From our readers – October 13, 2016

| October 13, 2016 | 7 Comments

Opposition to Elizabeth Johnson advertisement

It was disturbing to see the ad in The Catholic Spirit [Sept. 22, page 7] promoting Elizabeth Johnson and her desire to “loosen the shackles of patriarchal structures … .” The Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ, a man, and given the Holy Spirit to guide and protect Her from error. Why would The Catholic Spirit, our local Archdiocesan CATHOLIC newspaper, promote Ms. Johnson, who has been told repeatedly by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that the “language she uses does not adequately express the faith of the Church.” Is it asking too much that The Catholic Spirit reaffirm and support the Catholic Church?


Bridget Kluesner
Divine Mercy, Faribault

Dear Catholic Spirit editors: Are you serious? Running an ad in The Catholic Spirit promoting Elizabeth Johnson? Isn’t she a former nun who has huge problems with the traditional teachings of the Church? What could she possibly have to offer Catholics other than more division and dissension? Ms. Johnson (or is it Sister) has been told by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that the “language she uses does not adequately express the faith of the Church” ( Why is The Catholic Spirit supporting this woman?

Rosie Huray
St. John the Baptist, New Brighton


I was reading the [Sept. 22] issue of The Catholic Spirit and noted the advertisement on page 7 to purchase tickets to hear Elizabeth Johnson speak. It is sponsored by St. Catherine University and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Both of these entities are not exactly known for their solid Catholic teachings or leanings, regardless of their ties to the name “Catholic.”

Elizabeth Johnson is a religious [sister] whose book, “The Quest for the Living God,” received a condemnation by the Committee on Doctrine of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. This was in 2011. She is staunchly against the patriarchal hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. She is a proponent of women priests and of feminizing the Bible.

It greatly saddens me that you would be featuring a large ad promoting her. The ad itself says, ‘Come hear women theologians who seek to loosen the shackles of patriarchal structures and liberate all persons and creation with fresh theological perspectives on Christology.”

I am not sure if this accidentally slipped by someone or if [was] purposely added to this paper.  Promoting this type of thing is against the Church, and I find it greatly offensive.

Deb Brunsberg
St. Lawrence/Newman Center in Minneapolis

Share your perspective by emailing The Commentary page does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Catholic Spirit. Letters may be edited for length or clarity.

Tags: , , ,

Category: From Readers

  • Matt Wagner

    So is someone from The Catholic Spirit going to respond to this serious error??

  • Paula Ruddy

    I went to hear Sister Elizabeth Johnson, C.S.J., professor at Fordham University, talk at the University of St. Catherine. She spoke of the witness of women to the life of Jesus, his ministry, his death and resurrection. It was about all of us–men and women–being one in the Spirit and love of God. Nothing contradictory to Catholicism in that.

    • DebraBrunsberg

      The issues with Sister Johnson are serious in regards to her professed opinions and writings. That is where the contradictions to Catholicism come in and that is why, based upon her known history and the way the talk content was worded, it should not have been advertised in the Catholic Spirit. There are a lot of professed Catholics who are short on formation and easily led by the ways of our culture so they should not be steered to anything that may create more confusion or lead them away from the Truth of the Church.

      • Paula Ruddy

        Debra, can you be specific about what in Sister Elizabeth Johnson’s professed opinions, writings, known history, or talk content has been contradictory to Catholicism? Is it honest or fair to be so general?

        Another question: Your last sentence is very familiar. Does it reflect a teaching of the Catechetical Institute at the University of St. Thomas?

        • DebraBrunsberg

          I have never gone through the Catechetical Institute so I have no idea what they they teach, that being said, I would have to say that my last sentence could have come from anyone who has watched Catholics fall to modernism in such things as supporting the murder of the unborn or gay marriage or divorce, adultery or many of the other things of this culture that are solidly against the teachings of God. We see it in many public officials who have a major disconnect as to what the Catholic faith teaches.
          Here are some samples on Johnson:
          “All-male images of God are hierarchical images rooted in the unequal relation between women and men, once women no longer relate to men as patriarchal fathers, lords, and kings in society, these images become religiously inadequate. Instead of evoking the reality of God, they block it.”

          Divine capacity for relation has led to speaking about Sophia-God’s participation in the suffering of the world that empowers the praxis of freedom, a discourse that takes place in the energizing matrix of the one God’s sheer liveliness named with the symbol SHE WHO IS. All of the above chapters are clues, starting points, commencements. This generation needs to keep faith with this question, creating, testing, reflecting, discarding, keeping. No language about God will ever be fully adequate to the burning mystery which it signifies. But a more inclusive way of speaking can come about that bears the ancient wisdom with a new justice.”

          One of Johnson’s maxims is that “language for God functions”: it both reflects our world and “shapes the way we construct our experience of the world.” She perceives an intimate connection between the resistance and injustices that she and other women have encountered as church leaders and theologians and the reflexive assumption that God is appropriately imaged and spoken of only in male terms. Hierarchical images like King and Lord are “rooted in the unequal relation between women and men, and they function to maintain this arrangement.”

          When accepting an award from the LCWR, Johnson had this to say about the Vatican investigation into the LCWR: When the moral authority of the hierarchy is hemorrhaging due to financial scandals and many bishops who … cover up sexual abuse of children, a cover up that continues in some quarters to this day, and thousands are drifting away from the church … the waste of time on this investigation is unconscionable,” (mind you, this is an organization who has said they have moved beyond Christ.)

          • Paula Ruddy

            Thanks for the examples, Debra. They are not self-evidently erroneous from my pov. But I can see that from someone else’s pov her language is non-traditional. Nevertheless, it is a very traditional idea that “No language about God will ever be fully adequate to the burning mystery which it signifies.” Many mystics in our tradition have said that.

            I guess it gets down to the question of who speaks “the teachings of God”, as you put it. Surely the Catholic bishops do. But so also do many people alive with the Holy Spirit. I’m thinking our only hope for discerning God’s authentic voice is to listen to each other and to keep exercising our faith and our reason. I’m glad the Catholic Spirit allows us a forum for reasoning together, and I thank you for entering into discussion with me.

          • DebraBrunsberg

            We are all at different levels in our journey with the Lord and so we will obviously see things in a different light, depending on how open our heart is to the Holy Spirit and how much much knowledge is imparted to us. I tend to listen to the Church first and others second, hasn’t failed me yet. 🙂