Bad girls in church

We picketed bishops and Popes, stole their dresses, stood up at the consecration of the Eucharist and said the words out loud. We are the bad girls of Catholic feminism, and we have stood up, over and over again, for women’s freedom. So writes Francis Kissling in Religion Dispatches this week:

UPDATE 6/22: response by younger activist below.

How does power respond to those who want a place at the table? As Gandhi once explained, power has five strategies. First, it simply ignores those knocking at the door; when that fails, power pretends the seekers are only a few very unimportant and disgruntled people, not worthy of attention. If they manage to survive being ignored and marginalized, power attacks them either physically or verbally. Those who survive then find their goals and even identity co-opted. Finally change happens.

Kissling explores the landscape of women activists in the Roman Catholic church concluding:

Some BBBGs were unfailingly polite and worked the system as best they could. Farley, Carr, Kane, and Mansour come to mind. But the rest of us had no respect for authority. We picketed bishops and Popes, stole their dresses, stood up at the consecration of the Eucharist and said the words out loud. At Marge Tuite’s funeral — after the priest welcomed those of other faiths but told them not to take communion — we walked up and down the aisles and near dragged our friends out of their seats and up to the communion rail. Who ever heard of inviting people to dinner and not giving them anything to eat?

We are the “old” feminists; the ones the Vatican calls “exaggerated secular feminists”; the ones Ratzinger says sow discontent and hatred of men. The “new” feminists are all for the complementarity of men and women, and they stay in their place. They go to the Vatican; we go out to dance salsa together. And we stand up time and time again for women’s freedom. We are public witness to the fact that the hierarchy only has the power you give it. What are they going to do? Tear out our fingernails?

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the good girls care about women, and being careful is not always a bad thing. We all have our theories of change; BBBGs tend to think it happens at the margins and the good Catholic girls — at least the ones who want change — think it happens at the top. Both are needed.

But the last thing we need are men telling us who’s a better feminist, never mind Catholic.

Read the whole article and about some of the women here.

UPDATE: “A young, lesbian, Catholic progressive responds to Frances Kissling on the question of old-school ideas and strategies versus the brave new world of boundary-busting and online activism” here.

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