Document 11: National Coalition of American Nuns, "Declaration of Independence for Women," May 1972, published in Natonal Coalition of American Nuns, If Anyone Can NCAN: Twenty Years of Speaking Out (Chicago: National Coalition of American Nuns, 1989), pp. 13-14.
In 1969, Margaret Ellen Traxler and Audrey Kopp co-founded the National Coalition of American Nuns (NCAN), the first organization for feminist women religious in the United States. NCAN advocated a variety of social justice causes, often voicing opinions considered radical by many Catholics. In 1972, NCAN released its "Declaration of Independence for Women," a bold plan for attaining gender equality in all institutions, religious and secular. This declaration illustrated the unique character of NCAN feminism because it emphasized that the sisters' feminism emerged directly from their faith. That faith led the sisters to advocate full equality for women, redistribution of power, and simple living.
May, 1972. Declaration of Independence:
We reaffirm Jesus and His Gospel as our life focus and, that being said, NCAN puts society on notice that women refuse to accept any longer the straw for bricks we are forced to make.
We hereby put officials of all institutions of government and churches on notice to implement a five-year plan so that these expectations of women are met when the 200th anniversary of the original Declaration of Independence is celebrated:
--Full and equal status of women in churches, including ordination to the ministry and elected proportional representation in church voting bodies. Just as today we are appalled
that organized religion once approved slavery, so within a few years will the present oppression of women in churches be recognized as immoral. Imagine how ludicrous that Roman Catholic bishops meeting in their Synod had the theme of justice when not one woman had a vote.
--Reformation of the present economic and power systems, complete equality for women, and a call for austerity and simplicity of life styles. Our society's values are hedonistic, and our consumerism a worship of false gods. The more goods we consume, the less there is to sustain life in developing nations.
--Broad-based research programs in human sexuality. We request organized religion to address contemporary issues related to human sexuality, such as homosexuality, "alternate forms of marriage," abortion, etc., and to do research before making judgments. Judgments which include empirical data will help dispel current myths and fables which tyrannize decisions and behavior of the human family today.
We set 1976 as the cut-off date for achieving equal status of women in churches. We call for new church structures whereby outdated instruments, such as the college of cardinals, would be abolished. We call upon women to refrain from economic assistance to churches in a limbo period between now and 1976. Forego the Sunday collection, or put straws into the basket as a symbol and reminder that our New Declaration of Independence will speak to all-male decision-makers to "let God's people go!"
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