It has been well documented that American Catholics tend to be Catholics on their own terms, or choose to remain Catholic while selectively embracing official Church doctrine. But why do Catholics who disagree with official Church teachings on major issues such as homosexuality, women's ordination, or abortion, and are thus institutionally marginalized, choose to remain Catholic? Why do they stay, when the cost of staying and being stigmatized would seem to be greater than the benefits they might gain from switching to religious groups whose doctrines would validate their beliefs on these issues? Michele Dillon, drawing upon in-depth interviews with Catholics who are openly gay or lesbian, advocates of women's ordination, and pro-choice, investigates why and how pro-change Catholics continue to remain actively involved with the Church, despite their rejection of the Vatican's teaching on sexuality and gender.
'How do Catholics cope with the dramatic and traumatic changes in their Church? How do they manage to sustain a Catholic identity while at the same time dissenting from their hierarchy? Do they redefine their faith in order to continue to be Catholic? Professor Dillon's response to these questions presents a more subtle and sophisticated model of Catholicism than commonly perceived. Her work is a major contribution both to the sociology of religion and to the understanding of American religion.' Andrew M. Greeley, University of Chicago 'This scholarly yet lively and populist study shows how and why progressive Catholics are deeply informed by tradition and strongly committed to Church membership, Dillon brilliantly combines sociology, theology, and a large life of Catholic experience to argue that the Vatican too created and engaged safe communities in which diversity need not cause fragmentations. This book will make invaluable, provocative reading for anyone trying to take stock of the contemporary North American Church.' Lisa Cahill, Boston College 'With both richness of detail and theoretical flourish, Dillon shows us how these 'pro-change' Catholics are re-making Catholic identity - in spite of the Church and yet within the Church. And in the process she also shows us some very important things about the nature of community and identity in a world of valued differences.' Nancy Ammerman, Center for Social and Religious Research, Hartford Seminary