In this article, we will look at how the new “eco-feminist theology” attacks truths long taught by Holy Mother Church. We will use the books and writings of the promoters of this theological current so as not to distort their thinking, but only make small commentaries.
The book, Del Cielo a la Tierra [From Heaven to Earth] is an anthology of the main authors and texts of feminist and eco-feminist theology. Its authors are American with abundant curriculums of studies and activities. The texts were selected by the lay missionary Judith Ress in coordination with other women of the Colectivo Con-spirando [Conspiring Collective]. Readers are invited “to listen to these voices (of ‘deconstruction’) from the theologians of the North … striving to sing a new song with their own voices. Let us fine tune our ears.”1
To decipher this neo-theology, we will also use different issues of Con-spirando magazine and the books, Lluvia para crecer [Rain to Grow] and Vírgenes y diosas en América Latina [Virgins and Goddesses in Latin America], which are the main sources of this theology in Chile.2 We will make some comments to help understand the text.
The ideological foundations of this new theology are expounded in the first eco-feminist selection in the book From Heaven to Earth. Some main ideas from the book’s introduction include the notion that feminist theology hold that “its interpretation of the physical human body as absolutely central” to understanding society. The eco-feminist spirituality is “grounded in its sensuality and sexuality.” The reader finds that feminist theology is “a great ecumenical task of telling stories, celebrating, criticizing our traditions.” Such theology is relativistic because it “testifies to the changing and dynamic nature of relationships, and therefore of theology itself.” The theology recognizes “neither god, incarnation, sin, or reparation. We feminists assume the prerogative of translating traditional Christian or religious norms such as the assumption that pride is a sin.”3
Commentary: Nothing traditional remains standing in this theology since there is no certainty that any present truth will hold true tomorrow. This is the apex of relativism and therefore of the negation of religion. This neo-theology constantly affirms the thesis that pride is not a sin, as will be seen below. It also includes the inverse affirmation: for a woman, humility is a sin.
Another major promoter of this current notes the profoundly revolutionary character of this neo-theology by saying that “There is a dynamic inherent to the revolution of women in the Judeo-Christian society that is Anti-church …This is because Judeo-Christian tradition legitimizes patriarchy … which the women’s revolution has left behind…. It is a post-Christian spiritual revolution.”4
The same theologian explains this post-Christian spirituality: “The women’s journey of transformation, then, involves exorcising the internalized godfather in its various manifestations…. This process of demystification, standing up and getting out of the Lie, is the ecstasy.”5
According to the eco-feminist theologian, Mary Condren,6 the book of Genesis is “the foundational myth of patriarchy.” In her book, Eve and the Serpent: The Founding Myth of Patriarchy, she states that, “In the end, the snake was right. The first couple did not die when they ate the fruit and came to know good and evil…. However, although the serpent proved to be right, and Yahweh wanted to prevent the couple from ‘knowing good and evil’ the snake receives punishment …Women were subordinated to men and became responsible for crushing the ancient source of strength and comfort, that is, the goddess in the form of a serpent.”7
For her part, Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza,8 also an eco-feminist theologian, proposes a conversion of the Church: “By exorcising the internalized structural evil of patriarchal sexism and by calling the whole church to conversion and repentance, Christian feminism and feminist theology rescue the right and power to articulate our own theology [to] become the ekklesia of women, woman-church.”9
According to another feminist theologian, “Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza has enlarged the model of the hermeneutical circle and modified its image. During her stay in Chile, she presented the model of hermeneutic dance of biblical interpretation, a deliberate movement that circulates freely through the experience (of oppression …); memory (of traditions of oppression …); the good news (… is it really good news for these women?); creative re-imagination (feminist liturgy …); and transformation (liberation, healing, as a fundamental reason for this dance).”10
The now deceased theologian and woman religious, Madonna Kolbenschlag,11 offers a formula-rite to do this “exorcism” against the “myth of Eve” which has served as basis for the doctrine on patriarchy: “Remembering the history of Eve and the garden of temptation, we gather to read the story of Genesis…. At the end of each reading, all the assembled women vigorously sing: ‘this is not the will or the word of God!’ Then an apple is blessed and passed from one woman to another with the words, ‘Take and eat, because it is good, and you are good’. I cannot describe the strong, even physical sensation of affirmation and exorcism that this community ritual imparts.”12
Commentary: The apple is the symbol of the fruit forbidden by God, and therefore of sin. The serpent is a symbol of the devil. Eating the apple in a rite is a denial of the concept of Original Sin and of all Catholic theology based on Genesis, and elicits the sympathy of participants towards the serpent, that is, the devil.
Indeed, Catholic parishes and church groups in the Chilean capital of Santiago, currently teach and practice this “exorcistic” rite. Women “teachers” have attracted disciples who convey their lessons to new adepts of this current.
- Cf. Del Cielo a la Tierra, Una antología de teología feminista, Edited by Mary Judith Ress, Ute Seibert, Lele Sjørup, ‘Sello Azul’, 2nd ed., July 1997, Chile.
- Cf. Vírgenes y diosas en América Latina, la resignificación de lo sagrado [Virgins and Goddesses in Latin America: Re-signifying the Sacred] by Con-spirando, Red Latinoamericana de Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir [Latin American Network of Catholic Women for the Right to Decide], 1st ed., Nov. 2004, Uruguay.
- Cf. Carter Heyward, Introduction to feminist theology in Del Cielo a la Tierra, Una antología de teología feminista, pp. 37 to 39, emphasis ours. The author is “episcopal priestess and professor of theology at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachussets. A lesbian feminist and liberation theologian, she has authored several books and articles.”
- Cf. Del Cielo a la Tierra, p. 108. Mary Daly, “The Qualitative Leap Beyond Patriarchal Religion.” “Mary Daly obtained her Ph.D. in religion from St. Marys’ College at the University of Notre Dame, United States, and her Ph.D.’s in sacred theology and philosophy from the University of Freiburg, Switzerland. She is associate professor at the Boston College Department of Theology, where she teaches feminist ethics and authors of classic texts.”
- Cf. Ibid. pp. 110-111.
- “Mary Condren was born in Dublín, Ireland. She teaches at University College and Trinity College in Dublin and in the Dominican Priory of Tallaght”. Cf. Del cielo a la Tierra, “Sobre las Autoras”.
- Cf. Ibid. p. 217-218.
- “Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza. Professor of theology at Harvard Divinity School; co-founder and co-editor of the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion and author of several books.” Cf. Del cielo a la Tierra, “Sobre las Autoras”.
- Cf. Ibid. p. 24.
- Cf. “Espacios abiertos, Caminos de la Teología feminista”, Ute Seibert, August, 2010, Editorial Forja, Santiago, p. 62.
- Madonna Kolbenschlang, (1935-2000), obtained her Ph.D. in Literature at Notre Dame University in 1973; took part in the State of West Virginia Women’s Commission. Author of many books.
- Cf. Ibid. Del cielo a la Tierra, p. 257, emphases in the original.