Pope Francis has suggested that "we" need a deeper "theology of women," (itself a problematic phrase, emblematic of the usual us-them in which women are "them.") But he seems like a genuinely nice guy who's sincere about wanting to explore new territory. So, here's my idea...

Of course there are any number of books that could help Francis begin to sort out his ideas in this regard. Let's send him a starter set. 

What are, say, 10 books that could help Francis in his revision of the Church with regard to women?


1. as any good feminist knows, a "theology of women," if it's adequate, is simultaneously a theology of men--men are damaged by patriarchy and sexism, too. So suggestions need not be books specifically about women or even by women, but should contribute importantly to Francis' task. 

2. They need to be available in paperback. I'll spring for them and ship them, but I'm a theologian, not a venture capitalist--I can't sink my life savings (if I had any,) into this. But 10 books to send to Francis to help him think these things through? Sure. (Or perhaps Commonweal would like to underwrite? Or help underwrite? Just asking...) 

3. Books can be singly authored or edited collections. For example, someone might recommend Catherine Mowry LaCugna's Freeing Theology. The Essentials of Theology in Feminist Perspective, or some such collection that covers a lot of ground in one volume and features some of the giants of feminist theology. 

4. Francis said that the Church needs a more adequate theology of women, so we can safely assume that apologetics for the status quo aren't what he's looking for. Let's aim for faithful engagements with the tradition that break new ground. For example...

My vote is for Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza's But She Said, in which she takes feminist biblical hermeneutics for a spin, resulting in chapters that are scholarly and reflective. It's a classic, both challenging and exhilarating. I hope it'll encourage Francis to read the Bible in new ways. (Of course, like many of you, I can think of dozens of books that'd be great. But this is a good, basic place to start--reading scripture.) 


1. Make your suggetions here, with a brief explanation why you suggest the book you name. One book at a time, please.

2. If you like someone's suggestion, second it. Lets play Facebook--write, e.g., "Schussler Fiorenza: Like." Also like Facebook, one cannot "unlike." Just vote for what's good, and we can trust that the dotCommonweal community will sort wheat from chaff. 

3. In, say, 2 weeks time, I'll add up the results. If there's a hopeless deadlock, I'll turn to some other voting methodology for the final list. I'll order them and ship them with a letter of good wishes, explaining the origin of the list, and that it's intended to be representative, not determinative of the possibilities for his project, and reflects the discernment of a community, not any individual.

4. I have no actual clue who to send them to. Perhaps the papal secretary? Is there anyone out there who knows how to actually get them to the Pope? Please let me know, either here or off-line.

Ready? Go!

Lisa Fullam is professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).

Also by this author

Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

© 2024 Commonweal Magazine. All rights reserved. Design by Point Five. Site by Deck Fifty.