Decade after dust-up, nun firm on abortion: ‘Choice is the woman’s’

SHARE Decade after dust-up, nun firm on abortion: ‘Choice is the woman’s’

Sister Donna Quinn. | Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

Donna Quinn, Catholic nun, feminist, once caused controversy for volunteering at a clinic providing abortions, calls the ordination of priests — only available to men — a “hoax,” sees the Eucharist as “part of our everyday life . . . A grandparent who embraces his little grandchild . . . is Eucharist to me.”

Quinn defines herself “as first of all a feminist and an activist, someone who loves people, works for justice.”

Does she still identify as a nun?

“I still belong to the community called Sinsinawa” Dominicans.

Been a member for around 60 years, though “on the edge” of being kicked out “several times.”

Doesn’t use “sister” title any more “because I think we’re all sisters” in women’s movement.


Raised in Canaryville.

When young, “we would ride the L downtown, and I looked” outside and noticed people “living in very poor conditions . . . I knew there was a difference in class and race at that time, but I was not aware of the difference in gender that the Church put upon us as females.”


“Women are not called to full participation in the Church.”

They can’t be ordained priests because, according to the Church’s reasoning, Jesus chose only male apostles, nor participate in synods — where important topics are discussed and positions staked — or in selection of a pope.


“I think that my growing wisdom . . . says that the whole ordination thing is a hoax put upon [by] the Church, put upon women, that says you’re not equal to celebrate what we have today called the Eucharist.”


The Eucharist is the bread and wine that, in Catholic tradition, becomes the body and blood of Christ at mass.

Quinn sees the Eucharist as not necessarily “something you go to and that only the priest has this power to change this into something else, but I see Eucharist as being part of our everyday life.”

“A grandparent who embraces his little grandchild . . . is Eucharist to me.”


“To be told what is allowed and what is not allowed as far as celebrating liturgy, this is not acceptable, this has to be changed . . . so that there’s no more hierarchy, there’s no more Vatican pronouncements, that women and men are called equally to pray what’s in their hearts, not what’s on a piece of paper.”


The Church has been trying to engage young Catholics who aren’t active in the faith.

“Instead of saying ‘Where are the women? Why are we not treating everybody as equals?’ they’re trying to bring new members in. . . . Young people today I hope . . . have the knowledge and ability to say ’No more, we will not accept an institution . . . that makes only males equal.’ This is the same to me as saying no black people are allowed.”


She “could have left” the Church long ago but thinks her voice is stronger within.


The Catholic Church opposes abortion.

Quinn made the news nearly a decade back because she was serving as an “escort” for women visiting a clinic offering abortions.

“We were screamed at, yelled at as murderers by people holding rosary beads,” protestors outside the clinic.

Then-Cardinal Francis George and other Church officials became concerned about Quinn’s work there and, amid talks, Quinn agreed to “stop at this clinic,” though she continued other women’s advocacy and acknowledged she’s since done other clinic escorts.

“I feel honored to walk with women in this regard, in the steps that they take to become who they are and what God is calling them to be.”


So what’s her actual position on abortion?

“The choice is the woman’s . . . do not interfere.”

“If you want to talk with a woman and give your opinion as a male that’s fine, but I am waiting for the Church to announce ‘vasectomy Sunday’ and we’ll talk about the vasectomies and the internal organs and external organs of males and, when that is accomplished, then we’ll see that there is equality.”


Some think abortions early on are acceptable but not late term. Her opinion?

“I think if you respect a woman, whenever she chooses for this unplanned pregnancy, whatever is her choice, that is my choice.”

Face to Faith appears Sundays in the Chicago Sun-Times, with an accompanying audio podcast, with additional content, available at and on iTunes and Google Play.


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