Tag: catholicism

When Abortion Was a Necessary Sin

Anyone tempted to make facile arguments about abortion politics, on either side of the aisle, needs to read John Christopoulos’s new book, Abortion in Early Modern Italy. The book is beautifully written and the stories in it are jaw-dropping, with nearly tabloid-worthy details about individuals’ sex lives and relationships, though handled with appropriate respect. As… Read more →

Sister Mariana’s Spyglass: The Unreliable Ghost of Female Desire in a Convent Archive

In 1731, Sister Mariana de Jesus, a young nun at the Augustinian Convent of Santa Monica in Portuguese Goa, was caught using a spyglass to ogle the monks at the convent’s brother monastery across the street.[1] Under other circumstances, Sister Mariana’s spyglass might not have attracted much attention. Spyglasses were popular among the sisters of… Read more →

Oscillating and Depreciating: Early Modern Spanish Views of Unsanctioned Female Healers

Antonio asks, “Do you believe that God will burn all of the sinners forever and ever when they die?” “Si,” replies his uncle Pedro as their old truck bumbles past a brothel where several women are hanging their laundry. While Antonio makes eye contact with one of the women hanging her clothes, he asks his… Read more →

The Rejected Ones: Indian Foundlings in Colonial Portuguese Goa

In September of 1747, Rosa de Menezes went into labor in her home in the poorest quarter of Goa, the capital of Portuguese India.[1] Menezes, an Indian Christian widow, had fallen pregnant, in her own words, “due to the weakness of the human condition” (pela fragilidade de humana) – a euphemism for sex outside of… Read more →

Dying Like the Savior, Dying Like the Saved

Sister Alberta Marie Hanley felt like Christ on her deathbed. Blood seeping into her eyes from a low platelet count, the twenty-six-year-old told Sister Mary Mercy that her head felt tight, like the crown of thorns must have made Jesus’ head feel. Hanley took her last moments to wonder if she had done enough for… Read more →

“The Egg” in the Twenty-First Century: A Family’s Holistic Healing and Cleansing Practice

In the early 2000s, my great-aunt performed a holistic healing act on my mother with an egg. My mother, sick and feverish in bed, hadn’t kept food down for days. My grandmother called her sister, my madrina at the time, and asked that she come perform the ritual — “the egg,” as we called it… Read more →

Uncovering the Convent

I study nuns. Now, let me start by saying that I’m not Catholic; I just study nuns in the nineteenth century. I am one of a handful of scholars, mainly women, who study nuns, or more accurately, women religious.1 Although I am immensely passionate about my topic, I find that most people are not aware… Read more →

This is Not a Culture of Life, This is a Culture of Un-Death

Last week at a Vatican conference on abortion, Pope Francis “argued that children who were not expected to live long after birth deserved to be treated in the womb ‘with extraordinary pharmacological, surgical and other interventions.’” He intimated that parents who did not use extraordinary measures were not caring for their children, saying that “Taking… Read more →

Murder and Motherhood in 1950s Ireland: The Trial of Abortionist Mamie Cadden

On the evening of April 17, 1956, thirty-three-year-old Helen O. visited nurse Mamie Cadden at 17 Hume Street, Dublin, for what she likely thought would be a routine, if illegal, abortion.1 Helen O.’s death after the attempted abortion provoked a national controversy that complicated dominant constructions of motherhood and domesticity in mid-twentieth-century Ireland. In the… Read more →

Teaching Abélard and Héloïse

One of the wearying inevitabilities of 2018 was that even the most cursory glance at the news was likely to bring you a fresh tale of sexual assault — in politics, the entertainment industry and, closer to home for me, academia. Much of the resulting commentary was almost as jarring as the news articles themselves…. Read more →