The Vatican’s Spiritual Violence Against Women’s Ordination By Rosemary Radford Ruether

The Vatican has adopted what amounts to a “zero tolerance” policy against those Catholics who actively advocate for women’s ordination, particularly against anyone involved in the movement of Roman Catholic Womenpriests which, for the past three years, has ordained thirty-five women in the United States. This movement began in June, 2002, when seven women were ordained by some Catholic bishops in Austria. Later several of these women were ordained bishops by these same bishops. They, in turn, have ordained more women priests. From this has sprung an increasingly organized movement, which is developing the theological vision of church which they hope to generate and are laying down the formal rubrics for education and preparation for ministry of those aspiring to be ordained in their community.

The Vatican summarily excommunicated the initial seven women ordained in 2002. As more women were ordained it was at first silent and then decreed that anyone being ordained in this movement, as well as those supporting it, were automatically excommunicated. This saved them the trouble of addressing each of these women individually. However, they have escalated their campaign against women’s ordination in the last month in response to Maryknoll priest, Father Roy Bourgeois, who on August 9, 2008 in Lexington, Kentucky, concelebrated the mass where long-time friend, Sevre-Duszynska, was ordained. Father Bourgeois also preached the homily at this ordination mass, where he denounced the Church’s refusal to ordain women as a sin comparable to the sin of racism. “Sexism is a sin” he declared. Continue reading “The Vatican’s Spiritual Violence Against Women’s Ordination By Rosemary Radford Ruether”

“It’s About Power”: Reflecting Upon and Pondering About Men in Feminism and Religion By John Erickson

The following is a guest post by John Erickson, doctoral student in Women’s Studies in Religion at Claremont Graduate University.  His research interests involve an interdisciplinary approach and are influenced by his time as the director of a women’s center and active member in the GLBTQ and women’s rights movements.  His work is inspired by the intersectionality of the feminism, queer identity, and religious political and cultural rhetoric.  He is the author of the blog, From Wisconsin, with Love and can be followed on Twitter at @jerickson85.

I must confess I have been struggling with writing this blog entry for a couple of months.  Although I don’t usually find myself at a loss for words, when discussing the role of men in feminism and religion, I must admit, I did not know what to say.

While thinking about my positionality within feminism, both as a man and self-identified feminist, I was continually brought back to the time where I felt as if I didn’t belong.  When my place as both an ally and advocate for gender and sexual equality was challenged not by other men who didn’t understand me but by a group of fellow female students in my first ever graduate class in Women’s Studies at Claremont Graduate University.

The overarching feeling that I can recall from the memory is how scary the prospect of a man in a women’s studies class appears to be.  What place did I have sitting in what has been traditionally defined as a “safe space” and more importantly, how would my presence in the classroom affect the open and empowering nature that women’s studies classes have symbolically represented in both the world of activism and academia?   Continue reading ““It’s About Power”: Reflecting Upon and Pondering About Men in Feminism and Religion By John Erickson”

Loving Harry Potter By Xochitl Alvizo

I went to the movies with a group of friends last Friday to watch the final Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. It was a great movie, fun and action-filled, and the energy of opening night only made it better. Afterward we all went out to eat and exchanged notes on our favorite scenes – talking about every little detail. At one point, one of my friends commented on the strong role women have in the Harry Potter movies/books. She said the story is carried by the women – that if it wasn’t for them Harry Potter would not exist. She made specific mention of Harry’s mom as having sacrificed her life for him. Lily dies so Harry can live.

This of course is when my brain comes to a screeching halt.

Women sacrificing their lives for others – I become suspicious and my defenses go up. Sacrifice = suffering. Suffering must not be glorified. Sacrifice must not be sacralized. I see red flags everywhere. Wait, though; haven’t those of us who are Christian-identified heard the opposite affirmed a million times? Jesus suffered and died – was sacrificed – for our sins. Further, Christians’ most sacred ritual, communion, includes reference to Jesus’ broken body and spilt blood. So, isn’t that what people do for love, sacrifice, as Harry’s mom did?

No. I don’t think that’s actually what people (or God) do for love. Continue reading “Loving Harry Potter By Xochitl Alvizo”

Why am I a witch? By Zsuzsanna E. Budapest

Zsuzsanna E. Budapest is the founder of the Dianic tradition and the Women’s Spirituality Movement and is the author of seven books including Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries.

I was born to a witch mother, who happened to be an artist of sacred art, creating simple home altars that the peasants used in their “clean” room; used only on special occasions. We made our living from selling these Madonna’s with child, Triple Goddess altars. Goddess loving, primitive city folk and country folks bought them to pray in front of. Her art re-inspired an ancient pagan faith. Mother’s sacred art was legendary. Nobody ever bought an image of a male saint or even St. Joseph to pray in front of. When the hardships were upon Hungarians, they turned to the great Mother. Our pre-Christian Boldogassznony (Glad Woman).

All this happened during the so called Communists occupation, which lasted many decades. I grew up in a city that was filled with statues of the Goddesses and Dianads. With all the churches we have in Hungary, not one of them is dedicated to Jesus Christ, but they are dedicated to his mother Goddess, Mary and her relatives; St. Ann, St. Kathryn, St. Elizabeth (a homegrown saint), along with St. Margaret.

During the bombing, much of this art was destroyed, but enough of them remained to pass on to the new generation the message: We stand proud on our past, we knew once  beauty and civilization. Continue reading “Why am I a witch? By Zsuzsanna E. Budapest”

The “Marriage Crisis” in the U.S and Around the World By Caroline Kline

The Mormon Church, the tradition in which I was raised, is into protecting marriage. In the United States, that seems to often mean deeply discouraging out of wedlock births and politically lobbying against homosexual unions.

But, according to Stephanie Coontz, who wrote the book Marriage, A History, “the marriage crisis” is a phenomenon taking place all over the world. But fascinatingly, that crisis doesn’t take the same form.

While United States legislators are worried about out of wedlock births, in Germany and Japan, policy makers are far more interested in increasing the birthrate, regardless of whether or not the parents are married. The United Nations recently initiated an enormous campaign to raise the age of marriage for girls in Afghanistan, India, and Africa (where the health of these young women is greatly impaired by early motherhood), whereas in Singapore the government launched a campaign to convince people to marry and have babies at a younger age. Continue reading “The “Marriage Crisis” in the U.S and Around the World By Caroline Kline”

Why (I) Work? The Difference Between A House Wife and Being Unemployed By Sara Frykenberg

The following is a guest post written by Sara Frykenberg, Ph.D., independent scholar and graduate of theWomen Studies in Religion program at Claremont Graduate University.

Ever since I graduated I have been keenly aware of the fact that am no longer a student who is “not working right now,” but am in fact, unemployed.  I do not have a job and have accumulated countless hours, applications and my fair share of rejection letters to attest to this fact.  However, something else has changed in my life this year: I also became a wife and gained a husband… and in between my job searches, while I am cleaning the house, planning meals and working on a GARDEN (which is thriving by the way, despite my previous occupation as a serial plant-killer), I’ve found myself considering, “Am I unemployed or am I a housewife?”

I ask myself this question, as I water the money tree next to my desk: a graduation gift from a friend.  *Am I imagining things or did it slightly quiver when I thought about getting an (outside) job* 

Planti-cide aside, the more I have considered this question, the more of a spiritual issue and a feminist issue its has become for me.  How do I find a balance between my sincere belief that the choice to be a homemaker is a beautiful one, and the feelings of shame or worthlessness I sometimes struggle with because I have not found a “real job.”  I find myself listing all of the things I have accomplished in the house each day to my husband when he gets home, as though I have to justify my existence or earn the grocery money I no longer have in my own bank account. Continue reading “Why (I) Work? The Difference Between A House Wife and Being Unemployed By Sara Frykenberg”

The Cross of Reality: The Linguistic Hiddenness of Naming Rape By Cynthia Garrity-Bond

In a recent Facebook thread, I read with interest the 2010 National Catholic Reporter article (“Women Won’t Let Us Go”) about the four American churchwomen, Maryknoll Srs. Ita Ford and Maura Clarke, Ursuline nun Dorothy Kazel and laywomen Jean Donovan on the 30th anniversary of their murders while working in El Salvador.

What instantly drew me in was the raw language of their ordeal, in which each of the four where raped, tortured and then shot to death. The word “rape” jumped off the page as if a foreign term, and I wondered why I felt this way. Not until I exhausted my search on the women did I understand my heightened surprise: in nearly all of the Google searches, the word, “abused” and not “raped” appeared in the telling of their story. Again, why the softening of the act through the use of the term abused? While I applaud NCR contributor Cheryl Wittenauer’s use of the word rape, I’m confused why so many others seemed unable or unwilling to call it what it is: rape.

When the six Jesuits from El Salvador were executed, the following formula was used to describe what occurred: “Date + six Jesuits, + “along with a housekeeper and her daughter killed by members of the El Salvadoran military.” In his recounting of the death of his Jesuit community, Jon Sobrino is one of the few who names the usually unnamed women: Julia Elba Ramos, 42, cook and housekeeper and Cecilia Ramos, 15, her daughter. Sobrino1 gives further details of the killings by informing the reader of the thirty men dressed in military uniform each carrying machine guns. The first three Jesuits were taken outside and executed. The remaining three Jesuits plus the women were then killed in their beds. Let’s step back from this gruesome scene to imagine what could be missing details of the deaths of Julia and her daughter Cecilia. While I have attempted to uncover the reality of that night, I have not been able to verify my suspicions, that before the women were executed, the military men first raped them, as was their custom. If I am correct, why the silence about their rape all these years later? Does their rape somehow lessen their lives and deaths? Are they considered martyrs as well? Continue reading “The Cross of Reality: The Linguistic Hiddenness of Naming Rape By Cynthia Garrity-Bond”

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits By Gina Messina-Dysert

Last week Cynthia Garrity-Bond shared a post about Michele Bachmann and the misuse of the word feminism to describe her.  Commenter Kate Barker noted that Bachmann does not self-identify as a feminist, a very important point I think.  It led me to wonder whether there are any women in politics who self-identify as feminist, and while there may certainly be some or even many, I cannot think of any who do so publicly.

During the Democratic National Convention in 2008, Hillary Clinton spoke of working towards women’s rights around the world, putting 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, and being a member of the “sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits,” but did not directly identify herself as a feminist.  I found Clinton’s membership to this “sisterhood” an interesting method of feminist self-identifying without employing the label.

It seems to me, to call oneself a “feminist” in the world of politics today would be to commit career suicide.  This term has joined the likes of “communist” or “socialist” and is utilized to create fear.  “Feminism” has become the new “F-word” and to self-identify as such, in politics, in religion, and in other spheres, often leads to marginalization. Continue reading “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits By Gina Messina-Dysert”

“She stood up straight and began praising God”: Luke 13: 10-13 By Theresa A. Yugar

The following is a guest post written by Theresa A. Yugar, Ph.D. Candidate in women studies in religion at Claremont Graduate University.

The gospel story of the crippled woman healed by Jesus of her ailment in the Gospel of St. Luke epitomizes for me the values of a Feminist Liberation theological perspective. For women, Feminist Theology as a discipline has enabled us to claim our dignity and rights as women and “stand up straight” as this woman in the gospel does. In the context of a larger church tradition which has not always affirmed women, Jesus models in his ministry both compassion and respect for the wellbeing of women. For eighteen years, this nameless woman, carried “a spirit that had crippled her,” so much that “she was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight,” (13:11).  Not only does Jesus heal her of her infirmities, but he also defends her dignity as a “daughter of Abraham.”

On a very intimate level I identify with this nameless woman who approached Jesus humbly seeking healing and liberation from the physical ailments that bound her. In my own life I have also experienced the same sense of bondage that this woman in the gospel is healed of. Like many women, I grew up struggling to affirm the dignity I had as a human being. Even though the church I love and grew up in stated that they value both men and women equally, in practice this was not the case. For me and the un-named woman, the relevance of this gospel in relation to Feminist Theology touches on the core of Jesus’ ministry, which was the liberation of all people from the oppressive structures that burdened them.  Continue reading ““She stood up straight and began praising God”: Luke 13: 10-13 By Theresa A. Yugar”

Field-Dependent or Field-Astute? By Charlene Spretnak

Charlene Spretnak is one of the Founding Mothers of the Women’s Spirituality movement. She is the author of eight books, including most recently Relational Reality. She is a professor in the Women’s Spirituality graduate program in the Philosophy and Religion Department at the California Institute of Integral Studies. For further information about her books, see 

Field-Dependent or Field-Astute?

While listening to an NPR station a few months ago, I heard a man – apparently a marketing whiz – say, “Teenage girls are a field-dependent market for us.” Hmmmm. There it is again, the long arm of Herman Witkin’s influence decades after his famous experiment in the psychology of visual perception in 1954, which found that male subjects tend strongly to focus on a foreground figure, while female subjects tend strongly to perceive figure and ground as a gestalt, or holistic totality. (These results have been replicated thousands of times since then, including cross-culturally.) However, following the experimental findings themselves, then came the patriarchal spin. Witkin assigned the positive, admirable label “field-independent” to men and the less admirable “field-dependent” to women. He and other psychologists extrapolated from his findings that women’s cognitive style is “conforming,” “child-like,” and “global,” being similar, as Witkin added in 1962, to the [supposedly] undifferentiated thought processes found in “primitive” cultures. He added that women’s “field-dependence” renders us unable to maintain a “sense of separate identity,” unlike “field-independent males,” whose cognitive style was seen as “analytical” and “self-reliant.” In more recent decades female psychologists have suggested that women’s cognitive style might well be re-labeled “field-sensitive.” But is that really sufficient? After all, it carries the connotation of women’s being supposedly “over-sensitive.”

Why does this matter now? Because the ground is shifting fast under the old view of reality as an aggregate of discrete entities (foreground figures, as Witkin would say), which may or may not relate to one another.  On the contrary, numerous discoveries in recent years indicate that the entire physical world, including humans, is far more dynamically interrelated – in both structure and functioning – than had been imagined (except by indigenous cultures and Eastern philosophy). Even as someone who’s been tracking the Relational Shift for decades, I was amazed by many of the recent discoveries – as well as the fact that this shift is now decidedly mainstream. Continue reading “Field-Dependent or Field-Astute? By Charlene Spretnak”

This is What a Catholic Looks Like By Kate Conmy

The following is a guest post written by Kate Conmy, MA, Membership Coordinator for the Women’s Ordination Conference.  Kate celebrates spiritual activism, feminism, and human rights.  She currently works as the Membership Coordinator for the Women’s Ordination Conference and lives in Washington, DC.  She can be contacted at

In my last semester as a Religion student at Mount Holyoke College I sat in my Feminist Theology seminar with only one question for our guest speaker: “Why are you still a Catholic?” A question I rarely dared to ask myself as I spent most of my studies concentrating on Buddhism, traveling abroad to Dharamsala, India, interning with the Buddhist Peace Fellowship in Berkeley, even learning Tibetan; by most observable assessments I had swapped the pew I grew up in for a zafu.  But Mary Hunt reminded me in such a simple and smart way that Catholicism is about community building and justice seeking. She said: “This is what a Catholic looks like. We have a responsibility to speak this language.”

In that moment I realized I had been resisting something that has always belonged to me. Raised in a Jesuit-educated Catholic family in Upstate, New York I felt less confirmed within the church, and more convinced that we were celebrating a god that was too small. One of the great mysteries for me growing up in a church-going family was the personal and religious reconciliation the Catholics I knew negotiated, sometimes weekly to make sense of their faith.  The dissonance between what was practiced during Mass, and what Catholicism meant at the dinner table seemed an exhausting spiritual dance of ambivalence.  It wasn’t until I began to identify as a feminist theologian that my spiritual worlds converged in a moment of satori: ambivalence is a virtue!  The sisters and daughters of Mary Daly gave me permission to re-claim my Catholicism with all of my questions as an extraordinary action of faith.  Ambivalence means courageously engaging the sacred to foster critique, conversation and innovation in the pursuit of knowing God. Just as Carter Heyward writes, “To love God is to un-do evil,” I so strongly believe that God must manifest as an expression of creative justice whereby inclusivity, “right-relation,” and the elimination of discrimination are central on the path toward a higher liberation. I graduated feeling empowered by women, activists, and radicals who claimed their faith and the responsibility to speak a language beyond the binary in order to celebrate the wisdom of all human and divine goodness.  Continue reading “This is What a Catholic Looks Like By Kate Conmy”

Qu(e)erying Our Lady By Xochitl Alvizo

I love art. I especially love certain women’s art – women such as Frida Kahlo, Cathy Ashworth, Sudie Rakusin, and Alma Lopez. To me, their art is a reflection of women’s strength, creativity, and beauty. Frida Kahlo, for example, expressed so many aspects of herself and her experience through her art. In it one can glimpse her passionate love for Diego Rivera, her continuous physical pain, her search for meaning, and the unending hopefulness she maintained throughout it all. Frida Kahlo’s art, like her person, was vibrant and full of life, colorful and yet broken. She expressed the wide spectrum of her experience not in words only but in color and images, texture, paint and print. As she put it, “I paint my own reality” – her own reality is what she knew and it is what she painted.

I rely on art to do what academics often cannot do well – what I cannot do well – which is to communicate the truths that rattle our being down to its deep core in ways that connect with others. There have been times in my academic life when I have encountered new insights that changed my life forever. Moments of being shaken and awakened at my very core by a truth that until then had eluded me. But such moments can be hard to share with others because they can be hard to translate to words, even if such moments have come to me by words. Learning about feminist theology and being shaken by the truths it spoke to me is one such encounter – and it was indeed an academic one that is often hard for me to put into words and explain to others. On the other hand, encountering Alma Lopez’s artwork was also a core rattling moment, but one which I can more easily share.

Our Lady - Lopez
“Our Lady” by Alma Lopez (1999)

Alma Lopez’s Our Lady is a digital art piece in which Our Lady of Guadalupe is depicted (embodied, really) in a more obviously female form than is traditionally expected. For this, every time her piece is on exhibit, Lopez receives a barrage of protest and harassment – as does the sponsoring institution. Accusations of obscenity, profanity, and blasphemy come her way.  But, why?

When I see Lopez’s Our Lady, I do not see blasphemy or obscenity, I see a celebration of the female and the sacred. I see the beauty of God’s queer incarnation – and I remember – I remember that the word became flesh and made her home among us. From the womb of a woman’s body, her life-giving body, the divine took human shape. Boundaries of sacred and profane forever blurred.

Alma Lopez, like Frida Kahlo, paints her own reality; she says this piece is a reflection of her relationship with Our Lady of Guadalupe, a divine image that has been part of her life since she was very young.  But I also think she reveals something more than just her personal relationship with Our Lady… Continue reading “Qu(e)erying Our Lady By Xochitl Alvizo”

Good Mormon Feminists Vs. Bad Mormon Feminists: The Dividing Line By Caroline Kline

(cross posted at the Mormon feminist blog, The Exponent)

In a couple of different conversations I’ve had with her, Mormon feminist Lorie Winder Stromberg has proposed that many Mormons commonly perceive two types of feminists within the Church.

The first are the good Mormon feminists. These are feminists, often professional women, who may question gender roles and women’s lack of visibility in texts and leadership, but are on the whole seen as faithful and dedicated to the Church.

The second are the bad Mormon feminists.  These are the feminists that are regarded as dangerous, apostate, and disloyal to the Church.

According to Stromberg’s theory, the dividing line between these two groups of feminists — the thing that makes the one group good and the one group bad — is the issue of women’s ordination to the priesthood. Continue reading “Good Mormon Feminists Vs. Bad Mormon Feminists: The Dividing Line By Caroline Kline”

The Chispa* Carrier: Rosemary Radford Ruether By Renny Golden

The following is a guest post written by Renny Golden, Professor Emerita, Northeastern Illinois University.

The Chispa* Carrier: Rosemary Radford Ruether by Renny Golden

What kind of voice is breaking silence, and what kind of silence is being broken? Adrienne Rich

She came to prison with hidden keys. The way forward,

she said, is behind us. With only a spoon of history she

gutted a tunnel that ran below the plazas of Prince after Prince.

We sat waiting behind bars: mouldy histories, slop theologies

in mush bowls shoved under cell doors. Eat this or starve.

We prayed for deliverance we could not name.

We imagined her walking through deserts, our prophet

searching the sand for bones, pouring through ancient scripts,

gospels, archeologies, the dank stacks of basement libraries,

reliquaries with their throb of real blood, archives.

We rattled the bars with questions: Can she pick locks? Continue reading “The Chispa* Carrier: Rosemary Radford Ruether By Renny Golden”

Feminism in Disguise By Cynthia Garrity-Bond

Recently CNN ran a feature article on GOP presidential runner Michele Bachmann, an extreme conservative congresswoman from Minnesota, whose political ideologies are shaped and endorsed by the Tea Party []  The article raised the question if Bachmann, like Hilary Clinton, could be considered a feminist icon, with the distinction of Bachmann as an “evangelical feminist.”  While the article gives a brief history of evangelical feminism, starting with the appointment of Christian conservative Elizabeth Dole during the reign of Ronald Reagan, a huge assumption is made by not clarifying what, exactly, is a feminist and what makes one a feminist?  This sin of omission thus renders the term “evangelical feminist” as a binary coupling that locates feminism to a 1970’s reformist notion of women’s equality with men, but men in their shared social status. While Bachmann may object to being identified as a feminist, I find it interesting that the writer for CNN has no difficulty (or sense of clarity) with the consideration of her as a feminist.  What, I wonder, in Bachmann’s political trajectory is considered “feminist”?

In Feminism is for Everybody, author bell hooks takes to task what she identifies as “lifestyle-based feminism” which hooks argues, “suggest[s] any woman could be a feminist no matter what her political beliefs.” Enter Michele Bachmann and her beloved Tea Party. Admittedly the Tea Party is all over the map in their ideology, yet a few constants can be teased out.  For example, they overwhelmingly disapprove of President Obama’s policy of engaging with Muslim countries.  They support Arizona’s immigration laws, feel gay and lesbian couples should not be able to marry, global warming is simply made-up, the repeal of the Health Care legislation, repeal of minimum wage, and reduction or elimination of reproductive rights for women and men.  All of which begs the question, can an individual who invest in a political ideology of extreme nationalism while further excluding those on the margins through racist immigration laws, homophobic fears, classist response to the poor and sick while promoting a misdirected Biblical position of dominance of the earth and its limited resources be consider a feminist?

Recall in the last post Rosemary Radford Ruether’s understanding of feminism as “a critique of patriarchy as a system that distorts the humanity of both women and men.” One form of distortion arises when patriarchy co-opts feminism as power gained through the exploitation and oppression of others.  In what hooks identifies as “power feminism” of the 90’s, wealthy white heterosexual women became the icons of feminist success by appropriating feminist jargon while sustaining their commitment to Western imperialism and transnational capitalism. Which goes back to my initial point, we must clarify what we mean when we use the word feminist or feminism.  Is it a chameleon-like identity or a political movement that seeks to end sexism, exploitation and oppression of women and men? Continue reading “Feminism in Disguise By Cynthia Garrity-Bond”

What is Feminism and Why Should We Do it? By Rosemary Radford Ruether

The following is a guest contribution by Rosemary Radford Ruether, Ph.D., Professor of Feminist Theology at Claremont Graduate University and Claremont School of Theology.  She is a founding mother of the feminist theology movement and author of multiple articles and books including Sexism and God-TalkGaia and God, and Women Healing Earth.

What is Feminism and why should we do it? Is it still relevant? Is it relevant cross culturally? Feminism basically means the affirmation of the full humanity of women.  This means that all the ways women have been defined as inferior, secondary and dependent on men since the rise of Patriarchy roughly six-to ten thousand years ago are rejected. It means that women are affirmed as fully human, not partly human or complementary to the male, but with all human attributes and capacities, in relationships of both autonomy and mutually with other humans, male and female, as well as the ecosystem.

Feminism is relevant cross culturally because all known cultures presently existing have been shaped in one way or another by patriarchy, although in different ways. Thus feminism must take a vast plurality of cultural contexts and forms. What it means will be different for working class African-American women than for middle class white women; different for Jewish or for Muslim women than for Christian women. These differences do not negate one another, unless some feminists make the mistake of thinking that their feminist context is normative. Rather this diversity is precisely the wonderful richness of feminism, its capacity and necessity of being articulated in many contexts and cultural locations.

Feminism has accomplished a lot in the last hundred years since it began to reform law, culture and social relations in the late nineteenth century, but it has still only barely begun. Patriarchy is very deeply entrenched and has endless ways of reasserting its patterns of male domination, covertly and overtly. In some areas it asserts itself aggressively and violently, as in Afghanistan when women are forced to wear all-encompassing burkas, acid thrown in their face when they have uncovered heads and schools for girls are burned. In other areas such as the West women are seduced by dress and appearance to play the roles of bodily mirroring of male power. Religious is evoked to shame and enforce patriarchy; but psychiatry and biological science can also been used to claim unquestionable authorization for women’s dependency. Continue reading “What is Feminism and Why Should We Do it? By Rosemary Radford Ruether”

Catholic Church Targets Proponent of Women’s Ordination; Feminist Theologian By Mary E. Hunt

The following is a guest post written by Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D., co-founder and co-director of WATER (Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual).

As a senior official for Pope John Paul II, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger envisioned a leaner, meaner church, with conservative doctrine and compliant faithful. Now that he is Pope Benedict XVI, his dream is coming true. Other senior churchmen, apparently unaware of the scandal that pedophilia and episcopal cover-ups have wrought, go blithely about their business of disciplining priests, nuns, and theologians. What used to be a large tent of a church is now a tepee—soon to be a pup tent—if these gentlemen have their way. Catholics wonder where it will end.

Click here to read the full article by Mary E. Hunt. It appears in the online magazine Religion Dispatches.

Cross posted at WATER Voices –

Eroticized Wives and Mormonism By Caroline Kline

(cross posted at the Mormon feminist blog, The Exponent)

“As the clock approaches the hour of her husband’s return, a nervous housewife readies herself for his arrival. She checks herself one last time in the mirror, smoothes her hair, and practices a sultry pout. Hearing her husband’s car in the driveway, she shuffles, penguin-style, to the front door and waits…

The door swings toward her, her husband takes one step into the house, and then he stops, as if frozen, and gawks. “Welcome home, darling,” she says, batting her eyelashes. His wife stands in the front hall of their home wrapped in nothing but yards and yards of plastic wrap, her middle-aged curves visible, but distorted through layers of transparent film…Served up like a TV dinner for her husband’s consumption, this wife has become what author Marabel Morgan calls a Total Woman, a model of Christian marital perfection.”

As I read these first paragraphs of an article by Rebecca Davis entitled, “Eroticized Wives: Evangelical Marriage Guides and God’s Plan for the Christian Family,” I, like the husband above, guffawed. I admire people putting efforts into spicing up their marriage, but this seemed ludicrous to me.

It was also interesting to note that this Total Woman movement, which flamed to life in the mid 70’s, was at least partially inspired by Mormonism’s own Helen Andelin – author of Fascinating Womanhood Continue reading “Eroticized Wives and Mormonism By Caroline Kline”

Woman as Partner or Possession:The Irreconcilable Voices of Mormonism’s D&C 132

(cross posted at the Mormon feminist blog, The Exponent)

Doctrine & Covenants 132 stands as one of Mormonism’s greatest conundrums. In this one section of Mormon scripture, we have the empowering notions of eternal marriage and eternal progression, coupled later with the soul crushing commandment to practice polygamy. Embedded within the text of this section are various ideas and notions that seem simply irreconcilable, many of which surround the issue of gender.

In the first half of 132, equality between the sexes in the next life is emphasized. ““… if a man marry a wife… by the new and everlasting covenant….they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things… Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting,because they continue. Then they shall be above all, because all things are subject unto themThen shall they be gods, because they have all power…” (19-20).

Note how equitable this language is between the sexes. The inclusive pronoun ‘they’ is emphasized time and time again. There is no hierarchy between the man and woman, no patriarchy. A man and a woman journey into eternity side by side, equal partners as they both guide and shape and wield their godly power. Continue reading “Woman as Partner or Possession:The Irreconcilable Voices of Mormonism’s D&C 132”

Will Women Priests Change the Church? By Mary E. Hunt

The following is a guest post written by Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D., co-founder and co-director of WATER (Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual).

A New Documentary, “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican,” starts the conversation…

Catholic women priests are an oxymoron for the Vatican. It considers them automatically excommunicated before the holy oil is dry on their hands. Other Catholics accept them as sacramental ministers and are delighted with the innovation. Still, others, myself included, want far deeper structural changes in the Catholic Church such that priesthood loses its baked-on charm and ministry becomes the expected task of adult members. This is an important theological conversation that the Vatican wishes would go away. Memo to them: it is just starting.

Read the full article by Mary E. Hunt on the online magazine Religion Dispatches.

Originally posted at WATER Voices –

Feminism, Ontology and the Priesthood of all Believers

At a surprisingly early age, perhaps nine or ten, I became the author of my own spiritual narrative, meaning, I took it upon myself to initiate and pursue the deep mystery of my faith.  Weekly Mass was an event, not an obligation, and something to which I attended without my family. The singleness of my worship at such a young age drew stares and whispers from those families who had arrived in tact. And while I was not unaware of their curiosity, I found it easier to lose myself in the absolute wonder of my environment. This was the world to which I belonged.  I was at once home and alive in a devotion filled with sacramentals, those objects of religious piety that created a force field of God’s protection around me. 

While the mystery of God’s love enveloped and graced my adolescence, a slow and creeping suspicion began to take hold of my faith. Because of my “girlishness,” I was barred as an alter server, and I began to absorb my otherness. I worried about my difference, and began to question the fairness of God. Telegraphic messages of inferiority caused me great confusion. The implicit reality that as female I was ontologically challenged, slowly sifted its way into my psyche and I would argue, my soul as well.

As a budding young feminist, what I found within the teachings of the church, either implicit or explicitly, did not coincide with what I felt to be the inner me.  On the cusp of adulthood, the collision between self and Church [read as God] was inevitable. The catechetical formation of my youth, of coming forth equally male and female in the image and likeness of God seemed like a childish myth and certainly not the reality of the andocentric church to which I was now departing.

Fast forward twenty years, and I cautiously found myself back in the Catholic Church, only this time in the arms of feminist theologians. I was hooked.  Their writings informed my life choices, directing me towards my current doctoral pursuit.  Yet I have found the academic arena is able to shield and protect me from the pain I continue to feel within the institutional church. To demonstrate the interweaving of the challenges and nourishment I experience as a Catholic I addressed above, I would like to share with you the following story. Continue reading “Feminism, Ontology and the Priesthood of all Believers”

What Feeds Your Soul? By Cathy Dundas-Reyes

The following is a guest from Cathy Dundas-Reyes, Ph.D.

I have finished coursework in Leadership Studies, but feel like I could use another three years to read all the additional leadership literature out there. I took comps two weeks ago and now get to wait…for the results. I had prepared my mind before I headed back for my test. I knew it would be hard to switch gears – having nothing to really study anymore. But it has been harder than I thought.

For a few days, I was restless and irritated. I tried to study for lit review but was not productive. All I felt was exhausted. I napped everyday and still wanted to sleep at night. I realized I could use the time to minister to my own soul. My feminine soul to be more specific.

I had a glimpse of her in my mind. She was a runner in a race and was worn out. She had kept up for the race, but she was done. Her head was down and she needed to rest. She was toned and in good shape – she had been a faithful companion. But now she needed something from me. Could I just sit and listen? When was the last time I did something that fed my soul?

What feeds your soul? I thought about lots of things that feed my feminine soul. A visit to the Getty museum, exploring the coast for unexpected beauty, a massage, dancing…chocolate ice cream. So that is what I will do…while I wait.

Interestingly, I had another image of my feminine soul almost a year ago. She was a slave, in chains, at the mercy of the task master. She was malnourished, neglected and in torment. I was struck by the contrast of the two images. Now, she may be tired, but she is powerful and strong. She grew from a slave to a powerful running partner. Lady Wisdom says “I am understanding, power is mine” (Prov 8:14). Find out what feeds your feminine soul – find that deep understanding and power. I would love to hear your comments about what you discover.

For more about the feminine soul – see Janet Davis’ book, The Feminine Soul: Surprising Ways the Bible Speaks to Women (2006).

Mary Daly: Radical Elemental Feminist and Sinner By Gina Messina-Dysert

While some argue that Mary Daly was too radical, I have been greatly influenced by her contributions to the field of feminism and religion.  I can still remember the first time I read a piece of her work.  It was during my undergraduate career at Cleveland State University in a course entitled “Women and Religion.”  I was immediately impacted and wanted to know more about this bold, strong and courageous woman, and although I had already considered myself a feminist, it was in that moment I recognized the existence of patriarchy in religion.  Shortly thereafter I applied to a graduate program in religious studies and became better acquainted with Daly’s work and the intersection of feminism and religion.

While I must admit that I am troubled by some of Daly’s claims and disagree with some of her contentions, I have also been significantly influenced by her foundational work in feminist theology, her demand for women’s liberation and Spinning of new tales and new ideas.  Daly called for women to have the courage to be, to experience a new fall out of patriarchal systems and into a new being that allows women to discover their capabilities, the dynamic power women possess within themselves.

According to Mary E. Hunt, co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER), “Her contributions to feminist theology, philosophy, and theory were many, unique, and if I may say so, world-changing. She created intellectual space; she set the bar high. Even those who disagreed with her are in her debt for the challenges she offered…She always advised women to throw our lives as far as they would go. I can say without fear of exaggeration that she lived that way herself.”[1]

While I never had the opportunity to meet Mary Daly, I have no doubt been inspired by her brilliance, courage, wit, and spirit.  My feminist and theological views have been shaped through her influence. I have been able to spiral into freedom and rename and reclaim my own experiences; I have found my own creative power.  Thank you for having the courage to sin big Mary Daly.

“There are and will be those who think I have gone overboard. Let them rest assured that this assessment is correct, probably beyond their wildest imagination, and that I will continue to do so.” – Mary Daly

Between Mother Mary and Mother God: It’s a Mystery!

“It’s a mystery!” was the repeated response my mother gave to me whenever I asked her theological questions that fell outside the realm of the Catholic Baltimore Catechism.  To be fair, my questions were usually a bit precocious for a young child, but who are we kidding, I was a rather strange and overly religious kid.  My idea of a good time was kneeling before our three-foot statue of the Virgin Mary as our family recited our Lenten rosary.  And while my brothers were contorting themselves into positions that would qualify for Cirque de Soleil, I was piously straight and focused.  Mary was my pathway to the big three, The Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost.  And while I knew I was suppose to desire the Three-in-One, they did not hold the same sway over me as the Mary who stood atop the world while crushing Satan in the form of a snake. My love for Jesus was more a sense of obligation for the unfair rap he had to endure while on earth, the Great Sacrifice for the sin of Adam and Eve.  My image of God as a not-so-nice-Father-to-his-only-Son sealed itself into my consciousness early on.  “Why,” I would ask my mother, “if God is love would he insist on such a bloody and painful sacrifice for a sin that honestly does not seem so bad.” You guessed it, “It’s a mystery!”  was her response.

But I have since come to learn that it’s not a mystery, but rather a matter of shifting the theological lens from an abusive Father to a God who has been totally misrepresented.  A God who is both unnameable and pronounceable.  Who offers us the mystery of God’s self in every single seen and unseen element of the earth and cosmos.  But still, that does not always work for me.  I need more.  In times of heartache or sorrow I need an image with skin and bones and a heart that is larger than my pain. I need a Creator God that will rock me back and forth, soothing my fears and yes, even caressing my face with cool breaths that remind me I will survive this latest insult to life.  In these times I know what God is not. I know God is not a rock, or a wispy tuft of air.  God is not the mighty King on high able to judge my enemies.  Nor is God a warrior who kicks ass over the unrighteous.  God is my Mother.  Maybe this is why Mary has always worked for me.  Maybe she never really was the mediator between Them and me, she is Them.  Theologically I may be on shaky ground, but the mystery between Mary as Mother and Mother God is one I know, not one I can defend. And it is one that continues to sustain and let me know that I am never too old to be held in the Mother’s embrace.

Female Language and Imagery of the Divine By Gina Messina-Dysert

According to Rita Gross, “If we do not mean that God is male when we use masculine pronouns and imagery, then why should there be any objections to using female imagery and pronouns as well?” What an important question. I was raised using only male language when talking about God and while I am embarrassed to admit it, spent my childhood through my early college years believing that God was a man. As studying religion and theology has shaped my life, I decided that gender neutral language when talking about God was the most appropriate way to approach the problem of God-talk and sexism, and thus utilized the term“divine” to talk about God. It made sense to me. But then I began reading Gross, as well as Carol Christ and Elizabeth Johnson, and other feminist scholars who argued that we must use female language to talk about God in order to have positive female imagery of the divine. Right now we are inundated with male language, we must balance that out.

And so, I decided that I must use female language to refer to God. To be honest, I feel comforted by talking about the divine as woman, as mother. In order to further develop my own imagery of God as woman, I wrote a prayer that I wanted to share. It was a great spiritual exercise for me to describe the qualities I feel the divine possesses and it allowed me to experience a closer connection to Divine Mother.

Prayer to Divine Mother

Great Divine Mother

Who is Immanent in All Things

Spiraling Life into Being

And Communicating through Nature

She Who is Compassionate and Merciful

Nurturing our Spirit

Her Benevolence felt Strongly

And Encountered through Humanity

She Who is Guardian

Cradling us with Affection

Her Protection Sensed

And Her Love a Source of Haven

She Who is Sustainer

Nourishing our Lives

She Who is Vivifier

Cultivating our Hearts

Great Divine Mother

Guide Me to Have Faith in Your Wisdom

To Share Your Gentle Compassion

And to be Sincere in Spirit and Heart

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