Confessions of an Ex-Feminist – Book Review
Lorraine Murray seemed to have no problems adhering to her Catholic Faith while growing up in New York and Florida. However, when she left home to attend college in 1964, life presented to her a new variety of very enticing options. The Women’s Liberation movement was under way and Lorraine was saturated with encouragement to embrace new freedoms. She indulged in protests, drinking, drug usage, and the availability of the birth control pill prompted her to liberally participate in “free sex.” Many of her professors scorned religion which deeply impressed her still-young mind. These many influences prompted Lorraine to ignore the faith of her childhood and embrace a long path of Godlessness.
Freedom has its PriceAfter several years of living a carefree and indulgent life, Lorraine began to notice that her varied relationships were bringing more emptiness than happiness, that her frequent partying was leaving her with feelings of hollowness. The faith of her childhood, however, seemed impossible to go back to; she had long ago convinced herself that religion was for the weak and needy, that she was intelligent enough to not need such dependence.
An Encounter With GodBy the early 1970s, Lorraine was in a doctoral program for philosophy, and found herself in even deeper associations with many who scoffed at religious devotion. However, also during this time, Lorraine’s beloved mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. This struck Lorraine to the core. She had a great respect and love for her mother, even though she had long banished her mother’s Catholic influence. As her mother’s health worsened, she oddly attempted to bargain with God for her mother’s life. But, her mother passed away in 1976 and an angry Lorraine began to strive to sway others - including the college students she was teaching - away from any faith in God.
Sexual Freedom Gives a Slap in the FaceSadly, Lorraine’s father died just a few months after her mother’s death. When Lorraine returned home from her father’s funeral, her then-boyfriend casually mentioned how he had had a one night stand while she had been away. He assumed this would be no big deal; they had both enjoyed the “freedom” of the sexual revolution. Suddenly overcome, Lorraine felt deeply the price of sexual freedom. She began to realize that free sex brought with it a huge emotional price; she began to ache for a monogamous and responsible relationship.
Marriage and Family QuestionsA few more collapsed relationships, one short marriage, approaching middle age alone, Lorraine felt that something was missing. She still clung fiercely to resist any devotion to God. She met her husband in a class she was teaching and although they married in a Methodist Church (it had nice scenery for photos), she continued her path of promoting atheism.
In her late 30s she began to have yearnings for a child; but her strongly intellectual and atheistic mind prevented her from delving into this phase of life freely. Concerned with her age, the sacrifice a baby might take, how having a child might affect her career, she kept postponing the possibility until it was too late.
A New Career Path with Gentle Nudges Toward the ChurchIn 1983 Lorraine, decided to do some freelance writing and was astonished to meet an editor who was simultaneously Catholic and intelligent. During this time, she mysteriously felt pulled to write about religious things … cloistered nuns, ordained women in Protestant churches, etc. Although she included personal jabs within these religion-based newspaper articles, God was working on her heart … and her husband’s heart.
During a trip to New York City, Jef, also a fallen-away Catholic, felt compelled to stop in at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and light a candle. Lorraine had an unexpected urge to read Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain. She began to see nature with new emotions … with amazement and wonder at how such beauty was created.
Before long, Jef was taking classes on the Catholic faith and Lorraine increased her Catholic reading, often deeply impressed by the words she saw in print. Truths taught to her as a child began to reappear, after decades of suppression. Her instincts became louder; the Church became more and more appealing. Finally, Lorraine felt a need to attend a mass and felt profound awe over the liturgy. She found the Catholic mass to be a beautiful expression of love for and devotion to God. Bible readings during mass about forgiveness particularly jumped out to her and encouraged her heart.
Abortion IssuesLorraine still could not reconcile herself to the Church’s teachings on abortion. She clung to the belief that a woman’s body was her own. However, she also began to face more directly an abortion she had had during her non-married sex-without-consequences years. She began to recognize and validate the flashbacks she had had over the years, her stabs of angst at seeing babies.
One night during an advent season, Jef convince Lorraine to go to confession with him. The time had come … her deeply buried and ignored regret surfaced and she tearfully shared her long-ago abortion with the priest. The priest’s gentle manner and references to stories of forgiveness in the Gospels warmed Lorraine’s heart. For the first time in many years, Lorraine felt a sense of relief and a much deeper sort of freedom.
A Shift in Personal GoalsRather than living for herself, Lorraine began to give of herself to others. Her heart was renewed. Having control over her body and striving for a career of glory no longer felt imperative. Serving the poor, the humble, and God began to feel like greater goals. Lorraine and Jef decided to re-marry … in the Catholic Church, and found great joy in once again receiving the Eucharist.
Though it took years for a full conversion, and many trials of suffering were to be endured, Lorraine slowly but surely embraced all the Church stands for and at last found true freedom.
Lorraine V. Murray’s Confessions of an Ex-Feminist was published by Ignatius Press. She currently writes a newspaper column entitled, “Grace Notes” for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.