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I was asked by the Senior Editor to post my comments from Facebook to the blog to add to the discussion. Here are my opinions and direct quotes and links to the source documents that support my statements. I do respect Sr. Johnson, however, I do have concerns. Many of the works of Sr. Johnson dissent from the teaching of the Church and she has spoken publicly against the Teaching Authority (the Magesterium-ie: The Bishops). IAW with the Code of Canon Law, the Documents of Vatican II, and Documents regarding the works of theologians within the Roman Catholic tradition (rules that Sr. Johnson agreed to freely) the Bishops did their job- thoroughly. Now, out of her promise of obedience, she should follow through and make any necessary corrections. If not, then leave the teaching post, refrain from publication, and return to here Society in Chestnut Hill, IAW with the Rule of Life of the Sisters of St. Joseph that she freely bound herself to live by. She is required to sign the Mandatum if she wants to teach and to hold at least an STL from a Pontifical University to teach Catholic Theology in the first place.
The Magesterium of the Catholic Church are the teaching authority. Theologians are not, they assist and advise. Among them are those with different views who dialogue among themselves and the Bishops. The problem with this work by Sr. Johnson is that it is not geared to those who hold advance degrees in Catholic Theology (MA, MDiv, STB, STL, STD, and the STM) nor is the purpose of this work is to engage discussion among theologians or the Bishops. This work is being used in introduction foundational levels so it is leading people astray. That is the direct reason why the US Bishops published their statement, which is clearly stated both in the document and on their webpage. Vatican II and Church documents also make the standards clear about published works on theology.
So what are the direct problems with the work? As clearly stated by the US Bishop’s, which may be found at, these are the following reasons from the statement:
1. The “basic problem with Quest for the Living God as a work of Catholic theology is that the book does not take the faith of the Church as its starting point. Instead, the author employs standards from outside the faith to criticize and to revise in a radical fashion the conception of God revealed in Scripture and taught by the Magisterium.”
2. Sister Johnson attempts to justify her revisions of traditional Catholic theology by arguing that this tradition has become contaminated by ideas from Enlightenment thinkers, who are responsible for the conception of God in what she calls “modern theism.” “Against the contamination of Christian theology after the Enlightenment by modern theism, Sr. Johnson claims to be retrieving fundamental insights from patristic and medieval theology. This is misleading, since under the guise of criticizing modern theism she criticizes crucial aspects of patristic and medieval theology, aspects that have become central elements of the Catholic theological tradition confirmed by magisterial teaching…” The Committee contrasts Sister Johnson's assertion that the Church's names for God are metaphors that do not apply to the reality of God with the traditional Catholic understanding. The Church teaches, based on patristic and medieval theology, that certain names truly apply to God by analogy and are not merely metaphors.
3. Also at issue is Sr. Johnsons characterization of the Church's names for God as humanly-constructed metaphors that can be replaced by novel human constructions that are intended to help transform society in a positive way by promoting the socio-political status of women. “What is lacking in the whole of this discussion is any sense of the essential centrality of divine revelation as the basis of Christian theology,” the statement says. “The names of God found in the Scriptures are not mere human creations that can be replaced by others that we may find more suitable according to our own human judgment. The standard by which all theological assertions must be judged is that provided by divine revelation, not by unaided human understanding."
4. Here is the key statement that supports what I have stated earlier: The committee issued the statement because of the book's unacceptable departures from the Catholic theological tradition and "the fact that the book is directed primarily to an audience of non-specialist readers and is being used as a textbook for study of the doctrine of God." ”For these reasons … the Committee on Doctrine finds itself obligated to state publicly that the doctrine of God presented in Quest for the Living God does not accord with authentic Catholic teaching on essential points,” the statement says. The full statement is available online at
Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington stated this clearly: “The Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine is first and foremost concerned about the spiritual welfare of those students using this book who may be led to assume that its content is authentic Catholic teaching,” he said. “Although an imprimatur is not required for all books that treat Sacred Scripture and theology, it is still a recommended practice (see c. 827 §3). By seeking an imprimatur, the author has the opportunity to engage in dialogue with the bishop concerning the Catholic teaching expressed in the book. Thus, clarifications concerning the text can be made prior to its publication. It would have been helpful if Sister Elizabeth Johnson had taken advantage of this opportunity.” He added that “The Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine is always open to dialogue with theologians and would welcome an opportunity to discuss Sister Elizabeth’s writings with her.”

Cardinal Wuerl’s introductory remarks are available online at
As always, it is important to actually read the statement before jumping to conclusions. Again, the Bishops are required, as Shepherds, to ensure the flock is not led astray and point out errors made by theologians who teach the Roman Catholic faith. For now, I will pray for Sr. Johnson and as a priest with advance degrees in theology and one who promised to lead all souls to salvation and uphold the teachings of the Church and transmit them clearly, I support the Bishop's stance and hope Sr. Johnson makes the required corrections.