Reflecting on Catholic Women’s Ordination in Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird

Conference: The Kyoto Conference on Arts, Media & Culture (KAMC2021)
Title: Reflecting on Catholic Women’s Ordination in Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird
Stream: Film Studies
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Jason Bartashius, Independent Researcher, Japan


Sociologist Andrew Greeley’s (1990; 1996; 2000) theory of the Catholic Imagination that sees the world as sacred offers an insightful approach for analyzing Greta Gerwig’s comedy-drama Lady Bird. This affirmation of the world is underscored when the teenage protagonist Christine/“Lady Bird,” stands outside a church in New York City, and leaves a voicemail for her mother describing how emotional she felt when she drove through her hometown Sacramento for the first time. Resonating with Greeley’s discussions of the correlation between the Catholic Imagination and support for feminism, the film casts, in back to back scenes, Lady Bird and her mother, Marion, in the role of a priest-confessor. In both instances the women, rather than requesting penitence, offer comfort and (implicit) assurance that no wrong/(sin) was committed. Lady Bird hugs her ex-boyfriend Danny and promises to protect his secret that he is gay. The following parallel scene depicts a priest, ashamed of his depression, confiding in Marion. This paper considers the film alongside contemporary debates surrounding Catholic women’s ordination as well ethnographic work on the Roman Catholic Womanpriests (RCWP) organization whose membership, despite being excommunicated by the Vatican upon receiving ordination, claims a Roman Catholic identity (Peterfeso 2020).

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