By Phillipa Martyr
Catholics and feminism have an uncomfortable relationship.
Catholic women of all ages shrink from calling themselves feminists because they know it will frighten the men around them.
Catholic men might find themselves either flinching at perceived feminist attacks, or blaming feminism for their personal problems.
They couldn’t be more wrong – and Samantha Povlock is out to prove it.
Povlock is the founder of the online community FemCatholic which is “answering St John Paul the Great’s call, and working to promote truth about women in the Church and in the world.”
Povlock has degrees in Theology and Business from The University of Notre Dame in the United States of America and is also a full-time working mother. She created FemCatholic to help Catholic women – and men – discover real feminism.
Povlock personally struggled to reconcile her “boldness with the quiet, docile picture of Mary that every song at church seemed to paint. I thought that’s all the Church envisioned for women.” She found peace, hope and joy in her faith – but found it lacking in secular feminist solutions to genuine social problems.
For Povlock, secular feminism has “not succeeded in attaining true equality for us. Because without the lens of complementarity, men are still made to be our benchmark – for our bodies, our styles of leadership, and our vocational fulfillment … Catholic feminism is not a contradiction – it’s a call.”
FemCatholic aims to educate women on the true meaning of their femininity, to encourage them to find answers to worldly challenges in their faith, and to empower them to embrace their femininity and offer its gifts and strengths to the world.
Through savvy use of social media, Povlock has quickly built up a wide network of engagement. The website features constantly-updating articles from a group of contributing writers, as well as submissions from ordinary Catholics – including priests and seminarians who are also working out their relationship with feminism.
This diverse range of Catholic writers have one important thing in common: they all accept the Church’s teachings wholeheartedly, even if they are struggling with some aspects of them.
For Povlock, this uncompromising faith is essential.
“The Church needs your strength – the Church needs your boldness. She needs your maternal heart like a Mama Bear going after her lost and suffering bear cubs. She needs you to be fierce, and cunning, and obedient.”
“Mary reveals the power in obedience – power to persist in the face of catastrophic tragedy, doubt, and fear. I realised the Devil had tried to hide this power behind my impressions of Mary as boring and meek, because his greatest fear is it being unleashed in the world.”
FemCatholic has an in-house ‘Dear Edith’ column, named after St Edith Stein, where each month a difficult question is answered by multiple participants. No topic is off limits: not trusting men, struggling with Marian devotion, not fitting in with your local parish, finding meaning in singleness, and how to manage when people deride your faith.
Feature articles tackle controversial issues head on. Why is women’s ordination not a viable option? What does the sexual abuse crisis mean for us as a Church? How can I stay in the Church when everything seems to be going wrong? What does it mean for a Catholic marriage when you are infertile? What about single women? What about divorced women? How can we do a better job of chastity education for young people?
Human sexuality is not the beginning and end of Catholic feminism. FemCatholic also goes beyond the prolife sphere to address broader social inequalities and injustice which are also part of the Church’s mission. In Evangelium Vitae (1995), St John Paul II called for a ‘new feminism’ which would acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society, working against all discrimination, violence, and exploitation.
Povlock likes to quote St Paul VI’s prophecy: “The hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being achieved in its fullness, the hour in which woman acquires in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved.”
FemCatholic is a part of that vocation and that mission.
Editor’s Note: many of the quotes are from a guest post written for The Catholic Woman Found Here
FemCatholic will be holding it’s first conference in Chicago in March 2019. For more information go to www.femcatholic.com/conference
Phillipa Martyr is a lecturer at the University of Notre Dame Fremantle.
From pages 28 to 29 of Issue 16: ‘Celebrating Women’ of The Record Magazine