47 of 58 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Both of the previous reviewers, Jeri and Bobby, continue the long Conservative Christian tradition of not seeming to understand that, by definition, a "progressive agenda" is NOT "orthodox" or "traditional"(and is, in fact, often a DECONSTRUCTION of the underlying presuppositions of those positions), so "critiquing" a position by saying in effect that it's "not the official teaching" is no critique at all.
Both reviewers also seem oblivious to the fact that those of us who study the sociology of religion make a clear distinction between the "official" teachings of the Church and the ACTUAL beliefs of REAL, PRACTICING, Catholics (in other words, the difference between Theoria and Praxis). Part of Ruether's "agenda" is to help CLOSE this gap, while conservatives like Jeri and Bobby seem content to let this gaping incongruity stand just as it is. They apparently see themselves as lay "Defenders of Correct Doctrine," taking over the current Pope's former job at the local level.
(That the reviewers see themselves in this light can be evidenced by Bobby's overly defensive declaration that "we" have "nothing to fear" from Ruether's book, as though she was going after lay Catholics, when clearly, as the title of the book suggests, the Magisterium is her target. Unfortunately, Bobby doesn't quite seem to realize that repeatedly calling something "ridiculous" isn't really presenting a counter-argument, as I've told my own students time and again. Nor is suggesting that someone's position is "in league with Lucifer," a tired old trick that is so out of date it's really not even funny. Perhaps a course in Contemporary Reason and Argument would help!
Jeri fares little better, deciding apparently that he/she is "in charge" of deciding who is or isn't a Catholic, and then proceeding under the GROUNDLESS ASSUMPTION that Ruether is an "outsider." Again, most sociologists of religion believe that religious affiliation is largely SELF-identifying, and thus, just because, say, the Church's governing body may consider someone to be "outside of the faith" doesn't mean they suddenly cease to have a Catholic "way of being-in-the-world." In other words, to put it simply, a "Catholic" is anyone who thinks of THEMSELVES as a Catholic, not someone who "blindly accepts a conservative interpretation of Church dogma and is considered a Catholic by Jeri." Again, if Jeri or Bobby understood the Theoria/Praxis distinction they would get this crucial point. In any event, anyone who actually KNOWS Ruether knows that she identifies VERY STRONGLY with "being" a Catholic, albeit a "progressive" one.
BTW, anyone SERIOUSLY interested in this Vatican/Lay Catholic distinction should read Father Greeley's classic survey,The Catholic Myth , or the more recent essay collection edited by yet ANOTHER "uppity" Catholic feminist, Elizabeth Johnson,The Church Women Want: Catholic Women in Dialogue.)
This profound lack of understanding (of the gulf between the Vatican and Lay Catholics) unfortunately undermines any substantial criticism either of the the reviewers may have wished to toss Ruether's way, and instead shows them both to be clearly members of the "Out of Date, Traditional Catholics Society." By referring to a passionate call for major theological, social, ethical, and political change in the Church as a "leftist fad", Jeri in particular shows that he/she CLEARLY fails to understand the gravity of the current world situation, and thus he/she can hardly claim to speak for "most" of the world's "one billion Catholics," particularly those in the Global South.
And one more thing. The "personal" attacks on Ruether's "lack of knowledge" of Catholic History and Doctrine? Weak, guys, really, really weak. Ruether's an ESTABLISHED, world-class scholar, who has been writing professionally at least since the late '60's. Jeri, Bobby, how many academic conferences have YOU two presented at? How many peer-reviewed academic books and articles have YOU written that merit giving your positions the slightest bit of validity?
As someone who has actually STUDIED with Professor Ruether and has actually read ALL of her books, I can attest to the depth and breadth of her truly encyclopedic knowledge of a vast variety of subjects, INCLUDING, yes, Catholic history and doctrine. So, guys, THAT line of attack is simply not going to fly with ANYONE who knows better.
I could go on, but I'll leave Ruether's bold, insightful clarion call of a book to stand for itself.
I know it's quite typical of religious conservatives to cling to "tradition for tradition's sake," so I really shouldn't be surprised by these viewpoints. I guess I was just hoping for some more, well "novel" opponents.