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Sheila Nelson


This paper explores the tension felt by women religious in a Midwestern Benedictine community concerning the Roman Catholic church hierarchy's unequal treatment of women. The Second Vatican Council, the renewal process, and the rise of modern feminism in America have all contributed to the sisters' awareness of the Church's discriminatory practices. While the hierarchy contends that women have a different yet equal role and dignity within the church, my data and the literature indicate that women religious experience this "different" role as oppressive. As educated women in a Church structure, this paper answers the questions of the 30 sisters interviewed: Do they experience this tension in their daily lives? How do they cope? How do these coping patterns function within the Roman Catholic Church structures?

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