The National Catholic Review

The USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine has just issued a critique of a recent book by Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, Distinguished Professor of Theology at Fordham University and an award-winning Catholic author and educator, which is entitled Quest for the Living God: Mapping the Frontiers in the Theology of God.  The Committee said in a news release published yesterday that it finds that many of the book’s conclusions “incompatible with Catholic teaching.” 

“Against the contamination of Christian theology after the Enlightenment by modern theism, Sr. Johnson claims to be retrieving fundamental insights from patristic and medieval theology. As we have seen, however, this is misleading, since under the guise of criticizing modern theism she criticizes crucial aspects of patristic and medieval theology, aspects that have become central elements of the Catholic theological tradition confirmed by magisterial teaching,” the statement said.  The committee's complete analysis of the book is much more detailed.  

“The Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine is first and foremost concerned about the spiritual welfare of those students using this book who may be led to assume that its content is authentic Catholic teaching,” wrote Archbishop Donald Wuerl, chairman of the committee, in a letter addressed to U.S. bishops, and suggested it would have been "helpful" if Sister Elizabeth "had taken advantage" of the opportunity to seek an imprimatur, the church's official approval of a book, granted by a bishop after a lengthy process of review by theologians. The archbishop added, “The Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine is always open to dialogue with theologians and would welcome an opportunity to discuss Sister Elizabeth’s writings with her.”

For her part, Sister Elizabeth, in a statement said that the bishops' committee "radically misinterprets" what she thinks in several instances “The book itself endeavors to present new insights about God arising from people living out their Catholic faith in different cultures around the world. My hope is that any conversation that may be triggered by this statement will enrich that faith,” she said.  Sister Johnson noted that the committee had not invited her to discuss the book before the appearance of their statement. "I would have been glad to enter into conversation to clarify critical points, but was never invited to do so. This book was discussed and finally assessed by the Committee before I knew any discussion had taken place."

Quest was reviewed in America in 2008 by John Thiel, professor of religious studies at Fairfield University, who concluded his review by saying, "It is rare that one finds a book that will appeal to all sorts of audiences, but Quest for the Living God is one. Professional theologians, undergraduate students and literate people of faith will enjoy all that this engaging work has to offer."  Elizabeth Johnson is also well known to America readers, having been selected by the editors to contribute to our 2009 Centennial Issue, for which she wrote, "An Earthy Christology."

I haven't read Quest, so I can't comment on the notification at all.

But I have read almost all of Elizabeth Johnson's other books, and have found them to be of great use to me as a Christian, a Catholic, a Jesuit and a priest.  She is one of my favorite theologians.  During my graduate theology studies, I was introduced to her scholarship in She Who Is, a remarkable and remarkably readable work on the often overlooked feminine imagery of God in the Bible (and elsewhere in our tradition), which opened my mind to new ways of thinking about God.  (The sections on Sophia are especially good.)  Her equally inviting Friends of God and Prophets, on the theology of the communion of saints, was a major influence in the way I look at the saints and helped me to understand more deeply their dual traditional roles as patrons and companions.  Truly Our Sister is certainly the best book I’ve ever read on the theology of Mary (Mariology), and its companion book, Dangerous Memories, a shorter book drawn from Truly Our Sister, looks specifically at New Testament texts in which Mary appears.  It's the first book I recommend to people on that topic.  My favorite of all of Sister Johnson's books, though, is the wonderful Consider Jesus, which I’ve read many times, a user-friendly introduction to contemporary Christology.  (Her meditations on Jesus’s growing self-consciousness of his mission and identity is particularly astute and provocative, and has helped me to understand more fully the concept of growing in an embrace of one's vocation over time.)  I’ve recommended that book to dozens of friends, parishioners and spiritual directees and, a few years ago, used it profitably (along with Dangerous Memories) in a book club that I ran at a local Jesuit parish.  One evening Elizabeth Johnson herself came on a rainy night to speak to the book club and to the larger parish community, and she turned out to be a warm, welcoming and pastoral presence, always treating every question (no matter how barbed, ill-informed or weighted with sarcasm) with dignity and consideration and charity.  She is a terrific teacher.

I hope that this recent notification does not deter anyone from reading the books I've mentioned above, which have been of inestimable help to me in my own quest to seek the Living God.

James Martin, SJ

 

Comments

S. Morton | 7/15/2011 - 4:51pm
Could it be that that Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson proceeded in the direction that she did because of an underlying awareness of how the mystery of the Holy Trinity can seem to skirt the reality that we are created in the image of God.  Perhaps at issue is the Doctrine of Man vice the Doctrine of God.  Would it help to pull from Catholic moral theology the concepts of human conscience, human behavior and human spirit and make a novel reference to the human trinity.  One might ponder murder and decide against that action, but retain a spirit of anger or resentment.  In such a case one can see the capacity to be more like God.  One can see the triune image of a human person.  One can begin to see the sense of responding to the Priest when he says, ''Peace be with you,'' by saying ''and with your spirit.''  In this way we can continue to affirm both the Holy Trinity and the emanence of God in the world today.
Gabriel Austin | 6/9/2011 - 11:49am
Cardinal Dulles had no probelem submitting his books for an imprimatur. Fr. Martin's article seems to be an example of the rule that Jesuits do not critisize other Jesuits. Even if Sr, Johnson cannot be a Jesuit [no women allowed].
Mona Villarrubia | 4/3/2011 - 9:01pm

What is it about the Vatican? It seems able only to recognize “evil” in certain forms: the pursuit of justice for child abuse victims, the pursuit of the rights of women to respond to the Holy Spirit's call to priesthood, or the rights of the gay and lesbian community to take vows of love and life-long commitment, or the rights of a diocesan priest to commit to both the church and to a woman as his partner in a holy life of service. These pursuits are all viewed as evil. But the rape and molestation of children is callously ignored, the criminal behavior of priests recklessly overlooked.
Apparently Catholic priests like Fr. Bourgeois (currently facing excommunication again!!) and Catholic theologians like Sr. Johnson, should just be quiet, or should do what the bishops do: criticize other Catholics who are actually making a positive contribution, ignore the evil and criminal behavior of Catholic priests and religious, and pursue a promotion to a bigger diocese.
Craig McKee | 4/2/2011 - 12:24pm
Timing is EVERYTHING!
Is anyone even talking about the SCANDAL in Cardinal Rigali's Philadelphia now that we've been distracted by this nun and this book?
Touche USCCB!
Mission Accomplished!
Juan Lino | 4/1/2011 - 6:23pm
Ahhh... OK, I misinterpreted what you wrote Greg - mea culpa.  Yes, you are right that neither the USCCB or the Holy See commissioned Sr. Johnson to write the book.

I am not sure what you mean by "augmentize" the Gospel message but that discussion may take us far afield and so I am willing to forgo it for the time being.

The only thing that I would add is that Faith can also be a "solid certainty."

Thanks for the dialogue. 
GREGORY GUITERAS MR | 4/1/2011 - 5:54pm
I'll try to clarify about Johnson's book presenting official church teaching:
The USCCB or the Vatican did not commission Sr. Johnson to write a book explicating the doctrine of God along strict lines of the Church's magisterium.
You are right in cautioning against reducing faith to a religious sense. Caution must also be taken not to "augmentize" the Gospel message. Faith is a risk and a slippery slope.
Juan Lino | 4/1/2011 - 4:38pm
Now I am confused Greg.  What did you mean when you wrote “was not to present official church teaching.”?  I think I took it to mean something you did not intend – please clarify.
 
As I understand it, the Catholic Church teaches that the teachings of Christ are mediated to us, by His desire and will, in and through His Church precisely because Christ and the Church are one.  So yes, I do believe that the teachings of the Living Christ pass through His divinely appointed vehicle for bringing us the Truth, which is Himself.  But that’s a sidebar discussion that we can discuss via e-mail.  And yes, I have read Cardinal Dulles' book Models of the Church.
 
Regarding everything you wrote after “In light of human…” I agree with what you wrote and I applaud anyone’s attempt to awaken a thirst for God for those of us who live in the modern age.  However, I do believe that we must be careful to reduce the Faith to the “religious sense” as I sometimes see happen.
GREGORY GUITERAS MR | 4/1/2011 - 3:40pm
Juan, you are assuming that if Sr. Elizabeth does not intend her book to be an official statement of church doctrine, she therefore is "NOT presenting the teachings" of Christ.
In light of human knowledge and experience gained  since the Council of Trent, which incorporated the cutting edge thinking of its day, her book embraces  important issues of our day and suggests that the Triune God is made flesh through them: the poor, oppressed, marginalized, the environment. Nowhere does she suggest that her work speaks infallible truth, but offers ways which she hopes may give readers a better insight into the divine mystery. She respects the intelligence of her readers and addresses them as adults, trusting that they, too, will see her book as an exploration of the Quest for God, subject to disagreement and discussion.
She joins the company of a growing number of reputable philosophers, theologians, scientists, poets, Catholic and non-Catholic, who have awakened to the fact that the medieval and Enlightenment worldviews, which support much of the metaphysical underpinning of Catholic doctrine, no longer hold up in the modern age.




Juan Lino | 4/1/2011 - 1:11pm
Greg wrote: "Having read Quest lead me to the conclusion that Sr. Johnson's intention was not to present official church teaching."

If that's the case then wouldn't Archbishop Donald Wuerlbe (and the others) be shirking their responsibilty if they didn't let the People of God know that she is NOT presenting the teachings Christ has and continues to present to the world through His Church.  


This statement, then seems to be on the mark: “The Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine is first and foremost concerned about the spiritual welfare of those students using this book who may be led to assume that its content is authentic Catholic teaching,” wrote Archbishop Donald Wuerl, chairman of the committee, in a letter addressed to U.S. bishops, and suggested it would have been "helpful" if Sister Elizabeth "had taken advantage" of the opportunity to seek an imprimatur, the church's official approval of a book, granted by a bishop after a lengthy process of review by theologians. The archbishop added, “The Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine is always open to dialogue with theologians and would welcome an opportunity to discuss Sister Elizabeth’s writings with her.”
Norma - I heartedly agree with your comment especially this sentence - "To me any approach that broadens and deepens the understanding, appreciation and the living out of our Catholic faith is very okay."  Brava!
GREGORY GUITERAS MR | 4/1/2011 - 11:42am
Having read Quest lead me to the conclusion that Sr. Johnson's intention was not to present official church teaching. As suggested by its title, the book explores the latest insights about God gleaned from many sources and perspectives including those outside current Catholic teaching; and, as such, there is no need to subject it to the Imprimatur process. Hers is an inclusive, intercultural, open-minded approach; it broadens and deepens the understanding, appreciation and living out of our Catholic faith.
The bishops adhere adamantly to the magisterial interpretation of the doctrine of God. For them, the case is settled and closed; the Quest for the Living God has ended. 
J Brookbank | 4/1/2011 - 11:04am
Two nights ago I read the first NCR article, the Bishops’ statement and Sister Dr. Elizabeth Johnson’s 2008 keynote to LCWR. I have not read this book yet. I have read articles by Sr Johnson. I am a lay Catholic, have had one theology class and so obviously am untrained in the work that Sr Johnson and the Bishops do.
That said, I made myself a lot of notes as I read the Bishops’ statement.
Though the Bishops do include some page citations and some specific quotes, their statement is full of conclusive and summary statements of Sr Johnson’s ideas as they, the Bishops, interpret them. Next to these conclusions and summaries, I often wrote in the margins, “Did SrEJ actually conclude_____”, based on the citations and quotes the Bishops present?
- One example is on pg 8, middle paragraph. The Bishops write, “For Sr Johnson, if God is incomprehensible he is also unknowable. This is incorrect”.
In the margins, I noted “Did Sr Johnson actually and either informally or formally state this ‘if,then’ proposition?” And “Have the Bishops imposed that strict and reductive proposition?”
Then I read her 2008 statement which, when combined with other EJ works I have read, led me to question again how likely it is that Sister Dr Elizabeth Johnson’s book could truly be a book-length version of the theological “if/then” proposition implied in the Bishops’ statement that “For Sr. Johnson, if God is incomprehensible God is also unknowable”.
Other examples:
- I wondered, every time the Bishops proclaimed “this is her ‘ground rule’”: does Sister Johnson use the language of “ground rule” in her book? The Bishops claim that Sr Johnson establishes three “ground rules”. The Bishops identify each of these ground rules, placing the term ground rule in quotations at least once but without ever offering a page citation. With all due respect, unless Sr Johnson herself stated these “ground rules” and described them as such, the Bishops’ rhetorical imposition of “ground rules” reads like a college sophomore’s effort at persuasive writing.
- The Bishops, in several places, seem to imply that Sr Johnson denies the Trinitarian God. That is counter to my understanding of her theology, her other works and, especially, the meaning of the beautiful meditation on the Nicene Creed (the 2008 LCWR keynote).
- Pg 18 The Bishops write, “Sr Johnson’s presentation of the teaching of the Council of Nicaea is ambiguous. According to her, by its teaching the Council aimed to protect ‘the church’s faith that Jesus is God’s self-revelation, the true Wisom of God sent to save and set free’(205). This minimalist interpretation of the Council…”
First, I wondered, did Sr Johnson actually reduce the “aim” of the Council of Nicaea as claimed by the Bishops.
Second, does her language “Jesus is God’s self-revelation” in ANY way challenge the traditional Catholic teaching that, in the Bishops’ words, “Jesus is ontologically the eternal Son of the Father”? The Bishops note that Sr Johnson’s words could be interpreted loosely and, in effect, chastise her because that phrase fails to definitively “affirm a true metaphysical Incarnation”. I wondered: does anything Sr Johnson wrote actually deny “a true metaphysical Incarnation”? Or, I wondered, are the Bishops simply demanding that any discussion of the Nicene Creed include a clear statement of this affirmative Catholic teaching and declaration of the Creed, without regard to the contextual necessity (or lack thereof) of that statement? (Were they looking for a Catechetical station break? Sort of a Catechetical version of the surgeon general’s warning?)
As I read Sr Johnson’s 2008 Keynote on the Creed, after reading this critique by the Bishops, I asked myself this question again because nothing I have encountered in Sr Johnon’s work – last night or in the past – suggests to me that Sr Johnson contests that affirmative teaching.
**********
As I said, I have not read the book and am not a theologian, cleric or religious sister. I know that my own understanding of the content, the theology, the Catechism is limited. I concede in advance any challenges to my statements on those grounds. I am, however, I am an educated, adult Catholic trained to interact critically with written language and that includes the right (responsibility) of all readers to critically evaluate what they read.
And I believe the very broad conclusive and summary strokes remain questionably supported - to my ears -  within the four corners of the Bishops’ statement.
That left me questioning whether the Bishops had played rather fast and loose in their apprehension and representation of Sr Johnson work.
And that left me questioning the fairness and value accruing to the Bishops’ apprehension, representation and critique of the work in question.
Given all of the above, I am not surprised to hear that the Bishops failed to communicate with Sr Johnson about their reading of her book and their concerns. I am not surprised but I am saddened. Catholicism has a venerable tradition of genuine scholarship, which – at its best – demands collegial and respectful dialogue among its practitioners.
Jean Brookbank
John Stabeno | 3/31/2011 - 8:43pm
Now Elizabeth Johnson! She is so respected as a theologian and a human being. I regret not taking one of her classes when she was at The Catholic University of America. She was clearly respected and loved by all who had her classes. Why are the bishops so threatened?
Juan Lino | 3/31/2011 - 8:38pm
John wrote: In our age of great confusion both in and out of the Church, with rising polarizations and heated emotions, it would be refreshing for the good sister and bishops to calmly work this out and so let us all 'be' what we would wish others to be: calm, careful, take the time to read the details, give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Seek to follow the Lord as He's been revealed to us, not as we might be more comfortable 'imagining' ourselves.

I couldn't agree more!!! Well said sir.
John Lay | 3/31/2011 - 7:44pm
 I just want to say I agree 100% with this Comment.- It would do us all a great deal of good to go re-read the Acts of the Apostles and note how errors were handled among the first generation of Christian evangelists. Take Apollos for example. He preached a powerful message about Jesus....but didn't know about the need for Baptism. The married couple Aquila and Pricilla took him aside, explained things to him and worked it out.

No need to retrench in opposing 'sides'. No need to huff and puff about opposing theologican tribes. Just patient and calm explaining to help a brother or sister come to the truth that (alone) sets us free.

St John's epistles show us the all too common alternative: angry disagreement and ecclesial communities in rebellion from the Body by following people who love to lead more than to follow Jesus, or who love the sound of their own voices more than the echo of the original Gospel.

In our age of great confusion both in and out of the Church, with rising polarizations and heated emotions, it would be refreshing for the good sister and bishops to calmly work this out and so let us all 'be' what we would wish others to be: calm, careful, take the time to read the details, give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Seek to follow the Lord as He's been revealed to us, not as we might be more comfortable 'imagining' ourselves.
MILDRED EDWARDS | 3/31/2011 - 6:17pm
Thank you, Fr. James Martin!!  I feel blessed to live at a time in history when we are graced by theologians like Elizabeth Johnson.  I first encountered her writing when my sister took on the daunting but wonderful task of translating She Who Is into German.  Beth Johnson's  work has been immensely helpful to me in my faith life and my teaching.   A few years ago I had the good fortune to meet her when she gave the Sophia Lecture at my graduate alma mater, the Washington Theological Union.  She is exactly as you describe her: a gifted teacher and a kind and humble person.  Her response to the bishops' action reflects that as well.  After reading some of the gleeful vitriolic on-line comments by people who applaud the bishops' critique but who probably have not even read The Quest for the Living God, it was relief to read your defense of this outstanding theologian.  I am proud to count myself as her supporter.
Elaine Tannesen | 3/31/2011 - 6:15pm
I find Elizabeth Johnson's writing to be so rich, beautiful, and exciting that I have to pace myself to savor every page.  To me it is illuminating, inspirational, and draws me closer to the Great God of All.
And so I was saddened, but not surprised, to see the criticism from the ASCCB's Committee on Doctrine issued without notification or dialogue four years after publication. Do they really expect every theologian to come, hat in hand, to beg an imprimatur for their books?
Looks like another exercise of power and control. But you can't control The Spirit.
Juan Lino | 3/31/2011 - 4:58pm
Just a couple of budding thoughts. 
 
Dialogue has many forms as we can see on this blog.  “X” posts a comment, “y” reads it and posts a comment, “x” says, you’ve misunderstood me and “x” writes a reply, etc.  So, I find it odd that Sr. Johnson would say that “they should have talked to me first before writing a warning.”  Why?  How can she now play the victim when she could have talked to them first and avoided the whole situation we have now.
 
Second, context is everything.  If her intention was to write a book for other theologians that’s one thing but on page 2 she makes it clear that that’s not her primary audience.  The Bishops, therefore, as is their responsibility, have read the book and pointed out where it deviates from the Faith.  I don’t think it’s a matter of “theological style” as much as pointing out where the book deviates from kataphatic ways of speaking about God – which is what the CCC does.  If she wants to speak of God in an apophatic way then it’s up to her to be certain that she is as clear as possible.  If, as she claims, the committee has misunderstood her work, then she has the onus of being clear and thus she must enter into a dialogue with the Committee. 
 
Third, people have raised the issue of fear.  Well, fear is not always a bad thing is it!?  Christians have always and must continue to make sure that what those claiming to be Christian does not distort the deposit of Faith that the Church, through the desire of Christ, has to make sure is not watered down or distorted. 
 
Fourth, regarding presenting the Faith in a language/way that people today can understand and embrace it, well the Holy Spirit has raised, and is raising, “charisms”, “Lay Movements”, etc., to do just that.  And many of them do it quite well and they avoid “the pet dishes listed on the menu of the ideological cafeteria” that many “progressives” seem to serve up.
 
Lastly, can we please stop pushing the tired “Vatican / Bishops” bad - “X” wonderful” template doesn’t help anything.  Can’t we presume that each side has the best intentions and build on that? Yes, prudence and vigilance are needed, but this let’s run and support Sr. Johnson against the bad Bishops is precisely the mindset that allowed the moving around of “abusing” priests to take place – i.e., “let’s all rush to support “Bob” against the bad lay people trying to ruin his great reputation.”  It’s just another form of clericalism, as far as I am concerned.
Andy Buechel | 3/31/2011 - 3:31pm
I have no issue intrinsically with bishops exercising their role to correct faulty interpretations of the faith.  Yet I too suspect that Sr. Johnson's work was read very badly by them.  Which raises a question: who make up the committe on doctrine?  I don't mean their names, but their competence.  Are any of them trained theologians?  If not, what theologians were consulted to reach these conclusions?  What is their basic theological approach?  Are they Thomists who accept only Thomistic interpretations as accurate?  Or what?

One thing I suspect Sr. Johnson can thank the bishops for: the increased sales of the text that will doubtlessly follow. 
Roger COnley | 3/31/2011 - 2:40pm
I don't know who these Bishops think they are. Criticizing an academic theologian? They should stick to their areas of competence. Even though he hasn't read Quest, Father Martin makes clear he is on the right side. The book's America review is all you need to know. If you think you need to know more look at her sterling acedemic career. She's lived more then 50 years in the world of acedemic theology and she has been awarded honor after honor. The Bishops think they have a right to criticize her work? They should learn from her. If they disagree they should just shut up. If they had consulted any of the great schools of theology in this country before issuing their document they would have heard how shallow, trivial and pre-Vatican II there attempt at criticism is. What can we do to get them to stop this nonsense? I'm sure all the young students of theology look up to Elizabeth as a shining example. 
Mark Harden | 3/31/2011 - 1:24pm
"Elizabeth Johnson is a brilliant theologian and highly skilled writer."

No doubt. All the bishops are saying is that she is not writing as a Catholic. As the bishops' statement linked above says:

"...the basic problem with Quest for the Living God as a work of Catholic theology is that the book does not take the faith of the Church as its starting point. Instead, the author employs standards from outside the faith to criticize and to revise in a radical fashion the conception of God revealed in Scripture and taught by the Magisterium.”  

It is the author's implication that the book presents Catholic teaching that is at the heart of the bishops' concern, not the content of the book per se. If you read through the seven items of concern in the bishops' statement, you can see this clearly, that they are concerned with the non-Catholic nature of the theology in the book.
Jeanne Follman | 3/31/2011 - 12:07pm
What a superb example of the humility of the bishops regarding their more learned bretheren. Sheesh.

This book came out in 2007 and the bishops are just noticing it now? Sounds like a possible deflection for what's going on in Philadelphia or more animus against nuns.
Vince Killoran | 3/31/2011 - 11:55am
After reading this story and the commentators I'm very interested in Sr. Johnson's work.

This line from the USCCB caught my eye: “The Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine is always open to dialogue with theologians and would welcome an opportunity to discuss Sister Elizabeth’s writings with her.” 

That sounds lovely-do the bishops do this? I am serious: I have never read of an instance where they engaged in an open  dialogue with a theologian, especially one they are criticizing.  Maybe this is just a throwaway phrase that doesn't really mean anything. 
MR/MRS J CONWAY | 3/31/2011 - 11:53am
Elizabeth Johnson is a brilliant theologian and highly skilled writer.  She Who Is, Friends of God and Prophets and Truly Our Sister have been so illuminating for me as a person of faith.  She is particularly adept at integrating lived experience with scholarly insights in a reader-friendly style.  I am grieved that this has happened, and I'm so weary of the bishops. 
CM | 3/31/2011 - 11:46am
Having had the privilege of participating in a class taught by Professor Johnson while an undergraduate at Fordham University, I can only echo many of the sentiments that have already been expressed here by Father Martin or the previous commenters. It is also especially important to highlight her openness to dialogue, which comes through in her released statement. That the Episcopal statement was released before such dialogue had taken place was both disrespectful and disheartening. Finally, as a a doctoral student in theology, it is also discouraging to see the reaction of the Church to important works in the field, such as this "Quest for the Living God" and also "The Sexual Person" by Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler (in late 2010). Whenever I worry about the difficulty of being accepted by the Magisterium, I always recall the incredible example of Elizabeth Johnson, who displays with every action a constant fidelity to God, and love for the Church. It is only a shame that the Bishops couldn't return such respect to her.
Walter Sandell | 3/31/2011 - 11:33am
I have read 'Truly Our Sister,' and given copies to several friends.  I'm reading 'She Who Is' now.
I'll be sure to read the others.
I often wonder how women like Sr. Elizabeth manage to tolerate the hierarchy.
It seems that they believe in the Church even when the hierarchy errs, waiting for correction in the long run.
I wonder why they didn't have a 'conversation' about their problems with the book.
The Spirit moves where She will.
Daniel Horan | 3/31/2011 - 11:30am
Thanks for bringing this to the attention of a wider audience! I have very mixed feelings about the committee's report. The questions they purport to raise are legitimate questions, but I have a difficult time seeing the correlation between the questions raised and Johnson's text itself. I agree with many, including Sr. Elizabeth Johnson herself, that the book appears to have been misunderstood and misrepresented by the committee on doctrine.

I'm interested to see how this ongoing conversation unfolds.

Here is my initial take on the situation in two recent posts: ''The USCCB on Sr. Elizabeth Johnson's Book: Some Initial Comments'' and ''On the Politics of Theology: Fear and Analogia Entis.''
Anonymous | 3/31/2011 - 11:02am
It would do us all a great deal of good to go re-read the Acts of the Apostles and note how errors were handled among the first generation of Christian evangelists. Take Apollos for example. He preached a powerful message about Jesus....but didn't know about the need for Baptism. The married couple Aquila and Pricilla took him aside, explained things to him and worked it out.

No need to retrench in opposing 'sides'. No need to huff and puff about opposing theologican tribes. Just patient and calm explaining to help a brother or sister come to the truth that (alone) sets us free.

St John's epistles show us the all too common alternative: angry disagreement and ecclesial communities in rebellion from the Body by following people who love to lead more than to follow Jesus, or who love the sound of their own voices more than the echo of the original Gospel.

In our age of great confusion both in and out of the Church, with rising polarizations and heated emotions, it would be refreshing for the good sister and bishops to calmly work this out and so let us all 'be' what we would wish others to be: calm, careful, take the time to read the details, give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Seek to follow the Lord as He's been revealed to us, not as we might be more comfortable 'imagining' ourselves.
Adrienne Krock | 3/31/2011 - 12:28pm
Thank you for the reading recommendations! I'm very interested to read some of Sister Elizabeth's titles, especially with your review that they're "readable" and "user-friendly."
NORMA NUNAG | 4/1/2011 - 12:28pm
Thank you Juan, John, Jean etc. for your comments.  And Greg too.  To me any approach that broadens and deepens the understanding, appreciation and the living out of our Catholic faith is very okay.  After all each generation has its own cultural challenge, and so we should be opened to new ways.  As human beings we continue to grow (at least I hope so) to a better understanding of ourselves as creatures of God.
I think we are really on a journey towards Almighty God, and that means we will continue to meet lots of bumps along the way.  We will continue to talk to one another, but let's be sure that we don't shoot ourselves in the foot in the process.
Mark Harden | 3/31/2011 - 1:17pm
"This book came out in 2007 and the bishops are just noticing it now?"

I cannot find a timeline for the bishops' review, but I think the delay has to do with the time before local bishops even brought up the concern, followed by the time taken by the USCCB to do a thorough and careful investigation of the book. If it had been put out quickly after publication of the book, surely that would have appeared to be in unseemly haste?

"That the Episcopal statement was released before such dialogue had taken place was both disrespectful and disheartening."

If dialog is sought, the onus would be on an author to submit their publication for imprimatur. That would have opened the dialog in the best manner, prior to publication. When authors neglect to apply for imprimatur, they are essentially saying they don't care what the Church has to say about their book. So, I don't think it is fair to fault the BISHOPS for failure to dialog.

The case of Richard McBrien and his "Catholicism" is pertinent:
http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=541

 
Enid Levine | 5/2/2012 - 5:56am
Very interesting and content article from the sphere of theology. I have heard about the Cardinal Rigali's Philadelphia scandal and it was an uneasy one...
This topic requires a lot of opinions to say something for sure.