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Good Catholic Girls, How Women are Leading the Fight to Challenge the Church by Angela Bonavoglia

Good Catholic Girls

How Women are Leading the Fight to Challenge the Church

by Angela Bonavoglia, Harper Collins, 2005

“Angela Bonavoglia’s ‘Good Catholic Girls’ delivers a rich palette of hope from women who are inspired to change a venerable institution. The book is a remarkable achievement. With elegance and grace, it describes the deep commitment to fairness and equality of women from many quarters, and so gives a wealth of examples of courage to all who strive for a more humane world. By bringing these often-neglected portraits to the public, Bonavoglia offers a vision, too rare these days, about the possibilities for positive advancement. The book reads quickly and easily; a wonderful selection for book clubs. People of all faiths and beliefs will appreciate the journeys of these women. Definitely recommended.” (C.Cooper)

What this book brought myself is a better understanding of the way the church in America covered up and is continuing to cover up the sex scandals in its midst. Quite often the blame is laid with the victim; even in situations where the priest has abused his position as a confessor or spiritual adviser. The women or children are too attractive… Bishops kept reposting the abusers and refused to help the victims. (I am happy that in this country a long while ago measures were taken to give victims a chance to speak out, and Dr. Otto ter Reegen was working as a champion for victims.)

A chance to speak is what present-day women are clamoring for in America: thus Voice of the Faithful came into being and various other groups. There is a special chapter about what the author calls ‘the myth of celibacy’ and also about the abortion debate and the fight for women’s moral authority.

"Because of the Church’s narrow sexual teaching – that the only acceptable sexual activity is between a married man and woman open to procreation – the vast majority of sexually active Catholics qualify as sexual outlaws. They range from teens to elderly, from homosexuals to single heterosexuals, from married couples using birth control to remarried Catholics who never got an annulment. Paradoxically the Church has aided, abetted, protected, and made excuses for its real sexual outlaws: priests who sexually abuse and exploit children and adults and the bishops who cover for them. This state of affairs has stirred Catholic women reformers to action; they see the day as long overdue for a new, intelligent, and humane Catholic sexual ethic."

Catholic women now delve into the Church’s history to find evidence of a quite different attitude in the early Church. The author recommends a calendar of 2003: The Archaeology of Women’s Traditional Ministries in the Church with photographs of frescos, mosaics, and tomb inscriptions showing women deacons, priests and bishops from 100 to 820 AD. Bible texts containing praise for women that are never read in Sunday Mass are rediscovered by women ministers. There has been a rise in women studying theology and taking on ministries, so much so that the episcopate is getting worried. As in The Netherlands the influence of women who actually carry the parish, making its continuation possible, is impressive but seems threatening to certain bishops and to Rome. So new directives are made to curtail this influence, whereas the Catholic community on the whole applauds it.

I was happy to read a whole chapter on Mary Ramerman, the woman who was ordained by an Old Catholic bishop. The news release on that event was so brief that we had hardly any chance in The Netherlands to form our opinion on Ramerman. Now I understand her a whole lot better. She never was the woman she was portrayed: she had never longed to become a priest, in order to be equal in power. Nor did she ask for it, she was asked by the community. Ida Raming, too, is put in perspective in this book. I for one think it certainly is a worthwhile read. It is not only interesting but inspiring as well. I am strengthened in my clinging like Bonavoglia to the law of conscience. “For woman has in her heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of woman; according to it she will be judged.”

Theresia Saers

Good Catholic Girls, How Women are Leading the Fight to Challenge the Church by Angela Bonavoglia, Harper collins Publishers, 2005

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Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

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