Letters and Politics

A Radical Faith Fighting Against Dictatorships

With Eileen Markey, investigative journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, New York Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, The Village Voice and America Magazine, among others. She is author of the new book: A Radical Faith: The Assassination of Sister Maura.


About the book:

radical-faithgThe 1980 rape and murder of four American women – three of them Catholic nuns – by the U.S.-trained military of El Salvador shocked the American public and set off a decade of debate over Cold War policy in Latin America. But as Congress held hearings, the State Department, CIA, and FBI traded memos, and supporters held emotional memorial services, the women themselves became symbols, shorn of context and background: hapless victims.

In A Radical Faith, journalist Eileen Markey sets the record straight, exploring the full and complex life of one of these women, Sister Maura Clarke. Raised in a tight-knit Irish Catholic community in Queens, New York during WWII, by the 1970s she was organizing and marching against the dictatorship in Nicaragua and willing to take great risks for a movement to transform El Salvador.

Drawing on interviews with Maura’s family and those she worked with, Maura’s letters, and declassified government documents, Markey weaves an intimate portrait of Maura’s spiritual and political journey during a shockingly violent era. Working in poor communities transformed Maura from an obedient and rule-bound young woman into a provocative critic of authority who pushed the boundaries of what it meant to be faithful to religious conviction and her own heart—even if it meant challenging the CIA-backed regimes that terrorized the poor of Latin America. Maura’s life is a microcosm of the larger evolution of postwar Catholicism: from a inward-looking, protective institution in the 1950s, through the dramatic reassessments of Vatican II to a community of Christians grappling with liberation theology and what it meant to serve God in the world and beside the poor in the 1970s.


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