I take a seat next to Sophia, who’s got a sprained ankle propped up on the table. Across the room is Margaret, with long legs and a flawless manicure, wearing a leather jacket and jeans. I recognize her from Mass, and soon learn that in contrast to her outspoken personality, she’s a former contemplative nun. On my other side is Agnes, with a broad smile and a glittering scarf around her neck, also a former nun, from an order that works among the poorest of the poor. Elizabeth, with curly dark hair and leaping hand gestures, is wearing red and getting everyone water, and it turns out that she too briefly lived in a convent after she finished high school. As they introduce themselves, more details are forthcoming: Margaret is retired and has been with her female partner for twenty-five years; Agnes is a theology professor and writer, with two kids in college; Elizabeth works for an educational program and volunteers everywhere. I am, by decades, the youngest woman there.

So, you’ve written a book about returning to Catholicism in a historical moment when the institutional Catholic church looks like a bunch of right wing nut job lunatics? Does that mean you’re a right wing nut job lunatic?

Far from it. I mean, I teach at UC Berkeley, dude (you don’t mind if I call you dude, right? I mean it in a feminist, gender-neutral sort of way). That’s clue number one. Clues number two through ten thousand have to do with the fact that I’m a thinking feminist who believes in social equality for LGBTQ people and has what you might call a socialist fantasy life. A lot of Radical Reinvention is about understanding the difference between the hierarchy of the church and the people on the ground. Catholics are not some sort of monolithic mass of Pope worshipping automatons.