Hares, not Hedgehogs: The Vocation of the Theologian

A note: The following post is part of an inter-blog series on “the vocation of the theologian,” sponsored by Emerging Theologians in connection with this weekend’s meeting of the College Theology Society. Emerging Theologians is an international network of early-career Catholic theologians that first took form in a 2012 Boston conference on the future of the Catholic Church and the 50th anniversary of Vatican II (so, nothing to do with “emergent.”) I’d encourage you to read the Final Statement from that meeting; it offers a concise articulation of many of the “hopes and concerns” that form the conference season conversation among my group of Catholic theologians (“my group” being, generally, those in and just out of grad school who have lived exclusively in the post-Conciliar Catholic Church, and are more likely to think about the Council’s legacy in terms of positive steps toward openness, decentralization, dialogue, and the full participation of the laity than in terms of negative turns toward relativism or away from reverence). For more on these general points, I’d strongly recommend the book that came from ET’s initial conference: Visions of Hope: Emerging Theologians and the Future of the Church. For more on the vocation of the theologian, please do read some of the other posts in the series. Continue reading

Hope in the Storm-Tossed Church


Icon of Catherine of Siena by Robert Lentz, OFM

(I think she looks a little too wry for someone being crushed by an unimaginable weight, but, hey—who can resist a snarky-looking saint?)


This is a long post—about twice the length of the papers my students recently wrote, in fact. But it’s about what sustains me through the difficulties of being a critical Catholic woman, and I hope it’s helpful to some of you.

Last week, April 29, was the feast of Catherine of Siena, one of the four women included in the list of theologian-saints whom the Catholic Church recognizes as Doctors of the Church. (If you haven’t already, be sure to check out these brief and inspiring words from M. Catherine Hilkert, Professor of Theology at the University Notre Dame). I’ve been thinking recently of her last reported mystical vision. Here’s how Paul VI relayed it in a general audience on April 30, 1969:  Continue reading

Confirmation is not “Baptism of Believers” for Catholics

The most recent controversy concerning punitive denial of sacraments on the basis of political views is this heartbreaking story: the parents of a teenager in Barnesville, MN were told that he would not be confirmed, and that the family could no longer receive communion at their parish, after the pastor learned the teen had posted a picture of himself on Facebook holding a sign he had altered to show his opposition to the Minnesota Marriage Amendment. (The measure would have amended the state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. While the amendment was defeated, same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in Minnesota; the defeat of the amendment means Minnesota law remains unchanged.)

There is much that could, and should, be discussed in relation to the denial of sacraments in response to certain political views or theological views, but in this post I’m going to focus solely on the problematic theology of Confirmation that is revealed in many of the responses to this story.

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Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Become a Feminist

A photograph of Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, & Ekaterina Samucevich

Right to left: Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Ekaterina Samucevich. Photograph from freepussyriot.org

(OK. I’m going to warn you, this post is long. If you’re strapped for time, my suggestion is to read the text of “Punk Prayer,” and then skip down to “First,“. Thanks in advance for your patience.)

By now, I’m sure everyone has read about yesterday’s conviction of Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Ekaterina Samutsevich, three members of Pussy Riot, “an anonymous Russian feminist performance art group formed in October 2011,” for their “punk prayer” protest.

On Tuesday, February 21, Masha, Nadya, and Katya entered the Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Savior wearing bright dresses, tights, and balaclavas, and stood in front of the iconostasis, crossing themselves, dancing, and singing in protest of the Russian Orthodox Church’s support of Vladimir Putin. Cathedral security stopped the three less than a minute after they began. On March 4, after a video of the action had gone viral and the Russian Orthodox Church had initiated a criminal case, Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were arrested by the Russian Federal Security Service‘s terrorism division on suspicion of “hooliganism.” Formal charges were not filed until March 15, when Samutsevich—initially considered a witness—was also arrested. Yesterday, all three were sentences to two years of prison.

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To Love Great Cities

Those who know me in real life probably know two things: I have a lot of very curly hair… and I am a city person. So I read with interest Michael Peppard’s Commonweal blog post on “urban theology,” and would encourage you to do so.

I was born and raised in Philadelphia (the city, not the suburbs, thankyouverymuch!), I lived in Cambridge, MA for my master’s, and as I’ve said far too often, when I get back to a great city, I feel like I’ve grown a third lung. I can breathe again—even if the smog and the toxins and the rotting garbage and exhaust fumes render questionable the wisdom of doing so… But the point is, tension I wasn’t even aware I was holding is released. I feel alive in cities.  To quote my favorite play, Angels in America (set very conspicuously in New York),

—What’s it like, on the other side?
—Heaven or hell?

—Like San Francisco.
—A city. Good. I was worried it’d be a garden. I hate that shit.

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On Speech Acts & Making Things Better

Many members of WIT are institutionally affiliated with Catholic universities—and once you start talking about Catholic universities, you’ll eventually end up in a discussion about Notre Dame. While I speak only for myself in this post (as all of us do in all of our posts!), I’m standing on fairly secure ground when I say that all of us agree with a claim that’s gotten increasing press over the past week: that Notre Dame has got to get better for its LGBT students (undergraduate, graduate, and professional), faculty, and staff. As such, WIT has joined the “4 to 5 Movement Coalition” in its commitment to “take actions that promote a safe and welcoming environment at the University of Notre Dame for members of our community who identify as LGBTQ.”

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Stephen Colbert + Feminist Theology = Best Meme Ever

Following in the footsteps of the original Ryan Gosling meme (“Hey girl, I can’t wait to meet your parents and all of your friends”) and its feminist follow-up  (“Hey girl. When he said it was possible to talk about cultural marginalization and borderlands WITHOUT mentioning Gloria Anzaldúa I was like ‘Oh no you didn’t!'”), my new favorite meme of all time is …

Feminist Catholic Stephen Colbert.

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