Fordham theologian strenuously defends 2007 book | National Catholic Reporter

Elizabeth Johnson, professor of theology at Fordham University in New York, in a June 1 letter to the Committee on Doctrine of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, strenuously defended the orthodoxy of her 2007 book, Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God, saying the committee had thoroughly misunderstood, misrepresented, and misinterpreted the book.

via Fordham theologian strenuously defends 2007 book | National Catholic Reporter.

For those of us who yearn for more dialogue in the Church, the story of Professor Johnson and the US Bishops is another sad example of the lack of such dialogue. I have not read Quest for the Living God, but ordered it right away when the story first came out. (Don`t tell me what not to read!) It sits on my night stand, enticing me to put other tasks aside.

Other Johnson books on my shelf, read in varying degrees of completion, are: Truly our Sister: A Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse, and Friends of God and Prophets: A Feminist Theological Reading of the Communion of Saints.

For too long, women`s experience has been defined, categorized and identified through male eyes and male minds. Elizabeth Johnson is a woman and a theologian – the former affects her study of the latter, and she does so unapologetically. She and other women theologians, bring a woman`s voice to the study of Mariology and the role of women in the Church. By doing so, the boundaries of theology are challenged, expanded and made more inclusive. Isn’t this, after all, the purpose and goal of all fields of study?

And, as in all fields of study, works are are expected to be judged and critiqued by one`s peers to ensure good scholarship and accuracy of research. Certain processes for academic scrutiny are put in place for the sake of consistency. In our Church, bishops have the final say in theological judgments. As with all issues, some bishops are more authoritarian than others. The issue of decreasing academic freedom continues to worry many Catholic theologians. And the way that Johnson`s work was censored without opportunity for dialogue has caused many of her peers to stand beside her in support.

In her letter to the Bishops, Johnson explains that Quest for the Living God merely presents “ideas and images of God surfacing, being tested, spiritually prayed, and ethically lived out in eight different conversations: in transcendental, political, liberation, feminist/womanist, black, Latino/Latina, interreligious, and ecological theologies.” The book is an attempt to show “how contemporary believers are seeking to express the ancient wisdom with new relevance.”

What makes me want to read Quest for the Living God (besides the episcopal censor!) is that it promises to be a great survey, a general introduction into the diverse ways of embracing God in diverse realities. Each section begins with the context, the historical foundation that lay the ground for these new and challenging ways of thinking. Some of these ideas I`m familiar with. Other`s I`m not. I look forward to the opportunity to learn more about the experience of sisters and brothers around the world, and how that experience is uniquely reflected in the way they live their faith. How is it similar to my own experience? How is it different?

The hard work of truly listening to the other is at the heart of dialogue. Closing doors, minds and hearts to new ways of thinking also closes us to the possibility of new ways of living the truth.

the clericalism of the laity

Jamie L. Manson has written another thought-provoking blog on the National Catholic Reporter web-site. In Priest`s pornography case reveals clericalism of the laity , she challenges the laity for remaining silent in the midst of the abuse scandals. She claims that even progressive voices are hesitant to openly challenge and report priests, and blames it on the “internalized clericalism of the laity.” Even when the evidence is staring us in the face, we are as guilty as clerics in giving the offending priest a “pass.”

Is this true? We have heard of the stories of days gone by, when a child’s word was seldom believed. Even when it was believed, a family was too ashamed or afraid to openly accuse the priest. But have we not moved beyond the old protectiveness of our clergy?

In my own parish life, I have never had to experience the unique betrayal of a sexually abusing priest. But I have experienced the effects of authoritarianism and abuse of power. I have seen some past priests treat a parish as their own fiefdom, bullying others to do their will. Parish councils and finance and liturgy committees were mere pawns, ensuring that all Father’s plans and wishes would be fulfilled.

I have also seen the diocesan-wide effects of a now long-gone bishop who was absolutely crazed with control. In his last years he had heads rolling among clergy and laity alike.

These priests and bishop were also abusers, though not sexually. And what did we do? Well, those of us who spoke out quickly found ourselves on the margins. Friends shared our feelings of anger and injustice, but felt they could do nothing beyond offering a shoulder to cry on. Priest friends, while sympathetic, distanced themselves from the situation out of fear for their own positions.

Since then, I have sat back and observed how a parish reacts to a pastor who abuses their power. The one constant seems to be that most of the faithful inner circle remains faithful. Oh, they will grumble mightily about how difficult Father is to work with. But they will continue to do his bidding. On Sunday morning, he is still surrounded by his minions. During the busy liturgical seasons, he still obsessively controls every detail despite the extra time and energy required of already over-worked volunteers.

And then it came to me. It`s so simple. The reason that priests can behave badly and get away with it, is because we enable them! And when we do, are we any better than the priests and bishops who cover up the abuses of their fellow clergy? My wise husband is fond of saying that a person can only have power if you give it to them. When will we learn to just say no?!

Manson concludes her article with the following,

As the tales of the institutional church’s deception and negligence continue to mount, lay Catholics must stop making themselves subservient to their imagined notions of the power of the hierarchy, and must instead allow themselves to be channels of the power of God that is made manifest through sacrifice, courage, and truthfulness.

They must recognize how their internalized clericalism may be impeding their prophetic participation in the Spirit’s unfolding work in our church.





clerical haute couture

Here`s another one for the wacko extremely unique files! The link to The Cost of Looking Good in the Magic Kingdom  was devilishly sent by a friend who well knew the reaction it would elicit – a mixture of giggles at the absurdity, and a communal head-shaking and nausea at the vanity, hypocrisy and extravagance of these true dunderheads in our episcopal ranks.

The article, found on A.W.Richard Sipe`s blog Celibacy, Sex & Catholic Church, looks at the cost to outfit Raymond Burke in the splendor to which he has become accustomed. Be sure to scroll all the way to the end to get all the smashing photos and the final tally. (Burke is former Archbishop of St. Louis, MO and has now been elevated to Cardinal…sigh…)

It`s a shame we don`t have fashion police, à la Joan Rivers, on the Vatican red-carpets. Eminence, you look stunning today! Who are you wearing? Oh my, look at that poor bloke. He`s probably from the backwoods of Canada. Quick, someone send him to Gammarelli`s for a clerical make-over. It`s time to `Say Yes to the Dress!`