Terry Ruttger, St. Louise Park, Minnesota

January 7, 2022

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.

We would love for you to receive our newsletter and update emails. Please subscribe here.