Review by Dr Pravin Thevathasan
Into the Deep
An Unlikely Conversion
by Abigail Rine Favale
This is the story of a feminist who became a Catholic. She was raised as an evangelical Christian. To be more specific, she was a postmodern feminist: the early feminists were largely Christian and pro-life. This book tells us why she became disillusioned with both evangelical Christianity and postmodern feminism. It also shows us the beauty of authentic Catholicism.
The author believes that while there is much that is good about evangelical Christianity, ultimately there is something missing. What is missing is a sacramental vision and devotion to Mary and countless female saints. Incidentally, I note that most converts to Catholicism from Protestantism are grateful for what Protestantism had to offer them. In contrast ex-Catholics who become Protestant or non-religious are often terribly bitter about their Catholic experiences. Their new-found beliefs means a complete rejection of Catholicism. The author in this book is saying that Protestantism is good but insufficient. For example, the Protestant promotion of chastity means saying no to sex before marriage. But what happens to the person who fails? In the Catholic understanding, there is repentance and healing through sacramental confession. There is shame, certainly. But there is also spiritual growth. Practicing the virtues is life-long and life-giving. We grow by grace into a deeper union with God. Catholicism is a life-long endeavour.
The basic problem with postmodern feminism is that it seeks to empower women by trying to eradicate their femininity. Postmodern feminism has a superficial understanding of what it means to be male and female. The author reflected on this especially after becoming a mother. The feminist pursuit of autonomy and independence gave way to thoroughly feminine virtues such as looking after the vulnerable and dependant child. The mother's self-sacrifice leads to her liberation in a way that feminism does not. While feminism has little to say about these virtues, they are at the heart of Catholicism.
What does it mean to submit to authority? For the postmodern feminist, this is tantamount to slavery. For the Catholic, submission to a legitimate authority is liberating. The author is saying something that St Paul said: for a wife to submit to the authority of her husband when her husband is intent on serving her means liberation, sacramental joy.
This is an important work which shows us the sacramental realism of the Catholic faith. Especially helpful is the way the book is based on the fifth chapter of the Gospel of St Luke: we move through the shallows and the storm into the Deep.