NO TURNING BACK: Two Nuns' Battle with the Vatican over Women's Right to Choose by Barbara & Patricia Hussey with Jane O'Reilly Ferraro

NO TURNING BACK: Two Nuns' Battle with the Vatican over Women's Right to Choose

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A polemical memoir by two nuns who challenged Vatican policy on abortion. In 1984, Ferraro and Hussey were among 24 nuns who placed a full-page ad in The New York Times calling for Catholics to engage in an open dialogue on abortion rights. After being threatened with excommunication, they remained the only two nuns to continue the fight without a retraction. This affair was the climax of a number of similar straggles that Ferraro and Hussey (with help from O'Reilly, author of The Girl I Left Behind, 1980) alternately discuss in their highly readable account of liberal Roman Catholic thought during the past 30 years. Ferraro sets the stage by making her pre-Vatican II convent life sound like a benign concentration camp in which nuns were coerced to forget about the past, families, egos, and sexuality, and even were encouraged to flagellate themselves. But by the early 60's, when the Second Vatican Council radically modernized church customs, nuns were encouraged to leave their old ways and reach out to the communities around them. Up through the 80's, in order to combat the ""cadaver obedience"" they alleged was imposed by a male-dominated clergy, both sisters supported one reform after another, from folk masses to Liberation Theology to radical feminism--even to questioning God's gender. The authors trace the church's ""sexism"" back to medieval times--a sexism apparently so enduring that even midway into our century nuns were discouraged from studying theology. In this context, the authors attempt to make the Vatican's anti-abortion edict seem more anti-female than pro-life, and delight in referring to the current ""pope"" in the lower case. Occasionally redundant and self-righteous-seeming, but still a clear and often provocative look at how religious vows can conflict with beliefs, and why church and state have not stopped colliding.

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 1990
Publisher: Poseidon/Simon & Schuster