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The Church Women Want
The Church Women Want
Catholic Women in Dialogue
A free-ranging discussion among prominent Catholic women from a variety of perspectives, left and right. Contributors including Elizabeth Johnson (editor), Susan Muto, Mary Ann Glendon, and Colleen Griffith debate church authority, reform, and the challenges faithful women face.
Created as part of the Catholic Common Ground initiative intended to build bridges across philosophical divides within the church, this award-winning book taps the wisdom of mysticism scholar Susan Muto, feminist theologian Elizabeth Johnson, pro life legal theorist Mary Ann Glendon, and many other leading women intellectuals in the church. It asks them what aspects of the church’s structure and theology they find most challenging, and what reforms or initiatives would help them more deeply lead lives of faith and service. Their answers invite further thought and debate, touching as they do on profound issues of ecclesiology, authority, revelation, and social justice.
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The Catholic Common Ground Initiative was founded by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago to promote dialogue about critical issues in the church. The charter statement says "There are urgent questions that the church in the United States knows it must air openly and honestly but which it increasingly feels pressed to evade or, at best, address obliquely." These issues include the changing roles of women, along with other concerns such as liturgy, sexuality, formation of lay ministers, responsibility to the poor, cultural diversity, and church governance. The Initiative calls for problems to be discussed through constructive debate by people with differing viewpoints. This book is the result of such a dialogue undertaken by two Catholic Women's colleges in New York, Marymount College in Tarrytown and the College of New Rochelle.
Participants pledged to attend four half-day seminars spaced over a two year period. Each session featured at least two speakers discussing differing viewpoints. Their essays along with background information from Elizabeth Johnson make up the format of this volume. Four different questions were posed for each session. Speakers addressed their viewpoints on l) What kind of church are American Catholic women looking toward in the twenty-first century? 2) Embodiment: women and men, equal or complementary? 3) What unifies and divides us as women? 4) Women as leaven in Church and society.
The resulting essays present fascinating points of view. I found myself nodding in agreement with some and talking back to others. What is clearly apparent is the level of education and depth of thought these women shared with the group. This volume is published
so that women may enter into dialogues with friends and neighbors about what the church should be with the goal that women will be able to feel fully a pan of an institution that historically has rejected their leadership gifts. Theologians included Susan Muto, Miriam Therese Winter, Sara Butler, Elizabeth Johnson, Colleen Griffith, Barbara Hilkert Andolsen, Diana Hayes, Ana Maria Diaz-Stevens, and Marcy Kaptur.
Essays are short and easy to follow. The reader doesn't need to be a theologian to understand the ideas and dreams of each speaker. Marcy Kaptur, a US Congressperson, invited women in her district to reflect on their hopes for the church. Excerpts from their letters were included after the essays. Their viewpoints range from patriarchal to feminist and reflect the complex, difficult position women in the Catholic Church face today.
—Terry Ruttger, St. Louise Park, Minnesota