In praise of a hidden tradition of Catholic women’s empowerment

As a practising Catholic and a feminist there are two refrains I have heard from friends over the years. One goes something like this, and tends to be a question asked by my Catholic convert friends: ‘how on earth did you manage to keep your faith intact through the spiritually thin Catholicism of the 1970s and 80s? The second refrain is posed by my feminist friends: ‘why on earth would you remain a Catholic?’

One answer to both questions lies in between the lines of Linda Woodhead’s important Tablet article of two weeks ago. Linda, who is Professor of Sociology of Religion at Lancaster University, presented the counter-intuitive argument that the Catholic Church remains a better place to be a woman than the Church of England. There is a surprising truth in this statement (yes, despite the various church politics we can all quote). She painted part of a picture of the Catholicism in which I, and other women in our 30s and 40s were raised.