personal appearance, one can’t help butnthink that the only interesting thing aboutnany of these events is the fact that Wongnthinks the reader would be interested innthem. Even Wong’s style is unimaginative,noverworking the simple present to describenpast events:nAfter a week in Cincinnati to pack mynthings and say my goodbyes, I go tonChicago to begin my first year of teachingnhigh school. I immediately loventhe big old building In which I willnlive…n3o the book is boring. But we cannotnsimply let the matter drop there, fornWong purports to offer an account ofnCatholic religious life in the 1960’s. Thus,none might expect an intelligent and fairnaccount of that life from “one whonknows.” How does Wong fare on thisncount? Not very well. For one who wasnbom and raised Catholic, who spent yearsnin Catholic schools as both student andnteacher, and who now presumes to tellnthe world what being a Catholic nun wasnlike, Wong displays surprising misunderstandingsnof Catholic principles andnpractice.nSome of her errors are harmless. Fornexample, Wong thinks the pink candlenof the traditional Advent wreath is lit onnGaudete Sunday, which is correct, butnthat Gaudete Sunday is the fourth Sundaynof Advent, which is wrong (it is the thirdnSunday). A small mistake, to be sure, andnone probably shared by the majority ofnCatholics in this country, but it demonstratesna certain failure toward the goalnof sentire cum. ecclesid Wong’s otherntransgressions are more serious. Analysisnis hampered, though, by her frequendynmocking tone, which leaves one quitenunsure as to whether she really believesnwhat she is saying or is simply repeatingnsome half-formed notion of theologynpicked up as a child. This approach shiftsnthe onus to the reader to ferret out thenCatholic truth from the muddled presentation.nConsider the following:nHere was [an elderly dying sister] whonhad dedicated her whole life to God,nyet her fate for all eternity dependednon the state of her soul at the momentnof death.nDisregarding her critical tone, Wong hasnstated Catholic doctrine correctly. Thenfeult lies in her unwillingness to explain,nor even consider, the Catholic rationalenfor the principle after casting it in a disparagingnlight. Wong might have explainednthe Church teaching that onenmay, up to the moment of death, by thenuse of one’s free will, reject God and Hisnlove. If one dies in the state of this selfimposednseparation, that decision, justnlike all the rest of life’s decisions, becomesnirrevocable. But Wong lapses into errornwhen she continues: “and the state ofn[sister’s] soul depended on Li2 gettingnthe priest there in time for a last confession.”nReduced to its essentials, Wong isnasserting that the state of one’s soul dependsnupon the action or inaction ofnanother. This is false; one is responsiblenfor the state of one’s own soul. That ancomparatively small number of dyingnpeople exercise that responsibility—nquite laudably—by asking a priest to hearna final confession in no way implies thatntrying to lead the life of a religious. Thensecond factor turns on how one viewsnWong’s behavior after she abandonednthe religious life. Even this behavior isnhardly racy stuff, at least by worldlynstandards—though it is dishonorablenenough for those with a calling to somethingnhigher. After leaving habit andnconvent behind, Wong shared space innboardinghouses with other driftingnreligious—^male and female. There theynrolled up the carpet and danced and exchangednsilly adolescent love letters.nWong enjoys the presence of priests whongo by their first names and refer to oldernsisters as “bitches,” and thinks that brushingnthe arm of a priest during their datento a pizzeria was electrifying. Strictly higjinschool, this.nBut in the midst of such mediocrity,none telling event takes place; not scandalous,nbut perhaps revealing. Wong,nwho, at this point, has chosen not to remainnin the religious life and who harborsnheavy resentment agaitist other religious,nnevertheless accepts her electionnas a representative to an important post-nVatican II general chapter meeting ofnher Order, a meeting which will largelyn//7/ is IliL- elc)(|iicn( . . accininl of Wong’s indocirinalion into rigiil convenl life …nthat .systemaritall)’ .slrippi-d Wong of healrliy sexuality and her in.stincts towardnIcniiniMii. Indepi-nilence. and prrson:il ambition.”n—,1/s.nthe state of the soul of a dying person dependsnon the presence or absence of anpriest. Wong alludes several times to thenefforts of the sisters “to merit heaven.”nNo informed religious, however, wouldnspeak this way. None of us, Wong shouldnknow, can earn our way to heaven.nSo Mary GiUigan Wong’s book is boringnand misinformed. But ever since thenappearance oiThe Awful Disclosures ofnMaria Monk, another question inevitablynoccurs about such writings: Are theynscandalous? The answer depends on twonfactors. The first is whether one considersnsmoking in the bathroom or talkingnafter hours to be scandalous. This is aboutnthe worst Wong can recall from thosendays during which she was, presumably.nnndirect its future development and waynof life. Wong explains it thus: “1 haven’tnactually decided to leave but only tonallow myself that option.” But a few daysnlater, she is gone.nIt is easy, in the midst of the presentnturmoil, to forget that the Church hasnsuffered nearly every hardship possiblenin her 2000 years, remaining, in Chesterton’sngraphic phrase, “reeling but erect.”nEven Mary Gilligan Wong, on a returnnvisit to her old convent, finds herself rediscoveringnits ancient treasures:nNow 1 watch the bent-over little oldnnun next to me, her arthritic handsntwisting around the songbook as shenstruggles to read the words of thesenSeptember 1983n