Document 23: Jacinta Mann, SC, letter to Sisters of Charity Community Newsletter, c. 1977, National Coalition of American Nuns Records 3/2, Marquette University Department of Special Collections and University Archives, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Jacinta Mann, a friend of Margaret Ellen Traxler and a fellow leader in NCAN, was openly pro-life. In this letter, written for her community's newsletter, she presented the abortion question from a unique angle. Many Catholics challenged Catholic women's participation in the feminist movement on the grounds that all feminists promoted abortion rights, a position contrary to Catholic teaching. Here, Mann declared that she was both pro-life and feminist, and furthermore, that her work in the movement was God's work.
A LETTER FROM SISTER JACINTA
Since some have expressed concern about the letter to the Editor in the July 22 Pittsburgh Catholic, which asked me to publicly recant my participation in the national women's conference, I want to share my thoughts about it with you.[A]
First of all, I teach three courses in the history and sociology of women at our College, and thus view feminism as a part of the world's social history-- that is, as a part of God's continuing creation. With me, the movement is an apostolate. I never feel apologetic about being a feminist and have found many women like me for whom feminism is a forum for spreading the Word of God, sometimes from a rostrum but more often to the person at my right or left.
Look at it this way:
I have no intention of resigning as a delegate to Houston and losing my chance to keep Christ in the feminist movement. I see no logic in the political tactic of withdrawing from the battleground "in protest." There are human beings involved every step of the way -- and you can't convert them by rejecting their presence.
Besides, it is a mistake to consider all feminists as abortionists. I am a feminist, but I am NOT "soft on abortion" as I was recently accused of being. It is perfectly true that I have not been an active worker in a pro-life organization (which movement has recently had a political split over feminism).
I have also not been a member of a gay rights group, or ERA, or the Women's Equity Action League, or an alliance against wife abuse or any other single issue body.
My feminist membership is limited to two groups of Catholic women: St. Joan's International Alliance and the National Coalition of American Nuns, both of which attempt to cast the broad spectrum of women's concerns in a gospel mold.
I look at myself as an academic feminist, who, in order to teach well, must keep in touch with what is happening all across the social scene. I speak very often on women's topics to various and sundry groups, always identifying myself proudly as a Sister of Charity. I give homilies (mostly in Protestant churches), lectures to women's and men's groups, do radio and TV call-ins, etc.
My associations have in every case strengthened my belief that the religious presence is valuable for those in the movement as well as those who are outside it wondering about it.
Please ask the Lord to keep His hands on my shoulders as I walk about in that portion of His vineyard which has been labeled "women's movement." Concerning women… let us bear one another's burdens….
A. Mann refers here to a major national conference on women held in Houston, Texas in 1977.
back to top