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Too little, too late.

"Nun Has Refused to Meet with Doctrine Committee, Cardinal Wuerl Reveals." That's the headline of a Catholic Culture story reporting on a press release put out on Friday by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine. There's one problem with that headline. None of it is true.

A common criticism of the Committee on Doctrine's conduct during l'affaire Johnson is that the bishops failed to engage her in dialogue before slamming her book Quest for the Living God. As the Catholic Theological Society of America board and membership have pointed out, the committee's refusal to discuss its concerns with Johnson before issuing its critique violates the bishops' own guidelines for handling such conflicts. Indeed, in her response to the committee's most recent statement on the controversy, Elizabeth Johnson points out that "both publicly and privately I made clear my willingness to meet with Cardinal Wuerl and the committee to discuss these matters at any time.... No invitation was forthcoming to meet and discuss with the committee in person."

On Friday--in what may be the shortest press release ever issued by the USCCB--Cardinal Wuerl claimed that he had offered to meet with Johnson on three occasions, and that "Sister Johnson did not respond to any of the offers." You can see why Catholic Culture might interpret that as "Johnson refuses to meet with Committee on Doctrine." But, according to correspondence I have obtained, not only were the offers to meet with Wuerl alone, rather than with the full committee, but each of the offers came after the committee had already finished composing its critiques of Johnson. Perhaps more troubling, the correspondence shows that Johnson did in fact respond to Wuerl, as recently as October 26. Wuerl says that he offered to meet with Johnson on July 22, October 11, and October 26. In fact, it was Johnson who first asked to meet with the Committee on Doctrine.

In a letter dated July 14, she wrote to Wuerl: "I assure you explicitly of my willingness to meet face-to-face to clarify these matters, and in fact would like to do so, should you deem that helpful." Johnson was replying to Wuerl's letter acknowledging receipt of her response to the Committee on Doctrine's critique of Quest for the Living God. It was not until his July 22 reply that Wuerl offered to meet with Johnson. In that letter, he explained that the next step would be for the committee to "review...your observations and how they affect the committees original statement. The next meeting of the committee is set for September and as soon as possible following the meeting I will get word to you. I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you.The next time Wuerl contacted Johnson was earlier this month, when he sent a letter dated October 11 to Johnson's office at Fordham. Johnson is on sabbatical this semester, so she did not receive the letter until the 25th. In that letter, Wuerl wrote:

With this letter I want you to know that the Committee on Doctrine has completed its study. Enclosed is the text of the committees response to your observations. The committee intends to make this text public on Friday, October 28, 2011.In earlier correspondence, you and I spoke about the possibility of meeting in person. I renew my offer to meet with you if you so desire.

Not having heard back from Johnson, Wuerl's secretary Fr. Adam Park called her office, learning that she was not on campus this semester. So Park e-mailed Johnson on October 25, reiterating the offer to meet with Wuerl--not with the Committee on Doctrine, and only after it had completed its response to Johnson.

She replied as soon as she read Park's e-mail (October 26), apologizing for the trouble Wuerl had reaching her, and noting that in the cardinal's October 11 letter there was no request to meet before the committee's statement would be released. "There is no timing to this offer," Johnson wrote to Park. "When I read it yesterday, I took it to mean the Cardinals door was open for a meeting some day." Park replied later that day, renewing the cardinal's offer to meet at a mutually agreeable time. "The reason there was a two-week interval between the sending of the letter and statement and the publication of the statement," Park wrote, "was to allow time for a personal meeting prior to the statement's publication."

Yet the document was complete on October 11, and Park did not say that the committee was open to changing the text on the basis of anything discussed at the proposed meeting between Wuerl and Johnson. On Saturday, October 29, Johnson sent a follow-up letter by post requesting a meeting with Wuerl "once the dust settles."That was before she saw Wuerl's October 28 press release, claiming that she did not respond to any of his three offers to meet. So yesterday morning, Johnson sent another e-mail to Wuerl's secretary, pointing out the misleading nature of the cardinal's news release:

I am aghast at the accusation you make in the USCCB website post that I have not responded to any of the offers to meet. I never received an offer to meet at a definite time or with a protocol or agenda that would ensure serious discussion of the issues in my book. If I had, I would have accepted immediately. In addition, each offer was vague about time, indicating that a meeting would take place after the committees deliberations were over.

In conclusion, Johnson asked Wuerl--"for the sake of your own reputation for truth-telling, and for the good of the church"--to have the press release removed from the USCCB Web site. As of this writing, it remains in place.

***

Update: Here are links to correspondence between Johnson and Wuerl, and Johnson and Park (Wuerl's secretary):

* 7/14 letter from Johnson to Wuerl [.rtf]

* 7/22 & 10/11 letters from Wuerl to Johnson [.pdf]

* 10/25 e-mail from Park to Johnson

* 10/26 e-mail from Johnson to Park

* 10/26 e-mail from Park to Johnson

* 10/30 e-mail from Johnson to Wuerl (here's a link to a transcript of the e-mail [.rtf])

Update 2: Catholic Culture has run a follow-up story to their original, erroneously titled one, which repeats the false claim that Wuerl invited Johnson to meet with the Committee on Doctrine. In fact, she was the first one so suggest meeting--and he never invited her to meet with the full committee. In journalism--but not in PR--it's common practice to correct errors once they've been pointed out. Maybe that's the key to understanding Catholic Culture's shoddy reporting (remember their work on the Sobrino case?).

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Lest readers think that this type of behavior is a one-time case, I would like to point out that on a much smaller scale than the Johnson case, New Ways Ministry has run into the same difficulties and the same strange "dialogue" proposals in our dealings with the USCCB. In March 2011, Cardinal Wuerl, doctrinal chair, and Bishop Cordileone, chair of the Defense of Marriage Committee, issued a statement critical of my booklet, "Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach." When I requested an opportunity to dialogue with them, pointing out that neither of them had contacted me before issuing their statement, I received a response only from Fr. Thomas Weinandy, OFM, Cap., the executive director of the Committee on Doctrine, which included the statement: "Dialogue about helping bring others to Christ, his Church and her teaching can be fruitful only if such dialogue affirms and accepts the definitive teaching of the Church and also recognizes the role of bishops in authoritatively articulating authentic faith and morals." In my response to Fr. Weinandy, I pointed out "that neither I nor New Ways Ministry had questioned" the authority of the bishops and that the booklet "examines the reasons why theologians and laity, while respecting legitimate authority, appear to be moving in a different direction on civil laws concerning same-gender marriage." Fr. Weinandy's next response included these statements: "The needed clarity for any dialogue can only be found in the objective content of the faith is articulated by the Magisterium. Thus, if New Ways Ministry were to affirm publicly all that the Cqtechism of the Catholic Church teaches about human sexuality, the proper context of sexual activity, and marriage, then there would be sufficient basis to begin a discussion about how ministry to persons with a homosexual inclination should be best conducted in the Catholic Church. . . . With such clarity, dialogue becomes possible, ambiguity is avoidedand the goal of pastoral practice in full conformity with the Church's teaching is lucidly established for all to recognize."In my response to this letter, I remarked that Fr. Weinandy's comment "presents a view of dialogue that is puzzling and potentially harmful to the Church. If his view had been enacted in history, St. Paul would never have been able to deliberate with St. Peter about preaching to the Gentiles; St. Catherine of Siena would never have been able to persuade the Pope to return to Rome. Indeed, if his view were true, then there would be no need for debate among members of the USCCB, and all votes would be unanimous. Different perspectives are a part of church life and have historically been useful to the ecclesial community. Only our darkest times contain precedents where intransigence has triumphed over discussion."Additionally, I tried to explain that if opportunities for dialogue are not possible, or only possible with criteria that would make such conversation moot, our church misses important occasions for strength, growth, and grace.I have not received any additional correspondence. It seems that at least these two prelates and Fr. Weinandy have yet to learn how important dialogue can be. Situations such as these do not speak well for the Catholic community. Our church needs fewer walls and more bridges.Francis DeBernardoExecutive Director New Ways Ministry

Let me see if I have the timeline straight:1. Prof Johnson publishes her book.2. The committee publishes their critique.3. Johnson sends and publishes a rebuttal of the critique.4. Cdl Wuerl acknowledges receipt of her rebuttal.5. July 14: Johnson writes I assure you explicitly of my willingness tomeet face-to-face to clarify these matters, and in fact would like to doso, should you deem that helpful.6. July 22: Wuerl writes that the next step would be for the committeeto review of your observations and how they affect the committeesoriginal statement. The next meeting of the committee is set forSeptember and as soon as possible following the meeting I will get wordto you. I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you.7. September: the committee meets and prepares a response to the rebuttal.8. October 11: Wuerl writes to Johnson: "With this letter I want you to know that the Committee on Doctrine has completed its study. Enclosed is the text of the committees response to your observations. The committee intends to make this text public on Friday, October 28, 2011. In earlier correspondence, you and I spoke about the possibility of meeting in person. I renew my offer to meet with you if you so desire."9. October 25: Wuerl calls her university, learns that she is on sabbatical (and therefore has not read her mail), and his secretary Fr. Park sends her email.10. October 26: Johnson answers her email. There is no timing to this offer. When I read it yesterday, I took it to mean the Cardinals door was open for a meeting some day. 11. October 26: Park renews the cardinals offer to meet at an agreeable time and says The reason there was a two-week interval between the sending of the letter and statement and the publication of the statement was to allow time for a personal meeting prior to the statements publication.12. October 29: Johnson requests a meeting with Wuerl once the dust settles.12. October 28: Wuerl has a press release claiming that he had offered to meet with Johnson on three occasions, and that Sister Johnson did not respond to any of the offers. 13. October 30: upon seeing the press release, Johnson requests for it to be removed.This makes one wonder in what age we live. How hard is it to pick up the phone and arrange a concrete date and time for a meeting? Vague assertions of goodwill do not mean much in the face of so much inertia. Instead, we are witnesses to a silly fight by means of statements to the media.

From the earlier post - dated:10/29/2011 - 7:51 pm Question "thought that Sr. had repeatedly offered to meet with this committee? Appears that even after her offers, the committee continued to meet and ignored her requests. This statement does not address her specific replies to the initial USCCB committee findings. Why is there no effort to be consistent and fair?Now there is a statement that Wuerl offered to meet with her in what capacity? Also, Wuerl has his own agenda and a record/pattern that is not very balanced or objective in these matters.There are also conflicting accounts about whether the 1989 agreement applies to this situation as if it didnt? (that USCCB statement is an example of splitting hairs so fine you cant see it or figure out what it means)."Grant - thanks for picking up on these questions and timeline data that appears to be interpreted differently as facts.When you initially posted the Sr. Johnson and Weindady replies months ago, had enumerated the members of the USCCB committee; their theological degrees and background. Would love to know who is actually pushing this agenda? Some of these committee members are in poor health and doubt that they have been involved? Some of them have little to no theological expertise? Why is there no effort between the CTSA and this USCCB committee to intervene and redirect so that a dialogue can happen? Does Dolan have any influence over Wuerl who appears to be driving this? Wuerl has his own agenda and would not characterize his views as objective. Weindady's constant refrain to the Catechism inserts a confusion in his approach between the role of a catechism and the role of a theologian.

Whether they met or did not meet or offered to meet or did not offer to meet is beside the point.A book stands or falls on the merits of the words on the printed page as published for public consumption. The public does not have the ability to meet with Sister Elizabeth for her clarification of what she meant. Rather, they are left only with what she wrote.Any later oral clarification after the fact is beside the point. If one writes what she means in the first place, and means what she writes, then meeting to provide clarification is unnecessary.Besides, did she meet with the editors at the publishing house only after the book was published? Or did the publishers insist on any clarifications be given to them for approval prior to publication?

As a follow up to one area of concern - the use of maternal descriptions for God:Interesting article in America recently:http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?blog_id=1&entry_id=4704Hig..."One of the most powerful images from this letter is that of Paul, Barnabas and Timothy as mothers to the Church. Paul writes of their time in Thessalonica, stating in v. 7 that we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children.This image of Paul and his fellow apostles as nurses (Greek trophos) must be understood as wet nurses, who were employed to care for and nurse others children. The wet nurses might be slaves or they might be hired out for the work, but they most often lived in the home of the employer or owner. Yet, here, Paul states that they were not nursing someone elses children, they were nursing their own children. Indeed, the NIV (and NAB) omit the ancient wet nurse imagery and just speak of a mother caring for her little children.Wonder if Mr. Martens will be receiving a letter from Weindady soon?

Whether they met or did not meet or offered to meet or did not offer to meet is beside the point.Bender,It is not beside the point if the USCCB press release is untrue. It doesn't change what is in the book, but it does have a bearing on what we think of Sr. Johnson's critics.

Bender,I did not reply to your remarks in the previous thread, but now I find it necessary to not a few things. In the course of that thread, you claim, "Sister Elizabeth is entirely free to publish whatever she wants without the review of the bishops. But if she wants to write on Catholic theology, then as a matter of communion and truth, she must work with the successors of the Apostles and not in competition with them or against them."So, please tell me how it is "beside the point" whether they offered to meet her. Usually, when I work with someone, I like to confer with them about said work. In point of fact, it is THE point.And one further clarification that is worth making yet again. You note, "Donald Wuerl himself submitted to the review process in seeking and obtaining an imprimatur and nihil obstat for his catechetical book The Teaching of Christ."Fine. Perhaps if Professor Johnson had written a "catechetical book," we would have a discussion. Since this is a work of academic theology, there is a difference, which has been articulated in any number of fora.

Is Weinandy a catechist or a theologian?I've just gotta' ask in light of this guy's purportedly professional background.

More from Weinandy - http://anothervoice-greenleaf.org/category/vatican-ii/Especially - ".....Theologians can be a curse and affliction upon the church,...."Member of ACT - very conservative group of theologians primarily from conservative theology schools - e.g. JPII Institutie, Univ. of Dallas, Sacred Heart Major Seminary; Ave Maria University. But, also CSTA; Here is his bio: http://www.salvationhistory.com/personnel/Rev.+Dr.+Thomas+G.+Weinandy,+O... is interesting - his PhD is not a church degree and not from Rome - but from London.Appointments: Georgetown; Mount St. Mary's; Steubenville (not exactly a theological haven). His articles have been published in the more conservative publications: First Things; National Catholic Register.Wonder how many here have ever read one of his published books? Not exactly best sellers and combined - probably sold fewer copies than Sr. Johnson's Quest for the Living God?

Weinandy is what we used to call a company man or another term from the street no tallowed here.But the problem is Wuerl - and the bishiops -and supporters like Bender -whose view is expressed by Weinandy to the New Ways Ministry person.Was it that long ago (2004?) when Wuerl talked about accountability in terms of openness?And in limited ways as Mr. SDteinfels pointed out then.Down the road things just continue to deteriorate....

Cardinal Wuerl is behaving as he is behaving in this case because he is well aware that he does not have to answer to anyone for his behavior. In theory, he answers to the pope and the Vatican. But he knows that the pope and the Vatican are not going to do anything to remove Bishop Finn in Kansas City, Missouri, despite the criminal charges brought against him by local prosecutors there. So in the case involving Sister Johnson's book, Cardinal Wuerl has nothing to fear from the pope and the Vatican. He can get away with behaving the way he is behaving.

I know this in not nice, but it seems to me Cardinal Wuerl LIED in his statement, and he got caught by a very smart woman. Nobody likes to use the word "lied", but it sure looks like that's what he did. He's owes prof. Johnson and the whole catholic community an apology. Fat chance.

Communication by press release is not unheard of in Washington, DC, but for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to be driven to that extreme in an unresolved disagreement over how to describe God and who's in charge of what verges on the absurd. The Weinandy concept of "dialogue" explains a lot, but it is now one of the Princes of the Church carrying on via the Internet. Theology and philosophy aren't the only problems the US Church needs to solve these days to slow its fade. http://www.usccb.org/news/2011/11-207.cfm

Perhaps the American bishops felt they had to do something because Elizabeth Johnson is arguably the most inluential Catholic theologian of our time in the US. She is a source of hope for those facing a juridical, political, and non responsive hierarchy. She gave this uplifting speech to the Conference on Women Religious, in which she shows how those who served the church did it well despite a sterile and condemnatory Vatican. http://ncronline.org/news/theologian-elizabeth-johnson-drench-anger-forg... pronouncements of hope certainly will not be tolerated by a machinery driven by Empire and control. Being a woman only adds fire to their "quest" to silence her. After all it was less than a century ago when it was considered a mortal sin for a woman to go past the altar rail.A 1949 Vatican Instruction said: "All moralists agree that a woman coming closer to the altar beyond the communion rail, would commit a grave sin." Independent scholars only found two which is shocking enough.

"What is interesting his PhD is not a church degree and not from Rome but from London."Bill de H. --Hmm. As you say, Fr. Weinancy's Ph. D. is not from a pontifical university. Take a look a King's at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King%27s_College_LondonNow take a look at this: Weinandy's bio. at the St. Paul's Center site tells us quite clearly that " Father Weinandy has served at the University of Oxford since 1991. He is the Warden of Greyfriars and tutor and lecturer in History and Doctrine in the Faculty of Theology. He was Chairman of the Faculty of Theology from 1997 to 1999. He also administers the Greyfriars Year Abroad Program" http://www.salvationhistory.com/personnel/Rev.+Dr.+Thomas+G.+Weinandy%2C... this says is that Fr. Weinandy is no less than a Warden of a college of "the University of Oxford". Wow! Quite impressive on the surface, but -- check out "Greyfriars" College at Wikipedia. It was established in 1224 as a Franciscan school and in its early centuries was a most distinguished one. However, it was repressed during the Reformation, and over the years the its reputation has slipped drastically. In fact, in the Wikipedia article there is a section called "Controversy and Closure" which covers a period around 2007 when it seems that Oxford was so dissatisfied with Greyfriars' standards that the University tried to close it down. (And as I read the Wiki art., it succeeded in severing it from Oxford University.)"Controversy and closure"In March 2007, the Order announced without prior discussion to the Fellows or students its intention to withdraw from its ministry as a Permanent Private Hall of the University, for financial and personnel reasons and because the University appeared to be insisting on a more collegiate model for the Permanent Private Halls which, it was argued, would have made it untenable for the Friars, given their declining numbers of suitable personnel."In July 2007, the University of Oxford published its Review of the Permanent Private Halls associated with the University of Oxford.[1] The Review expressed clear concerns about the viability of Greyfriars as a going concern within the University. In particular, it expressed concern about the way in which fellows were appointed, and library support was described as "clearly inadequate" (p.14)."It was decided that all students and prospective applicants would transfer to Regent's Park College.[2] The existing Fellows, students, and alumni were not consulted in advance about this decision, which aroused considerable controversy; substantial proposals by the Fellows for the continuation of Greyfriars Hall were considered by the Governing Body but never in an open forum. The University eventually indicated that the Friars' licence to run Greyfriars as a PPH would not be transferred to any other body, and the Hall closed in June 2008, despite the last minute attempt to save the Hall by the Holy See.[3] The Capuchin Order states that it will continue to exist at Greyfriars in Oxford and the premises will continue to operate as a friary; the order will maintain responsibility for the parish."Note especially: Oxford University complained of "a declining number of suitable personnel" at Greyfriars. There's more at Wiki about the status of the school now. As I read it, Oxford U. did drop the Greyfriars school as part of that university, but an entity called "Greyfriars" is still operating. If this is a correct reading of the facts, then Fr. Weinancy is not still serving Oxford University -- not if his school has been dropped from the Oxford University colleges. If Wikipedia has the facts right, and if have read all this right, perhaps the bishops' committee should take another look at F. W,'s academic bona fides. Who is he to be judging Sr. Elizabeth?

OOPWS == here's the Wikipedia article about "Greyfriars"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greyfriars,_Oxford

Oh, dear. The Wikipedia article on Fr. Weinandy doesn't exactly match Fr. Weinandy's biography at the St. Paul Center site."He has held academic positions at Georgetown University, Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, Franciscan University of Steubenville, and Loyola College, Baltimore. Father Weinandy served at the University of Oxford from 1991 to 2005."He was the Warden of Greyfriars (19932004)(Honorary Fellow 2004) and tutor and lecturer in History and Doctrine in the Faculty of Theology. He was Chairman of the Faculty of Theology from 1997 to 1999."http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_G._Weinandy

Another position of Fr Tom Weinandy OFM Cap, was on the Board of Management of St. Bede's Hall, Oxford after the close of Greyfriars Hall. This was a new Catholic College which apparently opened and closed during 2009-2010. http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=17405

Jack Barry --Hmm, hmm, hmm. Could it be that Fr. Weinandy snowed the American bishops with his claims of academic glory?

Speaking of over-simplifications (which Sr. Elizabeth is accused of), how does the title of this article by Fr. Weinandy grab you: Aquinas on Doctrine: A Critical Introduction, (edited with Daniel A. Keating and John Yocum), (London: T&T Clark/Continuum, 2004). In this volume I contributed an essay entitled: 'Aquinas: God IS Man: The Marvel of the Incarnation'.God IS man? Tell that to your seventh grader CCD class and see what they make of it. That is from Fr. W.'s curriculum vitae at: http://archive.salvationhistory.com/mission/staff/weinandyCV.cfm2.htm

Elizabeth Johnson has just, in effect, called Donald Wuerl a liar, according to a just posted article on the National Catholic Reporter. Please note this by clicking on at http://ncronline.org/news/theology/johnson-cardinals-claim-she refused-contact-blatantly-false . Please also note my related comment and crosslinks made earlier today under the comment heading, "WOMEN THEOLOGIANS" , accessible by clicking on at http://ncroline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/john-omalley-lessons-trent .

Double Oops,, it's been a long day. the correct link concerning the Elizabeth Johnson/Donald Wuerl scuffle is to the comment and crosslinks under the heading, "WOMEN THEOLOGIANS", accessible by clicking on at http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/john-omalley-lesson-trent .

I think she made a tactical error by calling Wuerl a liar -- better to say it was a misunderstanding and leave it at that.The real issues are theological. If she wants to discuss them with the bishops, they should be happy -- since no one else seems to want to discuss theology with them, poor things.

"The public does not have the ability to meet with Sister Elizabeth for her clarification of what she meant. Rather, they are left only with what she wrote"True. But we the public are also left only with what we see and hear about this controversy: A prominent woman theologian is publicly and harshly criticized by a committee of male bishops. And we are told that the the Committee would not even meet with the woman to discuss her writings. It makes me, a member of the public, very uncomfortable to see her treated this way.

Looking at the other document of the bishops, I wonder how convincing it is to scold a theologian for failing to prove that homosexual acts are natural to homosexuals. Discernment of spirits usually does not proceed by knockdown proofs; if it did the Church would never have been able to override the biblical acceptance of slavery or Jesus' prohibition of oaths. Again, how convincing is it to argue that if we change this part of natural law the whole idea of natural law goes up in flames? Is it not the basic principles of natural law that are the most convincing part -- and as one descends to details it becomes more and more open to rational questioning. Catholicism has often confounded natural law with what Yves Congar called "the morality of the sacrosanct semen".

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopalian Church seems to me to have got it right, when she describes homosexuality as a vocation to love people of one's own sex just as heterosexuality is a vocation to love people of the other sex. It's perfectly natural. And physical expression that love is perfectly natural, too, just as much as with heterosexual love (though of course morality will come in to make barriers and restrictions as to which actions and when are appropriate and loving).

In the movie "The Haunting" the Julie Harris character taunts the Claire Bloom character by calling her one of "nature's mistakes". That was how lesbians were seen in 1963 it seems. The bishops seem bent on taking us back there.

Jerry: No, Sister Johnson did not in effect call Cardinal Wuerl a liar, because she said nothing about his intentions. In effect, she accused him of making untrue statements regarding her.Please note that the USCCB Committee on Doctrine in their second statement allowed that they were not questioning Sister Johnson's intentions. Intentions count a lot.

Irene: In posting its initial critique of Sister Johnson's book, did the USCCB Committee on Doctrine treat the male authors Professors Salzman and Lawler better than they treated Sister Johnson?But the NYTimes did not publish a news story about the Committee on Doctrine's critique of Salzman and Lawler's book. Evidently, the NYTimes did not consider that critique to be newsworthy. After all, you had male bishops criticizing lay male theologian. So what's newsworthy about that?But the Committee on Doctrine's critique of Sister Johnson's book was deemed newsworthy by the NYTimes because male bishops criticized a feminist theologian.But if we as part of the larger public are going to be concerned about the initial critique of Sister Johnson's book posted by the Committee on Doctrine, shouldn't we as part of the larger public also be concerned by the critique of Professor Salzman and Lawler's book posted by the Committee on Doctrine?The Catholic bishops have been involved in public debates in the United States regarding a number of issues that Salzman and Lawler discuss in their book.If we as part of the larger public are concerned about some of the public and civic issues that the Catholic bishops keep getting involved in, then we should be concerned about the bishops' critique of Salzman and Lawler's book.When we consider the bishops' critique of Sister Johnson's book in connection with their earlier critique of Salzman and Lawler's book, we should notice certain common elements in the Committee on Doctrine's way of proceeding to post a critique of each book.

Housekeeping note: I've just posted scans of Wuerl's letters to Johnson, dated July 22 and October 11. Jerry: Johnson did not call Wuerl a liar. That's your interpretation. By the way, there's also an RNS story by David Gibson, if you'd like to read another summary of the same information I reported here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/01/donald-wuerl-elizabeth-johnson-... Do you think you've detected a profeminist bias in the Times? There is a simple reason the story was covered by the New York Times: Johnson teaches at Fordham University in New York City. She is also, pace Lawler and Salzman, a much more prominent and influential theologian. There is no inconsistency. These threads are about the Committee on Doctrine's critique of Johnson--not Salzman and Lawler. If you want to write about that and submit it to Commonweal, feel free. But your posts about them here are off topic.

On the principle that it's never too late for people to try to repair a damaged relationship, it really would be good if Cardinal Wuerl and Sr. Johnson could meet. Reading through the he-said/she-said as summarized by David G, it might be that both parties missed one another's offers to meet. For example, if Sr. Johnson's response to Cardinal Wuerl did not go directly to his desk - if it had been opened and read by a subordinate who didn't pass it along to the cardinal. Or he may have forgotten.I guess Cardinal Wuerl felt constrained to try to set the record straight. I do agree with Jack that communicating via warring press releases is not exactly the model of going to one's sister in private before approaching the altar.The irony didn't escape me, btw, the Oxford's treatment of Greyfriars bears many of the defects in process - secret meetings, unilateral decision-making, highhandedness - of which the Committee on Doctrine stands accused. How many teeth will be gnashed here over the lack of openness in academia?And the borking now in progress here against Fr. Weinandy and his personal reputation is terrible, folks. It's way worse than the Committee on Doctrine's public comments, which have dwelt, not on Sr. Johnson the person or her qualifications, but on her book. Whether or not we agree with the specifics of the Committee's critique, it does have a right to weigh in - that comes with the territory when someone publishes a book on Catholic theology, istm.

Grant: I appreciate your candor. However, I was well aware of the fact that Sister Johnson teaches at Fordham, before you mentioned this. I also know that she is more prominent than Salzman and Lawler.I am sorry that you see my message as off-topic. With all due respect for you, I do not see it as off-topic. On the contrary, I see my effort as an attempt to expand your horizon beyond the focus on Sister Johnson's book.By focusing on her book, you make the conflict sound like feminist theologian versus male bishops.But the same committee of male bishops has also criticized Salzman and Lawler's book. As you might expect, there are similarities and differences in the two cases beyond the differences that you and others have mentioned (Johnson is more prominent than Salzman and Lawler; Johnson is a woman and a feminist author).I am sorry that you are so narrow-minded, Grant. However, in my estimate, this thread needs to be expanded to larger horizons involving the USCCB Committee on Doctrine.

Thomas: the conflict I'm writing about is between Johnson and the Committee on Doctrine. They are men. She is a theologian (although calling her a feminist theologian doesn't quite capture the scope of her work). I know, the idea that some interpret this conflict as motivated by antifeminist sensibilities makes you uncomfortable. The Committee on Doctrine could have dispelled such an interpretation by responsibly reading Johnson's book--especially the section on feminine and masculine names for God. Instead, they drew unwarranted conclusions and then refused to be corrected by the one whose views they mischaracterized.

Some time back Elizabeth Johnson and I met to discuss our differences over Mary Magdalene; she was right and in her steely gentle way proved it. They are afraid to meet with her. Being toadies makes them cowards.

After these contemporary procedural questions are resolved it will be time to turn to similar issues in the Church's past such as the one recently opened by Episcopalians in Atlanta - - Was Pelagius given a fair hearing by the Council of Carthage in 416? And should he be rehabilitated in the name of theological diversity?Whereas the historical record of Pelagiuss contribution to our theological tradition is shrouded in the political ambition of his theological antagonists who sought to discredit what they felt was a threat to the empire, and their ecclesiastical dominance, and whereas an understanding of his life and writings might bring more to bear on his good standing in our tradition;And whereas his restitution as a viable theological voice within our tradition might encourage a deeper understanding of sin, grace, free will, and the goodness of Gods creation, and whereas in as much as the history of Pelagius represents to some the struggle for theological exploration that is our birthright as Anglicans, Be it resolved, that this 105th Annual Council of the Diocese of Atlanta appoint a committee of discernment overseen by our Bishop, to consider these matters as a means to honor the contributions of Pelagius and reclaim his voice in our tradition.http://www.religiousintelligence.org/churchnewspaper/news/internationaln...

Does Archbishop Timothy Dolan, as President of the USCCB, have the authority to get all of these people in one room and knock some heads together? I think Elizabeth Johnson has been treated unfairly, and I am firmly on her side. But nobody is going to come out ahead if things continue in this fashion. This would assume, of course, that Archbishop Dolan could act with, if not exactly impartiality, some degree of detachment from this particular dispute, for the common good. I do have to say that the idea that a theologian like Elizabeth Johnson should consult with bishops before publishing a work of academic theology would be appropriate if Catholicism were some kind of cult in which the inner circle possessed the true knowledge available to a select few, and those in the outer circle were not in full possession of the cult's doctrines. (Catechetical works are another matter.) But it seems to me that Church leaders ought to approach academic theologians and those who read them as if they actually had brains in their heads and could handle novel ideas in the same way other academic disciplines do.

And so Sr. Johnson refused to meet with the cardinal; did not respond. Also it seems, that to her anyway, it does not matter that he is the leader of the Doctrine Commitee for USCCB. When that commitee made a public peep about her writing then, she cried fould and claims now, that she wanted to meet with them, tried to meet with them all along? Cardinal Wuerl has kindly tried to engage her several times, even in the press release. What a he said-she said; what a tempest in a teapot.Looks to me like the cardinal is a very patient man.

Thomas Farrell - You can start the comparison you seek by examining the bishops' critiques for their similarities and differences. Both are available. One difference you would note would be about the major interest in sex in one critique and gender in the other, independent of the biology of the authors. The bishops recognize a difference as do others. Grant G. has already invited your submission. http://www.usccb.org/upload/doctrine-inadequacies-sexual-person-toward-r... http://old.usccb.org/doctrine/statement-quest-for-the-living-god-2011-03... An illustration of the point Grant makes about local interest of major national papers happens to show up in the Washington Post headline and first sentence of its 10/31 article on Wuerl and Johnson: "D.C. cardinal, nun mired in rare public dispute ----An unusual public dispute is brewing between Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl .."Cardinal Wuerl is one of the local folk. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/dc-cardinal-nun-mired-in...

One important clarifier: This is not a case of "he said, she said." Cardinal Wuerl misstates the facts, and Sister Johnson does not. Whether that is of any consequence is up to individual opinion. I am somewhat surprised that Archbishop Dolan has not brought his diplomatic skills to bear, given that Johnson is teaching in his diocese, at Fordham, and Dolan is president of the USCCB. I also agree that characterizing Johnson as a "feminist" theologian is reductive, though her use of female imagery played a role in the negative determination on her work. How much that figures is another question.

And so Sr. Johnson refused to meet with the cardinal; did not respond. Also it seems, that to her anyway, it does not matter that he is the leader of the Doctrine Commitee for USCCB.Ken,Where are you getting your information? What you say does not comport with the facts. What I read is an exchange of communications in which both sides say, "We should meet," but no actual meeting is ever arranged. Surely it is up to the USCCB to propose a time and place for a meeting. It's kind of like two people who constantly say, "Let's have lunch sometime," and then because no arrangements are ever made, one of them saying, "S/he refused to have lunch with me!" (Although note that the press release doesn't say she "refused." It says, "Sister Johnson did not respond to any of the offers."

One important clarifier: This is not a case of he said, she said. Cardinal Wuerl misstates the facts, and Sister Johnson does not. Whether that is of any consequence is up to individual opinion.David Gibson,You forget that what Elizabeth Johnson is in trouble for is not consulting with the bishops before expressing herself to the public. It appears to be the case that Sr. Johnson is stating the facts and Cardinal Wuerl is misstating them. However, if Sr. Johnson had consulted with Cardinal Wuerl, presumably she would have been counseled to misstate the facts herself, and consequently her own statements would confirm the Cardinal's.

David N: First, is Johnson in trouble for not consulting with the bishops before expressing herself to the public? Not sure I've seen that in the correspondence or elsewhere. But I may be wrng.Second, that doesn't really have an effect on the truth of the matter. Cardinal Wuerl said Johnson did not respond to three specific invitations, and in fact Johnson did. What does this mean?"if Sr. Johnson had consulted with Cardinal Wuerl, presumably she would have been counseled to misstate the facts herself, and consequently her own statements would confirm the Cardinals."

Jim - sorry but disagree on wanting to know more about the comittee members and their qualifications. One side issue here is that we have the USCCB with committees made up of internally appointed members - why were they appointed? what is their expertise, etc.? There is no transparency in these appointments - that type of structure, as you know, only leads to poor decisions, processes, etc.

And the borking now in progress here against Fr. Weinandy and his personal reputation is terrible, folks. Its way worse than the Committee on Doctrines public comments, which have dwelt, not on Sr. Johnson the person or her qualifications, but on her book.Amen to that.

The bishops said Sr. Johnson's book "completely undermines the gospel and the faith of those who believe in the gospel."True? Untrue?If true, nothing else matters. There are apologists for attackers who insist that it takes two to tango. The attacked must share the blame. As time goes by, it becomes convenient to place all the blame on the attacked and pretend/insist that the attacker is the real victim. (Of "borking".)

OFF TOPIC!Yesterday the Wa Post published an article titled "Obama administration ends funding to Catholic group over abortion," written by Jerry Markon. This story is troubling. It deserves a thrreead here. Would someone open a discussion of this piece? thanks.

@Gerelyn: Untrue. @Boudway: Thank you. No matter how much or how little one agrees with Weinandy's views or actions, he does not deserve the pounding he has taken.Johnson wanted to talk with the committee to discuss issues and was not invited. Wuerl wanted to talk with Johnson about a fait accompli and presumably Johnson did not want to waste her time. Since the document is from a committee, why talk with an individual bishop after the statement is issued?

"The irony didnt escape me, btw, the Oxfords treatment of Greyfriars bears many of the defects in process secret meetings, unilateral decision-making, highhandedness of which the Committee on Doctrine stands accused. How many teeth will be gnashed here over the lack of openness in academia?"Jim P. --This isn't the place to discuss this in any detail, but please read the accounts of the Greyfriars demise more carefully. The evidence presented here don't establish just who was the high-handed party, nor indeed if there was only one high-handed party, and since it was the Oxford governors whose responsibility to make the decision whether to retain Greyfriars or not it stands to reason that it was their decision and the decision alone. That is a decsion by one party to the dispute, but it is not what is usually called "a unilaterally decision", no more than a judge who finds a defendent guilty a "unilaterally decision".I'd like to see this topic aired on another thread, but who here really knows the ins and outs? It is obvious, however, that the one-time extremely distinguished college which produced Blessed Duns Scotus, Alexander Hales, William of Occam, Roger Grosseteste and Roger Bacon was finally dumped under at least the partial direction of Fr. Weinand. If one keeps one's long-term perspective on this matter, Fr. Weinand does't look too competent.

I will delete any more comments about Weinandy posted here.

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