Rome and American Catholics


This article considers the paradox evidenced by American Catholics' simultaneous rejection of papal teaching and their enduring commitment to Rome. This issue is explored by focusing on one group of apparently anomalous Catholics, members of the Women's Ordination Conference (WOC), who contest Vatican opposition to women priests. It is suggested that the legitimation narratives that WOC members use to validate their identity as Catholics committed to a doctrinal stance denounced by Rome illuminate one of the mechanisms that enable Catholics in general to maintain their religious identity while disagreeing with papal teaching. Derived from their lived knowledge of Catholicism, WOC respondents claim the authority to interpret doctrine and use that interpretive autonomy to offer doctrinally grounded reasons in favor of change. Empowered by Catholicism to reflexively critique church doctrine and practices, WOC members both validate their particularized interpretations of Catholicism and maintain communion with the church's more universal community of memory.



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ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science



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