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    "National Catholic Reporter" Acknowledges the "Creative, Courageous, Always-Bold Moves" of Church Activist and Justice Pioneer Donna Quinn

    September 27, 2017

     

    Mary Hunt's review of Donna Quinn's Chicago Catholic Women: Its Role in Founding the Catholic Women's Movement in the latest issue of the National Catholic Reporter  (Sept. 20, 2017):

     

    "Catholic women's history fades as fast as we make it because few people write about it. Donna Quinn in Chicago Catholic Women: Its Role in Founding the Catholic Women's Movement and Marian Ronan and Mary O'Brien in Women of Vision: Sixteen Founders of the International Grail Movement reverse the tide in volumes that provide rich data for future scholars to analyze. They provide details of people, places, events and trends that shape an ever so slightly more inclusive, if still quite exclusive, church.Chicago Catholic Women spent 25 years, from 1974 to 1999, being a vibrant source of action and inspiration on issues related to women's equality and anti-racism. The group was source of exasperation and challenge for kyriarchal clerics who cowered in the face of strong women. In the early years, bishops still met and spoke with Catholic feminists, a practice that has long since gone out of vogue as the men became increasingly terrified and embarrassed by the reactions to their outrageous oppression of women.

     

    I had forgotten, until Quinn's book reminded me, that Pope John Paul II told church housekeepers to give thanks for their vocation to cook and clean for priests so the men could do their important work. I missed the fact that Chicago Cardinal John Cody forbade Maryknoll Sr. Melinda Roper from preaching in her home parish after the murder of her sisters and colleagues in El Salvador in the early 1980s. No wonder Chicago Catholic Women, and many groups like them around the country, including the Women's Ordination Conference and Catholics for Choice, sprang up in opposition. Thanks to Quinn's records — culled from her meticulous files at the Women and Leadership Archives at the Gannon Center for Women and Leadership at Loyola University in Chicago — women's work will not be lost.

     

    Instead, we know who served on every board and committee of Chicago Catholic Women. We know that the women left empty chairs on stages with the names of male, usually clerical, guests who did not show up when invited. We know about the "spiritual hunger strike" proposed by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza to have people receive Communion three times a year max. We recall the Mother's Day Boycott of Chicago churches in 1988. We have the list of women proposed to replace Cardinal Joseph Bernardin when he died in 1996. The full text of Mercy Sr. Theresa Kane's famous welcome to the U.S. to Pope John Paul II is here for the reading.

     

    These creative, courageous, always-bold moves were precursors of contemporary strategies for church change. For example, local seminary collections often got "funny money" in the basket, fake bills with pictures of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who is alleged to have considered ordination for herself. Now, the Lucile Murray Durkin Scholarship for Women Discerning Priestly Ordination is real money given for the first time this year to three women in seminary.

     

    In recent years, Quinn was discouraged (maybe forbidden?) by religious authorities from acting as an abortion clinic escort or a "peacekeeper" as she would have it. Instead, she became the coordinator for the Illinois chapter of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, hardly a concession. Progress is slow for Catholic women, but the real stuff is not just defying the male-only norm. Rather, it comes with a feminist twist — humor, inclusiveness, opening a new way."

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