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The Fordham theologian defends her work and the American nuns, and offers reasons for the clash between theologians -- and the sisters -- and the Vatican. Conflict does arise but it can become “a link in the chain of a new process.”


    • The main thing the church needs to do is preach the Truth! Jesus is the
      only way to heaven..,Period! Bible says Repent and believe the Gospel!
      Repentance and faith in Christ alone is required to be saved and no other
      way to heaven other than that…Period! Far too many “Christians” today
      are not preaching to the Truth of what the Bible says. Ephesians 5:18 says
      don’t get drunk and 1 Corinthians 6:10 says that all drunkards go to hell.
      The wine that Jesus made was from the fruit of the vine/new wine/diluted
      and the Bible says don’t get drunk on strong wine so people who get
      drunk with wine are also wrong/go to hell. People today seem to forget
      that Jesus said many will say to Me Lord,Lord and not enter heaven!
      Bibe says Repent and believe the Gospel to be saved. We must Repent!

      • @Karla,

        “We must Repent!”

        Good grief!
        Repent to whom? Repent for WHAT?

        This is fanatical hysteria and superstitious fear mongering.

        For those who have no personal integrity
        Primitive injunctions like this only beget more of the same.
        It is the boorish clarion that everyone get into the dark caves of
        the middle ages and close the door and HIDE
        against the scary responsibilities of life.

        I’m here to tell you there is nothing to be afraid of.

      • All sin is bad! People today want to talk about gay marriage and/or
        abortion so they don’t have to face their own sin/so their sin doesn’t
        seem so bad. Bible says if you have a sharp tongue your religion is
        worthless yet people are mean/don’t bridle their sharp tongue cause
        it never gets confronted along with sins like coveting/gambling/greed,
        gossip,getting drunk,jealousy,lying,sexual immorality in any form and
        fornicaters in any form which are all sins that send people to hell if
        they don’t Repent! We must Repent! We are known by our fruit and
        that is the fruit of Repentance/change not good works because many
        non-believers do good works so our fruit is Repentance/change and
        the Bible says works don’t save us. Bible says Repent and believe
        the Gospel to be saved! Repentance/faith in Jesus saves us…that’s it!
        Bible says Repent or perish! We must Repent!

        • @Karla,

          “All sin is bad!”

          That cannot be true.

          All of these things were once

          Divorcing an abusive partner
          Associating with women who
          Are having their Periods – (Leviticus 15:19-20)
          Having CHRISTMAS TREES – (Jeremiah 10:24)
          Shaving – (Leviticus 19:27)
          Getting a haircut – (Leviticus 19:27)
          Football on Saturdays (Exodus 20:8)
          Eating Lobster – (Leviticus 11:10)
          Eating Pork – (Leviticus 11:7)
          Mixing Cotton and Polyester – (Leviticus 19:19)

          . :-(


          Read your Bible
          You are advocating horrors you can barely imagine.

        • @Karla,

          When does God repent?

          “I make peace and create evil.
          I the Lord do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)

          God claims everything is his fault. Not ours.

      • Are you really sure of what you just said Karla? A simple invitation to think again … but this time think wider … think deeper … think wilder … YOU WILL BE SET FREE … and for me that is what Jesus is about … JESUS CAME TO SET US FREE!

    • That talk was only “inspiring, well-argued, and courteous” if you believe in the Church of Elizabeth Johnson, not the Catholic Church.

      There is a name for people who call themselves “Christian” but do not believe in the all-male priesthood and the authority of Rome to speak on faith and morals. They’re called *PROTESTANTS*!

      • Dear D Pierre: it is not the church of Elizabeth Johnson but the most radical, conservative and traditional of all: it is the Church of Jesus Christ … just patiently go back in time … back enough to fogey about all that has done so much damage to all of us believers … back enough to first century Palestine … come to the Jesus before Christianity and YOU may perhaps, if you allow yourself to be set free from all the chains thrown at you (often unintentionally) see the beauty of the Person that showed us a lovely way to be set free. Blessings and deep peace. And yes … if you are wondering … I am a catholic priest.

    • @Art Deco,

      Ahhh, the snide, harsh Christian.

      The know-it-all follower of Jesus
      is ready to burn with the fire of his righteous judgement!

      :-( “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting”
      (2 John 1:10)

      Not unless he is more righteous than you!

      • Harsh? No, tired. We all know the condition of the “Catholic” colleges, of the religious orders, of the Church’s middle management, of the twerps who are in charge most parishes. This woman’s remarks have two components: one is a wish to continue to collect her salary and play her games without cross-examination by the episcopacy. Academic theologians fancy themselves the Magisterium and not to be questioned by bishops. The other is a fixation on aspects of contemporary politics and culture, and silly and meretricious aspects for a’ that. That’s where we stand. Nothing sweet about it.

        • @Art,

          “the twerps who are in charge of most parishes”

          It is always easier to blame people – than to blame the dumb religion they have been instructed to follow!

          “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid.” – JESUS (John 5:31)
          ” if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid.” – JESUS (John 8:14)

          “All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.” – JESUS (Matt. 28:18)
          “the whole world is under control of the evil one.” – JESUS (1 John 5:19)

          “For judgment I am come into this world.” – JESUS (John 9:39)
          “I came not to judge the world” – JESUS (John 12:47)

          Christianity is a blunder, a parlor trick
          And dangerous, incoherent gibberish

        • “Collect her paycheck”? Did you miss the part where she is a nun? Do you know what that means as far as a “paycheck”? I suggest that you read a bit more before you lambaste her for doing something that she very specifically does not do.

          Her order probably gets her paycheck. Your “tired” approach to this message that quoted the pope rather extensively is clearly an attempt to flee both the truth and the change that comes with it while assiduously avoiding engagement with her and her sisters in an open discussion about the life, history and the growth of the church. You seem to be unable argue against their positions with anything other than “tradition” (and badly learned tradition at that) to support you. Shame!

          I suggest that you talk to them. However, you must leave your preconceptions at the door and only ask questions. They can be leading if you like but the best debates start with questions. If you are right, you need not fear conversation with her and her sisters. If you are right, then you might change their mind but if you are intellectually honest, then you risk having them change yours as well. If you are wrong and learn of it, then you might avoid crushing the budding spirit of a woman who is called to serve in ministry only to be blocked by one like you who has not talked to or learned from women.

          Who am I kidding? You seem convinced of your own moral rectitude and most people of that persuasion will hear nothing that challenges their hoarded opinions. Not even when the pope preaches against conservatism and in support of the mandated changes of Vatican II as he did in Evangelii Gaudium.

          You do realize that the church which you seem to so fondly believe to be unchanging, inerrant and perfect is not now and has never been so, do you not? At one point in history left handed people were tortured by religious persons within the church for that totally normal mutation. Was that inerrant? Was that teaching ever made inerrantly? (The answer is “no”) Was Galileo wrong when he said the earth was not the center of the solar system? (Clearly not.) Has a mandatory all-male clergy ever been proclaimed ‘ex cathedra’? (No, it has not.) Each of those positions and so many more that whole semesters are devoted to them were incorrect positions taken by the church. Since the all-male clergy has *never* been confirmed ‘ex cathedra’, it is, *by definition* open to debate.

          In my experience most people who hold the position you espouse are inflexibly conservative because it makes them feel safe. If they stick to the truth as the clerics describe it rather than questioning the truth, one does not have to understand one’s faith rather one can just do what has always been done – its easier.

          How ridiculous! The saving message of the scriptures is that God will keep us safe, even in death, so long as we trust Him to do so. He is certainly not surprised that we, his creation, are intelligent and seek understanding of Him through theology – He made us that way. So have no fear and seek the truth. Even if you are wrong, you will learn something.

          As we live we (hopefully) learn. Learning is change – change in perception, and change in our living patterns to take advantage of new learning among so many other types of change. If you try to live without change, you live in voluntary ignorance. Voluntary ignorance is an abdication of the responsibility that God laid on all of us when He placed us in stewardship over His creation. Failure to use your curiosity and intellect to understand and care for the world an people around you is the same sort of abdication. Do you want to be the servant who buried his talents? It did not go well for that one in scripture.

          These sisters are asking, among many similar things, “Why not ordain women?” and the only answer you can provide is “Because I said so!” or “Because we have never done that before!” That is a very immature response to a serious and fundamental question of life. So if you are serious about your position and do not hold it simply because you have always held that opinion, then argue. Stand up for your belief and make your case. Stop whining that you are tired and get about the business of being a mature, thoughtful and responsible Christian. Talk to YOUR sisters and find out why they believe as they do. Address their evidence and then maybe real progress can be made. I would be willing to learn that you are right if you can present sufficient evidence, but I will not presume that you are correct as a starting point.

          In short: Talk to those you don’t agree with. Love them. Wondrous things will happen if you can do that. If you can’t, then you aren’t the Christian you claim to be but I think you are that person, and are simply a little afraid of where that talk might lead you.

          Peace to you and yours, my friend.

  1. I am so glad that God is raising up so many wonderful new sisters and communities who are faithful to His church and are not part of the LCWR. In this article she said she couldn’t find any females to study from Church history but were all men. There are many Catholic women of the past who have written much to study: Saint Catherine of Siena, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux just to name a few. If you are protesting what the Catholic church teaches and leading people away you are not Catholic and you are unfortunately pulling people out of the Catholic church and endangering their souls. I pray for this sister and others who are part of LCWR, that they will align themselves faith as they have been asked to do and that they will finally help guide other women to the true faith.

    • You should take the time to read her speech again and look at her area of study. She said, “Every cultural era brings new questions which theologians try to address. Early on one key question arose for me when I realized that all the great thinkers whom I had been exposed to in my studies were men. I loved many of their insights. But where were the women? I was struck by the absence of their critical insights and spiritual wisdom. Inspired by a pioneering generation of American women theologians…” That is different from your interpretation. The women you mention are first, not theologians. They did write on spirituality, but they had their own areas such as mystical thoughts and prayers of Catherine of Sienna. Academic scholars have an area of study. They study and write within that area. Because until after Vatican II the area of theology was almost entirely limited to men and specifically priest there would be not female theologians in her area. That is very different than no women wrote on theology.

      Finally, her writing is consistent with Church teaching and the catechism of the Catholic Church.

    • Sister did not say that she couldn’t find any females to study, but rather “I realized that all the great thinkers whom I had been exposed to in my studies were men.” Her teachers were all men and they only taught about men. The three women you mentioned were not named doctors of the church until the late 20th century, despite having lived many centuries before. That in itself is further proof of Sister’s point.

      While I’m sure Sister is happy to receive all prayers, I don’t think its necessary to pray that they will “finally guide other women to the true faith.” I have read at least five of Sr. Elizabeth’s books and they have helped to keep me in a church that all the other women in my family have walked away from.

    • Lord Tirtowa K Lembo

      In essence Sister is never, and has never opposed men’s work in theology. Her plight is clear: in ladies, God took pleasure to descend and accomplish a divine mission n earth through the person of Jesus the Chirst. So how come, the Holy Cathlic church, (not all of it though, but some parts of the church would not dare allow (not dissenting) female voices to express the beauty that only derives from the gift of being a woman? Ladies carry a unique sensitivity for appreciation of life, or courage in times of systemic crisis, of touch in times of reconciliation? The ladies you mentioned, those Holy sisters were not necessarily accepted, desired in the circles that still oppose female voices, vision, and leadership today. It took, some courageous leadership in the past, (secret support systems from Bishops, cardinals, and other male authorities) to help those ladies bring freshness to this Holy church. I concurr that the Church is a huge “Bathroom, where all dirty clothes, bodies are invited to wash, and be santified”. Who dares put a barrier at the door! Let the ladies speculate! Men have speculated, when they did not have to. Let God’s Open door for theological babling STAY OPEN, Yes even for women and all that is in between! The Moderator is God! The Pope accepts that, and so do all the other leaders even if they dare not say! ON!

  2. This is mainly all about her! The LCWR sisters are just unreal–and sad. Their liking for Elizabeth Johnson has to do with their gender ideology and widespread rejection of male names for God (who is precisely the FATHER of Jesus) and their increasing panentheism or pantheism and ecofeminism. There is an all too widespread movement to “evolve” into actually a new religion that is not really recognizable as Catholicism anymore. There are DEEP divides within religious communities in different sisters’ understanding of the nature of God, leading some to pathetically gloss over it with language about God as “unfathomable mystery” that is really about theological indifferentism. The problems come out of the question everything/change everything dynamic of the 1960s. These orders are facing a demographic cliff. The more traditional, more orthodox groups of sisters are doing a lot better and they are the future. The latter are happy to say “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen. Alleluia.”

    • If you had read She Who IS, you would find not a rejection of male names, but a call to recognize that feminine images for God exist in Scripture but have been consistently undervalued in theological developments. You would also find a claim that allowing the feminine images to re-surface will give us a better, yet still limited, understanding of the God who has no gender and is beyond all human understanding.

      • I reiterate, total or near-total rejection of male names for God is WIDESPREAD and WIDELY supported/”legitimized” among religious sisters by reference to Elizabeth Johnson (among other, often more radical authors… but she is the current trendy one). I wrote a book on one of the largest LCWR communities. Some of the members say they NEVER refer to God by male names. It is COMMON for such communities to “keep the peace” by using made-up “feminist prayer services” with degendered language, instead of Catholic prayer like the Liturgy of the Hours or the Rosary. The reality of what is going on is just preposterous. The religious community I wrote my book about (the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa) desperately wanted to remove all male language for God from their vow formula and from their entire Constitutions, they went round and round discussing this, knowing full well it is impossible that the Church would approve it. Jesus taught us to call God Our Father. It’s become common that some religious sisters REFUSE to.

          BY WOMEN.

          2:22 Eve created from Adam’s rib.
          3:16 Eve cursed with painful childbirth and domination by husband.
          4:19 Man marries two wives.
          12:13-19 Abraham prostitutes wife.
          19:1-8 Rape virgin daughters instead of male angels.
          19:26 Lot’s wife turned into pillar of salt for disobeying god.
          19:30-38 Lot impregnates his two daughters while drunk.
          20:2-12 Abraham prostitutes wife – again.
          25:1-6 Keeping many concubines is OK.

          20:17 Wife is property.
          21:4 Wife belongs to master.
          21:7-11 OK to sell daughters. Female slaves can be used for sex. Polygamy permitted. Unwanted female slaves can be set “free” without payment of money.
          22:18 Kill witches.

          12:1-8 Childbirth unclean, Women need to make atonement after childbirth.
          15:19-32 Menstruating women are unclean.
          20:10-16 Death penalty for homosexuality and various sexual transgressions.
          21:7 Priests must not marry prostitutes or divorcees.
          21:9 Burn daughters.
          21:13-14 Priest must marry virgin, not “used” woman.

          1:2 Census lists only men – women do not count.
          5:11-31 Fidelity test for women only.
          30:1-16 Woman’s vow invalid unless approved by her father or husband.
          31:17-18 Kill all except virgins. Keep virgins for yourselves.
          12 Miriam punished for rebuking Moses.

          20:14 Take women, livestock as plunder.
          22:13-21 Stone non-virgin bride.
          22:23-24 Stone rapist and rape victim.
          22:28 Rape victim must marry rapist; rape victim’s father compensated for depreciation of his property.
          25:11-12 Cut woman’s hand for touching foe’s penis.
          24:1-5 Man can “send” wife from HIS house. Man must not marry “used” woman.
          28:18 The FRUIT of your womb will be cursed – eclectic “pro-life” verse!

          5:30 Women are spoils of war.
          14:20 Samson gives wife to another man.
          16:1 Samson visits prostitute.
          CH 19 Concubine pack-raped and butchered.
          21:10-12 Slaughtered all inc. women and children. Saved virgins for wives.
          21:21 Abducted girls for wives.

          1 SAMUEL
          15:2-3 Attack Amalekites, kill men, women, children and livestock.
          22:19 Kill all inc. infants and livestock.
          21:4-5 Men avoid defilement with women.
          2 SAMUEL
          5:13 David took many wives and concubines.
          CH 13 Ammon rapes his own sister.
          16:21-22 Absalom sleeps with his father’s concubines.
          6:20-23 Mischal punished with bareness.

          1 KINGS
          11:3 Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

          2 KINGS
          9:30-37 Brutal murder of Jezebel.

          2 CHRONICLES
          15:13 Put to death unbelievers.
          11:21 Hoards of wives and concubines.

          CH 1-2 Queen Vashti dethroned for disobedience; setting “bad” example to all other women.

          51:5 Sinful since conception.
          127:3 Sons are heritage from god.
          137:9 Seizes infants and dashes them against rocks.

          CH 5 Beware of wicked women!
          CH 7 More of the above.
          6:24 As above.
          31:3 Do not waste strength on women.

          3:16-26 Lord punishes haughty women.
          4:4 Filthy women.
          13:16 Ravish wives, dash infants.
          19:16 Will be like women! (insult to Egyptians)

          9:6-7 Slaughter all including children.
          CH 16 Prostitutes, stoning, promiscuity…
          CH 23 Tale of two adulterous sisters – reads like the script of a pornographic film. I bet you weren’t told this story at Sunday school!

          13:16 Rip pregnant women, dash little ones. (Another “pro-life” verse!)

          3:4… wanton lust of a harlot… prostitution… witchcraft.
          3:5 I will lift your skirts over your face!
          3:13… Your troops are all women. (insult to Nineveh)

          5:32 Husband can divorce wife for adultery. Can wife divorce husband for the same?
          CH 25 Sexist tale of ten virgins.

          2:22 Mary must be purified after birth of Jesus.
          2:49 Jesus rebukes his mother.

          11:2-10… Woman created for man.
          14:34 Women must be silent in churches.

          5:22-24 Wives must submit to husbands in everything.

          3:18 Wives submit to husbands.
          3:22 Slaves must obey masters in everything.

          I TIMOTHY
          2:11-15 Woman must not have authority – she must be silent. Women can be saved with childbearing.
          5:9-10 Widows should be faithful to husband and must wash saints’ feet.

          1 PETER
          2:18 Slaves submit to masters, even SEXUALLY PERVERSE
          3:1 Wives submit to husbands COMPLETELY.
          3:5-6 Sarah calls husband master.

          CH 17 Destroy great prostitute.
          14:4…they did not DEFILE themselves with women but kept themselves pure

    • …..”The more traditional, more orthodox groups of sisters are doing a lot better and they are the future.” Really? Please take a look at their attrition rates and tell us how they are “doing a lot better?” It is absurd! Many, many enter…but few are able to live the “narrow path” of religious life. The more “orthodox groups” are witnessing exodus of “young sisters” as well. Would that we all might listen to Elizabeth Johnson’s reflection and scholarship with open hearts and minds focused on the message of Christ. God forbid we should be open to change in OUR Church. Imagine the possibilities if we could engage, rather than alienate, the young…religious and otherwise, who are leaving the Catholic Church in droves. Tell me? What really, REALLY frightens you about Dr. Johnson’s message? God Bless Elizabeth Johnson, the LCWR and the handfuls of other women religious attempting to speak their truth in the places of power and authority. Tell me again, what is it that you fear?

      • Barbara,

        “few are able to live the ‘narrow path’ of religious life.”

        Great news. Happy to hear the numbers continue to fall.

        At Godisimaginary
        you will find out why people are running away from this destructive, murderous, primitive nonsense about Jesus.

      • You are misinformed. It is true of all religious orders that some postulants or new members leave during formation stages. But groups like the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist and the Sisters of Life are growing. I know women who have entered these orders and stayed and thrived. They were looking for a Catholic prayer life, a shared ecclesial apostolate, life in community, visible witness to Christ and the Church. Even the LCWR’s statistics show that the percentage of sisters belonging to CMSWR orders has risen and the percentage belonging to LCWR orders has declined. This trend is set to continue, there is no mystery, the LCWR orders are mostly elderly and have not attracted many new members and are dying off, the CMSWR orders have a far younger average age. The LCWR sisters in my city are invisible, and they do nothing to evangelize, even of those involved in some way in education most are quite clearly undermining the Faith rather than handing it on faithfully. They are involved in anti-Catholic groups like “call to action” and a local former-Catholic split-away sect that has a priestless “eucharist” on Sundays. I think there is a very low level of awareness of how serious a problem there is in a lot of LCWR communities. I pray for them every day.

    • Elizabeth ,
      You have some strong convictions. May a suggest an insightful book by Marcus Borg called Convictions. Believe me there was life before the 60’s.

  3. This is why most people I know remain Catholic. Thank you Sister Elizabeth. Your talk bursts with integrity, courage, hope and generosity. Thanks to all religious men and women who remain faithful even when it sometimes seems impossible: you have all blest my life. That’s living the resurrection. On!

  4. Hang on Sister! you are well loved world wide. We depend on brillient women such as yourself to articulate a theology of justice and compassion and to “speak truth to power”.

    • Check your facts before posting please. According to a 2009 study on Recent Vocations by the Center for Applied Research, the median age of LCWR members was over 74 and median age of CMSWR members is 60.

      It is also worth noting that CMSWR was only formed in 1992, has fewer congregations some of them still in the early years of their existence. LCWR was formed in 1956, has a greater number of congregations who have been well established in the US since the mid 1800s. It is no surprise then that their members are older. I admire the fidelity and am grateful for the lifetime of service of these seventy, eighty, and ninety year old members. What a treasure they are to new members in those congregations!!!!

      • Toni, perhaps mixed up the average age of a novice.
        However, you too must be “honest”. The CMSWR was formed because their voice was summarily rejected by the LCWR because of their faithful stance to ecclesiastical teaching, common life, and the witness of a habit.

        “What a treasure they are to new members in those congregations” Whaaah? They hardly get any! They are consolidating and disappearing at a rapid pace. The fact is the LCWR is running on the fumes of the past they reject. The current sisters have manipulated their way in to leadership roles and robbed the faithful sisters in these communities who established the reputation they enjoy. The fact is, they’re not faithful. They have little or no common life, They do what they wish. They can’t even be bothered to hold the basic tenets of the faith. They support causes contrary to Church teaching. So spare me about faithfulness. They aren’t a treasure. They’re an embarrassment and a scandal. They USED TO BE A TREASURE. No more.

        I’m against the Vatican intervention, however. It won’t change them, they are too proud and stubborn. The entire LCWR will die away quickly, it’s already happening. Let nature take its course. Meanwhile, the LCWR still avoids, stonewalls, and obfuscates about any questioning of sisters involvement in paedophilia scandals. So, spare me how wonderful the LCWR is. They’re not, it’s clear.

    • OMG, the MEDIAN age is not as you have posted. Feel free to jump on with comments but please check your data for accuracy first.

  5. Two women went up to a lecturn to speak, one of the LCWR and the other a nun.

    The LCWR woman stood and began to speak thus about herself: ‘O LCWR, I thank you that I am not like the rest of women, so orthodox and safe that they sell short the ministry of the theologian, narrow as baby ribbon, focused on order, cramped and eccesiastical, confined and clinging, and even obedient and loyal like this nun. I have won awards; I have advanced degrees and tenure at Fordham, my book sales are through the roof, my is wisdom gained by years of mystical and prophetic living, a committed competent woman, adult believer of conscience, I implement the mandate of Vatican II, I stand in solidarity with the poor, immigrants, battered women, LGBTQ persons, and even the wounded earth itself, I present at the annual Winter School and update priests and bishops on matters of Christology, I completely subvert the message.’

    But the nun, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up her eyes to heaven, but kept striking her breast, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me the sinner!

    This nun went back to her convent justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts herself shall be humbled, and she who humbles herself shall be exalted.

    • I don’t know. It seems disingenuous to attack a group of people, then associate them with Pharisees because they dare to defend themselves. Seems to me the curia has tripped itself up over Matthew 18:15. What to do? Throw out all the bishops and women religious and start over?

      Or perhaps …

      “I thank you that I am not like the rest of women, so unorthodox and wild that they sell short the ministry of the cloister, narrow as a page in a thesis, focused on disorder, wanton and blown by the wind, harsh and critical, and even disobedient and testy like this sister. I have gathered bloggers’ support; I have silence and a life of prayer, my book sales are conducted in the guesthouse, my wisdom is gained by years of obedience and shunning the world, a committed competent woman, adult believer of conscience, I implement the mandate of bishops, I stand in solidarity with the prayerful, Latin-speakers, homeschooling women, seminary rejects, and even the wounded Church itself, I present in my cloister and never dare to update priests and bishops on matters of religion.”

  6. Rosalie J. Tutino

    Congratulations, Beth, on your award and on your amazing acceptance speech! You are a born teacher – your comments, observations and conclusions were so insightful, brilliant and clear that even I understood them. May I humbly offer another preposition … STICK with BETH !!!

  7. Sr. Elizabeth’s book “She Who Is” made a huge impact on me – I recently gave it to a friend because it was on the very top of the list of books I own. Having said that, I intend to read more of her work. Bless you Sister!

  8. Catherine Cherry

    Sister Elizabeth, Thank you of r leading the way with wisdom, depth, and a generous spirit. Catherine Cherry M.Ed., M.A. Theology, Ignatian Spiritual Director.

  9. Eugenia Calabrese

    Thank you Beth

    Your integrity and clarity is always inspiring and greatly appreciated.

    I love the suggestion to Cardinal Mueller …. In recalling his experience in Peru…


    Eugenia Calabrese

  10. Elizabeth, thank you for once again speaking the truth so clearly and with such accuracy. Keep going forward! Many of us have been inspired and given hope by your gift of writing. Please know you walking in the footsteps of many great women who have gone before you and are now rooting for you. Thank you for your intelligence and all the gifts you bring to the church: the people of God!

  11. I question how many comments come from those who have actually and thoroughly read Johnson. While I have not read the book “in question,” I have read several of Johnson’s works, including what is, perhaps, one of the most diaphanous essays on Mariology to date.
    Unfortunately, even, “Truly our Sister,” was met with uniformed and sophistic reactions. Typical was the plethora of objections to Johnson’s title and references to the Marian image as “sister.” The book was labeled, by extreme right-wing factions and lazy readers, as “feminist,” although Ms. Johnson addressed and saw value in both traditional and progressive perspectives on that mode of spirituality. She presented objective and subjective imagery of that symbol as Mother, Sister, Companion, Counselor, and Protector.
    The Catholic Church of the early twentieth century would have embraced much of Johnson’s expansive language, which is the precise reason Jung praised the Church.
    However, since Vatican II, there has been a degree of sloppy ecumenism, which jettisoned the pronounced maternal symbology that had long distinguished the Catholic Church. In short; the Church, always too patriarchal to begin with, was influenced by an even more pronounced patriarchal Protestantism: i.e. offspring influencing the fathers.
    One striking thing that separates Christology from contrasting religious traditions are the sublime narratives of Christ with women. These tales are among the most distinguished in all religious literature. In the gospels, we find a figure who treats women as companions on an equal spiritual plane. The early Church recognized this, which is why we see, among the first catacomb images, the depiction of Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the well, Mary, etc.
    Today, how often do we hear of the value found in John’s vignette of Christ and the woman at the well? It is almost a forgotten narrative. I, for one, have never seen that story depicted in any film of Christ, etc. Yet, for the first Church, it was among the most important narratives to represent in artistic retellings.
    In this, Christianity differed from Judaism and Buddhism, both of which were predominantly made-up of male-centered narratives. Yet, it did not take the Church long to shift focus away from the gospels’ maternal tenets. Still, giving credit due, it retained a strong Marian image. After the reformation, it was practically the only church which did so (Eastern Orthodoxy excepted). Across the board, Protestantism threw the maternal emphasis out like yesterday’s bathwater. Over the last fifty years, Catholicism has been following Protestant lead in this, as opposed to setting the example.
    What Johnson has proposed in her writings is a return to the early church focus on authentic, spiritual egalitarianism. The late Andrew Greeley said: “we need a mother in our Holy Family.” In addition to Mary, we find a vast array of mothers in our women saints, nuns, etc.
    We claim to uphold traditional family, yet in leadership we have a decidedly one-sided family, lead only by church “fathers.’ it is a family shorn of maternal voice.
    Oddly, it is the U.S. Bishops, as opposed to the bishops of Rome, who are leading the ostracizing charge against Johnson. I am not so sure that is altogether surprising when we have bishops like Olmstead amongst their lot.

    Olmstead may be a quintessential, lopsided patriarchal interpretative example of “egalitarian’ only through submission. Where was the maternal in this bishop when he agreed with a local priest in refusing communion to an autistic teen because one such handicapped could not understand the “complexities and depth” of transubstantiation?
    Another example of iron-fisted patriarchal thuggery might be found in a Denver diocese. The Our Lady of Guadalupe parish was blessed with a longstanding mural of Our Lady until a male parishioner complained about the mural,saying that Mary only belongs at the foot of the cross. The priest and bishop agreed and “whited out” Mother with another, blank wall. yet again, here is male dominance quashing the creative, feminine, artistic spirit.
    To this day, three years later, parishioners from Our Lady Of Guadalupe still gather every Saturday to protest that erasure. On Sunday, those same parishes go to mass.
    This is likened to U.S. bishops attempts at ‘whiting out” Johnson (and more like her).
    Although Catholic, I attended Christian Theological Seminary; an ecumenical, Protestant grad school seminary. After having to state our denomination, I was inundated, a few times too many, with those predictable by-the-number misconceptions born from one outside looking in. However, one comment rang both true and astute: ” My issue with the Catholic hierarchy is that they are not open to either criticism or self-criticism.”

  12. Your acceptance speech to the LCWR filled me with hope for women religious. It leaves me with the question, “WHEN WILL THE MEN WHO RULE THE CHURCH LEARN TO BE INCLUSIVE?”
    A friend who is still in the CSJ community sent your remarks to me, although I’ve been out of community since 1987 and consider myself post-catholic,
    I was happy to read your uplifting words. I keep praying and hoping that women religious will one day be accepted as equals in the church.
    Thank you for your courage in speaking out.

  13. It is sad when Catholics spend such time being nasty to one another when Jesus calls us to love one another and Pope Francis asks us to be merciful. Who has not sinned or made errors in life? Let him throw the first stone.

    Surely we can treat each other with respect and listen without judging.

    • @Mike Lawson,

      “Jesus calls us to love one another”

      Not really.
      And that is the problem.

      “DO NOT ASSOCIATE WITH ANYONE…IF HE IS GUILTY..” (1 Corinthians 5:11)

  14. I sent the following letter to Archbishop Sartain on May 13, 2014:

    Dear Archbishop Sartain,
    I am a Catholic parishioner in South Florida, a convert to Christianity and the Catholic Church after having been raised with no religion. My conversion experience was previously shared with Archbishop Thomas Wenski and Archbishop John Favalora of Miami. I am writing to provide you with a witness on how LCWR has affected me – a lay person – and my conversion experience. I believe this is necessary because the dialogue I see happening excludes the very people who are most affected by the problems with LCWR – children and lay people both within and outside the Church.

    For many years prior to my conversion to the Catholic Church including the years I was a teenager, I remember reading/watching news media about the LCWR nuns and their disagreements with the Catholic hierarchy. I considered placing links to these articles in this letter but they are too many. The constant news in the US regarding LCWR – year after year – for decades – is not about the many good deeds done by US sisters/nuns – it is solely about the arguments between the “progressive” nuns and the old curmudgeon bishops who have the audacity to actually believe what the Church teaches. Since I considered myself “progressive” too, I naturally cheered the nuns on in their often public challenges to Church teaching. I used birth control for many years. I thought the Church was backward for not allowing birth control, women priests and for endorsing celibacy. The LCWR and their public dissent gave me an ally in and justification for my unbelief.

    In 1996 I had a conversion experience while reading St Teresa of Avila’s “Life”. She says in this book that she would rather die a thousand deaths than ever break a rule of the Church. I thought this was so stupid for her to say since there are so many stupid Church rules – primarily the three I just mentioned. My conversion experience happened a couple of hours after I reacted after reading this comment by looking up and asking “How can she say this?” God pointed my eyes to a picture of Pope John Paul II on the cover of a Time Magazine and He said “He’s telling you the Truth.” I changed my life to stop using birth control after that experience (replaced by NFP) and it led to the birth of our fourth child whom we named Teresa. She is currently almost 16 years old, an A student who plays soccer and basketball and wants to be a doctor. All of her school friends are Atheists. She is not. She would not have been born if I had listened to the LCWR sisters. She would not have been born if John Paul II had not told me the truth.

    How many other lay people are out there now currently listening to the LCWR sisters and watching them as always – stick it to the bishops by honoring Elizabeth Johnson this coming August? There are at least nine major news organizations who have placed this story prominently. It is worldwide news. Sr Johnson says that the bishops censored her work because they misunderstood it. If bishops (expert theologians) have misunderstood her work (assuming they have) why are LCWR and Elizabeth Johnson not concerned that lay people might misunderstand it as well? What are we to think when they choose to honor her instead of insisting that she work with the bishops to clear up any misunderstandings and humbly make corrections? Why can’t they choose to honor a nun/sister who has done good works and also promoted church unity? Why is the Vatican allowing the August ceremony to go forward? Does no one in the hierarchy or within religious life care about lay people’s Christian formation or the fact that once again, after decades of the same thing year after year, we still have this bad example of religious sisters promoting strange teachings and hatred for Catholic hierarchy? Gosh the bishops who censored Sr Johnson’s work were doing their God given job. I think the good example Sr Johnson could have given would be to get an imprimatur for her book and/or humbly make corrections after meeting with the bishops to address their concerns – not become a public spectacle of more LCWR nun vs bishop scandal.

    I beg you to please put an end to this ridiculousness. Please care about the lay people Jesus sent the Church to preach the Gospel. The Church does not need the LCWR, they are a flat tire on the church bus. Please change the tire and let’s move on. The news can not get worse than it already is.

    Nancy Heise

    CC Hard copies of this letter have been mailed to:
    Archbishop Peter Sartain, 710 9th Ave, Seattle WA 98104
    Florence Deacon, OSF 3221 S Lake Drive, St Francis, WI 53235
    Sharon Holland, IHM 610 West Elm Ave, Monroe, WI 48162
    Barbara Blesse, OP 1237 W Monroe, Springfield, IL 62704
    Carol Zinn, SJS 6400 Minnesota Ave, St Louis, MO 63111
    Janet Mock, CSJ 1020 State Street, Baden, PA 15005

    • Nancy Heise,

      Re: In 1996 I had a conversion experience while reading St Teresa of Avila’s “Life”. She says in this book that she would rather die a thousand deaths than ever break a rule of the Church.

      In says in this book … EDITED BY HER SUPERIOR … As I am told by a Catholic Theologian.

      Nancy, I address this not with any doctrinal agenda, as I am not OF Religion, nor am I in any way supporting nun’s agendas (either way), but do you think it at all possible that the RC writes what the RC wants read?

      You post an awful lot of info with your tale. Can I ask if you get paid to post? I ask this because I have read many forums where Roman Catholics/Catholic post and I see a pattern of posting that has many readers wondering. Would you be kind enough to answer this question for us? The question: Do you get paid by the Roman Catholic Bishops/RCC?

      Thank you

  15. Christine Calhoun

    ON, Sister! As a lay member of the Catholic Church, many of the thoughts you articulate are a reflection of the very thoughts I myself have come to believe. My background is a parochial education through college. I feel blessed to have been taught by holy, intelligent, and joyful woman. I was taught to look for the good in all, question injustice , and have faith in an all-knowing God. I think of St.Joan, burned at the stake as a heritic, to be elevated later to sainthood. Have faith !

  16. Where does one begin? Women and cats can do whatever they want whenever they want… Men and dogs simply put; need to get over it! The Catholic church educated the Ladies and now wants to shut em up… Really! The boys club against the girls club? No winners here!

  17. Yes, Sister Elizabeth, hang on. I do believe that the archconservatives appointed as bishops by the last two popes are attacking the dedicated nuns of the LCWR due to a deep-seated misogynist convictions. The hubris of unquestioned authority and control infects the hierarchy; when this hubris is joined with misogyny we witness the present attack of women religious.

    However, while the attack on women religious and a woman theologian are shocking in their blatant and unjust abuse of power, these actions are not egregious, since the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly known as the Holy Office which compiled the Index of Forbidden Books and conducted the Inquisition) have also banned the works of male theologians and forced many distinguished and orthodox male religious theologians out of Catholic universities and seminaries.

    More basic, in my opinion, is the fact that the hierarchy does not encourage or listen to the voices of the laity, despite the fact that in history it was the vox populi which elected bishops. The hierarchy prefers an uninformed laity with an immature understanding of the faith who simply obey unquestioningly and submit wholly to the bishops’ abusive authority.

    I fear that after the last two Popes ignoring Vatican II and suppressing any initiatives growing out of the Council, the hierarchy appointed by them will continue to attack the courageous women who are living the reforms of the Council. The shepherds are too often wolves wearing the pallium and wielding clubs instead of shepherd’s crooks.

  18. I believe that the bishops and church leaders sin when they allow anyone who spreads heresy to remain in the church and infect with lies those searching for truth. How many more months and years do we have to endure this scandal?

  19. Sharon L. Noble

    Dear Sisters, sometimes, as in child-raising, one must deal with blind stubbornness by refusing to give in to a child’s demands when the demands are of a kind to harm the child. I am not referring to you as the children, but to a petulant, deaf-and-dumb, self-entitled hierarchy that refuses to move out of its comfort zone of male entitlement. There are many of us out here in layperson-land who agree with your efforts and do not support Vatican encroachment on religious freedom. The Inquisition is a poor import on American soil. So, if I may humbly suggest, ditch the appointed overseers, seek crowd funding from Internet sites (an amazing leveler, this web), and stand on Vatican II as you understand it. After all, you have always cared for those in need, even as the “Princes” of the Church were amusing themselves molesting children and protecting molesters. (Yes, believe it or not, I am a Catholic, but I actually don’t believe in “eating our young” or supporting those who do). You will be in my prayers, and if I can do anything, such as contribute (although I am on a fixed income, I will put something aside for you), I would like to do so.

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