Rosemary Radford Ruether: Fearless Leader and Changemaker for Progressive Catholic Feminism

By Miller, Patti | Conscience, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

Rosemary Radford Ruether: Fearless Leader and Changemaker for Progressive Catholic Feminism


Miller, Patti, Conscience


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

FEW PEOPLE HAVE MADE THEIR mark on modern Catholicism as decisively as feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether. From her early days in the Civil Rights movement to her groundbreaking critique of the Catholic hierarchy's patriarchy and re-envisioning of Christian theology to her pioneering work in eco-feminism, Ruether has made unique contributions to progressive Catholicism. Her influential book "Sexism and God Talk," among many other major works, helped usher in modern Christian feminism.

Conscience sat down to talk with Ruether recently in Atlanta, were she was attending the American Academy of Religion conference, about her career and work with Catholics for Choice as she prepares to depart the CFC Board of Directors, which she has served on since the early 1980s. A career spanning nearly 50 years and the conclusion of her role on the CFC board notwithstanding, Ruether remains engaged in the study of theology, enthusiastic about feminist scholarship and deeply committed to her vision of Catholicism. She was on four panels at the conference addressing topics as diverse as decolonial interpretations of Mary and Christian Zionism.

Ruether's life was imbued with the contradictions of Catholicism from the start. Her mother was Catholic and her father Episcopalian and she was raised, as she puts it, "Catholic in an ecumenical context." It was perhaps inevitable that she herself would become a scholar of the classics and church history and one of the hierarchy's most constructive critics. "My mother took seriously what she thought of as the high intellectual tradition of Catholicism bur she was also critical of what she saw as superstitious, dogmatic Catholicism," notes Ruether.

After receiving her BA in philosophy and history from Scripps College and marrying political scientist Herman Ruether in 1957, she entered Claremont Graduate School, where she earned her MA in ancient history in 1960 and her PhD in classics and patristics--the study of the early church "fathers"--in 1965. Despite her academic interest in church history, reproductive rights were never far from her mind. In 1964, when the question of whether the Vatican would officially approve of contraception was on everyone's mind and she herself was a young mother balancing family and a career, she wrote a piece for the Washington Post Magazine entitled "Why a Catholic Mother Believes in Birth Control." It eventually cost Ruether her first teaching job at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles. "I had been hanging around with the Immaculate Heart Sisters because the priest I was working with on Greek stuff was out there. And they asked me to teach. But some trustees rose up in wrath and said 'you can't hire her' because of the Washington Post article," Ruether recalls. "I remember the mother superior coming to me at the end of the first year and saying 'I feel really terrible, but we are not going to be able to hire you for another year.'"

Ruether already had another job offer, teaching at the Howard University School of Religion, so it wasn't a major career setback. But ir did teach her a valuable lesson. "It gave me the basic message: don't work for a Catholic institution," she says.

Teaching at the historically black Howard wouldn't seem like a natural fit for a white woman schooled in the classics. But like other young progressive activists in the early 1960s, Ruether had become involved in the Civil Rights movement. "The chaplains at Claremont Colleges were involved in civil rights, so I got involved though them," explains Ruether. "They developed a summer immersion program in Mississippi in 1965--the summer after the 'Freedom Summer' when those civil rights volunteers were killed. I was there that summer with the Delta ministry."

The experience would shape her work in profound ways. "I got involved in feminism though the Civil Rights critique of male dominance," she notes. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Rosemary Radford Ruether: Fearless Leader and Changemaker for Progressive Catholic Feminism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.