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Beyond the Altar

Women Religious, Patriarchal Power, and the Church

By Christine L.M. Gervais
Subjects Religion, Social Science, Women’s Studies, Sociology
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Paperback : 9781771122948, 275 pages, April 2018
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781771122962, 275 pages, April 2018
Ebook (PDF) : 9781771122955, 275 pages, April 2018

Table of contents

Table of Contents
1 Relating to Feminism
2 Experiencing Patriarchal Domination
3 Understanding How and Why They Stay
4 Moving Beyond Patriarchal Domination
5 Practicing Inclusive Spirituality
6 Engendering Feminist Spirituality
7 Defending Their Alternative Altars
8 Generating Women-Led & Inclusive Governance
9 Engaging in Feminist Activism
Sisters’ Messages to Women
Hope for & Skepticism of Gender Equality in the Church
Sisters’ Pride over their Active ‘Retirement’
Sisters’ Outlook on the Future of Women’s Religious Life


Beyond the Altar illustrates how women religious overcome sexist subjugation by side-stepping the patriarchal power of the Roman Catholic Church. This book counters the stereotypical image of Catholic nuns as being loyally compliant with their church by showing how a number of current and former women religious in Canada challenge their institutional religion’s precepts and engage in transformative strategies to effect change both within and outside the Roman Catholic Church.
The sisters’ testimonials reveal never-before-shared details about their painful experiences of male domination, their courageous efforts to move beyond such sexist stifling, and the women-led and women-centered spiritual, governance, and activist practices they have engendered in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
Featuring many examples of the sisters’ resourcefulness, resilience, and resistance, this book fills a void in international scholarship on what Canadian Catholic women religious have endured and accomplished. Through interviews and in-depth accounts of the complexities and nuances present in the current and former sisters’ lives, readers will discover their steadfast indomitability as they strategically, and sometimes subversively, innovate their spiritual spaces.


...presents a nuanced account of a generation of Catholic women who walk a tightrope between feminist and Catholic ideals. Highly recommended

- K.A. Dugan, CHOICE, 2018 December 18