Feminist theologians speak encouragement to women
Sixteen prominent women theologians in the U.S. Church issued a joint statement Apr. 29 urging other Catholic women to keep envisioning a church future beyond patriarchal domination, because the ways things are now is not the design of God. (Full text below.)
The manifesto was developed during a weekend retreat at St. Marys College, Notre Dame, Ind., for all the annual speakers, 1985 through 2001, in the Madeleva Lecture series, named for Holy Cross Sister Madeleva Wolff, the late former president of the college.
Several of the signers are also long-time favorite speakers at Call To Action, including Joan Chittister, Sandra Schneiders, and Diana Hayes. At the public symposium Apr. 29, the declaration was proclaimed in both English and Spanish by Chittister and Jeanette Rodriguez, a CTA board member. The previous evening, 12 women who are regional anchors of the Women in Church Leadership (WICL) joint project of FutureChurch and CTA presented a WICL packet and a summary of project accomplishments to each of the signers.
Schneiders, series speaker in 1986 and CTAs keynoter in 1995, delivered the Madeleva Lecture 2000, entitled, With Oil in Their Lamps: Faith, Feminism and the Future. She detailed the irreversible effects of feminism both on American society and on the Church, and linked feminism to the Churchs prophetic vocation, with Jesus as model. Feminism, she said, is a comprehensive ideology, rooted in womens experience of sexually based oppression. This feminism critiques patriarchy as an essentially dysfunctional system, embraces an alternative vision for humanity and the earth, and works to make the vision a reality.
Elizabeth Johnson, who will be CTA keynoter Nov. 4 in Milwaukee, said the Manifesto is especially for women in the Church who are hanging on by their fingernails, in deep spiritual distress. She told the St. Marys audience, We are entering into a particularly dark time, a time to keep hope alive.
The Madeleva Manifesto: A Message of Hope and
In the tradition of Sister Madeleva Wolff, CSC, we sixteen Madeleva lecturers have been invited to speak a message of hope and courage to women in the church. Reflecting the diversity of gifts bestowed on us by the Spirit, we speak from our particular experiences and vocations, yet share in a universal vision that is faithful to our catholic tradition.
To women in ministry and theological studies we say: re-imagine what it means to be the whole body of Christ. The way things are now is not the design of God.
To young women looking for models of prophetic leadership, we say: walk with us as we seek to follow the way of Jesus Christ, who inspires our hope and guides our concerns. The Spirit calls us to a gospel feminism that respects the human dignity of all, and who inspires us to be faithful disciples, to stay in the struggle to overcome oppression of all kinds whether based on gender, sexual orientation, race, or class.
To women who are tempted by the demons of despair and indifference, we say: re-imagine what it means to be a full human being made in the image of God, and to live and speak this truth in our daily lives.
To women who suffer the cost of discipleship we say: you are not alone. We remember those who have gone before us, who first held up for us the pearl of great price, the richness of Catholic thought and spirituality. We give thanks to those who continue to mentor us.
To the young women of the church we say: carry forward the cause of gospel feminism. We will be with you along the way, sharing what we have learned about the freedom, joy and power of contemplative intimacy with God. We ask you to join us in a commitment to far-reaching transformation of church and society in non-violent ways. We deplore, and hold ourselves morally bound, to protest and resist, in church and society, all actions, customs, laws and structures that treat women or men as less than fully human. We pledge ourselves to carry forth the heritage of biblical justice which mandates that all persons share in right relationship with each other, with the cosmos, and with the Creator.
We hold ourselves responsible to look for the holy in unexpected places and persons, and pledge ourselves to continued energetic dialogue about issues of freedom and responsibility for women. We invite others of all traditions to join us in imagining the great shalom of God.
April 29, 2000
Feast of St. Catherine of Siena, lay woman, Doctor of the Church
St. Marys College, Notre Dame, Ind.
Signers of the Madeleva statement
The Madeleva Manifesto was signed by the 16 Madeleva Lecturers in Spirituality, 1985-2001:
Madeleva Symposium participants: From left (standing): Joan Chittister, Lisa Sowle Cahill, Elizabeth Johnson, Denise Carmody, Mary Boys, Elizabeth Dreyer, Gail Porter Mandell, Dolores Leckey, Maria Harris, Kathleen Norris, Jeanette Rodriguez, and Sr. Rose Anne Schultz, St. Marys College vice-president. Front row (seated): Mary Catherine Hilkert, Diana Hayes, Sandra Schneiders, Monika Hellwig, Marilou Eldred, St. Marys president, and Sr. Margaret Brennan, who chaired the meeting. (Photo: Rita Koehler)
Holy Names Sr. Mary C. Boys is professor of practical theology at Union Theological Seminary, New York.
Lisa Sowle Cahill is professor of moral theology at Boston College, and president of the Catholic Theological Society of America.
Denise L. Carmody is Jesuit Community Professor at Santa Clara University.
Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister* is executive director of Benetvision: A Resource and Research Center for Contemporary Spirituality, Erie, Pa., and past president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.
Benedictine Sr. Mary Collins is prioress of Mount St. Scholastica Benedictine Abbey, Atchison, Kan., and past president of the North American Academy of Liturgy.
Elizabeth A. Dreyer is associate professor of Religious Studies at Fairfield University, Fairfield, Conn.
Maria Harris* is chair of religious education at Andover Newton Theological School in Massachusetts. She was keynoter at CTA conference in 1999.
Diana L. Hayes* is associate professor of theology at Georgetown University.
Monika K. Hellwig is executive director of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, and taught theology for many years at Georgetown.
Dominican Sr. Mary Catherine Hilkert is associate professor of systematic theology at the University of Notre Dame.
Sister of St. Joseph Elizabeth A. Johnson is Distinguished Professor of Theology at Fordham University. She will be keynote speaker at the CTA Conference Nov. 4, 2000.
Dolores R. Leckey is senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center and former director of the Secretariat for Family, Laity, Women and Youth at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Gail Porter Mandel teaches in the humanistic studies program at St. Marys College, Notre Dame, Ind.
Kathleen Norris is author of The Cloister Walk, Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, and five books of poetry.
Jeanette Rodriguez* is chair of the Theology and Religious Studies Department at Seattle University, former president of the Academy of Hispanic Theologians of the U.S., and a CTA national board member.
Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Sandra M. Schneiders* is professor of New Testament Studies and Christian Spirituality at the Jesuit School of Theology and the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, Calif.
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