Lavinia Byrne, Author . Hodder & Stoughton $27.50 (200p) ISBN 978-0-340-75692-8

Any story about a nun who dares to challenge the authority of the Catholic Church is bound to be interesting, and this one does not disappoint. British-born Byrne, a teacher and BBC broadcaster who is an ex-nun, tangled with the Vatican over Woman at the Altar, a book in which she questioned Church teachings on birth control and women's ordination. Here Byrne relates her personal metamorphosis after the Second Vatican Council reformed the Church in the 1960s, offering her "a new self-image" and expanded opportunities for study and travel. Previously content in the "garden" of convent life, Byrne came to see herself as called to the priesthood, something her Church not only denied her, but forbade her to discuss publicly, just as Woman at the Altar was to be published. Byrne's account of her conflict with the Vatican is absorbing, but she does more than give her side. She analyzesevery detail, at times serving as her own therapist in an apparent quest for healing. However, she never seems to achieve it, even when she arrives at a resolution. She leaves her community, the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so that she can speak more freely about her beliefs, but remains a Catholic, calling herself "a loyal daughter of Holy Mother Church." Despite this puzzling denouement, her story is sure to be of interest to those urging the Catholic Church to ordain women. (June)

Reviewed on: 05/14/2001
Release date: 06/01/2001
Paperback - 200 pages - 978-0-340-75695-9
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