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U.S. bishops condemn nun's book on spiritual seeking, 'Quest for the Living God'

A four-year-old book by a prominent theologian, "Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God," has been censured by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The book was written by Sister Elizabeth Johnson, known as a theologian and feminist, former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and the American Theological Society and currently distinguished professor of theology at Fordham University.

BeliefNet reports:

The bishops said the book’s “basic problem” is that it 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” as taught by the church.

As a result, the book “does not accord with authentic Catholic teaching on essential points” including the names of God and the Trinity, the bishops said.

Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who chairs the doctrine committee, expressed concern that Johnson’s book would be used as a textbook and students “may be led to assume that its content is authentic Catholic teaching” and could thus endanger readers’ “spiritual welfare.”

The New York Times also reported on the issue, quoting the Rev. Thomas Weinandy, executive director of the bishops’ Secretariat for Doctrine, as saying, "The primary concern was not over feminism or nonfeminism. The bishops are saying that the book does not adequately treat a Catholic understanding of God." Yet the theologians at Catholic universities they spoke with did not agree with the bishops in the matter. One specifcially said the censure was not theological but political.

Johnson said in a statement that the assessment of "Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God" -- her seventh book -- came as a surprise to her.

Of course, authors of all stripes have to deal with negative reviews. But perhaps Johnson can appeal to a higher power.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Then-Archbishop Donald Wuerl, right, with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts after the annual Red Mass in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 1., 2006. Credit: Gerald Herbert / Associated Press

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Must be time to buy this book...

When, oh when will women flee their oppressive Church? If not them, who? If not now, when? As Jesus said, "What are you waiting for?"

It would be nice if the 'Catholic understanding of God' wasn't so nearly identical with 'white conservative male'. (God is a lot bigger than that, and I hope She lets them know about it.)

It's a four-year-old book? And they just notice it, given her renown? Or did it take a committee four years to discuss and decide? Either way, it seems bizarre.

"It's a four-year-old book? And they just notice it, given her renown? Or did it take a committee four years to discuss and decide? Either way, it seems bizarre. "

C'mon it took the church centuries to admit Galileo was right. Four years to take issue with a book is record time (lol). Seriously though, if this nun identifies herself as a Catholic theologian, her work has to tow the line or she needs to change her stated faith tradition. The Catholic church is entitled to not have its beliefs misinterpreted by someone who others view as an authentic source.

What are the church officers' specific objections to specific passages in the book? Without that, they are showing themselves as crooked clowns.

Cardinal Wuerl says the book could endager readers because he says it's not authentic Catholic teachings.
I'm not surprised that Cardinals and Bishops are more concerned about this book then their own complicit actions that aid, abett and protect their predator clerics and endanger countless lives as their predator clerics roam the streets.
Church image, protecting compicty officials obsessed with control over its members as well as covering-up sex crimes to protecting themselves is church officials' first priority. Their actions speak louder than their words.
Sadly, Catholics, intentionally or not, continue to fund clergy sex abuse with their donations.

I try to be a "good" Catholic, but the men in charge keep screwing up (and screwing.......well, you all know where this is leading).

Theologians explore, churchmen catch up later.

As the title says, she's mapping FRONTIERS, which is where theologians dwell. Otherwise, there would be no progress, and we'd be stuck the way the arch-fundamentalists of all religions are stuck, with little progress in understanding, and the sometimes fury of being boxed into a corner, which has unfortunate societal repercussions. E.g. the Terry Joneses and violence-preaching imams, who cannot see beyond their little boxes.

The Catholic Church is not your friend if you are a woman. I left the Church the day that the news reported that one more time, Pope Pius XII had banned birth control. I decided I'd live my life as I wanted to. No regrets, ever.

This Church, as one can see from the article, is extremely authoritarian and engenders a climate of fear in its members. It is also homophobic. There is no freedom of thought or room for any questioning.

It was also not directly founded by Peter or Christ. The Church came into being as a political entity, with the aim of accruing power to give it strength against the Roman Empire. The idea that it is the one, true Church is ridiculous. Especially if you were baptized as an infant, which the Church loves, it is beyond belief that you would be forever a member since you never made the choice to begin with!

The bishops say the book doesn't agree with Catholic teaching on" essential points” including the names of God and the Trinity. The NAMES? This is about what God is called?

I would suggest, humbly, that the nature of God is more important than what you call him. How do you get to be a bishop without realizing that?

Does anyone else look beyond the conventionally-accepted, medieval garb of these lunatics and wonder why their appearance doesn't freak people out?

This book sounds interesting. Must check it out. Thanks, bishops, for calling it to my attention.

This dispute is kind of an inter-Catholic thing. You have a Catholic academic/nun who is being criticized by Catholic bishops. The "political" aspect of the RC church in the US (the bishops) want to get more involved with the "academic" aspect (the universities). They want the universities to toe the line with traditional dogma. But you have things like tenure and academic freedom to deal with. RE: "The Catholic church is entitled to not have its beliefs misinterpreted by someone who others view as an authentic source. " Well that sentence from another person posting is the idea behind conservative and liberal Catholic conflicts. Who exactly is deciding the basic beliefs for the Catholic church? Jesus, the Pope, the Bishops? Martin Luther, Thomas Aquinas, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Dorothy Day, Micheal Novak, Newt Gingrich?

So sad to see that these guys in dresses can't stand the idea of a successful woman. This is why we must guard Separation of Church and State at all costs...nothing like a slippery slope back to blasphemy laws like they just put into effect in Ireland.........


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