Mary Hunt on the opportunity
facing the Roman Catholic Church
facing the Roman Catholic Church
I find Catholic feminist theologian Mary Hunt to be an inspiring figure within the contemporary church.
The co-founder of WATER – the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual – Mary was a keynote speaker at the 2006 CPCSM/St. Joan of Arc Symposium, “Exploring Contemporary Issues Within the Catholic Church.” (For a transcript of Mary’s talk, click here.)
More recently, Mary was a key organizer of the 25th anniversary conference of Women-Church Convergence, a coalition of 36 Catholic-rooted women’s organizations in the U.S. and Canada.
During the conference, held August 17-19 in Chicago, Mary was interviewed by Rosemary Ganley of TheSocialEdge.com. Following are brief excerpts from this interview.
Rosemary Ganley: Many Catholic reformers are saying that Vatican II is “over.” Do you agree?
Mary Hunt: I think it is simply ahistorical to claim that Vatican II is over. The Council has had a significant and lasting effect. It is not possible to erase the paradigm shift in Catholicism which it articulated. Even the virulent restorationist forces which seem to be ascendant in the Vatican today cannot do that.
The second reason Vatican II cannot be erased is that its ideas are remarkably similar to postmodern ways of thinking. These ways include the complete dismantling of hierarchical structure and power. The postmodern mind doesn’t cop to the older model. Then globalization with its powerful communication tools which show to the entire world both the interlocking systems of violence, injustice, and suffering, and at the same time the unstoppable human yearning for a sustainable livelihood and participation in all communities (including that of faith), makes top-down, men-only edicts from a central authority unacceptable.
Taking those things together there is really no rolling back the Council’s insights. The People of God, certainly those I see of the female gender, are going to act like the People of God.
Rosemary Ganley: Is there a crisis in Catholicism?
Mary Hunt: I am reluctant to describe the current situation as a crisis. I think it is a logical, if unintended consequence, of a system in urgent need of deep change. Frankly, I am not in crisis and most Catholic feminists I know are not in crisis.
I think it is a time when the North American Catholic Church is learning in the hardest possible way that it must become a faith community led by women such as Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, and by men not bound up in clerical knots.
It is an opportunity, not a crisis, to re-think the basis and repair the damage. I am confident our faith can survive such scrutiny. If it cannot, we are in bigger trouble than we thought.
Rosemary Ganley: Is religion experiencing some kind of renaissance?
Mary Hunt: Young people are increasingly interested in religion. At WATER, our efforts to engage in inter-generational dialogue have yielded us a few clues. Some people have such a narrow vision of religion we do not recognize a religious question when it comes up. There is the frightening instability of the world; the degradation of the earth, the violence we now witness and perpetuate. All are urgently-asked religious questions.
And some religious practices just make good sense. Attention to food and friends, sharing and solidarity with others, taking Sabbath time and retreat weekends, fasting and feasting, all add texture and meaning to life.
Rosemary Ganley: Do you think it is important to consider one’s social location when doing theology?
Mary Hunt: Yes, very much so. Each one’s perspective is specific, limited. I am a white, North American feminist. I am committed, as are many others, to the creation of new structures that are egalitarian and democratic. We can see many interlocking ways by which injustice functions, and we can envision many interlocking ways by which justice can be done.
Finally, I believe, equality and mutuality will trump hierarchy and greed. Because being Church and doing justice are one and the same thing.
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
• Our Catholic “Stonewall Moment”
• Authentic Catholicism: The Antidote to Clericalism
• Beyond a PC Pope
• What It Means To Be Catholic
• It’s Time We Evolved Beyond Theological Imperialism
• “Uncle Vince” Is At It Again
• Listen Up, Papa!
• Beyond Papalism