Response from Sister Elizabeth Johnson to US bishops’ Committee on Doctrine’s latest statement

UPDATE: Cardinal Wuerl responds to charge bishops never were willing to meet with theologian.

Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson, professor of systematic theology at Fordham University, responded this morning to the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine latest statement on her book “Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers of the Theology of God.” Here is her statement, which as of this writing is not available online. Go here to read our story detailing the bishop’s latest response to the book, and here to read their full text..

It is with sadness that I read the October statement of the Committee on Doctrine about my book, Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers of the Theology of God (Continuum, 2007). My disappointment focuses on three issues: process, content and result.

First, process. In April the committee invited me to submit observations on their original statement (dated March 24, 2011), which had been composed without any discussion or foreknowledge on my part. My response was entitled “Observations” (printed in Origins 7/7/11). In it I posed important questions about the nature of faith, revelation, biblical language and theology itself, figuring that discussion on these fundamental matters might clarify the content of the book and where it had been misrepresented. Both publicly and privately I made clear my willingness to meet with Cardinal Wuerl and the committee to discuss these matters at any time.

The committee did not engage these questions. No invitation was forthcoming to meet and discuss with the committee in person. Moreover, in its new document the committee addresses none of these issues — not a single one. The opportunity to dialogue was bypassed. Despite the protocol “Doctrinal Responsibilities” (1989) approved by an overwhelming majority of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops after consultation with the
Holy See, this committee for a second time has shown a lack of willingness to dialogue about such an important matter as the living God in whom we believe. It could have been so interesting and beneficial for the church.

Second, content. As a result of the lack of process, the October statement mainly reiterates the points made in the committee’s original statement. I appreciate that the new statement distinguishes between its criticism of the book and the intent of the author. It does correct some errors made in the committee’s original reading of my book, and the vituperative rhetoric has been toned down. Yet there is little movement in understanding.

For example, pointing to Jesus’ parable of the woman searching for her lost coin (Lk 15:8-10) , my “Observations” ask: Is the church not allowed to use the language of Jesus, who casts God the Redeemer in this female image? While admitting the “possibility”, the October statement draws from this question the “insinuation” that calling God “Father” obscures the truth about God, something the book never says. It further criticizes Quest for not making the trinitarian language of Father, Son and Holy Spirit more central, noting how necessary this is in the formula of baptism. What is so baffling here is that Quest agrees with the validity of trinitarian language. It spends a whole chapter describing how this language came about, exploring its meaning, and affirming its use in liturgical ritual. True, Quest also points out that Scripture offers a multitude of other ways to speak of God, such as the above parable. For some reason, this is not acceptable.

Remaining with what is apparently a propositional notion of revelation and faith, the statement reaffirms its earlier judgment. But as Scripture itself demonstrates and my simple “Observations” try to make clear, there is so much more richness to the picture. The content of the statement disappoints insofar as it ignores the breadth and depth of God’s self-gift in history (revelation) and the people’s living response (faith).

Third, result. This statement, like the first, continues to misrepresent the genre of the book, and in key instances misinterprets what it says. It faults Quest for what it does not say, as if the book were a catechetical text aiming to present the full range of Christian doctrine. It takes sentences and, despite my written  clarifications to the contrary, makes them conclude to positions that I have  not taken and would never take. The committee’s reading projects meanings,  discovers insinuations and otherwise distorts the text so that in some  instances I do not recognize the book I wrote. This October statement paints an  incorrect picture of the fundamental line of thought the book develops.

I am responsible for what I have said and written, and stand open to correction if this contradicts the faith. But I am not willing to take responsibility for what Quest does not say and I do not think.

To restate what I have maintained all along: The aim of this book is to explore many ways to think about the living God. Like the householder who brings out of the storeroom things new and old (Matt 13:52), theologians over the centuries have labored to seek understanding of faith that keeps pace with history. In that tradition, Quest for the Living God presents contemporary theologies from around the world which, listening to the belief and practice of people of the church, try to connect the truth of the living God with the thought forms and critical issues of our day. The book’s chapters clarify the new avenues of insight, rooted in Scripture: God as gracious mystery who is ever greater, ever nearer; the crucified God of compassion; the liberating God of life; God who acts womanish; who breaks chains of slavery; who accompanies the people in fiesta; the generous God of the religions; the Creator Spirit indwelling the evolving world; and Trinity, the living God of love.

I respectfully suggest that mapping these frontiers is a legitimate theological undertaking. Far from being contrary to the faith of the church, it is an exercise of that faith. I want to make it absolutely clear that nothing in this book dissents from the church’s faith about God revealed in Jesus Christ through the Spirit. The many new avenues of reflection signal, I think, the presence of the Spirit, alive and active, nourishing people in their hunger for God in our day. Of the thousands of messages I have received, one of the most poignant is from an elderly Catholic man who read it as part of a parish book club. The result? “Now I am no longer afraid to meet my Maker,” he said — a stunning testimony to the nonviolent appeal of the truth of the theologies presented in Quest.

To conclude: This book affirms that the living God is the holy mystery of Love who cannot be comprehensively expressed or contained in any words, no matter how beautiful, sacred, official or true. There is always more to discover, in prayer and in service with and for the suffering world. It would have been a blessing if the Committee on Doctrine and I could have found common ground for dialogue on at least this point.

I lament that this is not the case.

At this time I will make no further statements nor give any interviews.

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41 Responses to Response from Sister Elizabeth Johnson to US bishops’ Committee on Doctrine’s latest statement

  1. Judith Leckie says:

    I am deeply grateful to Sr Elizabeth Johnson for all her writings and for her integrity. She is exploring, for all of us, the face of God in our world as it is today. I am saddened by the difficulty that the committee of Bishops has in entering into the possibility of constant revelation of the face of God presented now and here by the Holy Spirit. As I read the Bishop’s statement I was overcome by sadness; sadness that for them nothing new, no new ways of exploring the reality of God seem possible.

  2. Maureen says:

    I, too, am overcome with sadness. It seems so in line with the Gospel for this week–here we do indeed have a set of men who fail to practice what they preach. My Church is becoming more and more unrecognizable to me–how much longer can I truly call myself Catholic?

  3. Lisa says:

    I greatly enjoyed Quest for the Living God; it gave me deep hope, broad perspective, and grew my understanding of theology. Having also read the UCCB statement from March and her formidable responses, I am tremendously grieved at the bishop’s lack of engagement to the excellent questions she sought dialog on. As a result, the bishops have completely lost my respect as teachers. It seems they just want to save face rather than develop the faith . . . Incredibly sad.

  4. Morna says:

    As a Catholic very concerned with the continued viability of the living and breathing Catholic Church in the U.S., I am very grateful to Sr. Elizabeth for her book, her questions, her honesty, courage, and good faith. This lack of dialogue is indeed lamentable, for this book and for openness and honesty in a church besieged by the opposite. I totally respect her decision to not comment any further publicly, as she has certainly gone farther than she should have had to. But others who can should take up this fight in the Church, should. Where are we if those who have committed their lives to the Church can’t ask questions without being condemned? And very valid and legitimate questions at that? This is just plain wrong.

  5. Adam Birchenough says:

    Please, Please hold on. I am new to the Church and am coming from an evangelical back ground but I can see what is happening from a mile away. You Catholics have the magesteriam as a safe guard to guard against division, a referee if you will. Please follow them, support them and pray for them. The whole piont of the Church is to make saints, let us leave church leadership to its leaders, if the magesterium does not believe an idea will bring us closer to God then lets trust them. Otherwise we will face the heartbreaking saga that the protestants are now experiencing of no direction, leadership, or unity.

  6. Dr. Bev Bingle says:

    Elizabeth Johnson’s Quest for the Living God is a Godsend! Thank you–and keep it coming.

  7. Regina Tegeler says:

    I am saddened to hear of the bishops extremely critical viewpoint on a well done work exploring new ways of discussing God and the trinity and the extremely critical response by the bishops is sad.

  8. Rich Methia says:

    Two points:

    1. Some of the bishops’ arguments are circular. In Biblical times God speaks to males in a patriarchal society and they, understandably, interpret (and name) God using male terms. Thus (say the bishops) it follows that calling God Father is a direct message about his gender from the Almighty.

    2. Sr. Elizabeth bravely exposes her ideas using her own name. Meaning no disrespect, but few current U.S. bishops are known for having the intellectual theological skills to match those of Sr. Elizabeth. It would be interesting to know which theologians are the real source of the bishops’ critique.

  9. Maureen Tobin says:

    Sister Elizabeth, your work is outstanding and so accurate.You’ve gone the whole 90 yards and the ignorance on the other side is
    ridiculous. Peace

  10. Patrick says:

    Having read the comments, what is interesting to me is it takes a Protestant convert to Catholicism (Adam Birchenough) to point out the larger issue at stake- authority. Nine Bishops- successors of the Apostles, mind you- take genuine issue with the theological work presented by the author. Like it, love it or hate it, the reality is this work-a more importantly, the author were served notice that they missed the mark. The only real question is, as a Catholic and a theologian, will she do as her duty as a Catholic Theologian compels her and submit, correct and obey or join the long list of disobedient souls who defy, defy and defy. That- at the end of the day- is where “the rubber meets the road”.

  11. Marilyn says:

    In response to Adam’s comment…I can no longer trust a group of men with power who defend and support preists who raped and sodimized children. Bishops who continue to fail to safeguard our children do no as have the insight and wisdom to know what we as Roman Catholics need to believe. The God as revealed through Jesus the Christ and the Holy Spirit to me, is a God of tolerance, love, insight, and dialogue. These men do not have any of these qualities so how can they claim to know what God wants me to believe of Him/Her. Unlike you, as a cradle Roman Catholic of 68 years I am looking for another community to support me in my understanding of my faith in God.

  12. I am very saddened by this entire affair. Obedience is one thing and authority is another. In this case obedience – rooted in listening – does make the authority of the bishops harder to understand. I’m sorry, but it looks like the bishops have an axe to grind. Sadly, it is not a good axe; Dr. Johnson is far better trained and more well versed in theology, with all due respect, than most of the bishops.

    That is where authority and obedience really come home to roost – in the humility of bowing before the truth.

  13. What can be wrong with grown men who decline to meet with a woman with whom they have a difference of opinion? What can be wrong with a group of church leaders who decide not to follow their own guidelines? What a dismal example of immaturity the bishops have shown to up-and-coming Catholic theologians. But the positive side of the bishop’s October pronouncement is that Sister Elizabeth Johnson’s fine book is again in the news and having just been released in paperback will be available for Christmas gifts.

  14. Reply to Marilyn…

    Find another community within the Church! They do exist….within parishes, outside of parishes. Look for one or gather some like-minded persons yourself. WE ARE CHURCH.

    Personally, I have been a member of such a group for 11 years… and it sure helps to keep the faith. At our last meeting one of our very wise members said: “it’s time to swim underwater- no sense in fruitless arguments.. save our energy and do what we believe, keep up our prayer life, love God and our neighbors”.

    The organisational church is not “The Church”. And— there are some notable and noble projects going on…sometimes even in the Vatican……NCR faithfully reports them. And there is an impressive array of books and authors that help… no one can keep us from reading Elisabeth Johnson,Sandra Schnieders, Hans Kung…and our own NCR. Look to with them. Sooner or later, the current outdated organisational structure will crumble…

    Don’t go…


  15. Nathan says:

    I too am saddened. Saddened that the only real Catholic on these boards is the convert from Protestantism.

    The bishop’s authority is derived from Christ via Apostolic Succession. Their Teaching Office is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit, not their administration nor personal holiness. You may like the ideas of Sis. Eliz. but Catholics are called to obedience to the structure Christ left for us. The job of the Bishop’s is to protect the Deposit of Faith. The job of us, the laity, is to be obedient. The sex abuse scandal can in no way diminish the authority of a bishop as their authority is not derived from their personal holiness, but from the Spirit of God.

    In the end, you are either a Catholic or a dissenter, you can’t be both. A “dissenter” is just another way of saying a Protestant who still goes to a Catholic Church physically but has left in spirit.

    Let’s all pray that Sister remembers her vows and renounces any and all of her speculations that have been rejected by the proper authorities of the Church founded by God Himself. And let’s pray that Catholics remember that the Bishops are not their representatives, but their teachers.

    Can anyone imagine the Corinthians telling St. Paul that he needs to realize they have an ongoing revelation from God and he needs to get with it?

    Sad indeed.

  16. Nathan says:

    To Fran,

    You say that the bishops should bow in obedience to the truth. The truth according to whom? Sister? You?

    The bishops disagree (as does 2000 yrs of Catholic teaching) and they decide, that is how Christ built His Church.

    Dr. Johnson might think she is in the realm of speculative theology, but she doesn’t get to decide that, the bishops do.

  17. Anne Bond says:

    All I can say is “thank you so VERY MUCH Elizabeth. I stand with youl

  18. Patrick says:

    To all those who feel that Sr. Johnson has been wronged: Have any of you read the Response to Observations By Sr. Eliz. Johnson, C.S.J. issued by the Committee on Doctrine, USCCB?
    To be honest, it found it refreshing to read such a thorough and well-articulated presentation of the central issues that have raised the Committees concern such that of making public their findings. It has been some years since I found myself proud of the USCCB for just about anything they involved themselves in; however, this effort in particular is commendable in every way. In fact, having read the Bishop’s response to Sr. Johnson’s “Observations”, I think she was been very well treated in that she was not ordered -under Holy Obedience-to withdraw her work.
    The core issue, in my opinion, is that Sister Johnson simply “got in over her head”. I what seems to be a well-intended effort, Sr. seems to fall into fits and spurts of “nominalism” and Kantian jibberish . . . perhaps her version of Transcendental Thomism (i.e. Karl Rahner)? As a member of an order inextricably connected to the Society of Jesus (A.K.A. Jesuits) , it seems no surprise that she would fall into the same type of Nouvelle Theologie that Pius XII had to take issue with in Humani Generis
    For those interested in a very good work as regards the Jesuits (and those in league with their efforts during the 20th century), have a look at The Jesuits: by Malachi Martin. If you give that a read, you will get a good sense of what is at issue.
    Again, well intended, but FOUR ARCHBISHOPS and FIVE BISHOPS gave Sr. Johnson the opportunity to defend her work and she was not able to do so to the Bishops satisfaction. That is the way it works. She either chooses to be in descent or fulfill her vow of obedience.

  19. sfbarber says:

    The Pope and Bishops also condemned the findings of Galileo that our sun was the center of our Solar System, not the earth, as was thought at that time. They also condemned Teilhard de Chardin, SJ’s writings and theology, whom even Benedict VI now quotes. It is a known fact that the Patriarchal Institutional Church is always far behind, theologically, the rest of the Church and her Theologians. Not in the too far future, some Pope might be quoting Dr. Elizabeth Johnson. It’s notable to me that those who have condemned her works are almost all males.

  20. Rich Faussette says:

    Dear friends,

    Every one of the Protestant churches that have embraced liberalism have collapsed or come near to collapse because liberal theology, a product of the Frankfurt school is theologically and intellectually bankrupt as it was created to pathologize Christian culture, not sustain it.

    If you truly want to understand the overarching conflict between the Church and liberal theology read Professor Kevin MacDonald’s The Culture of Critique, An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth Century Intellectual and Political Movements. It is a classic in the Seymour Itzkoff Human Evolution, Behavior and Intelligence series published by Praeger scholastic publishers.

    The great majority of you simply do not understand the origin of religion, or what religion has done for us through the ages.

    Faith is not to be explored. Faith is to be embraced without reservation. Faith does not have a modern ‘frontier,’ nor does faith adapt itself to historical circumstances, nor does God ever change his face. You either embrace revealed theology or you don’t.

    I, for one, am happy the Church has come to understand that it must reverse its descent into liberalism or die.

    Rich Faussette

  21. proscientia says:

    Because of what Patrick wrote, I’ll be brief. I think that the problem is that the book is unclear. In their pastoral role, the censure is solely to warn others. If this book is used for a class relating to Catholicism (or Christianity in general, while touching on Catholicism) without very orthodox teaching of the lecturer to contrast with the book (which might only be unclear in articulating certain ideas), then some of the inferences of the students on the Catholic view of the nature of God might be wrong. This is what the bishops want to prevent. Similarly, if someone reads the book and makes their own conclusions (if the book is indeed unclear) about the nature of God contrary to Catholic teaching, then the bishops want to be clear that the view is contrary to Catholic teaching. They might be doing this clumsily, but ultimately, this is the role of the bishops.

    Also, what they have written does not necessarily contradict what Sr Johnson is saying. She is saying that she is attempting to convey an orthodox understanding of God. However, when reading one’s own work, one might understand what is written differently than another person reading it would. The bishops got the impression that the view of God presented was not necessarily identifiable with the Catholic view, so they gave this warning.

  22. +Anthony Farr says:

    It is interesting to read the comments that have come forth far in response to the Bishops response to Sr Johnson and then her response back. Unfortunately, all too many of them are reflective of the notion that we can ignore the Magisterium when it does not meet our expectations or see things the way we want them seen. The Bishops have been very clear in their presentation of what they find wrong with Sr Johnson’s book. She may somehow feel that the process has been flawed and that their conclusions are wrong, but one shouldn’t be surprised by that given that she is reflective of so many
    Catholics today who believe that their own “truths” are somehow as good, or as relevant, or as worthy of belief, even when they conflict with the “Truth” as passed down through the centuries via the Magisterium. The Bishops are as learned in theology and biblical studies (contrary to several of the comments made by others) as is Sr Johnson, and while our american mentality believes there has to be dialogue before a decision is made on any level, the fact is that the Bishops are responsible when all the dust settles for interpreting what is and what is not in keeping with the Faith. What Sr Johnson needs to go back to is the vow of obedience she made as a nun, a vow that seems convenient only when it suits one’s need, and realize that she as a consecrated religious, is now called to submit in obedience to the decision made by the Bishops. It might be good for all of us to understand that obedience doesn’t work just when it suits us. We want a Catholic “Lite” just as we want a Jesus “Lite” and we argue for that under the guise that the Church is outdated, or naive, or sexist, or not with the times, or not pluralistic enough. I suppose you can have a church like that and a theology like that and it will feel good and warm and fuzzy. The problem is that Jesus gave us none of that. He gave us a Church with a Magisterium, and He gave to that Magisterium, in the person of Peter and his successors, the Keys to the Kingdom. Frail men, human men, men struggling in their own ways as we all do, but entrusted with the defense of the Truth of the Deposit of Faith even when many don’t like the answers or defense they give.

  23. Are the US Catholic Bishops now the Magisterium? I do not think of them in the same light. While I intend to be obedient unto the structures of the Church, I do know two things.

    One is that the bishops are not the Magisterium. Two is that, like St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us, in the end, we have but our conscience before God.

  24. Patrick says:

    I hope you good folks in the “loyal opposition” give an ear to the wisdom laid bare by both Mr. Farr and Proscientia . . . both of these individuals are giving you the “real skinny”- no B.S. in what they are trying to help you understand in so far as reality-not what you want to believe, but what actually & factually is. Both of these folks are so dead on the money that, while you may disagree, please consider the polite yet firm thrust of their cautionary remarks. Contrary to those who seek to describe all Bishops as essentially out of touch, ignorant misogynist buffoons who do not have the education of this professed nun(a religious who evidently does not belong to an order that has retained its habit), many are very bright and simply burdened by incompetent personnel . . . most of whom graduated from Seminary about the same time Sr. received her degree from Brentwood. It should not be lost that Sr. references in her intellectual autobiography the likes of-though not in the exhaustive sense- Rahner, Schillebeckx &Liberation Theology.
    Funny how the orders that have abandoned their habit are prone to two things: No vocations and members more concerned about reading works for dissident theologians & promoting “social justice” as opposed to actually practicing the authentic religion they claim to espouse.

  25. Patrick says:

    Fran- What would be very interesting is is the good Sister decided to appeal to Rome (and she may well- but based upon what i have seen, wouldn’t recommend it). Now, where she to receive the same from the Vatican would you concede there may well be an issue with her work?

  26. Dotty says:

    I don’t believe a person practicing their authentic religion, Christianity, which receives it’s name from Jesus, the Christ, would write such a nasty set of remarks as Patrick has. The “liberal” sisters and many other Catholic Christians are following in the footsteps of Jesus in giving service in the form of social justice to the “least ones.’ You know…feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, including those hungry and thirsty for a theology that corresponds to the truths of the universe and the human diversity we experience daily. They are practicing the authentic religion they espouse.

  27. Elizabeth D says:

    Thanks to the Bishops who are doing their responsibility, and with care and in charity and respect (they would hardly bother commenting on her work so extensively if they did not respect her at all). “Quest for the Living God” is a book that presents the Faith inadequately and even wrongly, and has a lot of potential to confuse people. I have read the Bishops’ statements, and Sr Elizabeth Johnson’s, and have browsed through “Quest for the Living God” and I think the Bishops clearly are right about many things. I think this dialogue can be very helpful for Catholic theology in the US. One lesson is that seeking an imprimatur continues to have contemporary value. Laity lining up to express “sorrow” at the Bishops’ reaffirming their justified criticisms are misguided. “Sentire cum ecclesia”, thinking with the Church, is for all of us. St Teresa of Avila, the archetypal strong Catholic woman, had no formal education but loved theology, sought out the most learned and orthodox priests, and said she’d die a thousand deaths for the least truth of the Faith or even the smallest detail of liturgical law. “I am a daughter of the Church” she said on her deathbed. She just let herself be profoundly formed by the faith of the Church, profoundly formed in the truth.

  28. Patrick says:

    Dotty- I regret you found my remarks “nasty”. If they brought you offense- I apoligize. While you and I may disagree on certain things, it is only right that the dialoge be kept civil. That being said, to understand the functional dynamic of what is at play in this unfortunate affair I can only (again) recommend reading Malachi Martin’s work: The Jesuits. I worked for a Bishop once . . . and he handed me a copy and told me (as a former Jesuit himself) that it was a valid exposition & historical account of what became of the Jesuits. More importantly, what became of other orders affiliated with the Jesuits . . . esp. those in the field of education (Maryknolls & Dominicans esp).

    He had the good sense to ask for and receive permission to leave the Society of Jesus and was incardinated into a diocese.

    Rahner, Kung, Teilhard de Chardin, Schillebeeckx & Gutierrez . . . all brillient minds to say the least. What they also share is a human pride that interfered with their vows of obedience. With all that IQ, they forgot one important thing: They receive the permission to teach Catholicism from the Church . . . and that permission can be withdrawn when and if needs be.

  29. Disco says:

    I confess I have not read Sister Elizabeth’s book, nor do I intend to. After all, it contains heresy.

    I really do wish that folks such as Sr. Elizabeth would just go become Protestant and leave the authentic faith be. Marilyn: just go. Eileen: go with her. True communion with the catholic faith means accepting her teachings and practices. That women cannot be priests is doctrine, a fact not a rule that can be tossed aside like so many others. You can’t just say decisions made by men at the top of the hierarchy are invalid because they were made by MEN! That’s ludicrous. Just go pick an empty white church with a rainbow flag out front and go to town. And please take your puppets with you. They have no place at mass.

    Dotty – Hindus and Muslims have food pantries. Being a good and charitable person does not convey doctrinal authority, or even good sense.

  30. MainMorality says:

    God Support The Bishops In Their Quest to keep the textbook arena free of relativism ! How long do we have to see compromise and popular “groundswell” affect our future Catholic bretheren and all Christians for that matter.

    Philadelphia, PA

  31. Patrick says:

    me thinks this issue is exhasted.

  32. Earnest Bunbury says:

    Mr. Patrick, I agree with your assessment of nominalism and Kant in Sr. Johnson’s work, and it seems to me that these are tenants of the rationalistic philosophical notions the worldly materialistic scientism and evolutionism that modern culture has accepted. It is thus in the world of dissenting Catholics that they too accept this worldly philosophy, and read the doctrines of Magisterial Teaching through this particular lens. This colors their view and leads to deficient notions of transcendence and being which leads to God as immanent and the gratuity of grace is even more deficient than in Henri de Lubac’s ‘Supernaturel’. Even so, what Sr. Johnson writes is not heresy, nor are any Catholics who accept her work heretics, they are just ignorantly accepting of a deficient philosophy, provided that they are not dissenting and disobedient to the authority of the Magisterium. They do risk being lukewarm and worldly, and we know what will happen to them if they remain so, being spit out of Christ’s mouth as per Rev. 3:16.

  33. Patrick says:

    Nope, I stand corrected. Either nine Bishops are are bold faced lying or one nun.

  34. Adam Birchenough says:

    Friends, as a convert from evangelicalism let me give you a quick update on the status of the protestant church. Essentially Luther’s ideas of ‘sola scriptura’ have fallen apart because no one can agree on anything. So now there is a movement called the ’emergent church’ which is essentially post-Protestantism based on the ‘spirit.’ The idea is that if you can feel it then it must be true, even if it is illogical and goes against any previous Christian teaching (check out Rob Bell). Ever since Jesus gave the keys to Peter there has been a spiritual authority that defines the faith. The Protestants resisted the Church 500 years ago and they have finally gotten to the dead end, which is why I have come back to the first and only Church. Whenever you question the Church hierarchy have faith and give them time. If you have more questions check out my blog -

  35. Patrick says:

    Just to be clear, I have not described Sister Johnson’s work or actions as Heretical. In fact, it takes courage to delve into the questions raised by Sister. When I was in college, It was something of a running joke in the Theology dept. to suggest someone write their thesis on “The Human Personality of Christ”. Tough questions need answering, but best to defer to the Church in terms of corrective guidance or- some times- when to simply stop writing.

  36. elaine babbish says:

    I want to read your book sister!

  37. terence11 says:

    These Bishops should “Sell what thou hadst, give to the poor and (THEN) come follow me”. When did Jesus talk about Bishops, Cardinals and their Palaces and riches? This is not faith or religion. It’s about POWER. Sr. Elizabeth is a breadth of fresh air. I follow Jesus, now, NOT ROME!!

  38. Patrick says:

    If you follow Jesus- you follow the Church He founded- also known as the Church of Rome.

  39. Bob P. says:

    Seems like the road is heading backwards since Vatican II.The defenders of the inspired Bishops would probably advocate the revival of the Inquisition and Index along with their self-anointed righteousness.Blind Obedience has diminished our Church ‘s image….Bishops’response….What me worry!What matters to them is the same with Corporate America….the bottom line.Keep the ladies in line and all will be just fine.

  40. karenfern1 says:

    I find it disturbing that Cardinal Wuerl is willing to trash a distinguished theologian and yet ignores the presence in his choir of a woman involved in a six year sexual affair with a married politician. I find it disturbing even more that I have started reading Sr. Elizabeth Johnson’s book. I had the privilege of hearing her lecture several times when I was a graduate student at Fordham and I admire her greatly. I think a sober female theologian is more of a threat to his masculine authoriity than a golden-helmeted tart.

  41. Roberta Horton says:

    From Christianity’s earliest times, women have been ignored, criticized, told to keep silent, demonized (e.g. Mary Magdalene). So, should it be at all surprising that a woman religious/theologian has come under fire at this time? It is truly sad, but not at all surprising. Jesus broke the rules when it came to women. He respected them, he spoke with them, he listened to them – all this at a time when a woman was little more than a maidservant. Not a lot has changed in the church.

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