Joanna MANNING: Is the Pope Catholic? New York, Crossroad, 2000. Pp. 246. $18.95 pb. ISBN 0-8245-1869-1
Reviewed by Annie STEVENS, Trevecca University, NASHVILLE, TN 37210

This book is equal parts memoir and polemic. Subtitled "A Woman Confronts Her Church," Manning's narrative presents a series of autobiographical vignettes in an attempt to explain to readers - and to herself - why Manning has chosen to remain within the institutional Church. By telling her story, she seeks to answer the question raised in the title by examining the record of John Paul II regarding the role of women in the Catholic Church.

Manning begins with her own spiritual journey, from convent to marriage and motherhood. Her experiences as a seminary student, a teacher in the Catholic schools of Toronto, and an advocate for refugees and homeless persons formed her identity as a feminist of faith and led her to question official Church teaching that denied women full status.

Her argument with the Church and the Pope centers on four areas: clerical anti-feminism, gender-based theology, sexist language and curriculum, and political conservatism. Manning builds her case very meticulously, citing scripture, scholarly articles, news accounts, and her own experience. At times, her attention to detail becomes excessive; for example, most readers who would be attracted to this book are probably well aware of the controversies over women's ordination and do not need a lengthy background discussion.

In the final chapter, Manning looks to the future with hope. Her own experiences working with the poor, with women in different cultures, and with high school students provide her with an image of the Church where the Spirit is alive and free. She calls upon the People of God - including the Pope - to embrace full catholicity in the spirit of Vatican II.

This book would be helpful to anyone wanting a detailed overview of the Vatican record on women's issues in the late twentieth century.

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