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Conscience Magazine


By Lauren Morrissey May 6, 2021

“Catholic Activism Today: Individual Transformation and the Struggle for Social Justice”

Maureen K. Day (NYU Press, 2020. 319 pages)

Building on extensive surveys, interviews and participant observation data, Maureen K. Day’s new work is a timely look into the faith development of the individual vs. the laity in terms of social justice. She contrasts the history of successful Catholic actions in social justice activism with popular modern movements such as the U.S. based JustFaith Ministries. In deploying her thorough research to compare the two, Day generates a sharp analysis of collective social justice actions orchestrated by the laity through various periods and cultures with the far more individual-focused social justice approach of increasingly popular organizations like JustFaith Ministries. Teasing out the implications of individual-based approaches to social justice—how they might weaken the efficacy and practicality of social reforms while simultaneously weakening the position of the church hierarchy—in contrast to the tradition and results of current and past collective actions—“Catholic Activism Today” is a multifaceted and timely study of how, when and to what ends individual and collective impulses for social change intersect and diverge.

“Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women”

Kate Manne (Crown, 2020. 269 pages)

Plotting a path through the political and social reckonings sparked by the #MeToo movement and the Trump era, Cornell University philosopher Kate Manne turns a critical eye to significant events of the past half decade. Drawing on recent incidents such as the trial of Harvey Weinstein and U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh, Manne deploys deep philosophical training and precise analytical skills to convey both the breadth and depth of toxic masculinity as a cultural phenomenon. Covering topics including incels (involuntary celibates), mansplaining, manspreading, medical hand-waving in the face of female pain and charges of unelectability leveled at female politicians, the author provides an exacting inspection of pervasive toxic masculinity as well how to dismantle it to create a more equitable world.

“Advancing Reproductive Choice: Leading with Conviction and Compassion, a Memoir”

Elizabeth S. Maguire (Mont Boron Press, 2020. 248 pages)

Looking back at a career that spans over four decades and multiple countries, Elizabeth S. Maguire’s memoir is not only a fascinating account of one woman’s struggle to help those most in need of reproductive care, but significant documentation of a historic social justice movement. Covering her time as the first female director of the global family planning and reproductive health program for the U.S. Agency for International Development as well as her 15-year career as CEO of Ipas, Maguire’s memoir covers the trials, achievements and adventures she experienced as a formidable champion of reproductive health. It also takes a sharp look at the substantial challenges still facing the movement to which she has contributed so much. Calling on readers to intensify the struggle for reproductive and social justice on a global scale, Maguire’s memoir is a clarion call to press forward despite obstacles and opposition—a successful approach her own story models.

“The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism”

Katherine Stewart (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2020. 347 pages)

With this expansive investigation of the religious right in the United States, Katherine Stewart thoroughly exposes that what many consider to be a loosely confederated culture war is a highly organized, heavily funded movement seeking to pull down the pillars of U.S. democracy. Digging deep into frequently forgotten episodes in U.S. history, Stewart uncovers the roots of a movement that extends across the globe and has done so for decades. Through tracing financial transactions that fuel many of the key organizations of the religious right, the author reveals a network of think tanks, NGOs, pastoral organizations and advocacy groups that create a control and command center. Mapping how this conglomerate of conservative causes connects to create an organization with autocratic and theocratic aims, Stewart’s work falls firmly in the tradition of muckraking journalism at its best. What she reveals is a coordinated network whose ultimate goal is no less than a Christian nationalism that pervades every aspect of society. This highly ambitious work tears back the curtain that separates U.S. society from what lies just out of view: the possibility of an all-consuming conservative behemoth bent on total conquest.

Lauren Morrissey
Lauren Morrissey

(she/they) is the co-founder and co-director of the Student Coalition for Reproductive Justice (SCRJ), a pending non-profit organizing ten student groups on Catholic colleges across the nation to organize to provide sexual and reproductive health care to students. She currently serves as the communications associate at Catholics For Choice.