Elizabeth Johnson’s response to the Bishops Committee for Doctrine’s critique of Quest for the Living God:

Response by Dr. Elizabeth Johnson C.S.J., March 30, 2011:

It is heartening to see the Bishops Conference give such serious attention to the subject of the living God. I appreciate how this statement acknowledges the laudable nature of the task of crafting a theology of God, and the number of issues on which the statement judges that I am “entirely correct.” The book itself endeavors to present new insights about God arising from people living out their Catholic faith in different cultures around the world. My hope is that any conversation that may be triggered by this statement will but enrich that faith, encouraging robust relationship to the Holy Mystery of the living God as the church moves into the future.

I would like to express two serious concerns. First, I would have been glad to enter into conversation to clarify critical points, but was never invited to do so. This book was discussed and finally assessed by the Committee before I knew any discussion had taken place. Second, one result of this absence of dialogue is that in several key instances this statement radically misinterprets what I think, and what I in fact wrote. The conclusions thus drawn paint an incorrect picture of the fundamental line of thought the book develops. A conversation, which I still hope to have, would have very likely avoided these misrepresentations.

That being said, as a scholar I have always taken criticism as a valuable opportunity to delve more deeply into a subject. The task of theology, classically defined as “faith seeking understanding,” calls for theologians to wrestle with mystery. The issues are always complex, especially on frontiers where the church’s living tradition is growing. Committed to the faith of the church, I take this statement as an occasion to ponder yet further the mystery of the living God who is ineffable.

At this time I will make no further statements nor give any interviews.

8 thoughts

  1. Just as an addendum to this helpful statement on the part of Professor Johnson, it bears noting that she has the full support of Fordham University in this matter. From NCR:

    In a statement released to the press this afternoon, Jesuit Fr. Joseph M. McShane, the president of Fordham University, called Johnson a “revered member of the Fordham community” who tries to “wrestle with the mystery of God and God’s action in the world.”
    Johnson “approaches her work as a theologian very seriously and looks upon the action that the bishops’ conference [took] as an invitation to dialogue –dialogue on both the mission and craft of the theologian, and on the complexity that a serious theologian faces as she or he tries to explain God to the modern world,” wrote McShane.

  2. Wonderful Ladies and Gents, I have not completely read Prof.Johnson’s book yet, but what I have read IS serious scholarship and looks at God from a new perspective with tradition in mind. Truly the ideas about God and who that God is, are changing–evolving into a broader and more expansive mystery of the enormity of who God is. Indeed, what Elizabeth is doing here is ADDING the other half of humanity’s understanding of God and just because it does not exactly fit into a ‘patriarchal’ paradigm of God does not invalidate what she is saying.
    A word about dialogue. Yes, it seems even the LCWR has tried to dialogue with the Vatican, but it appears that the Vatican does not desire dialogue on matters of our evolving theology. Perhpas after the Conclave, we’ll be able to have this conversation.

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