Talk:Elizabeth Johnson (theologian)

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This article has a draft used for proposing changes.



The section on Quest for the Living God seems to only address the controversy from a pro-Johnson point of view. Of the dozen or so quotes only one from the bishops and none from theologians who support the bishops' position (and they are many). There needs to be some balance here, instead of Johnson simply being painted as someone repressed by the bishops unjustly. (talk) 15:50, 29 November 2011 (UTC)

So far, a year and a half later, this issue has not been resolved. The article was clearly written from a pro-Johnson point of view, not just the section on "Quest for the Living God." It's structured as a point-and-rebuttal against the bishops, rather than a balanced view of the two opinions. I would be good if someone could improve this article. (talk) 23:38, 5 February 2013 (UTC)
If information is accurately reported and comes from reliable sources, then if someone thinks it's not balanced the he or she should add opposing or different views. "On the other hand, supporters say...." or "On the other hand critics say..." Making wholesale deletions of someone else's well documented material is inappropriate. Any NPOV issue on this article should be brought to this talk section first, and only deleted if there's consensus. In particular, Elizium23 needs add up to date well referenced material rather than deleting others' work---no one "owns" this article VanEman (talk) 05:49, 20 April 2015 (UTC)
Devout conservative Catholics who want to continue fighting women's perspectives on religion are welcome to do so elsewhere. But on Wikipedia, a source does not have to be Catholic to be reliable. In fact, in many cases the Catholic Church and its hierarchy are the LEAST likely sources of reliable information on what's going on among Catholics. The focus of this article needs to be Bishop. And when information is quoted from a reliable source, we don't have to go find one from a Catholic publication before the info gets included.VanEman (talk) 00:45, 16 January 2016 (UTC)
I have edited this article and disagree that the content in this article is "fighting women's perspectives on religion" in anyway. Unfortunately, the verifiable material facts about Johnson are placed alongside published speculation about related topics that have separate article in wikipedia. This conflation of what historically happened and what was published (especially in 2011) is the problem. See § Removed tags. –BoBoMisiu (talk) 15:53, 16 January 2016 (UTC)
Very important to leave in New York Times reference on criticism of her in the lead to show that this is not just an "advertisement" for her. VanEman (talk) 20:03, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
@VanEman: no, I'm not saying to remove it but to provide more context. How about including that: "Johnson told me that some feminists had criticized the book [Ask the Beasts] because it says very little about women." – it seems to me that criticism would be important too. How much criticism is there of her? –BoBoMisiu (talk) 21:01, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

Categories and Improved Neutrality?[edit]

I divided up the existing text into categories, to attempt to separate information about her life and works from criticism and defense of her work.

I also altered the section about the USCCB Committee in an attempt to make it more balanced. I replaced the following section which gave unbalanced weight to defending Johnson's book:

Fordham President Joseph M. McShane issued a statement that called Johnson a "revered member of the Fordham community" and noted that she viewed the bishops' action as "an invitation to dialogue."[1] Boston College theologian Stephen J. Pope said that "The reason is political. Certain bishops decide that they want to punish some theologians, and this is one way they do that. There's nothing particularly unusual in her book as far as theology goes. It's making an example of someone who's prominent."[1] Terrence W. Tilley, chair of Fordham's theology department, said: "What the bishops have done is to reject 50 years of contemporary theology.... Sister Johnson has been attempting to push Catholic thinking along new paths. And the bishops have now made it clear — this is something they stand against."[2] The board of the Catholic Theological Society of America issued a statement that said the bishops' critique showed "a very narrow understanding" of the ways theologians serve the church."[2]

The new text is reads:

Johnson's position was defended by Fordham President Joseph M. McShane[1], Boston College theologian Stephen J. Pope[1], Terrence W. Tilley, chair of Fordham's theology department[2] and the board of the Catholic Theological Society of America"[2].

I also deleted the following section which seems to reflect only Johnson's view on the dispute and not that of the USCCB:

One of the central disputes between Johnson and the bishops is language. Johnson writes that "all-male images of God are hierarchical images rooted in the unequal relation between women and men, and they function to maintain this arrangement." The bishops said: "The names of God found in the Scriptures are not mere human creations that can be replaced by others that we may find more suitable.... The standard by which all theological assertions must be judged is that provided by divine revelation, not by unaided human understanding. God does use human, and thus limited, means in revealing himself to the world." According to Tilley, in making that argument the bishops were "approaching the incoherent" since "All revelation is received through language, and all language is culturally conditioned." In sum, he said, "All they are saying here is that they have the truth and Sister Johnson doesn't."

I believe this makes this section more balanced, although it still seems to hold too much weight in the article as whole, and does not yet name any theologians who support the USCCB's position. Once these are added, I feel the neutrality tag can be removed. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:57, 6 February 2013 (UTC)

It's high time that someone removed the impaired neutrality tag. Ridiculus mus (talk) 07:09, 29 March 2015 (UTC)
This article is wildly biased. All of the criticism I see here is by the Catholic hierarchy. But Wikipedia is not a religious encyclopedia for Catholics only. It is a general encyclopedia. Many reviews have been written about Johnson's books and a range of them should be cited, not just ones by Catholic theologians. I will work on that, but until then I think the "impaired neutrality" sign should stay. VanEman (talk) 04:27, 18 April 2015 (UTC)
Edits by VanEnman (talk · contribs) made the neutrality problem much worse. The added sections are full of WP:PEACOCK terms, there are lots of unsourced statements about her beliefs, and there is WP:SYNTH connecting events. Elizium23 (talk) 17:25, 20 April 2015 (UTC)
Unfounded personal accusations by Elizium 23. You say that there are "personal beliefs" and unsourced statements in what I've written, but you don't say what they are. Everything I have written is from reliable sources and referenced. You may not like the New York Times. Too bad. I disapprove of Alizium23's characterization of the article as an "advertisement" without even a limp attempt to describe what appears "advertisement-like." If you want to "balance" well-sourced and referenced information with a different point of view, then add it. Don't delete other editors' material. The article is pretty short and there's lots of room!VanEman (talk) 19:18, 20 April 2015 (UTC)
I have said nothing personal about you at all. And my warnings are well-founded. Let's look at the current article. "a respected theologian and a popular author, unexpectedly became the center of a controversy surrounding a popular book she published" Textbook example of WP:PEACOCK terms, that is, adjectives that hype the subject material used in Wikipedia's voice without a source. "suddenly condemned", "popular acceptance" more editorial exaggeration without attribution or sources. Three of five bullet points under "Views" are altogether unsourced. "The timing, tone and substance of the criticism impacted not only Johnson, but brought into the spotlight the simmering tensions between the Catholic hierarchy and America's theologians." Unsourced, unattributed editorializing. "Catholic theologians expressed annoyance at the critical report" - who? "Theologians were also concerned that the Rev. Thomas Weinandy, executive secretary of the committee and a staunch conservative, took an antagonistic approach" - description not in source given, once again is unattributed. These are just highlights. Elizium23 (talk) 19:31, 20 April 2015 (UTC)
Yes, you did say personal things. You said I was covering "personal analysis" when absolutely nothing I wrote was personal analysis. If you actually read the Huffington Post article I cited you would see exactly those points. You need to actually read the articles or references that are being cited before you say something is my analysis. If you don't agree with the Huffington post that she's a popular author, go ahead and cite another source that says she's NOT a popular author, but don't erase the one that says she is. And really, there has to be a common sense test here---you don't think they bother with an inquiry into a book nobody is reading, do you? You also apparently didn't read The National Catholic Reporter cited, which states: "During (Winandy's)his tenure, the bishops' committee has issued public rebukes of five prominent U.S. theologians. Those rebukes have been the subject of wide criticisms -- including from both of the primary membership societies of U.S. theologians -- because they came without pursuing consultation or dialogue with the theologians.
The 900-member College Theology Society even issued a statement in December 2011, saying the doctrine committee had caused a "fundamental breach" in the call for dialogue in the church and had wounded the "entire community of Catholic theologians." Did I not repeat the citation of The National Catholic register often enough to suit your taste? Fine, the put a "citation needed" tag on the comment you don't like and I'll copy the citation over again (it really is annoying having to put down a citation after every word.)
My bottom line is, if you want a citation for something, write "citation needed." If weeks pass, and there isn't one, then delete the material. I haven't written a citation after every word and when someone deletes a section, they can inadvertently delete a citation that's needed for other information. That can be easily corrected if you just write "citation needed" instead of deleting another whole swath. Please remember that you do not "own" this article.VanEman (talk) 21:57, 20 April 2015 (UTC)
I would invite you again to read WP:NPOV and especially Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Words to watch, and reflect on whether you can see your contributions described in there. Elizium23 (talk) 22:04, 20 April 2015 (UTC)
And I would invite you to read WP:AGF and see if you understand why "press delete first" and "launch personal attack" buttons should be taken off the keyboard before logging in to Wikipedia. This article is going to get a lot longer before it's done so it's good for us to understand each other.
Some people in this commentary seem to think that everything in a Wikipedia article has to have a neutral point of view. That is not true. here's the policy on commentary from reliable sources: "Wikipedia articles are required to present a neutral point of view. However, reliable sources are not required to be neutral, unbiased, or objective. Sometimes non-neutral sources are the best possible sources for supporting information about the different viewpoints held on a subject." VanEman (talk) 05:46, 21 April 2015 (UTC)
While it is never necessary for sources to be neutral, it is always necessary for Wikipedia articles to present a balanced view which factors in significant viewpoints presented in reliable secondary sources. This is part of NPOV. Too much of one viewpoint becomes WP:UNDUE, such as relying on the New York Times and RNS for all your quotes. Elizium23 (talk) 20:35, 21 April 2015 (UTC)
There are paragraphs of criticism of her by the Catholic Church. If you want to add more criticism go ahead, in the meantime, don't delete well researched material that's there. There's plenty of criticism of her in the article. if you want to add more, go ahead. But you don't get to delete NYT info just because you don't like it.VanEman (talk) 00:46, 22 April 2015 (UTC)
I have restored a more-neutral version yet again, and I hope and trust that you will work collegially with me in improving the article with an eye always on NPOV and avoiding WP:WTW violations in particular. If you are unwilling to do so then I shall have to escalate this dispute. Nobody at WikiProject Catholicism seemed to want to touch these three articles, so I will perhaps investigate raising this at WP:DRN. Elizium23 (talk) 22:04, 1 May 2015 (UTC)
If you continue this deletion of well sourced, documented material, then I will escalate this. VanEman (talk) 03:36, 15 May 2015 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────@VanEman and Elizium23: I read the article, talk page, and history. I think Elizium23 is restoring neutrality. The article lacks specifics about how her writing conflicts with the magisterium. The views section is full of vagaries. For example, believes that the scriptures must be interpreted with an understanding of the cultural and historic setting in which they were written, is simply something that every Catholic school student learns all over the planet. That she promotes the value of inter-religious dialogue, means what? Stating the obvious that people will have different perceptions is unique? I don't think so. What does truncated view of the humanity of Jesus Christ mean? The works section reads like a movie trailer. The criticisms section is quite clear that she did not submit her work for review, it was criticized after publication, and she complained that her writing was misunderstood – although she did not submit her work for review before publication. I don't understand how the quote "who regards the bishops' action as 'an invitation to dialogue' " becomes her position was defended by Fordham President. The article needs specifics. —BoBoMisiu (talk) 22:39, 14 May 2015 (UTC)

It is clear to me that proponents of the church hierarchy viewpoint are filling an article about Elizabeth Johnson with the church hierarchy's critique of her. She is not employed by the Catholic Church and she writes for ALL Christians and people who care about similar issues. The article is about HER, not about the Church. It is not about what the Catholic Church thinks. If people want to cover what the Catholic Church says, fill up that article. Don't put all that info in the article on Elizabeth Johnson and delete the info that is specifically about her. Read the Wikipedia article about Baruch Spinoza, another great philosopher. His expulsion from Judaism warrants one whole paragraph. That's it. The rest is about him. That's the way it should be for Elizabeth Johnson.VanEman (talk) 04:26, 15 May 2015 (UTC)
@VanEman: I agree that this article is about her but she is a Catholic nun, Catholic theologian who notability is her opposition to Catholic teaching. She is not Jewish like Spinoza. Her licence to teach theology in a Catholic institution comes from the Catholic Church. The Committee on Doctrine of USCCB stated on 24 March 2011

that Quest for the Living God contaminates the traditional Catholic understanding of God, which arises from both revelation and reason and which has been articulated by the Fathers and the Scholastics, especially Thomas Aquinas, and taught and professed by the Church, with Enlightenment deism. (p. 6)

This is a fact about how her book is publicly understood by experts within the church that she is a member of. She did not seperate from the Catholic Church. When I read your changes on 2015-05-15, you exclude the facts about the subjects in her works but include content about her works. For example, you include her comment no one, not myself or the theological community, the media or the general public knows what doctrinal issue is at stake but did not mention that deism is simply not Catholic. It was repeatedly condemned as a heresy (e.g. DH 3026). This controversy needs to meet WP:LIVE standards. This subject has controversial facets, I suggest using a WP:DRAFT, Talk:Elizabeth Johnson (theologian)/draft, instead of making repeated small changes in the article. It will help us make incremental changes without repeated reverts. —BoBoMisiu (talk) 14:54, 15 May 2015 (UTC)
What you don't understand is that her books are written not simply for other Catholic theologians, but for lay Catholics who don't care about what the Vatican thinks, for other Christians as well as non-Christians who appreciate and value her perspective and expertise. If everyone followed what the church taught and didn't contradict the church's dogma, we'd all swear the sun revolves around the earth.VanEman (talk) 20:49, 15 May 2015 (UTC)
The content misrepresents her work, and misrepresents what in every sense was the evaluation of a peer review of her work as just a controversy. It is not about who her target audience is but about the assessed quality of her work.
Twice you shifted the content from the "USCCB Critique of Quest for a Living God" to a portrayal of the "Controversy surrounding USCCB Critique of Quest for a Living God"[1][2]. It is condescending to think that her work cannot be judged and criticized by her peers. It is not NPOV to exclude the actual controversy about her works while including the controversy about the story surrounding them. By the way – in response to your red herring about the Catholic Church and science – a Belgian priest, Georges Lemaître, proposed the Big Bang. --BoBoMisiu (talkcontribs) 17:50, 15 May 2015 (UTC)


Citation Hinsdale 2006[edit]

User:Ridiculus mus added content with a citation (Hinsdale 2006) on 2015-03-28 – I verified this.

User:VanEman removed the citation (Hinsdale 2006) on 2015-05-15 and then added the citation (Hinsdale 2006) to content not supported in (Hinsdale 2006) on 2015-05-15. This is the reason I added {{Failed verification}}. –BoBoMisiu (talk) 19:59, 24 August 2015 (UTC)

Raitt violates WP:BLPSPS.[edit]

A Jill Raitt article was deleted on 2015-07-08 with a summary A7: Article about a real person, which does not credibly indicate the importance or significance of the subject)".

I think a review on a WP:USERGENERATED website by Raitt violates WP:BLPSPS, i.e. "Never use self-published sources – including but not limited to books, zines, websites, blogs, and tweets – as sources of material about a living person, unless written or published by the subject". –BoBoMisiu (talk) 20:09, 24 August 2015 (UTC)

Kasper as theologian to Pope Francis[edit]

Nuvola apps edu languages.png Relevant discussion at Talk:Walter Kasper#Theologian to Pope Francis

I cannot find a reliable Catholic source for the assertion, please comment at the relevant discussion I added to Talk:Walter Kasper. –BoBoMisiu (talk) 14:46, 25 August 2015 (UTC)

Book review by Cunneen[edit]

A quote from, what seems to me, a book review added without a source had incomplete inline citation. I can verify it to an entry for Quest for the living God on includes the quote as a "Publisher Synopsis". And the quote is found on the publishers website.

A Google search for: "is one of the most important and provocative books on theology" doesn't identify whether the review is found in "The American Catholic" or in American Catholic Studies, or the year, volume, issue, page, etc. I would like to read Cunneen's review and add why he thinks Quest for the living God "is one of the most important and provocative books on theology". Has scholarly consensus developed over the several years since 2007, when Quest for the living God was published, that it "is one of the most important and provocative books on theology"? –BoBoMisiu (talk) 22:22, 26 August 2015 (UTC)

Lack of response to offers to meet with Wuerl[edit]

This edit added that Wuerl offered to meet with Johnson but she did not respond to any of Wuerl's invitations. This edit changed the wording and added original research. Other edits added it back without the reference. Johnson statements conflict with Wuerl's statement. She did not meet with the USCCB Committee on Doctrine. I think it – who invited who – is emotional framing and not encyclopedic content. –BoBoMisiu (talk) 18:23, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

Context of Weinandy quote[edit]

The sentence:

Theologians were also concerned that the Rev. Thomas Weinandy, executive secretary of the committee and a staunch conservative, took an antagonistic approach, even referring to theologians in a speech as "curse and affliction upon the church."

is without context. For example, the sentence from

Theologians can be a "curse and affliction upon the church," according to the U.S. bishops' top official on doctrine, if their work is not grounded in church teaching and an active faith life, and ends up promoting "doctrinal and moral error."

gives some more context. –BoBoMisiu (talk) 21:16, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

Conflation with LCWR[edit]

The reform of the LCWR is a separate topic that is only conflated in some 2011 news articles. I think it should be removed from this article. –BoBoMisiu (talk) 18:02, 9 September 2015 (UTC)

I absolutely disagree. The Vatican's attacks on Johnson are very much related to the their attacks on uppity American nuns in general. Of course details on these attacks by the Vatican will be related and sometimes overlap.VanEman (talk) 21:01, 23 January 2016 (UTC)
@VanEman: how? According to WP:INHERITORG, "individual members (or groups of members) do not 'inherit' notability due to their membership" in the group. They are unrelated with separate articles. –BoBoMisiu (talk) 17:29, 24 January 2016 (UTC)

Removed tags[edit]

@VanEman: what I tagged was not drive-by tagging. I read the article and the references. I searched for sources that support the speculation and commentary.

  • "The public criticism by the bishops caused a spike in the books sales," this is unsubstantiated.
  • "threatened to reduce the bishops' 'credibility in the pews'." was paraphrased from the quote:"Given the popularity of Sister Elizabeth Johnson’s, 'Quest for the Living God' in parishes and universities, the bishops' renewed criticism may not help their, credibility in the pews, either." (this is the end of the paragraph – nothing more about this) The author of the article speculated in 2011 – now, 5 years later, there is still no evidence that his speculation ever materialized. With a few years of hind sight, it is quite clear that his speculation was simply wrong.
  • The New York Times notes that Johnson has been criticized by Catholic groups, such as the Cardinal Newman Society, because of her support for giving women greater authority in the church and her willingness to speak at meetings of Catholics who disagree with the Catholic church on issues like same-sex marriage. I added {{Elucidate}} with the comment "How much criticism is there of her?" – that has not been answered. Was there more than that one cited example? Nothing materialized between 2011 and now (2016).
  • I added a {{clarify span}} to "some bishops were not happy with an article I had written," because there is not enough information to explore what was written. I commented: "What was the topic of the article? What was controversial about it?" Its not good enough to include that Johnson vaguely claimed opinion that "some bishops were not happy" without any explanation. I couldn't find anything about this.
  • I added a {{citation needed span}} to "Joseph Cunneen in American Catholic said, 'This is one of the most important and provocative books on theology to have appeared in the U.S. since Vatican II'." That is an extrordinary claim. I see VanEman added a link to the publishers website – which does quote Cunneen but without an adequate citation to find the actual article for context. For example, did Cunneen write a simple book review or did he write an in depth article about the book? I have read too many reviews (about a book, a movie, or music) that call a work the best and most important work to trust a single opinion making an extraordinary claim. The publishers publicity page for her book is not adequate to support this extraordinary claim.
  • I added an {{According to whom}} to "The timing, tone and substance of the doctrinal evaluation impacted not only Johnson," – who else did it affect? The evaluation was of only of her book and not even of her other works. This was unsubstantiated in 2011 and unsubstantiated in 2016.
  • Pope Francis did not bring "the investigation of LCWS to an abrupt closure" in 2013, as VanEman edited – the investigation phase ended in 2011 after which the CDF began reforming the LCWR. The reform mandate was for a period of a few years. In 2014 the revision of LCWR Statutes, to ensure greater clarity about the scope of the mission and responsibilities, were submitted to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and approved in 2015. The article cited by VanEman to support this did not say that Francis ended any investigation.
In 2013, Francis reaffirmed the canonical investigation of the LCWR and its members were ordered to review their statutes and reassess their plans and programs, while recognizing positive aspects in their work.
Nevertheless, I added to {{Relevance-inline}} to the entire paragraph because "The LCWR is not discussed in either the doctrinal evaluation or Johnson's rebuttal" and created a talk page section to discuss this conflation with the LCWR. VanEman did not comment in that discussion.

I added the tags back. –BoBoMisiu (talk) 15:41, 16 January 2016 (UTC)

Your POV is showing.VanEman (talk) 21:21, 23 January 2016 (UTC)
@VanEman: thank you for finding sources. I added two tags back that you removed. They are legitimate questions that are not addressed. –BoBoMisiu (talk) 17:25, 24 January 2016 (UTC)
Unless you can explain why you think that self-report of personal opinion is not valid, then I will remove the tags once again. You need to read and understand what is required to post that tag. Do you have any referenced info that refutes her expression of her opinion? If not, her own referenced expression of her opinion is sufficiently.VanEman (talk) 18:12, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

Here is the explanation of when self-report is valid: "Self-published and questionable sources as sources on themselves[edit] Shortcut: WP:SELFSOURCE Self-published or questionable sources may be used as sources of information about themselves, especially in articles about themselves, without the requirement that they be published experts in the field, so long as the following criteria are met:

The material is neither unduly self-serving nor an exceptional claim. It does not involve claims about third parties (such as people, organizations, or other entities). It does not involve claims about events not directly related to the subject. There is no reasonable doubt as to its authenticity. The article is not based primarily on such sources."

the summaries of Johnson's views meet these criteria. If she writes that she believes something or supports something, that is a valid report unless you can show a reference otherwise. I have seen no reference that refutes any of the info you are inappropriately tagging. VanEman (talk) 18:20, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

what I added on 8 February was that is WP:BLPSPS and WP:USERGENERATED – anyone can click and write a review – according to WP:USERGENERATED

self-published media [...] are largely not acceptable. This includes any website whose content is largely user-generated, [...] with the exception of material on such sites that is labeled as originating from credentialed members of the sites' editorial staff, rather than users.

BoBoMisiu (talk) 23:59, 8 February 2016 (UTC)