Monday, July 21, 2008

Rosemary Radford Ruether Loses To The Catholic Anonymous Donor

From website Higher Ed
Activist groups that try to pressure Roman Catholic universities to adhere to certain measures of fealty are praising the University of San Diego for telling a prominent theology professor that the invitation for her to teach there next year was being rescinded and that she would not hold a visiting endowed chair.

The professor is Rosemary Radford Ruether, who currently teaches at the Claremont Graduate University and has also taught at the Pacific School of Religion and Holy Names University, and written a column for many years for the National Catholic Reporter. Ruether’s numerous books about theology have strong pro-feminist positions (she advocates the ordination of women, for example) and she identifies herself as a “progressive Catholic,” but very much as a Catholic thinker.

This fall, the New Press will publish her latest book, Catholic Does Not Equal the Vatican: A Vision for Progressive Catholicism, in which she challenges Vatican teachings on a range of issues. In the forward to the book, Rev. Susan Thistlethwaite, president of the Chicago Theological Seminary, writes: “In a truly just world, Rosemary Radford Ruether would be pope.”

While Ruether has no expectations of becoming pope, she did think she had an endowed chair. San Diego announced in June that Ruether would be named as the next Monsignor John R. Portman Chair in Roman Catholic Theology, a position that involves a one year appointment, teaching, and a major lecture on campus. The announcement — since removed from the university’s Web site — set off alarms among critics of Ruether’s views, who published articles on Web sites calling her a “radical non-Christian” and charging, among other things, that she calls God “Gaia.” (For the record, she said that she calls God “God,” and did so in a conversation with this reporter.)

In an interview, Ruether said that she was strongly recruited by the university for the position. She said that she has more invitations than she can handle, but that she agreed to the visiting chair after faculty members attended a lecture she gave, and spoke about how much they wanted her to teach. Terms were negotiated and the announcement was made, she said. Subsequently, she said, Provost Julie Sullivan called her and explained that the theology department “had not consulted with the donor and the donor had a different vision” of the chair, so the offer to Ruether was being rescinded. (The donor is anonymous, according to a university Web site.)

“This is obviously a case where the faculty were not able to ask the person they wanted to ask because of ideological bias,” Ruether said. She added that her academic freedom would not be affected because she would continue to write what she believes, but she said that the academic freedom of San Diego faculty members had been hurt by having her appointment blocked. She said that “it’s their academic freedom being denied,” when the faculty have appointments vetoed just for being controversial.

Lance Nelson, chair of the theology department and the person who recruited Ruether, declined to talk about the situation and said that only the provost could talk about the matter. The provost did not respond to e-mail messages. Pamela Gray Payton, a spokeswoman for the university, confirmed via e-mail that upon “review of the specific purpose of the Monsignor John R. Portman Chair in Roman Catholic Theology, the University of San Diego is no longer considering the appointment of Dr. Rosemary Radford Ruether as the 2009-2010 chair holder.” Payton added that Ruether was “never officially appointed” to the position., which had previously urged Catholics to call the university to oppose Ruether, is praising the university’s latest action and urging readers to write the university to express support.
Scott Jaschik
Obviously the University of San Diego has the right to hire whom ever their donor wants hired, or in this case doesn't want hired, but if they bow down to the money they should at least admit this is a question of money talks. Let's not confuse this with an attempt to maintain Catholic orthodoxy on their own, or as an act of backing down in the face of an email campaign from This is just another case of honoring the wishes of a rich donor. Just another case in a long line of cases of academic integrity literally sold. This isn't particularly the province of religious colleges, secular institutions do it all the time as well.
Rosemary Radford Ruether is absolutely correct when she states this doesn't effect her academic freedom, it effects the Academic freedom of the University of San Diego. Apparently they have so little freedom that the head of their theology department is unable to comment on his own but must refer to higher authority. You know, the really bought and paid for higher authority. The one's who understand they owe their employment to their buyers, and especially to their almost always anonymous buyers. Anonymity gives one so much more freedom to interfere than actually having one's name attached to the donation.
Maybe the University of San Diego could start restoring it's integrity by refusing to accept anonymous donations. Then at least we'd know who is buying their orthodoxy. Come to think of it it might be nice if LifeSiteNews gave us a list of their major donors. The information might be quite enlightening. What if instead of having a bunch of really committed true believers we found out that in actuality they had a lot of paid hacks. That knowledge might be of interest to all the people who partake in their email campaigns. I'm not saying sites like LifeSite are definitely composed of a bunch of folks writing things they could actually care less about strictly for the almighty dollar. What I am saying is we don't know that's not the case.
We do know that Rosemary Radford Ruether writes it like she sees it, and she has been kicked and castigated for doing so. Not her writing or ideas, just her. It's pretty obvious if you go to the articles about this on LifeSite that the authors of these articles have read nothing more than the titles of her books. Hence the reference to her calling God Gaia. Had they actually read the book, Gaia and God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing, they might have come to actual understand what she is referring to in the title. But, hey what's a little disinformation in God's war against progressive secularism, feminism, and prochoicers--- especially against a woman theologian who is all of those but still has the audacity to call herself Catholic and teach as a Catholic theologian.
As the retrenchment continues in the Church, the term Catholic theologian will come to be synonymous with upscale Catholic Catechism teacher. There's no point in engaging in speculative theology from the Catholic side of things when the Vatican is insisting it already has all the truth and it's just a matter of people being too secularly selfish and pigheaded to bow down to the obvious. Benedict more or less made this point repeatedly during World Youth Days. His Church has no room for theologians like Rosemary Radford Ruether who images the very worst of progressive Catholic theology. It's the very worst because it presents the biggest threat to the clerical system and it's self sustaining theology, and horror of horrors, her theology is largely based in liberation theology.
The irony of all this is that these theologies which the Vatican finds so heretical, could never have been written by any one other than a Catholic. One almost has to live and breath the prevailing theological climate of the fifty's and sixty's to have ever been moved to write the kind of theology that R3 and other progressive theologians have written. These theologians wrote what they did because they perceived themselves to be on the outside with no hope of ever changing the status quo unless the theology on which the status quo is maintained is seriously challenged.
The parallels between the early 16th century reformer's clashes with the Vatican and our current times, are uncanny. Like then we are in a battle over excessive top down authority regarding creeping infallibility and the empirical trappings of the Papacy. We are battling over Latin and vernacular languages, just like our predecessors did over translating the bible from Latin to the vernacular. We are battling about the propensity of the clergy to be inclined to pedophilia or immature misogynistic homosexuality. The 16th century heterosexual clergy wanted celibacy dropped, but the misogynist gay subculture in the Vatican fought them tooth and nail, and won the battle at the Council of Trent, maintaining the power of their celibate closet. A lot of equally immature heterosexual misogynists benefitted from the victory. It's no wonder the Catholic theology of sexuality is misogynist, exploitative of the fertility of women, and based almost exclusively on the penis. Lest I forget, there were also ongoing battles between the Vatican and secular governments about just how far the Vatican would be allowed to use it's influence with laity and clergy in an attempt to control governments. Hence we have Anglicanism, which is now experiencing their first shot at schizm over these very same issues.
The end result of all those battles was the splintering of Catholicism. It looks to me like we're in another period of splintering. The Vatican, as was demonstrated at WYD, will return to the past taking it's 'true believers' with it. It will continue to proclaim the supremacy of atonement theology, and at WYD they did an incredible production of the Stations of the Cross and completely left out the Resurrection. This is a very skewed theology of the mission of Jesus, but it's the one that props up all the trappings of the clerical culture. That it's a theology directly co opted from the pagan notions of Christ like Divine saviours is overlooked, as is the fact the term 'Christ' is from the Greek for said pagan Divine saviors. That Rosemary Radford Ruether would use the pagan term Gaia in conjunction with God cannot be overlooked. Gaia is after all, a feminine pagan term for God. That makes all the difference. Christ (male) yes, Gaia (female) no.
Only a really true believer in atonement theology is going to continue in the practice of Catholicism. I feel sorry for those youth who cast aside those of us who grew up in it because we have some serious knowledge to impart about the guilt inherent in atonement theology, and it's debilitating descriptions of the nature of humanity. The only people who benefit from imposing a faith which emphasizes subordination and personal inadequacy are those people who are heavily invested in subordinating others for greed and or ego. Such as people with enough money to become anonymous donors of theological chairs and the Catholicism which directly benefits from the money and it's attendant message.


  1. Do you suppose ...
    "anonymous donor" = "vatican bank"?

    Interesting that it is another woman that is targeted. Another martyr has been created by the Vatican and/or their puppets. (who else would care?) And another nail has been driven into their ecclesiastic coffin.

  2. Colleen, this is a story I don't know if I would have seen, if it hadn't been for your blog. As always, I'm grateful for the way you keep us informed of things we might otherwise miss.

    Something about this troy is very suspicious. I can't think of a similar case, in which an endowed chair is funded by an anonymous donor who has control of who is named to that chair. In any case I know of where donors have given money for such a reason, their name is in the open and they are one voice among many in making the selection for the chair.

    So I wonder if the pressure here is really coming from other quarters. In either case, you are so right: theologians have been reduced in Ratzinger's restorationist church to the level of glorified catechists.

    And what colossally stupid catechisms are now being produced! I've just run across an issue of a publication called Catholic Answer, which is unbelievable: priests (of course) answering questions from the faithful about whether it's moral to put one's pet to sleep, or to arouse one's spouse without intending to have full-on procreative sex.

    God help us. Who'd have thought we'd sink to such levels of stupidity and banality less than half a century following a council that was about profound church reform. What this Vatican regime and the last have done to the church is, in some ways, profoundly evil.

    They have mortgaged the future of the church to a clerical system--their system, the one that protects their power and privilege. And in the process, they have run off just about anybody with a brain, marginalizing theologians and drawing together a tight little band of cultists who argue over cappa magnas and Latin liturgy.

  3. "Who'd have thought we'd sink to such levels of stupidity and banality"

    William, these are are the noxious rantings of those who take pride in their self appointed authority as "faithful orthodox" (hereafter refered to as "FO's") defending the faith (hereafter referred to as "DeF"). The FO's have always been this way, and probably always will be. That is why they are FO's. That is why they are DeF against reason and logic.

    Those of us who dont follow the "FO" protocals are considered by the FO's to be "liberal protestants" (hereafter referred to as "LiP").

    It is our divine mission to give LiP to the FO's, who are also DeF, on the slim chance that some of our LiP will work its way through their monolithic DeF mentality and inspire them to give up their FO mentation in order to experience a conversion that will ultimately lead to their salvation.

    (Do you think NCR would censor the abbreviations if I used them in a response?)

  4. What is with the men in the hierarchy and their ability to belittle women like Ruether and Lear and then believe themselves to be Holy for the entire Church, and a bunch of sheep who follow what they say like mindless robots? Such hypocrisy was meant for Pharisees. They are doing a good rendition of them.

    Does Reuther rhyme with Luther by any chance? I agree with your view Colleen "The parallels between the early 16th century reformer's clashes with the Vatican and our current times, are uncanny."

    They are heavily invested now in the blame game. The blame for all of the world's problems is put on people who don't buy their hypocrisy, spiritual immaturity and backwardness.

  5. Carl, you just made my whole morning Lipping off like you did. I'd give this a try on the NCR, even if Dennis Coday edits it out he'd certainly appreciate the humor.

    Bill, I wondered about why so much power given to one donor, unless that donor is the diocese and the bishop actually axed this appointment. I guess we'll never know. I sometimes go to the Catholic Answers website just to give some Lip to the Def. It's fun.

    Butterfly, Ruether does rhyme with Luther.

  6. "They have mortgaged the future of the church to a clerical system--their system, the one that protects their power and privilege."
    Bill, they allowed the church to suffer a schism because they insisted on the primacy of the Roman pope......they allowed a second schism 500 years later because they would not come to the table and diaglogue with Martin is now 500 years after that.......any guesses and what direction they will choose????

  7. Margie:

    I expect to see a major schism within the next 3 years that will create two churches, a roman and an american. How it will unfold, what it will look like? Simplictically: It will probably seperate along the same lines we see on NCR today, a rift that will create an FO church and a church of the LiP. The FO church will continue with the exclusive OTC mentality, with the same legalistic fundamentalism we see today, employing fear to elicit unquestioning obedience to the heirachy. The LiP church will employ a gentler, more loving format that emphasizes the principles of divine love, unity, harmony and will be more of an inclusive interfaith expression.

  8. Carl,
    I absolutely agree. It will be interesting to see how that actually works out logistically.......if the hierarchy continues to control the $$$$...

  9. Carl, I'm traveling and have had sporadic internet access. Am just now seeing your comment as I log on in an airport.

    You have now given me a name for my mission in life: to offer LiP to those in need of it! I am forthwith declaring myself a faithful member of the Order of LiP.

    W.D. Lindsey, LiP

  10. William, in order to assist us in being more effective in giving LiP Service, I have begun a list of abbreviations that I hope to find an appropriate venue on NCR to bring them up. The abbreviations are as follows:

    FO - faithful orthodox
    LiP - liberal protestants
    DeF - defending the faith
    OTCh - (pronounced ouch) one true church
    WoPr - women priests
    ExWoPr - excomm'd women priests
    FO-mentation - annoying habit of FO's to qoute catechisms to support their positions
    LiP Service - annoying habit of LiP's to quote the scriptural teachings of Jesus to support their positions
    Catoganon - (CATechism, dOGma, cANON) - the instrument that FO's use to attempt to "whip" LiP's into obedience to authority
    DepoFai - deposit of faith (wonder what depo fai means in italian/ latin?)

    Anyone think of any others?

  11. Actually Carl I expect the shism to be more along the lines of Episcopal Catholic and Roman Catholic. I think that's the whole process being worked out amongst the Anglicans and the Vatican. A sort of we'll take all your Def if you take all our Lip.

    The Def will get to be Def in Latin, with smells, and bells, and the Lip will work on an inclusive love centered community.

  12. Colleen, that wouldnt be a bad outcome, but couldnt the LiP keep the BS, I've always enjoyed good BS.

    The only difficulty I see in this solution is that the inherency of the FO-menting DeF is the sel-fright-eousness of the OTC DepoFai, they probably wouldnt be satisfied with Ex-ing the LiP, they would most likely go to great lenghts to attempt to save our souls from eternal damnation (SOSed = prounced "sauced")

  13. Carl, I think this would be true only after they realized their serious attemps at SAUCE cost them all thier financial sauce as we took our money and ran.

  14. Carl, I love your list. I do have one other abbreviation:

    PRADA: Pope Rails Against Divisive Anglicans



  15. Bill, I just burst out laughing big time. PRADA is so appropos, or however you spell appropos.

  16. Convey your support that the University of San Diego has made the correct choice in denying Ruether this prestigious teaching position.

    Sign the petition at