U.S. bishops reaffirm concerns with Johnson's book

November 7, 2011
Sr. Elizabeth Johnson

Sr. Elizabeth Johnson

The nine members of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Doctrine have reaffirmed their concerns that a 2007 book by Fordham University theologian Sister Elizabeth Johnson is "seriously inadequate as a presentation of the Catholic understanding of God."

In an 11-page response to Johnson's extensive defence of her 2007 book, Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God, the bishops said her explanation did nothing to change their minds.

Johnson said then that the bishops misunderstood and misrepresented the book's main points.

The committee, chaired by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, said Johnson's response to their original critique of March 24 had "not in fact demonstrated that the committee has misunderstood or misrepresented the book."

Johnson, professor of systematic theology at Fordham and a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph, was on sabbatical, but issued a statement in response Oct. 28, reiterating her contention that nothing in the book dissents from Church teaching.

The bishops noted in their statement that Johnson explained in her response that her book expresses the Catholic faith "in different words but with the same meaning."

While commending her "for her stated intention to help the Church progress in her understanding of divine realities," the bishops go on to say the book "fails to fulfill this task because it does not sufficiently ground itself in the Catholic theological tradition as its starting point."

The statement added that "multiple readings of the words themselves point at least to serious ambiguity in the book."

"When it examined the particular points at issue, the Committee on Doctrine was confirmed in its judgment that these 'different words' do not in fact adequately express the faith of the Church," the bishops said.