The Leadership Conference of Women Religious have awarded Elizabeth Johnson amidst a controversy with Catholic Bishops.
There is a greater sense of tension than ever before between Catholic nuns and Bishops. The latest flare up in this conflict came on the heels of what the U.S. Bishops considered to be an unfit award being given to Elizabeth Johnson, a nun. The Bishops are upset that her radical beliefs and writings have led to her being given an award by the LCWR. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious have said that Johnson espouses their best interests and has a keen understanding about the role of women in the Church, a concept that has upset many Bishops as theologians.
The Leadership Conference for Women Religious is an organization that has over 50,000 Catholic nuns who are interested in reevaluating the role of women in the church. They have come under fire from the Vatican many times for what is considered to be problems with their ideas for changes in the church doctrine and their stances on social justice. Specifically, the organization has preached significant changes in doctrine that would allow women to have more responsibilities and access to agency within the church.
Elizabeth Johnson’s Decorated Past
Sister Elizabeth Johnson is a member of the LCWR and has been highly regarded throughout her time with them. Among her accomplishments are a doctorate degree, a position as a professor at Fordham University, and many books that broach the subject of black and feminist approaches to theology.
Even though Elizabeth Johnson has been published several times over and is a devout member of the Catholic Church, she was still denounced by a Cardinal who referred to her writing as a “Shoddy piece of work.” Sister Elizabeth Johnson has responded that the critics appear to have not read or understood her work; otherwise they would see that it responds to some of the most complex issues that the church is facing today, including sexual abuse and exclusion.
She refers to the Vatican’s investigations into the LCWR’s activities as a waste of time for numerous reasons. Chief among them is the fact that the Vatican is focusing on an entity that wishes to see the Catholic Church made more approachable and reasonable. This is important at a time that sees declining numbers of people coming to their churches regularly. As Elizabeth Johnson sees it, the Church is avoiding the issues of sexual abuse and financial scandals that are actually causing harm to the institution.
Many hope that under the guidance of Pope Francis these problems will rise in prominence, and that the work performed by Elizabeth Johnson will be regarded with the respect that it deserves.