Relatively early on in my seventh grade school year, I wrote what later became known as “the petition” — a letter to the priest who taught Spanish class regarding the disparity of punishments dealt. From that point until I graduated eighth grade I had developed a certain reputation as a troublemaker and agitator. The funny thing is I never intended to start a petition — it had started out as a sincere letter to the priest who taught Spanish class trying to understand why he, in my opinion, dealt different punishments to different kids in the class. I even asked my parents to sign it so they’d know what I was up to (truly the sign of a rabble rouser!). However, by the time I handed in the letter every kid in the seventh grade signed it.
From the time that letter became public until I graduated, the nuns who taught me openly despaired about my future as a “good” woman – however could I go through life, they asked, if I constantly stirred up trouble? Thus I first came upon the perception – not just in Catholicism but throughout life – that “good” women do as they are told and that’s it.
However it took many years of reading of how wrong those admonishments were. Part of the rich tapestry of the Catholic Church is the heritage of those who stood up to power – either civil or church – and demanded change. The Church would not be the same, for example, without St. Theresa of Avila and her reform movement. I am hopeful that the Church will look different in the future because of those who point out that our Church would be richer if we had more inclusion, especially when it comes to women, married persons, or openly homosexual persons serving as priests or allowing homosexuals to marry. We’re human, we make mistakes – and in my opinion the Church has made more than a few. Sometimes when people have made mistakes we need to point it out. And perhaps point it out repeatedly and loudly until change comes.
Therefore in a somewhat belated reply to my old teachers – I think to be a good Catholic woman you need to be respectful in your goals. Our goals should be for a more inclusive community that reflects God’s love more fully. However, we also need to be disrespectful from time to time and bring up the uncomfortable faults that lay within our church.
Sarah Albertini-Bond lives in Virginia Beach with her husband and
cat. While she hasn’t started another petition in awhile, she’s
signed more than a few with the hope each time that she’s making the
world a little bit better.