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Feminist Interpretation: A Method of Correlation

Feminist Interpretation: A Method of Correlation

Rosemary Radford Ruether
From Feminist Interpretation of Scripture
Edited by Letty m. Russell
Westminster Press , Philadelphia 1985 Rosemary Radford Ruether

It has been frequently said that feminist theology and theory of interpretation draw upon women's experience as a source of knowledge. It has not been entirely clear what this means. It is generally assumed by traditional theology that any experience, let alone "women's experience," is merely a subjective and culture-bound source of ideas and cannot be compared with the objectivity of scripture, which discloses the "Word of God" outside of, over, and against the subjectivity and sinful impulses of human experience. As a narrow and contemporary source, experience cannot compare with the accumulated weight of theological tradition. It is sheer impertinence to suggest that "women's experience" can be used to judge scripture and theological tradition.

Such a response, aside from its trivializing of women's persons, misunderstands the role of human experience in the formation of scripture and theological tradition. Human experience is both the starting point and the ending point of the circle of interpretation. Codified tradition both reaches back to its roots in experience and is constantly renewed through the test of experience. Experience includes experience of the divine and experience of oneself, in relationship to society and the world, in an interacting dialectic. Received symbols, formulas, and laws are either authenticated or not through their ability to illuminate and interpret existence in a way that is experienced as meaningful. Systems of authority try to reverse this relationship and make received tradition dictate both what may be experienced and how it may be interpreted. But the relationship is the opposite. If the symbol does not speak authentically to experience, it becomes dead and is discarded or altered to provide new meaning.

Religious traditions begin with breakthrough experiences that shed revelatory light on contemporary events so as to transform them into paradigms of ultimate meaning. These experiences, such as the exodus experience or the resurrection experience, are the primary data of the religious tradition. But such experiences, however new and transformative, do not interpret themselves. They are always interpreted in the context of an accumulated heritage of symbols and codes, which are already available to provide touchstones of meaning. The new revelatory experience becomes meaningful by being related to this heritage, and also it allows the contemporary community to transform, revise, and recombine the traditional touchstones of meaning in new ways, which allows the new experience to become a new insight into the ultimate nature of things.

Just as the foundational revelatory experience is available only in a transformative dialectic between experience and accumulated interpretive keys, so it, in turn, becomes an interpretive key which interacts with and continues to be meaningful through its ability to make ongoing experience of the individual in the community meaningful. This key then continues to live because it is able to continue to make contemporary experience meaningful, and it itself is constantly revised or reinterpreted through this same process. Traditions die when a new generation is no longer able to reappropriate the foundational paradigm in a meaningful way; when it is experienced as meaningless or even as demonic: that is, disclosing a meaning that points to false or inauthentic life. Thus if the cross of Jesus would be experienced by women as pointing them only toward continued victimization and not redemption, it would be perceived as false and demonic in this way, and women could no longer identify themselves as Christians.

Women's Experience and Feminist Hermeneutics

What is new about feminist hermeneutics, then, is not the category of experience as a context of interpretation but rather the appeal to women's experience. It is precisely women's experience that has been shut out of hermeneutics and theological reflection in the past. This has been done by forbidding women to study and then to teach and preach the theological tradition. Women have not been able to bring their own experience into the public formulation of the tradition. Not only have women been excluded from shaping and interpreting the tradition from their own experience, but the tradition has been shaped and interpreted against them. The tradition has been shaped to justify their exclusion. The traces of their presence have been suppressed and lost from the public memory of the community. The androcentric bias of the male interpreters of the tradition, who regard maleness as normative humanity, not only erase women's presence in the past history of the community but silence even the questions about their absence. One is not even able to remark upon or notice women's absence, since women's silence and absence is the norm.

Thus the criticism of the tradition in the context of women's experience does not merely add another point of view to the prevailing one. Women's experience explodes as a critical force, exposing classical theology, including its foundational tradition in scripture, as shaped by male experience rather than human experience. Women's experience makes the androcentric bias of the original formulations and ongoing interpretations of the tradition visible, rather than hidden behind the mystifications of divine authority. It throws the universality of the claims of the tradition into question.

What is meant by women's experience? Surely all women do not have the same experiences. There are many variations in the consciousness of women, shaped by different cultural contexts and life experiences. How then can one generalize about women's experience? Is one suggesting that women, because of biological differences from men, possess a distinctively "feminine" psychology, and that it is this distinctive psychology they bring to biblical hermeneutics?

Biological differences are not completely irrelevant. Women, as persons who live in and through a female body, have some distinctive experiences of the world that men do not have. A woman who has experienced her bodily rhythms in menstruation, or who has borne and suckled a child, feels some things which males have never experienced. One need not reject out of hand that women may bring such experiences to the interpretive task. One finds, for example, in the writings of women mystics, the use of experiences of birthing and suckling that draw on such women's experiences as paradigms of divine-human relationships.

However, in this context we are not talking about women's experience primarily in terms of experiences created by biological differences in themselves but, rather, women's experiences created by the social and cultural appropriation of biological differences in a male-dominated society. In such a society, women experience even their biological differences in ways filtered and biased by male dominance and by their own marginalization and inferiorization. Menstruation and childbirth are interpreted to them as pollution, over against a male-controlled sacred sphere, for example, which alienates them from a positive understanding of their own bodily experiences . Insofar as they appropriate their own experiences, such as the experience of menstruation, as a positive and creative rhythm of ebb and flow, they must do so in contradiction to the male hermeneutic of their own experience imposed upon them by the dominant culture. Their positive appropriation of their experience from their own vantage point becomes a covert critical counterculture over against the official culture.

Women in patriarchal culture are surrounded by messages that negate or trivialize their existence. Their bodily sexual presence is regarded as a dangerous threat to male purity and, at the same time, as a justification for constant verbal and physical abuse. They experience their bodies as constantly vulnerable to assault and are told, at the same time, that they deserve such assault because they "cause" it by their sexual presence. Similarly, women find their own viewpoints and judgments of events trivialized, and this trivialization is justified on the grounds that women are inherently stupid, uninformed, lacking in authority, and incapable of forming significant understandings. Thus they are alienated from their own minds, from being able to trust their own perceptions. These judgments upon the woman's body and mind are, in turn, used to justify women's exclusion from cultural opportunities and leadership. Women are asked to accept this, too, as normal, natural, divinely sanctioned .

By women's experience as a key to hermeneutics or theory of interpretation, we mean precisely that experience which arises when women become critically aware of these falsifying and alienating experiences imposed upon them as women by a male-dominated culture. Women's experience, in this sense, is itself a grace event, an infusion of liberating empowerment from beyond the patriarchal cultural context, which allows them to critique and stand out against these androcentric interpretations of who and what they are. Women begin to name these experiences of negation and trivialization as wrong and contrary to their authentic humanity. They begin to find an alternative stand in their own shared reflection on this experience from which to judge it. They affirm their own bodies and bodily experiences as good and normative for them, rather than deviant; their own feelings and thoughts as intelligent and healthy, rather than stupid. From this empowerment to self-affirmation, they are able to place under judgment—and also progressively to free themselves from—that culture which negates them.

It is this process of the critical naming of women's experience of androcentric culture that we refer to when we say that women's experience is an interpretive key for feminist theology. Women's experience, then, implies a conversion experience through which women get in touch with, name, and judge their experiences of sexism in patriarchal society. Not all cultures create exactly the same experiences of sexism, and individual women may have experienced this differently as well. So women do not come to exactly the same criticisms of these experiences or the same conclusions about them. Feminism must leave room for such individual and cross-cultural differences. Nevertheless, patriarchy by its very nature provides enough of a common body of experiences that women, even from different cultures and religions, find commonalities. But this conversation can happen only when women become freed and empowered to criticize the experience of sexism as an unjustified assault upon their beings, rather than accepting it as the norm.

The critique of sexism implies a fundamental principle of judgment. This critical principle of feminist theology is the affirmation of and promotion of the full humanity of women. Whatever denies, diminishes, or distorts the full humanity of women is, therefore, to be appraised as not redemptive. Theologically speaking, this means that whatever diminishes or denies the full humanity of women must be presumed not to reflect the divine or authentic relation to the divine, or to reflect the authentic nature of things, or to be the message or work of an authentic redeemer or a community of redemption.

This negative principle also implies the positive principle: What does promote the full humanity of women is of the Holy, does reflect true relation to the divine, is the true nature of things, is the authentic message of redemption and the mission of redemptive community. But the meaning of this positive principle—namely, the full humanity of women—is not fully known. It has not existed in history as we have known it. What we have known is only the negative principle of the denigration and marginalization of women's humanity. But the humanity of women, although diminished, has not been destroyed. It has constantly affirmed itself, albeit at times only in limited and subversive ways. It is the touchstone by which we test and criticize all that diminishes us. In the process we experience our larger potential, which allows us to begin to imagine a world without sexism.

This principle is hardly new. In fact, the correlation of original and authentic human nature (imago dei/Christ) over against diminished, fallen humanity has traditionally provided the basic structure of classical Christian theology. The uniqueness of feminist theology is not the critical principle of "full humanity" but that women claim this principle for themselves. Women name themselves as subjects of authentic and full humanity.

In this light, the use of this principle in male theology is perceivedto have been corrupted by sexism. By naming males as norms of authentic humanity, women have been scapegoated for sin and marginalized in both original and redeemed humanity. This distorts and turns to the opposite the theological understanding of the created and redeemed image of God. Defined as male humanity against or above women, as ruling-class humanity above servant classes, the imago dei/Christ paradigm becomes an instrument of sin rather than a disclosure of the divine and an instrument of grace.

But this also implies that women cannot just reverse the sin of sexism. Women cannot just blame males for historical evil in a way that makes themselves only innocent victims. Women cannot affirm themselves as created in the image of God and as subjects of full human potential in a way that diminishes male humanity. Women, as the denigrated half of the human species, must reach for a continually expanding definition of the inclusive humanity: inclusive of both genders, inclusive of all social groups and races. Any principle of religion or society that marginalizes one group of persons as less than fully human diminishes us all. In rejecting androcentrism (males as norms of humanity), women must also criticize all other forms of chauvinism: making white Westerners the norm of humanity, making Christians the norm of humanity, making privileged classes the norm of humanity. They must also criticize humanocentrism: making humans the norm and "crown" of creation in a way that diminishes other beings in the community of creation. This is not a question of "sameness" but of recognition of value which, at the same time, affirms genuine variety and particularity. It reaches for a new mode of relationship: neither a hierarchical model that diminishes the potential of the "other" nor an "equality" defined by a ruling norm drawn from the dominant group, but rather a mutuality that allows us to affirm different ways of being .

The Correlation of Feminist and Biblical Critical Principles

The feminist critique of sexism finds patriarchy not only in contemporary and historical Christian culture but in the Bible. The Bible was shaped by males in a patriarchal culture, so much of its revelatory experiences were interpreted by men from a patriarchal perspective. The ongoing interpretation of these revelatory experiences and their canonization further this patriarchal bias by eliminating traces of female experience or interpreting them in an androcentric way. The Bible, in turn, becomes the authoritative source for the justification of patriarchy in Jewish and Christian society. The feminist critical principle thus demands that women stand outside of and in judgment upon this patriarchal bias of the scriptures. If this were all the Bible is, the principle would also demand that feminism reject the scriptures altogether as normative for its own liberation. The Bible would reveal only a demonic falsification of woman's being; it would not provide touchstones for a liberating alternative.

The Bible can be appropriated as a source of liberating paradigms only if it can be seen that there is a correlation between the feminist critical principle and that critical principle by which biblical thought critiques itself and renews its vision as the authentic Word of God over against corrupting and sinful deformations. It is my contention here that there is such a correlation between biblical and feminist critical principles. This biblical critical principle is that of the prophetic-messianic tradition. By the prophetic-messianic tradition I mean to name not simply a particular body of texts, which then would be understood as standing as a canon within the canon. Rather, what I mean by the prophetic-messianic tradition is a critical perspective and process through which the biblical tradition constantly reevaluates, in new contexts, what is truly the liberating Word of God, over against both the sinful deformations of contemporary society and also the limitations of past biblical traditions, which saw in part and understood in part, and whose partiality may have even become a source of sinful injustice and idolatry .

In much of human history, the divine world has been used to sacralize the existing social order. This is done by implying that the gods created the social order as it is, intending some to rule and some to serve. The gods promulgated the laws that codify this social order, and so it reflects their decree. To rebel against it is to rebel against the gods. The patriarchal social order of men over women, masters over slaves, king (or queen) over subjects, nobility over peasants itself is seen as reflecting the cosmic and heavenly order. Hence the divine world is pictured as an immortal imitation of the ruling classes,

This function of religion as sanctification of the existing social order is also found in the Bible. It is reflected particularly in the Levitical codes of the Hebrew scripture and the household codes of the New Testament. But this function of religion as sacred canopy is in contradiction to an alternative perspective, which seems to this author to constitute the distinctive expression of biblical faith. In the prophetic perspective, God speaks through the prophet or prophetess as critic, rather than sanctifier, of the status quo. God's will is revealed as standing in judgment upon the injustices of the way society is being conducted, especially by the wealthy and powerful. This critique of society includes a critique of religion. The spokesperson of God denounces the way in which religion is misused to countenance injustice and to turn away the eyes of the pious from the poor. In the words of Amos 5:21, 24, "I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. . . . But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream."

This prophetic critique of established structures of injustice, and their religious justifications, creates a reevaluation of the relationship of God—God's power and will in history—toward society. Divine revelation does not buttress, but destabilizes, the ideologies that support the social order. God's prophet points toward an alternative social order, an alternative era of human history, when these wrongs will be righted and a new time of God's peace and justice will reign. This biblical principle of prophetic faith parallels the critical dynamic of feminism, which likewise examines structures of injustice toward women, unmasks and denounces their cultural and religious sanctifications, and points toward an alternative humanity, an alternative society, capable of affirming the personhood of women.

It may be said that this correlation between the biblical critical principle and the feminist critical principle is insufficient, because biblical prophecy does not clearly include sexism and patriarchy in its critique of social injustice. Women, in expanding the prophetic process of denunciation and annunciation to include sexism, do so without biblical authority. In responding to such a justified objection, one must be clear about the sociology of consciousness of all critical prophetic culture. One cannot reify any critical prophetic movement, either in scripture or in modern liberation movements, simply as definitive texts, once and for all established in the past, which then set the limits of consciousness of the meaning of liberation. Rather, the prophetic tradition remains true to itself, to its own impulse and spirit, only by engagement in constant restatement in the context of the issues of justice and injustice in its times ,

Continuity with the prophetic tradition, then, is not simply restatement of past texts but the constant renewal of the meaning of the prophetic critique itself. This means that prophetic critique is in a constant state of revision by situating itself in contemporary issues and contemporary consciousness of good and evil and by becoming a vehicle for the critical consciousness of groups who have been shut out of the social dialogue in the past. In this process of renewal, one must also examine the limitations of past statements of prophetic consciousness, which have been limited by the social consciousness of their spokespersons. Prophetic critique is renewed both by new critical consciousness of the issues of today and by new perceptions of the limits and deformations of its own past traditions.

Prophetic traditions are limited and become deformed in two ways. First of all, there is always a sociology of consciousness of critical movements. However much the spokespersons of a critical movement intend to speak inclusively of those who are poor and oppressed in the society, their perception of who these people are and what the issues are is limited by their own social context. Prophets are aware of" who is hurting them and the groups of people with whom they feel primary bonds. They may be insensitive or oblivious to other oppressed people who are the underside of social systems from which they themselves benefit. Thus the Hebrew scriptures present us with a dynamic and moving language that criticizes the social injustice heaped upon those groups with whom the prophet identifies: the poor rural Israelite farmer over against the rich ur-banite, and the enslaved Jewish people over against the great empires of antiquity. But the prophets are oblivious to or justify that enslavement of persons within the Hebrew family itself: namely, women and slaves. At most, their vision of justice for these people extends to an amelioration of the harshness of the system under which they suffer, rather than a real critique of that system itself or an ability to imagine that God is calling for an alternative to it.

One can recognize the same limitations of critical social consciousness in modern liberation movements. Feminism in the West has called for justice for women, but the white middle-class context of feminists has often made them oblivious to the class and race bias of their discernment of injustices and their vision of alternatives. They have often not recognized the way in which the burning issues of social injustice for them touched very little upon the interests and needs of Black or poor women. Or a Christian-based feminism has sometimes sought an affirmation of Christian feminism in a way that made Judaism the scapegoat for patriarchy. And so what appeared to be good news for Christian feminists about "Jesus as a feminist" was experienced as bad news by Jewish feminists.,

One can chart a similar insensitivity to women and to racial minorities in the Marxist left and in Third World liberation theologies. Today, feminists and other liberation movements become more aware of the need for dialogue between movements for emancipation in different social and cultural contexts in order to expand their sensitivities. But no liberation movement can speak the universal critical word about injustice and hope for all time; it always does so within the limitations of its social location. This means not only that an emancipatory movement may notice some oppressed groups, but not others in its midst, but also that its particular perception of the good news for its suffering poor may justify injustice against others. The announcement of good news for us is always, in some sense, bad news for our enemies. But this may be understood either in a more self-critical and open way or in a more parochial and triumphalistic way, which merely wishes to turn the tables on one's enemies and reduce them to the same oppression that one's own people is presently suffering, rather than to construct a new humanity and society where there are no longer victor and vanquished.

Not only may the prophetic consciousness be limited and deformed in these ways in its own time and context, but, in the process of formulating and transmitting prophetic consciousness as tradition, the meaning of early critical consciousness may become deformed by being interpreted in a different social context. Thus what was once critical consciousness over against established traditions in one context becomes new self-justification of established hierarchies in another context, which has absorbed a prophetic tradition as authoritative text for its own religious establishment.

There are many examples of the process of deformation and renewal of prophetic language within the scriptures, as well as in the subsequent ecclesiastical appropriation of these texts. For example, the New Testament conflict with dominant religious authorities of Judaism operated in the mission of Jesus and the earliest church as a criticism of fossilized religion and clericalism in order to call Judaism itself back to its prophetic mission. But when Christianity became a separate Gentile religion and then the dominant religion of the Roman Empire, this language of self-criticism was used to reject Judaism as an inferior religion and to ratify a chauvinistic triumphalism of church over synagogue.

The language of messianism also can change its meaning in different contexts. Much messianic imagery was drawn originally from ancient Near Eastern kingship language. This was critically re-evaluated by the prophets, detached from its ideological justification of existing kings, and projected on an idealized future hope. This made messianic language a judgment upon existing kings and a hope for an alternative social order. But when Christianity became an imperial religion, this kingship language could be used to sacralize existing Christian monarchs as expressions of divine kingship and representatives of Christ on earth.

Servanthood language likewise changes its meaning radically in different contexts. In its use by Jesus, appropriated from the prophetic tradition, it means that God alone is father and king. We, therefore, are freed from allegiance to human fathers and kings. As servants of God alone, we are freed from servitude to human hierarchies of power. But when imperial Christianity again lines up these human hierarchies of power as expressions of Christ's reign, then this servanthood language is used to reinforce, in Christ's name, the servitude of subjugated people.

Key to this ideological deformation is the movement of the socio-religious group addressed from powerlessness to power. When religious spokespersons identify themselves as members and advocates of the poor, then the critical-prophetic language rediscovers its cutting edge. When religious spokespersons see themselves primarily as stabilizing the existing social order and justifying its power structure, then prophetic language becomes deformed in the interests of the status quo, becoming a language to sacralize dominant authorities and to preach revenge against former enemies.

One example of reinterpretation of prophetic criticism and hope occurs in Jesus' interpretation of the text of Isaiah 61. This chapter of Isaiah opens with the dramatic announcement of good news to the poor.

[The lord] has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the lord's favor,
and the day of [recompense] of our God.

(Isaiah 61:1-2)

In Isaiah 61 this renewal of the ancient promises of messianic hope is put together with texts that interpret this hope in terms of a nationalistic triumph of Israel over the Gentile nations:

Aliens shall stand and feed your flocks,
foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers;
.you shall eat the wealth of the nations,
and in their riches you shall glory.
Instead of your shame you shall have a double portion.

(Isaiah 61:5-7}

In the Lukan version of Jesus' use of this text in the synagogue in Nazareth, we find a dramatic reinterpretation of this message of national triumph. Jesus is portrayed as reading the opening verses of Isaiah and declaring, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:21). This evokes admiration and praise from the hometown folks. "All spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words" (Luke 4:22). But then Jesus launches into an interpretation of the text, and the mood shifts dramatically. He interprets it as good news and healing that will come not to Israel but to the Gentiles and, indeed, to women and lepers among the Gentiles (Luke 4:25-27), This prophetic reversal of the interpretation of the text is intended to call the synagogue community to a criticism of their ethnocentric chauvinism and to an opening of their minds to peoples around them whom they despise. Jesus does not feel bound to repeat the interpretation of the text found in Isaiah, but even to reverse it in order to make new critical points that God is calling people to hear.

However, for Christians today simply to repeat this prophetic reversal of the Isaiah text would not mean the same thing as it meant in a Jewish context. Today Christians would easily read Jesus' rein-terpretation of Isaiah as a triumphalistic justification of Gentile Christianity over against an inferior particularism of Judaism. It would be heard as a word against the Jewish community rather than a word within and for Israel, calling them to a widening of their vision. Therefore, if we today were to declare this same text, we too would have to reinterpret it in order to apply it to the outsiders and the despised of our time.

We might imagine a preacher in the contemporary church reading the Isaiah text and then doing the following commentary upon it: "There are many church people all over America who speak constantly of salvation, but true salvation is only really announced in those gatherings where women preach hope to women and poor people against patriarchy; and there are many therapists and healers in the land, but true healing comes only to those shelters which women have set up to house battered wives and homeless women who walk the streets carrying their few possessions in shopping bags." Such a commentary on the prophetic text in our time, as in Jesus' time, might well cause the good church folks to rise up in fury and try to kill us. The feminist interpretation of prophetic critique as feminist critique thus continues the process of scriptural her-meneutic itself, whereby the text is reinterpreted in the context of new communities of critical consciousness.

Is this the first time that prophetic critique has been appropriated by women? Is this the first time that women have claimed the authority to proclaim the good news as the good news of liberation from patriarchy? We would postulate that wherever women have heard the good news as the setting at liberty of those who are oppressed, theyhave applied it to themselves as women as well. We postulate this because our affirmation of the full humanity of women includes the assumption that women themselves have not just begun to affirm their humanity in modern times but have always affirmed their humanity. Patriarchal indoctrination of women to accept their own inferiority and triviality has never been complete. Indeed, the constant need of patriarchal culture to reiterate the demand for women's subordination and silence indicates that women have never lost the sense of their own self-worth but have constantly asserted it over against patriarchal commands. Thus the question is not whether women have ever applied the good news to themselves as women, but how and to what extent the records of this feminist hermeneutic have survived the effects of patriarchal erasure of women's self-affirmation from the collective cultural memory.

We can see evidence of such appropriation of the good news to women in the New Testament: for example, in the stories where women among the poor and marginalized hear the good news when the clerical authorities do not; in the records of women's participation in early Christian ministry; and in the vision of a new humanity where "there is neither male nor female" (Gal. 3:28). But we also trace in the New Testament the record of patriarchal erasure of this memory. We need to put the New Testament itself in the context of other early Christian texts, such as the Acts of Paul and Thecla, where Paul is understood by early Christian communities not as telling women to keep silence but as commissioning a woman to preach.

We can trace the ongoing record of women's appropriation of the good news as good news for women in historical records in every generation, such as in the androgynous vision of God of Julian of Norwich and in the scriptural exegesis of Margaret Fell in the seventeenth century, in which "women's preaching" was justified according to the scriptures. We see this record of feminist consciousness in the admonition of Abigail Adams to her husband at the Continental Congress to "remember the Ladies." We see the bold reworking of the Declaration of Independence in the Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention of 1848, where this foundational text of American emancipation was rewritten as the charter for women's emancipation from patriarchy in church and society.

Thus the question is not whether women have affirmed themselves before or whether they have been able to grasp the good news of male-led prophetic movements as good news for themselves as well. Rather, the question is how did the beginnings of such feminist reinterpretation become stillborn in women's minds? Or, if not stillborn, but brought forth in word, how was this word prevented from being committed to praxis? Or, if committed to praxis, how was it prevented from being written down? Or, if written down, how was the textual record of it lost, or reinterpreted, so that it has been erased from memory? The recovery of our history is the recovery of evidence of all the stages of this repression. It is also the history of the breakthroughs to feminist consciousness that have not been completely erased. Here and there, fragments remain, allowing us to make contact with our sisters of past ages who also heard the good news and claimed it as their own.

The task of feminist hermeneutics today is not only to develop and solidify the principles by which women appropriate the good news as good news of liberation from patriarchy and develop the stories and texts to proclaim this good news. The task of feminist hermeneutics is also to establish this theory of interpretation as normative and indispensable to the understanding of the faith, in seminaries where interpretation is taught and in churches and synagogues where the good news is preached. In short, the task of feminist hermeneutics is not only to do the interpretation of the good news as good news for women but to see to it that the memory of this interpretation will not again be erased from the collective memory of the communities of biblical faith.

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