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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

858: One of the most important developments in feminist theory is the realization of difference.

Day 858: Friday, July 22, 2022

One of the most important developments in feminist theory is the realization of difference.

Before Vatican II, the religious congregations within the Catholic church did not work together but instead had a competitive attitude: whose school had the higher standard, whose basketball team was going to be the champion, et cetera. Between Catholics and Protestants, it was worse. Catholics were taught that it was a mortal sin to take part in the services of any Protestant church.

What brought us together? As a sister from the Philipines I realize the change happened during the Marcos dictatorship. The struggle of the poor – the peasants, the workers and the slum dwellers – brought us together. Members of different religious congregations started living and working with each other. Together they helped in the conscientization and organization of the people.

Protestants and Catholics found themselves arm in arm in rallies and demonstrations. They were in the same advocacy communities, in the same teach-in and study groups and most especially in public prayer celebrations. Task forces would be made up of people of different denominations.

Later on, many ecumenical groups were formed, introducing me to interfaith dialogue.

I had also the opportunity to join a group of women scholars who formed an inter-religious group called TARA. We were two Catholic sisters, one Protestant bishop, three Buddhist nuns, one lay Buddhist woman, a Tantric meditation expert, a Muslim scholar and a Hindu laywoman. Our differences gave real richness to our discussions and enabled us to see issues from each other’s perspective.

From my experience of ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, I have realized that true ecumenism comes from below, not from above; it is forged by common commitment, not by doctrinal discussions.


One of the most important developments in feminist theory is the realization of difference.

It has been recognized that just as the male experience cannot be generalized into being the whole of human experience, so too the experience of one group of women cannot be made to represent the experiences of all women. This is the reason for African-American calling their movement womanist and the Latinas calling theirs, mujerista. However, I believe that different people or groups of people share some commonality of experiences. These may not be totally congruent, but there are areas of overlap, which for me offer the possibility and opportunity of solidarity.

During the times of intensive struggle against the Marcos dictatorship, we experienced the effectiveness of actions of solidarity. Many political prisoners were spared from torture or were released because of the pressure of outside groups that sent a deluge of telegrams and letters to the government and the military. Church groups used to adopt political prisoners, not only to send them letters of encouragement but also to work for their release.

For genuine solidarity, I think what is needed is a common vision of society and a common commitment to a cause.

We live in a world that has become a global village. There is no escape from people and groups who are different from us – in race, in culture, in religion, in political ideology, et cetera. I do not believe that it is enough to be tolerant with one another, to live and let live.

I feel real effort is needed to try to understand each other, to have honest, even difficult, confrontation about each other’s differences, to accept these differences and to purge one’s own prejudices and unconscious racism or bigotry.

Then we must forge a common commitment to the human race and struggle against all forms of discrimination and exclusion and engage in common efforts to bring about a more just, humane society and to save our planet from ecological disaster. Only then can we truly call each other sisters and brothers.

[Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB, is a Missionary Benedictine Sister living in the Manila Priory, Philippines.

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