Archives For Rosemary Radford Ruether

I have a lot to report on from Sunday’s presentations and panels at the American Academy of Religion’s Annual Meeting, including issues of indigenous-Pagan relations and the development of modern Paganism on the West Coast, but I’d like to devote this post to the opening panel co-presented by the Contemporary Pagan Studies Group and the Religion and Ecology Group. The panel, “Elemental Theology and Feminist Earth Practices,” featured dual keynote talks from noted Catholic eco-feminist theologian Rosemary R. Ruether (author of “Gaia and God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing” among many others) and Pagan eco-feminist, activist, and author Starhawk (whose latest book, “The Empowerment Manual: A Guide for Collaborative Groups” was just released).

Rosemary Ruether and Starhawk

Rosemary Ruether and Starhawk

Here’s the program description:

“Starhawk is the well-known feminist Witch, Earth activist, and writer who initiated the Reclaiming Witchcraft Tradition in San Francisco in 1979. Her books on Pagan ecospirituality, such as The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion (HarperOne, 20th anniv. ed., 1999) and the novel The Fifth Sacred Thing (Bantam, 1993), are still bestsellers. Over the last four decades her thinking and practices have spun off the emergent Goddess spirituality movement, but have also provoked and influenced feminist theologians. One of them is Rosemary R. Ruether, herself a major contributor to feminist theologizing in all Western traditions — be it Christian, Jewish, or Pagan. Over the last ten years, Ruether and Starhawk have developed similar interests in feminist earth practices, honored the four elements and permacultural social principles, and have quoted each other’s work respectfully. In this session all are invited to reflect on the notion of “elemental theology” and/or “feminist Earth practices” as a possible crossroad for feminist theology of different faiths to meet.”

I was lucky enough to get permission from the Contemporary Pagan Studies group to record this talk so that they could make a transcript available later. I’d like to post an excerpt of the entire panel, featuring Starhawk’s opening remarks.

You can download this audio, here.

As you can hear, its a wide-ranging speech that touches on elemental theology, activism, the Occupy movement, permaculture, and other topics. I hope to, in the future, feature more excerpts from this panel, as the contributions were important, not only from Starhawk and Rosemary R. Ruether, but from the responders: Marion S. Grau, Jone Salomonsen, and Heather Eaton. In addition, there was a spirited and interesting Q&A period that should also interest readers here. Once details emerge as to where and when the transcript will be published, I’ll post that information.

There’s more AAR coverage to come, so stay tuned!

In a move that should surprise no one, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the organization formerly known as the Inquisition) has ruled that baptisms using gender-neutral formulas for the Trinity are invalid.

“The Vatican declared Friday that baptisms must be performed under a traditional formula – referring to the Trinity as the ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit’ – to be valid. Any baptisms conducted under new formulas that use inclusive nonmale language are not legitimate … The rejected formulas are: ‘I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer and of the Sanctifier’ or ‘I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator and of the Sustainer.'”

The CDF further opined that “these variations arise from so-called feminist theology”, a movement much at odds with the current Pope’s thinking, who sees “radical” manifestations of feminist theology as entirely un-Christian.

“The Pope, who wrote the latest ruling, has been a strong opponent of feminism in the Catholic Church. In his book, The Ratzinger Report, he wrote: ‘I am, in fact, convinced that what feminism promotes in its radical form is no longer the Christianity that we know; it is another religion.'”

If Pope Benedict thinks that mere gender neutrality is too far, you can be sure that referring to the Christian God as “God/ess” or “Primal Matrix” (or “Mother”) is right out. Feminist theologians like Rosemary Radford Ruether may claim that the Pope “is not our Pope”, but the truth is that reformist-minded Catholics on the left have found themselves ever-more isolated and minimized within a Church turned towards maintaining and strengthening its boundaries.

For Benedict, the salvation of the Church isn’t in the reforms that have led to the near (and perhaps impending) break-up of the Anglican Communion, but in returning to a “purer” Church by rolling back what this Pope sees as the excesses that have followed in the wake of Vatican II. The truth of the matter may be that feminist reforms will never be allowed to make significant headway into the Catholic Church.

Perhaps it is time for feminist theologians like Ruether to give up trying to change Catholicism from within. It may be that feminist author Germaine Greer has the right idea. When asked about the baptism issue, Greer pointedly said that “if the Pope succeeds in turning Catholic women against the church, so much the better.” Perhaps all these scholars, theologians, and authors would be better served by leaving Christianity behind, and embracing those traditions unafraid of feminine power and authority. Certainly modern Paganism could always use more theologians, creative thinkers, and ritualists. Better still, we don’t have an Inquisition snooping about for heresy.