In the spring of 2012, the CDF, under the leadership of Cardinal Gerhard Müller, issued a statement accusing Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) of promoting “radical feminist themes” and “corporate dissent.” Most U.S. nuns vigorously rejected this misrepresentation as thousands of Catholics in the United States and around the globe rose up in their defense.
After the election of Pope Francis and the shift in priorities in Rome, on April 15, 2015, in a report issued jointly by officers of LCWR and the three bishops who had been mandated to investigate the group’s doctrinal orthodoxy, both sides agreed that the mandate had been accomplished and their conversations had “borne much fruit.”
Sr. Sandra Schneiders has written extensively about the impact of feminism as a comprehensive framework for the Catholic Church, Vatican II, and the prophetic nature of religious life. After the dust settled from the 2009 Apostolic Visitation, and more acutely, the 2012 Vatican investigation, Sr. Schneiders wrote that the upheaval ultimately strengthened the bond between women religious and helped them to define the feminist principles that served as a foundation for their work in the Church.
In her Madaleva Lecture, “With Oil in Their Lamps: Faith, Feminism, and the Future”, Sr. Schneiders extols the promise of a Gospel-informed feminism on the life of the Church and the work of the Gospel in the world. Yet, she holds no illusions about the inevitability of feminism’s impact. “We cannot predict the future, we can only create it.”
In her presentation for our Women Erased series, Sr. Scheiders will explore the questions surrounding feminism’s role and efficacy in the Catholic Church today.
Where have Catholic feminism(s) and Catholic feminists made inroads? What more can needs to be accomplished?
Does feminism, in general, and religiously committed feminism make a positive contribution to the future of the human family and our universe, or is it destined to be suppressed or fade away, leaving the world still structured by patriarchy, torn by violence, divided between the have and have nots, and driving by individualism, greed, and hedonism?*
*Schneiders, Sandra M., With Oil in Their Lamps: Faith, Feminism, and the Future (New York, Paulist Press, 2000), p 83.
Sandra M. Schneiders is professor emerita of New Testament studies and Christian spirituality at Jesuit School of Theology, Santa Clara University, Berkeley, Calif., and author of Prophets in Their Own Country: Women Religious Bearing Witness to the Gospel in a Troubled Church (2012), among other publications. She is a member of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Monroe, Michigan.
Sr. Schneiders was one of the first two nuns to receive a theology doctorate from a pontifical university after Vatican II, and went on to become the first non-Jesuit female professor to be tenured at JST. She is a pioneering, and often-cited theologian of St. John’s Gospel and in the field of “hermeneutics,” or how to interpret texts. She helped establish the country’s first doctoral program in Christian spirituality, at the Graduate Theological Union, and is a highly regarded and sought-after expert in Biblical studies and the modern-day theology and spirituality of women religious.
Her extraordinary life and work were featured last year in a gallery exhibit at Santa Clara University’s Learning Commons, and her professional papers have been donated to Santa Clara University’s official archives—the first collection of its kind at SCU.