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Uta Ranke-Heinemann (born 2 October 1927) is a German theologian, academic and author. She holds the (nondenominational) chair of History of Religion at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Essen, her birthplace.
Ranke-Heinemann's parents were Protestants (Calvinistic). Her father Gustav Heinemann was an SPD politician and president of Germany 1969–74. Her mother Hilda Heinemann, a descendant of Albrecht von Haller studied theology under Rudolf Bultmann at the University of Marburg. In 1944, Hilda brought Uta to Bultmann as a refugee after Essen was heavily bombed. Uta lived with Rudolf Bultmann's family until the end of the war 1945. She was the first and only girl at the Burggymnasium Essen, which was founded in the 9th century and passed her final examinations (Abitur) "with distinction", the only one of her class. "Abitur with distinction" was rare at the time, the last one at Burggymnasium happened 30 years before.
After nearly seven years' study of Protestant theology in Bonn, Basel, Oxford, and Montpellier, she converted to Catholicism in 1953 and was promoted to doctor in 1954 in Munich. Before 1954 no doctorate in Catholic theology for women was possible. She had been a classmate of Joseph Ratzinger, when they were doctoral students together at the University of Munich in 1953/54.
In 1969 Ranke-Heinemann became the first woman to hold a chair of theology at a German university. She subsequently held the Essen University chair of ancient church history and the New Testament. In 1987 Bishop of Essen Franz Hengsbach withdrew her license to teach Catholic theology for disputing the virgin birth of Jesus. This effectively disqualified her from the post she had held for three years.
Ranke-Heinemann considered herself excommunicated (latae sententiae) according to can. 1364 §1 CIC and can. 751 CIC for doubting an article of Catholic faith (the virgin birth), but no explicit excommunication (ferendae sententiae) was pronounced against her. Since then she held a chair of the history of religion until her retirement.
Ranke-Heinemann is a pacifist. In 1999, to protest against the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, she entered the German presidential election as a candidate of the left-wing PDS, running against her niece's husband, Johannes Rau, who was elected in the end.
After the death of her husband 9.11.2001 she declared her "Departure from traditional Christianity" — though not from Jesus, who said "Blessed are the peacemakers". She added her thoughts about finding her beloved husband after her death to her book "Putting Away Childish Things". Rudolf Bultmann, René Descartes and Immanuel Kant showed her how to be a Christian and to hope for eternal life without sacrifice of her intellect.
Her sevenfold negative creed is the following:
- The Bible is not the word of God but the word of men.
- That God exists in three persons is the imagination of men.
- Jesus is man and not God.
- Mary is the mother of Jesus and not the mother of God.
- God created heaven and earth, but hell is a product of human fantasy.
- The devil and original sin do not exist.
- A bloody redemption at the Cross is a pagan sacrificial slaughtering of a human being, based on a model from the religious Stone Age.
- Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven: Women, sexuality, and the Catholic Church
- Ranke-Heinemann, Uta (2002) . Nein und Amen. Mein Abschied vom traditionellen Christentum (in German). Munich: Heyne. ISBN 3-453-21182-0.
- 1992 edition translated as:
- ">Interview with Uta Ranke-Heinemann about Joseph Ratzinger". Beliefnet.com. Retrieved 21 February 2010.
- Getlin, Josh. "Clashing With Her Church", Los Angeles Times, February 11, 1991
- "Church Bars 1st Woman Theologian", Reuters, June 20, 1987
- Nein und Amen. Mein Abschied vom traditionellen Christentum, page 417