HAIL MARY? by Maurice Hamington


The Struggle for Ultimate Womanhood in Catholicism
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 Hamington (Women's Studies/Mount St. Mary's Coll.) surveys feminist critiques of the role of Mary in Catholicism and calls for a fundamental deconstruction of the Church's beliefs. According to Hamington and the authors he quotes, the cult of Mary in the Catholic Church is essentially a social construct, which has been manipulated by the male hierarchy down the centuries in order to oppress women. In this scenario, Mary's highly idealized status is really the projection of celibate men's fear of sexuality and their longing for an inaccessible mother figure. The exaltation of the Virgin, we are told, rules out any voice for the experiences of real women, who are sexual, passionate, and independent human beings. Hamington devotes iconoclastic chapters to the themes of Mary's perpetual virginity, her role as the all- powerful mother and mediator, and the concept of Mary as the New Eve. He draws heavily on the writings of feminist theologians Mary Daly, Rosemary Radford Ruether, and Elisabeth SchÅssler Fiorzenza, but his knowledge of the Catholic tradition, especially in the formative early centuries, is minimal and seems to be drawn from encyclopedias and poor secondary sources. The text abounds in sweeping and unverifiable assertions: e.g. that monasticism is masochistic and aspects of Marian devotion cause wife abuse. The author's desire to provide Catholics with relevant input is seriously undermined by his speaking from positions that few would recognize as Catholic, or indeed Christian: e.g. that Mary should be viewed independently of Christ and may be adored as a goddess. For Hamington, in fact, all statements of Christian belief are nothing but socially conditioned images that reflect human experience. A botched opportunity to present some potentially valuable insights.

Pub Date: Nov. 8th, 1995
ISBN: 0-415-91303-9
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Routledge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1995