Celia Wexler explores women’s struggles to be feminist and Catholic

National Catholic Reporter

Gail DeGeorge | Apr. 5, 2017

By Celia Viggo Wexler
Published by Rowman & Littlefield, 216 pages, $34

The central question explored in Celia Viggo Wexler’s engaging and thought-provoking book is one that no doubt many millions of women have struggled with: Is it possible for a woman to be both a feminist and a Catholic?

For Wexler, an award-winning journalist and Huffington Post blogger, this is not an academic question. She had reached a juncture in which she had to “find a way to stay Catholic that made sense to me and respected my intellect and feminism, or I would have to leave the church.”

She is not a theologian or historian, she writes, nor does she intend the book to be a definitive work about the views of Catholic women. She seeks instead to inspire conversations among women who, like her, are “torn between the faith they love and the institutional church that often sets their teeth on edge.”

Wexler profiles nine Catholic women and their personal stories, faith journeys and often complicated relationships with the church. In choosing women to write about, Wexler says she didn’t have an agenda, she simply wanted to know if others shared her struggle.

Some of the women are well-known:

* Social Service Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of the Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK;
* Barbara Blaine, founder of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP);
* Frances Kissling, who opposed the church’s teaching on contraception and abortion and was president of Catholics for a Free Choice (now Catholics for Choice) for 25 years;
* Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, which represents gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics;
* Diana Hayes, the first African-American woman to earn a pontifical doctorate in sacred theology from the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, who is now an emeritus professor of theology at Georgetown University.

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