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Rosemary Ruether

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: June 17 2004
Latest Update: June 18, 2004

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Index of Topics on Site Rosemary Ruether

  1. Introduction: Why should I leave the church? I want them to change.
  2. Reading Full source for reading for this sharing.
  3. Focus: cumulated frustrations with sexism in the church, profound disillusion with failure of the church to focus on Christ's mission of embracing the poor in the interest of justice, anger with killing and war, anger at the dominance of the dominant discourse
  4. Concepts: Keywords for theory and discussion. (For example: male power and authority, class and justice, liberation theology, the "disappeared," the church as interceding between human and God, the "arrogance of knowing" - on the Reagan piece, failure to acknowledge in good faith other perspectives, and cloaking the dominant perspective in the cloak of law or righteousness.
  5. Discussion Discussion questions.
  6. Linking to Substantive Courses

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I began reading Reuther's Sexism and God Talk and thoroughly enjoyed what she wrote; however when I completed my reading and prepared to write a review, I became quite enmeshed in the rhetoric. I don't know if it was hers or mine; more than likely mine.

I attempted time and again to write a review to no avail. It was then that I began to read Gaia and God. This book is far shorter than Sexism and God Talk, and much more wieldy. When Jeanne developed the shared reading template, I realized that it wasn't the length of the writing that was the problem; it was that I was attempting to build the earth in one fell swoop, and that I needed to pace myself and practice writing the review in much, much smaller increments, which I am now attempting to do.

I first became aware of feminist theology interestingly from my readings of a former Catholic Maryknoll priest, Phillipe Berryman. Berryman, now a journalist in his seventies, was a believer of the philosophy of liberation theology and was sent by the Maryknolls to Latin America to work with the poor. Berryman was forced to laicize himself by his "superiors" in the Maryknolls; he had become a priest of the poor and he had written in one of his early books, Religious Roots of Rebellion, that there was nothing in canon law that even hinted that females couldn't become priests. After that I am surprised that he was not one of the "disappeared" by the ruling class military party. (I can't give any further information on book, as Jeanne has it at her house. One day soon she'll organize all the books and find it.). It was in the aforementioned book that Rosemary Reuther's name came up as an advocate of Paulo Freire, the noted Brazilian philosopher and author who taught the poor people in Sao Paulo, Brazil, to read within a couple of months. I became aware of Freire when I was introduced to his first book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, in the early seventies when I became politically radical.

Based on all of the previously mentioned readings and an additional plethora of readings I have completed in the past and from personal experiences I both needed to and wanted to share my experiences with all of you. Ruether has suggested that when women realize that the church as an institutional reality is so steeped in patriarchial hierarchy one could easily leave the church behind. Let me clarify when I refer to the church I am referring to the Roman Catholic church. At age eleven I was baptized in the Catholic faith, and when I was younger I was baptized in the Episcopalian Church.

I matured in the early sixties during a period when everyone was questionning all of their values from religion to war, to you name it. Several priests were beginning to question the church's hypocrisy on many issues. Close friends of my husband's family, who were priests, left the church.

And I, who believed what the church commanded/demanded on birth control, had six children. Prior to my marriage I taught for the Catholic Archdiocese of Loa Angeles, and I was the Catholic Youth Organization Girl of the year. You can see how politically motivated I was even then.

My children attended parochial school, that is however until my husband's business was so thoroughly trashed during one of the many recessions that we were asked to leave the school because we couldn't afford the tuition. I had given many hours to the church and school. One of my stints was a few years as a PTA president.

If nothing else would convince me, I can certainly see why the Brazilian ruling class were very disturbed when Paulo Freire taught the people how to read by raising the people' conscious level of awareness. And the librarian at St Mary's Academy saved all of the books on the Index (the catholic church's list of books forbidden to read) for me to read. Mind you these books were not pornographic, just anti catholic doctrine.

Now the church is denying the right of catholics to partake of church rites, if they believe in women's rights, if they believe in same sex marriage, and, to top it all, we find that to remain in good standing with the church we must be anti stem cell research.

Recently, I was listening to a sermon in one of the three churches of the neighborhood in which I live. The priest was young and recently ordained, delivering his speech with a great gusto and emotion, and in a loud voice stated "God is our MAN in heaven." I wanted to shout out, "Is that the same as our man in Cairo?" I really thought God was spirit. Obviously church doctrine and the young priest momentarily split from each other on that issue. And then recently on the Sunday of the final week of mourning for Ronald Reagan, a church deacon (an individual who is not a priest, but one who has been allowed to read the gospel and deliver the sermon) spent most of his sermon speech extolling the virtues of Ronald Reagan, telling the audience how wonderful and humble and kind Reagan was, and that we should be grateful for his presidency. My God, I wanted to puke, and I also wanted to shout out that Reagan was a murderer. I have walked out before in loud protest. Just wait one day I will be tired and pissed enough to do this.

Do I hear my audience raise the hue and cry that if the church annoys me so much, why don't I just leave? Well I have left before; however I truly believe that liberation theology is where the church is supposed to be; that Christ came to work with the masses, just as Paulo Freire, Blase Bonpane, Phillipe Berryman, Camillo Torres, the Boff brothers, Phillip and Daniel Berrigan, Father Peter Mobe, and a host of others have done and are currently doing,

On page 263 of Gaia and God Ruether states that "humanity has no real alternative to population control." She further queries "the question is, do we want population control voluntarily, before conception, or violently, by war, famine or disease?" This morning, on the radio, I heard that it was too bad that the White House didn't hear that "terrorist" planes were going to crash on the targets on the East coast, because if they had known U.S. military planes could have blown those planes out of the sky. Is the comparison here that those on the targeted planes could then have been sacrificed, instead of the many on the ground? I pose the question" "Couldn't the U.S. government have decided a very long time ago to abandon its racist, militaristic and colonialist behavior and stop creating hatred ?


Pat, I need this section.Copy and paste the section of the article you want to share. Several paragraphs should do. Email to me so that I can upload them to the readings for that session.

Discussion Questions

  1. You might ask if the church, a very private organization has not usurped the public sphere for church authorities, and then locked women out of what was their private sphere.

    I think you're arguing that there can be no legitimate interference of the church between you and your conscience and your God. That makes religion very private. It also makes it terrifying, for you don't have the church to blame if things go wrong. One reason for the rules is to avoid individul accountability for your actions. Some people don't want that much power on their own. The church advocates power and control in the public sphere of the institution. You're advocating power in the private sphere. Threatens the church's control. Big issue for most religions, not just Catholics.

  2. You might ask why God is considered sexless, but it usually represented as male.

    Again, be sure to give the reader a clue as what you're thinking. Refer to dominant discourse pattern of male hierarchical authority.

  3. Could we talk about your anger with the Deacon? Over his praise of Reagan.

    Bear in mind you have a public/private sphere issue again. At Reagan's funeral, we're in a private sphere of mourning, and the only appropriate public sphere entry is to be supportive of those in mourning. Your anger comes up when the Deacon takes a dominant discourse position, with no awareness of the extent to which some would disagree with the praise of a private life being extrapolated onto that private person's engagement in public action.

    Being pissed enough to shout or walk out is not effective answerability. Might make you feel a little better, but what about those in the church who didn't even pick up on the issue? Have you ever considered asking any of the priests to permit a brief open forum to raise such issues with parishoners? Time to look for change. And time not to let them judge you as an emotional female.

    Conceptual Linking

    • Agencies:
      Sample linking: As faith-based social services continue to grow, how will religion affect these services? Could someone ask for forums to discuss answerability wth these faith-based organizations?

    • Law:
      Sample linking: Consider that agencies are authorized by our elective officials to carry out the solutions to our social problems that they legislate. The Agency has no real power; they act through the authorized elecive official. How does this tie in to rules and religion? Do the priests have any real power? What about their willingness to set aside time and space to hear validity claims that differ from those with which they are familiar?

    • Moot Court:
      Sample linking: Suppose the mother of a six-year-old has to work and has no one to care for her child. She calls for help and is told that she should contact social services. Can you figure out a path and an argument that might get her help from a faith-based agency? contact some and see. Could you make up a persuasive argument to convince a faith-based organization that it needs to listen in good faith in the name of justice?

    • Women in Poverty:
      Sample linking: Religion, the opiate of the people. Analyze that old rubric in terms of religion's multiple and varied roles in the issues of women and poverty. How many poor women are silenced by the church?

Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, June 2004.
"Fair use" encouraged.