Matt C. Abbott column: ‘Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves’

Matt C. Abbott
October 12, 2012

Below is the introduction to the book Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves, edited by Helen M. Alvaré, an associate professor of law at George Mason University in Arlington, Va. She’s also a consultor to Pope Benedict XVI’s Pontifical Council for the Laity, a consultant for ABC News, and the chair of the Conscience Protection Task Force at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J.Thanks to Professor Alvaré and Our Sunday Visitor for allowing me to reprint this excerpt in my column.
Click here to order a copy of Breaking Through.


Helen M. Alvaré

So I’m sitting in the chair at the hair salon getting my hair cut by a stylist I’ve known for a long time, when his friend walks in and sits beside us. My stylist brags to his friend: “Helen here just came back from Pope Benedict’s first Mass. She went over as part of the U.S. delegation.” His friend doesn’t miss a beat: “I’m so sorry,” he says. “I hear this guy is terrible on the whole woman thing.” I do miss a beat, but then I’m ready: “Wow,” I say in a dangerously silky voice, “you’re amazing.” The friend is not getting it. “What?” he replies. I repeat, “You’re amazing. I don’t know three people who have read everything Pope Benedict has said about women, but apparently you have….”

All right, so this isn’t the nicest way to make a point. But it has the virtue of being true. Vast numbers of people have made up their minds about all sorts of things pertaining to the Catholic Church without reading or listening to actual Catholic sources. This is ridiculously true when the subject turns to women in the Catholic Church. Observers can’t seem to decide whether Catholic women are mouthpieces for a celibate male hierarchy, unthinkingly clinging to home and hearth, or card-carrying feminists who, if they knew what was good for them, would leave the Church, shaking its ancient dust off their sneakers, or pumps, or whatever-the-hell shoes they felt like wearing that day.

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