United Front

Breaking Through
Catholic Women Speak for Themselves
Edited by Helen M. Alvaré
Our Sunday Visitor Press, $16.95, 173 pp.

Even though prolife activist and law professor Helen Alvaré dismisses feminism in her introduction to Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves, the book ends up proving the feminist adage that “the personal is political.” Written by and for women who wholeheartedly embrace church teachings concerning sexuality and gender, the essays in this collection may evoke indifference among some readers and anger among others. Yet Breaking Through is worth reading, both for its stories of faith and for its window on the fractious landscape of contemporary American Catholicism.

In discussing how Catholicism intersects with everyday experiences of dating, work, love, and family life, the book’s authors aim—as do feminists—to bring personal experiences and perspectives to bear on the politics of issues like abortion, contraception, clergy sexual abuse, and same-sex marriage. The premise of the book is as follows. The general public is curious about Catholic women and their relationship to the church, but ill-informed. Most Americans believe that Catholic teachings, especially those concerning human sexuality, are contrary to women’s interests and out of step with contemporary thought...

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About the Author

Mary Ellen Konieczny teaches sociology at the University of Notre Dame.