her) death.

So, I was enthusiastic when I heard that Sr. Helen was speaking at a local church very close to my house. Although I’ve used the screenplay for well over a decade, I had never met her or read the actual memoir she wrote. It seemed the perfect opportunity to meet her and get a signed copy—and also something my students would love to hear about when we discuss the film in the winter. Continue reading “Right to Life vs Right to A Life: Abortion & The Death Penalty by Marie Cartier”

Pope Francis is Paving the Way to FutureChurch by Gina Messina-Dysert

Gina Messina-Dysert profileThe enthusiasm we have seen for Pope Francis over the last year is exceptional.  Polls show that among American Catholics he has a 90% approval rating.  He has garnered more than 12 million Twitter followers and even broke a Rolling Stones (yes, the rock band!) record by drawing more than three million people to an event in Rio de Janeiro.  Our new pope is a media icon and “The Francis Effect” is commanding the attention of not only Catholics, but the global community.  According to John Allen Jr., it is “take-it-to-the-bank fact” that politicians and celebrities would do just about anything to garner the pope’s poll numbers. There is good reason for this unprecedented attention; in Pope Francis we see the example of Jesus.

Our new pope is connecting with the greater community on the deepest level because he has a sincere commitment to serving the needs of the people rather than the politics of the Vatican. With his first papal act, Francis bowed to a cheering crowd and asked for the people to bless him.   In doing so, he acknowledged the full humanity of every person as well as the necessity of community.  His immediate rejection of the glamour of the papacy and ongoing efforts to walk with the disenfranchised has commanded the world’s attention. Pope Francis’ humility and commitment to social justice is Jesus-like. His willingness to engage the community, not to mention pose for a selfie here and there, demonstrates a ministry focused on the people. Continue reading “Pope Francis is Paving the Way to FutureChurch by Gina Messina-Dysert”

Movement Within the Catholic Church – Time for Receptive Ecumenism? by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Michele Stopera When I originally learned about the concept of receptive ecumenism and the movement to more fully reach across lines of faith traditions as a means of ecclesiastical growth, my first reaction was to ask the question – what about women in the pews?  

Dr. Paul Murray from Durham University conceived of the idea of receptive ecumenism, which had three international conferences of church leaders and theologians working together in a way that looks to learn from each other. The focus is not that our religion is better than yours, rather what can we learn from your faith tradition that could enrich ours without compromising our tradition. With this final conference and after years of lectures, meetings, and publications, Dr. Murray sent this concept out into the world to see if it had legs – and it really does. Pope Francis embraced this concept, so has the Anglican Church. The movement is also thriving in Australia to the point that eighteen delegates were present at June’s meeting in Fairfield, Connecticut. For my part, I raised the question whether or not the Catholic Church was postured to engage fully in this dialogue. Essentially, it boils down to this, how can we have an inter-faith dialogue when we are unwilling, as a church, to have an intra-faith dialogue that includes all voices. The teachings of the Second Vatican Council laid the groundwork for ecumenical dialogue to occur at a multilateral levels. The council mandated us to look inward as well. Continue reading “Movement Within the Catholic Church – Time for Receptive Ecumenism? by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

5 Examples of Religion as the Next Feminist Frontier by Meagen Farrell

meagenfarrellIn February 2014, headlines incorrectly stated that Gloria Steinem said religion is the biggest problem facing women today. Wrong.

In her interview by Jennifer Aniston at the first Makers Conference, Steinem said that not talking about religion is one of the biggest problems facing feminism today. That’s a big difference. At first she said the biggest problems are “anti-feminism” and “pay inequality,” but those issues are already on the table. She believes the feminist establishment isn’t talking about religion enough.

I agree and have agreed for a long time. Like many in this community, I have spent many years talking about feminism and religion, and it’s about time the Big Names noticed it is an important conversation. I hope they realize quickly that it’s already been going on for over a century!

Continue reading “5 Examples of Religion as the Next Feminist Frontier by Meagen Farrell”

Confession by Darlena Cunha

Darlena family portraitGood afternoon, Fr. John. I’m here for confession. No, I’d like the curtain back, please. I want you to see my face. I really need to talk to you, get my bearings. But this confession will not be solely about my sins, for, unfortunately, I am not sure I will ever change my ways.

Does that exclude me? Is Catholicism a club? Should my twin daughters, five years old, be subjected to scorn and pity that their mother is a sinner? That they were born in sin? They don’t look like sin, to me. They are light, and love, and happiness. They have shaped me, taught me, brought me into the woman I was meant to be. Is it wrong of me to want to do the same for them? Is it better to turn me out and lose two potentially pure beings who will make their own choices in their religion and could be devout Catholics, or put up with me in the hopes that my children will be more worthy?

I’m here because I like you, you know. I like Catholicism. It’s in my blood, my heritage, my family. And where I’m from, everyone belongs.

I was baptized, received communion, was confirmed, attended youth group. I went to an all-girls Catholic college my freshman year. Full-ride because I’m fairly smart, and I work hard. That’s where I lost Him, you see. I don’t know how, or why, but one early fall day when the leaves were crisp and bright but not yet falling, I looked up at the chapel on campus, and He was gone. Or He seemed gone. Continue reading “Confession by Darlena Cunha”

Mother’s Day Wish: “Don’t take me backwards or on a detour” by Dawn Morais Webster

Dawn Morais Webster, the Pope off to his summer palace, Castel Gandolfo. He tells the world he will now become just a “humble pilgrim.”

Mother’s Day schmaltz in the media and in our malls makes me wonder if others struggle with some of the mixture of deep gratitude—and impatience I feel.

So I asked a few friends if they would tell me what they wished for most as mothers.   Not surprisingly, all wanted their children to know how much they would always be loved, no matter how their lives unfolded. A few went a little further.

Mika K. is the mother of four beautiful children. Over the last couple of years, in addition to caring for her older children, she has nursed the youngest through a near catastrophic health crisis. That crisis left him with multiple disabilities. She continues to keep abreast of the latest in neuroplasticity and neuromuscular therapies that might help further her child’s potential to lead an independent life.

Mika and kids
Mika and kids

Mika says: “My wish, these past few Mother’s Days, has been to NOT be Mom for a day. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE my kids, LOVE my family, but some days, I am so wrapped up in being Mom that I lose sight of the woman I was before I was Mom. And I don’t just want a “day off.” Here’s how I feel: I feel like I’m running a race and I don’t know how long it is – 5K? 10K? Or is the finish line around the corner?  So I don’t know how to pace myself. And I’m carrying a backpack filled with rocks. I appreciate the people on the sidelines cheering me on, and I appreciate the people who tell me to stop and rest. But what I don’t have – and would like – is for someone to carry that backpack for a couple of miles. Or carry ME for a couple miles! Right now, I can take a day off, but that just means I have more to do tomorrow.  And I have to be confident that if someone does carry my backpack (or me) that they stay on the course. If they show me a better path – awesome! But don’t take me backwards or on a detour. Does that make sense?” Continue reading “Mother’s Day Wish: “Don’t take me backwards or on a detour” by Dawn Morais Webster”

Jesus, Mary and Joseph: Who Are Our Saints? by Marie Cartier

Tomorrow I will be going to a friend’s 7th grade classroom presentation of “famous people in history.” She has 120 students who will be dressing up as someone in history and doing a presentation board about this person—as well as dressing in costume. She asked me to come in costume as Frida Kahlo. As many of you know, I admire/adore Frida Kahlo and wrote a blog last year extolling her praises; actually it was a “valentine towards an ethics of loving women and art.” (And every year I dress as Frida and help a friend do a lively lotería game at an LGBT celebration of Cinco de Mayo at our Church.)

My friend told me that while there would not be a Diego Rivera in her crowd of costumed living historians—there would be Frida’s lover Josephine Baker (someone saw the movie Frida and knew Josephine and Frida were “friends”), and there would be several Guadalupes.

This got me thinking that for children/teens – especially children brought up in religious households (and especially Catholic households, of which I was such a child) – saints and real people are often conflated. And famous real people one admires often are given “sainthood” in one’s imaginary church. Continue reading “Jesus, Mary and Joseph: Who Are Our Saints? by Marie Cartier”

Blessed is the Womb By Dawn DiPrince

Dawn, jpgAs a Catholic, a feminist, and the grown-up version of my third grade self who dreamed of being a priest (and eventually Pope), I am simultaneously elated and deflated by the promise of Pope Francis. His bold criticisms of capitalism and inequality are breathtaking. 

Yet, much like the eager waiting that marks the season of Advent, I (naively) hold my breath awaiting the papal inclusion of women on the altar — not merely as servants — but as leaders and interpreters of scripture.

Whenever women’s ordination is raised, the Church trots out the dusty and inadequate argument that men are priests because Jesus was a man. This seemingly irrefutable based-on-biology conclusion is really a simple argument based on a difference of body parts. This ideal — something I’ve labeled the St. Peter Principle — suggests that our penislessness means that women (by natural law, of course) are to be denied priesthood. Continue reading “Blessed is the Womb By Dawn DiPrince”

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