When she was once asked by reporters what the feminist movement hoped to accomplish in the future, Betty Friedan answered, “ I can’t tell you that now. You wouldn’t believe it anyway. It’s theological.” In other words, the movement was going to change the way people-especially women- thought about religion.


How well the movement has succeeded in this objective is shown in detail by Donna Steichen in her book Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism (Ignatius Press,1991).

In her foreword, Helen Hull Hitchcock points to the paradox that prominent feminists are on seminary faculties, hold powerful diocesan offices, and have instant access to the media (Catholic and secular), “which they do not hesitate to use at every opportunity to bludgeon the Catholic Church , discredit Church leaders and ridicule Catholic believers.” Husband James, in a book of his own, has pointed out that he real test of feminist conviction is support for abortion, and by that test most of women described in Donna Steichen’s book prove to be feminists first and Catholics second.

New York Times ad

Incredible as it may seem, 24 of the 96 signers of the notorious 1984  New York Times pro-abortion ad were nuns. The two best known Catholic feminists, Rosemary Ruether and Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, served on the organizing committee which secured signatures for the ad. Ms.Ruether argues that feminism represents a fundamental shift in the valuation of good and evil, because past descriptions of evil were rooted in patriarchy and therefore were evil themselves. As long ago as 1964, she wrote that Catholic teaching on contraception makes on” an unwitting slave of biological fecundity” and that to risk having more children would “ demand that I scuttle my interests, my training, and in the last analysis, my soul.”

Mrs. Fiorenza a professor at Harvard Divinity School, wants to see a new religion which would not be Roman Catholicism but a hybrid political religion transformed by feminist reinterpretations of scripture and theology. She maintains that women “ have no authentic history within biblical religion.”

Clearly these feminist leaders seek a new religion and a new basis for moral choice

Sister Madonna Kolbenschlag spells out what the basis of the new morality will be- not revelation but experience and “ the deepest contemplation of and contact with the self.”

When experience is the basis of moral choice, woman’s capacity for ethical choice will increase, and in fact women will become morally autonomous. Then abortion, under certain circumstances, will become “ a rational and complex act,” the act of an ethically mature person.

Female power

Re-interpreting the book of Genesis, Sister Madonna describes the banishing of the snake from the Garden of Eden as the banishing of female power.

“Because of her curiosity, her desire to know,” she writes, “Eve was to be punished by being excluded from knowledge and the experience which is power. It is a clear condemnation by Yahweh of female sexuality exercised freely and autonomously.” Nor have things improved much since then. So now we see what a seamless web this is: the Vatican preoccupation with contraception, abortion, female altar servers, ordination, nun’s habits and constitutions. It’s all part of one piece! It’s not about ‘the mid of Christ’ and the abortion controversy is not about life. It’s about control over women’s sexuality and power!”


At a Women/Church convention held in Cincinnati in October 1987,”Claiming our power” was the conference theme.

The largest proportion of women attending, Donna Steichen reports, were nuns and ex-nuns, only one wearing a habit, most wearing tee-shirts reading “Priestly People Come in Both Sexes.” Lesbian leftist Charlotte Bunche thundered against the right wing and the Pope for organizing against lesbian and gay rights and reproductive freedom. Marjorie Maguire, a member of the board of the National Abortion Rights Action League, pointed to the Annunciation as evidence that ensoulment does not occur until the mother consents” to the pregnancy that is within her.” Mary Jean Collins, public affairs director of the pro-abortion Catholics for a free choice (CFFC), tried to recruit assistance for this group’s “ Bishop Watch,” dedicated to exposing what the church was spending on “lobbying reproductive tissues” and demanding an end to the Church’s tax-exempt status.

There are many, many more examples in Donna Steichen’s book of Catholic feminists advocating abortion, but it is worth while noticing a point she makes in her discussion of Mary Jean Collins’ organization. Unintentionally, she writes, the feminists’ association with CFFC has served the interests of real Catholics by exposing some of the mot virulent subversives within the Church. Many who endorsed the pro-abortion New York Times ads (there were two of them) came to change their minds when they discovered that there was only one single Catholic position on abortion: by denying it, the feminists were claiming a “right” to abortion and rejecting the fact that the Church has authority to guard and transmit Christ’s saving truth.

Donna Steichen treats abortion as a litmus test, “a watershed issue in the yawning division between Catholic orthodox and revolutionary.” No “dialogue” can make traditional Catholics doubt the immorality of abortion; they may not understand the reasoning behind many other doctrinal questions, but they know that killing babies is evil. So Catholics who offer public support for abortion clarify their status in the eyes of other Catholics: beyond ambiguity, beyond the labels of liberal or conservative, they stand revealed as utterly wrong.

What amazes her, however, is that the revolutionaries continue to hold positions in chancery offices, in Catholic colleges, and in other Catholic institutions. “There is supernatural comfort in Christ’s assurance,” she writes, that the gates of hell will not finally prevail. But for the present, much of the American Catholic Church is occupied by enemy forces.” She herself has done a great service by pointing out this fact, and by giving her readers means by which to recognize the enemy within.