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Introduction from 'Woman in a Man's Church,' by Arlene Swidler


from Woman in a Man's Church, pp. 8-9
by Arlene Swidler
Published by Paulist Press, New York, 1972.
Republished on our website with the necessary permissions

For years now we’ve been talking about the kind of religious book that gives us all the answers even before we’ve formulated the questions. Nowhere has this been more true than in the area of Catholic Womanhood. Long before our girls were old enough to be aware that they were anything other than ordinary people we were teaching them that they had special female goals, female models, female ways of thinking, and even a special female spirituality.

Of course the adults themselves-both male and female-had been taught the same things when they were too young to doubt or protest, and the tradition goes back and back until it rests on the Bible or the Church Fathers and Doctors. Nowhere did it get a major impulse from the only legitimate source of knowledgethe feminine experience.

This book does not attempt to give new answers to the old questions; the author not only refuses to acknowledge that the right questions have been asked in the past, but she doubts that the right questions can even be formulated


today. First women must be conscious of their own womanhood, and that involves a tremendous task-sorting through all the debris of thousands of years to decide what’s myth and what’s truth. This book is intended as a candle to help light the sorting, though if in the process some of the dead wood catches fire and burns up, the author will be pleased.

Perhaps some time in the future it will be possible for our new Catholic women-aware of themselves and where they are going-to write a new Catholic “theology of woman,” but secretly I hope no one will want to bother.

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