Anne E. PATRICK.  On Being Unfinished:  Collected Writings.   Ed. Susan Perry.  Maryknoll, NY:  Orbis Books, 2017.  pp. xxv + 309.  $32.00 pb.  ISBN 978-1-62698-255-0.  Reviewed by Paul MISNER, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881.


            Not being familiar with Sr. Anne Patrick’s scholarly specialization in feminist moral theology, nor with her books, I am perhaps an odd choice to review this volume of her collected writings.  All the same, I can now unreservedly recommend it as an introduction to her life’s work and as a stimulating read for observers of recent church life.

            She is well worth getting acquainted with, as I found out here.  The recently deceased Anne E. Patrick (1941-2016) retired in 2009 from her position as professor of Religion and the Liberal Arts at Carleton College, a well-known private liberal arts college in Northfield, Minnesota.  As a Sister of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary for her whole adult life, she became, under the influence of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, a calm but firm voice calling for the recognition and correction of the unjust discrimination against women in church and society.  The reader as unfamiliar with her significance as I was can garner a good quick impression from the “Foreword” in this volume (pp. vii-xii) by Charles Curran.

            After that, my advice is to read her Introduction (xv-xxv), which she wrote with a view to a book such as this, starting even before her retirement, while she was battling the cancer that would end in her death.  Then, consulting the Table of Contents, choose an essay or two from among the couple dozen at your disposition, according to your interests, inclinations, or purpose.  My first choice would be her 1975 “Conservative Case for the Ordination of Women” (247-53).  Though without footnotes, which are valuable elements in many of her other contributions to this volume, this chapter highlights a cause for which Sr. Anne will be long remembered.

            As a historian, I note that the first four chapters, “History in the Making,” are descriptions and analyses of continuity and change in church life at different points in her career (1969, 1985, 1986, and 1999).  In the earliest stocktaking (1969!), she almost seems to adopt the “See Judge Act” approach of Cardinal Joseph Cardijn for his Young Christian Workers movement, adapting it for her fellow sisters.  She cited Cardinal Suenens’ emphasis on coresponsibility in the church.  Subsequently, after the completion of her Ph.D. in 1982, a characteristic focus on certain passages of Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes becomes prominent. 

            Another characteristic of her thought is her attention to imaginative literature for illustrating or understanding the impact of sexism and androcentrism.  Take for example her examination of the writings of George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans, 1819-1880) in “George Eliot’s Critique of Sexism in Middlemarch” (here 92-112 and 113-27).  I am tempted to refer to a recurrent concern in these essays as “nuns and nones,” connecting both to the deep-seated androcentrism of Catholic religious culture.  Perhaps the publication of this collection coincident with the #MeToo moment in American culture will bring it the attention it deserves.