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No 53 Roman Theological Forum | Article Index | Study Program July 1994


        Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism , by Donna Steichen.
San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991 (420 pages, USA $11.95).  

reviewed by John F. McCarthy

        This well written book gives a studied presentation and analysis of the phenomenon of feminism, especially among Catholic religious women, during the latter half of the 1980s. Donna Steichen spent twelve years documenting and analyzing the activity that she describes. The book is, in a sense, as Helen Hull Hitchcock says in the Foreword, "about darkness," about "an infectious and communicable disease of the human spirit for which there is no easy cure," whose dominant symptom is the cult of feminism. But the greatest value of the book lies in the masterful way in which Mrs. Steichen analyzes and characterizes this phenomenon from the viewpoint of sound faith and deep theological insight, while offering good advice on how to deal with it. Ungodly Rage is the ideal textbook for university courses on the feminist movement.

        The structure of the presentation advances from a detailed chronology of public feminist manifestations, both in society at large and among more exclusively Catholic groups, to a description of the occult forces lying behind their activity, and from there to a study of its origins in liberal theology. Catholic Feminism in its mature stages is such an extreme and shocking rejection of the spirit of Christianity that it would defy belief if it were not so well and so abundantly documented. Chapter One, entitled "From Convent to Coven," details instances of witchcraft within the movement, even within communities of Catholic religious women. The many statements of Catholic and non-Catholic feminists quoted in this chapter and the revolting events described from Mrs. Steichen's own eye and ear observations bring to light a spiritual plague which could, as Helen Hitchcock says, wreak great harm upon the Church of the future and upon the entire human race. For human beings, however frivolous or superficial they may be, to let themselves become willing instruments of diabolical forces is a very dangerous thing, and Ungodly Rage enables us to see that this danger is now in full bloom.

        Already in the early 1980s Catholic feminist groups were promoting a "spirit of Vatican II" interpreted by such subversive and spiritually repulsive writers as Matthew Fox and Rosemary Ruether, and were pressing for such innovations as "liturgical dance" emanating from practices of witchcraft and the replacing of the Sign of the Cross with the invocation "in the name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sanctifier." Feminists were proceeding radically to change the wording of the Creed to fit their feminist ideology (p. 104).

        By 1987, "Creation-Centered Catholic Communities" were calling for a "creation spirituality" that "begins with mystical union ... with the Cosmos-Earth-planet" (p. 117). Donna Steichen traces in detail the influence of this wild ideology of Matthew Fox and others upon Catholic feminism as a whole. Catholic feminism is actually a "goddess movement" in which the "goddess within" replaces the Christian God of objectivity and becomes the object of feminist worship.

        Chicago Catholic Women (CCW), founded in 1974, organized the Women of the Church Coalition in 1977 (p. 326), and this coalition, renamed Women-Church Convergence, emerged on 1 January 1984 as "the most audible voice of Catholic feminism" (p. 353). Women-Church Convergence was created as a coalition of twenty-six feminist groups with intricately interwoven directorships, "drawn from a narrow band on the ideological spectrum" and described as "rooted in the Catholic tradition" (p. 156). "Women-Church does indeed display a kind of cohesive identity, but it is not a Christian identity. ... It could be 'imaged' as a feminist coven at prayer before a mirror" (p. 161).

        Mrs. Steichen quotes at length Sister Madonna Kolbenschlag, speaking at the first Women in the Church conference at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., on 10 October 1986. "It drew a handful of men and nearly 2,500 women, some 85 percent of them nuns. ... Many were uncritical thinkers, accepting as valid theological commentary whatever was published in the National Catholic Reporter, which seemed to be standard convent reading fare. Perhaps only a few really understood that the ultimate feminist objective is the obliteration of Christianity" (pp. 124-125). But "it appeared that the avant-garde looked on orthodox Catholicism as an alien and eccentric Church, locked in a 'pre-conciliar' mind-set and beyond the pale of ecumenism" (p. 127). Sister Kolbenschlag attacked what she called "the myth of the Father God," according to which "patriarchy, embedded in the creation story of Genesis, is the universal religion." According to Sister Kolbenschlag, "the Genesis myth marked the establishment of monotheism and the legitimization of patriarchy as a way of nature - as God's will" (p. 148). Kolbenschlag advocated a perverse interpretation of the story of Original Sin and upheld a Satanic view of the event (p. 149). She characterized good as evil and evil as good as she assailed what she called the spirituality of the "false god" of Christianity. She claimed that feminist spirituality is "dissolving that myth and image" and re-creating "a myth of God through the process of alienation from the old myth and the reconstruction of a God-myth through the lens of another experience of humanness" (p. 150). While calling for women to "reclaim their reality" through the power of a "holistic sexuality and the right to a free and personally responsible expression of it," she averred that the first of the new "virtues" that women must cultivate is rage and anger against the evils of patriarchy (p. 150). Feminists, she said, are journeying "to the promised land and the New Covenant," they are "reaching for the Tree of Life, for the fruit of knowledge and power," seeking godlikeness" (p. 151). I am the Lord thy God .... Thou shalt not have strange Gods before me. Sister Kolbenschlag "proclaimed in Washington the ancient gnostic preference for the Serpent over the Creator" (p. 152). But she was also expressing the common underlying ideology of the Catholic feminist movement, as is clear from what other leading spokeswomen of the movement were saying. Mrs. Steichen lists as characteristic traits of all of the groups in the Catholic feminist network: a) hostility to law and to the teachings of the Church; b) sexual libertinism; and c) leftist political activism (p. 310). Waves of hate wash over them (p. 314).

        Women-Church Convergence sponsored a congress in Cincinnati on the weekend of 9 October 1987 that was attended by three thousand eager listeners. "Claiming our power" was the theme of the congress. The aim was (quoting speaker Eleanor Smeal) to press for "the total feminization of power" (p. 155). Mary Alcuin Kelly advised those starting local Women-Church groups freely to bless their own bread and wine and to distribute it "in a eucharistic manner," not being concerned about the "non-question" of consecration, but simply to be content "to create a sacred space and grow from our own experience." Sister Sandra Schneiders scoffed at the idea of divine revelation and the deposit of faith (p. 167).

        Who, despairing, have given themselves up to lasciviousness, unto the working of all uncleanness (Eph 4:19). Barbara Zanotti spoke about "loving and cherishing our bodies," because "that is the truth of who we are." As the goddess within them was heard to say: "All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals." Or, as Frances Kissling told the assembled sisters: "Back to the lust in your heart" (pp. 176-177).

        Mary Jo Weaver illustrated the diabolically anti-Christian inspiration of the movement as an attempt to invent a deity, "a divine being infinitely richer than anything imagined by the patriarchy, ... the deity as male and female, as god and goddess or gods and goddesses." Thus, Steichen observes, "feminism becomes, precisely, idolatry, with the self as idol" (p. 182). The ritual main event of the congress was a "feminist eucharist," whose prayers indicated that the "consecrated elements" became, not the Body and Blood of Christ, but the body and blood of the participants (p. 183).

        Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Feminists claim to speak for women, but feminism has an "anti-feminine heart" (p. 265). Religious feminism is a spin-off from liberation theology heavily influenced by the propaganda of Rosemary Ruether (p. 280), in her many speaking engagements and in her books, such as Sexism and God-Talk, where she boasts: "A new God is being born in our hearts to teach us to level the heavens and exalt the earth and create a new world" (p. 284). Ruether commits blasphemy against the Holy Spirit where she says that "feminism represents a fundamental shift in the valuation of good and evil," where she rails against the image of God the Father as an idolatrous projection of the "transcendent male ego," and where she calls for the elimination of the very name of God in favor of the "God/ess" (read "goddess") (pp. 302-303). Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Like a voice out of hell, Mary Hunt, co-foundress of Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER), epitomizes this view of liberation where she says that oppression takes its origin from "the notion of an all-powerful God" (p. 344).

        All power is given to me in heaven and on earth (Matt 28:18). Women's Ordination Conference (WOC) was set up in 1974 "to tie the issue of women's ordination to International Women's Year." Although it has also had members who wanted to be priests, the thrust of its organizers from the beginning has been "toward reinterpreting both priesthood and sacraments as expressions of community power." At its first general meeting, held in Detroit in November 1975, twelve hundred persons, about ninety percent of whom were women religious, heard Rosemary Ruether ask them whether they really wanted ordination in the present "demonic" Church. Instead, she said, they "must demystify in their minds the false idea that priests possess sacramental 'power' which the community does not have" (p. 347) WOC's "greatest success" was in obtaining the agreement of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States to engage in dialogue with them. Formal dialogue sessions were conducted from December 1979 to December 1981 between representatives of the NCCB and such representatives of WOC as Rosemary Ruether, Sister Anne Carr, Barbara Zanotti, Sister Marjorie Tuite, Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, Sister Jamie Phelps, Rita Bowen, and Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza (p. 350).

        The quotations cited above illustrate the gravity of the problem that Mrs. Steichen has researched, but they are merely indicative of the ample proportions of her report. She has copiously described the ideology of the Catholic feminist movement and placed it in its proper context with succinct remarks that ably characterize the ideas that she is quoting, while leaving further development open to the reflection of her readers. As a study of the disease of feminism, this book is a masterpiece. In its careful documentation, its rigorous logic, its deep theological insight, its precise and creative phraseology, it is on the level of an outstanding doctoral dissertation; it merits a doctorate in sacred theology. Mrs. Steichen has greater knowledge and broader understanding than any of the feminist academics that she quotes. She had the courage to attend and witness the speeches she quotes and the rituals she describes and often to question the participants during and after the event. This is a shining example of virtuous womanhood.

        It was the practitioners of witchcraft who were the most dangerous persons that she undertook to confront. From an instance of a spell that one group cast (pp. 59, 75), one cannot but wonder whether an even greater spell has not been cast upon large segments of the Catholic clergy as they listen with sympathy to the mad, diabolical ravings of these feminist women. The rituals of Catholic feminists are redolent of the paganism and neo-paganism which the Christian Church combatted during its first three centuries. To see this paganism arising now among religious persons within the Catholic Church reminds us that the basic issue still is the mystical battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil in which no one can feel secure apart from the grace of God.

        Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to thy word. Contemporary Catholic witches believe that Wicca means "to bend," and that through witchcraft they can bend reality to fit their desires (p. 63), but they should realize that through witchcraft they can bend only the reality of what they themselves are from good women to wicked ones. It is sobering to recall that the very word "wicked" comes from Wicca (Webster). Catholic feminists often bear Christian names like Mary, Mary Jo, Rosemary, and even Madonna, but names like Starhawk and Wabun are more representative of who they are. To pose as religious women, to be identified with Catholic religious institutes, even those named after titles of Our Lord and of Our Lady, while promoting such an anti-Catholic spirituality seems offensive to the extreme. Sister Sheila Carney calls upon religious women to "reappropriate" the Virgin Mary "not for purposes of traditional devotion" but as the model of "an entirely new order" in which "virgin" means "one whose personal power center wells up, who is autonomous, 'one-in-herself,' who is free from male domination or control," that is, as Mrs. Steichen says, "as a paradigm of feminist liberation, a kind of icon for the National Organization of Women" (p. 291).

        It is revealing to read in Ungodly Rage how feminists rebel against the lessons of Genesis 3. Rebellion against the authority of God, as the Serpent says to them: "You will be like gods." Rebellion against the commandments of God, as the Serpent whispers to them: "You will not die the death." Calling the one true God a "false god:" "All these things will I give you," says the Serpent, "if falling down you will adore me" (Matt 4:9). Rebellion against the vocation to chastity, as the Serpent recommends the reclaiming of their own reality by giving free vent to their sexual desires. Rage and anger against God and against their own womanhood, following the cynical advice of a fallen angel who has no love for humanity of any kind or of either sex. They have rebelled against the lesson of Original Sin, and for this they are condemned to repeat it.

        The "goddess within" of feminist adoration is, of course, the focus of pride within each individual feminist woman, but outside of that delusion are the demons who incite it. The "divine being" which feminists like Rosemary Ruether and Mary Jo Weaver are trying to "invent" is just one of the idols that the same old demons have been suggesting for millennia. There is almost nothing original in feminist spirituality. Donna Steichen has discovered that there are few seminal thinkers in feminist ranks (p. 295). While even avant-garde Catholic feminists sometimes claim that their philosophy is "rooted in Catholic tradition" (p. 156), Ungodly Rage clearly brings out that their beliefs spring from personal pride, from the liberal theology of their male mentors, and from the practices of witchcraft. It is surprising to see in the feminist movement how quickly the process of deterioration has progressed from the denial of dogmatic truth through moral and sexual corruption to leftist political action and then into the pits of Satanism. The "seminal thinkers" among women-church members have, indeed, arrived at some conclusions on their own, using twisted logic as a rationalizer of their unreasonable goals, but most of their ideas are based upon the prior reasonings of male liberal theologians and upon the whisperings of demons on the level of the occult. In the data that Mrs. Steichen has organized in her book there are clues also to the occult origin of many of the ideas promoted by the liberal theologians of our day, as they use the so-called "scientific" premises and conclusions of nineteenth and twentieth century rationalists. A prime example is the "demythologizing" advocated by Rudolf Bultmann, now taken up pluralistically by many liberal Catholic Scripture scholars and theologians. This pseudoscientific approach has helped to produce the philosophy of Catholic feminism (p. 258), which, in losing its belief in the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture and in the immutability of revealed dogmas, cast out also its belief in the reality of the Mystical Body of Christ (p. 260). Rudolf Bultmann brought Protestant Modernism to its acme, and the influence of his "immanentist perspective" (p. 281) has deeply affected the growth of Catholic feminism (p. 294). But "most of the errors of feminist theology are common in liberal theology" (p. 360), which helps one to surmise not only that Rudolf Bultmann was probably helped a lot by demons in devising his radical destruction of the Gospels but also that the whole historic succession of rationalist thinkers behind him probably had some of the same diabolical advisors. Thus, Ungodly Rage, in its analysis of the liberal theology behind Catholic feminism, provides valuable clues to the occult sources behind liberal theology as a whole.

        Ungodly Rage makes it clear that Catholic feminism's "spirit of Vatican II" is a spirit of dialogue with the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Catholic feminism's attack against what it sees as a "pre-conciliar mind-set" is an attack against the very essence of Catholicism. Catholic feminism's joining hands and dancing around the altar is an introduction of the witches' circle into the sacred space surrounding the altar of sacrifice. Catholic feminism's goal is the obliteration of Christianity, not only as a set of dogmas and beliefs, but also as the practice of the moral virtues, as a style of life, and as an exercise of prayer to the one true God. The priestess of women-church emerges as a minister of unholy sentiments, a link-up with the druids of pre-Christian Europe, a falling-back into paganism.

        Donna Steichen sees a pervasive gnostic influence behind the Catholic feminist movement. It seems that the same evil spirits who in the first Christian century inspired Simon Magus to give his gnostic twist to the dogma of the Incarnation are still around in our time suggesting similar twists to the interpretation of all of the dogmas of the Church. Every Catholic should read Donna Steichen's book. Women should read it to become aware of the trap that has been set for them. Men should read it to become aware of how feminists are destroying their own lives as Christian women and are threatening the well-being of all Christian society. Every good priest and bishop should read it, to be put on guard against the wiles of wayward women grasping for an ultimate power that no decent human being should want to have.

        Ungodly Rage sheds new light on the whole liberal theological movement within the Church and on where this movement may be leading us. The hierarchy is not secure in the unchanging dogmas of the Church or in the virtually infallible definition of a male priesthood, because Catholic feminism is spearheading a psychological and sociological revolution which denies the very notion of unchanging dogmas and infallible definitions, seeking to bury them beneath the weight of its own ungodly power. Unless this evil movement is identified for what it is and resisted, it may on a sociological level succeed in overwhelming the teaching and governing power of the bishops. Confrontation is the only answer, not little steps in the same direction.

        Steichen maintains with reason that the feminism which has been devouring institutes of religious women in the United States was first contracted in the late 1940s, "when the Sister Formation movement began urging that American nuns earn the same academic qualifications as their secular peers." American higher education, Catholic and secular, was being increasingly contaminated with error. "First exposed to neo-modernist theology in college classes, nuns proved highly susceptible" (p. 255). By the 1980s it was public knowledge that the "liberal consensus" of big-name Catholic theologians and exegetes no longer firmly believed in the Virginal Conception or the Incarnation, and were offering "humanitarianism and liberal political prescriptions" in place of supernatural truth (pp. 119-120). Steichen maintains that the liberal consensus is a "gnostic agnosticism" whose secret knowledge consists in the conclusion that the Christian faith is actually "a psychological state unsupported by objective truth." When many religious co-eds had been introduced to this seemingly scientific discovery, they lost their Christian faith and then, to fill the vacuum, turned to things like feminist witchcraft. But they had learned from their neo-modernist professors how to give new and alien meanings to the familiar religious vocabulary (p. 122). Moreover, as Mrs. Steichen well expresses it, "implicitly gnostic religious feminism overlaps an explicitly gnostic New Age movement" (p. 193). Feminists like Mary Jo Weaver have utilized "process theology" as a doctrinal base for the new feminist religion (p. 198), according to which God "needs creation" and "needs fulfillment and relationships in order to be real," because "everything is relative, even the deity" (p. 202). As Steichen points out, such a theology can make a "virtue" out of any action which may seem self-actualizing: "revolution, certainly, or divorce, abortion, lesbianism, witchcraft, voodoo, demon marriages or any of the other desperate acts taking place in the tragic, perilous, self-inflicted feminist wilderness exile" (p. 203).

        This is the plight of the Catholic feminist. If God is not three transcendent and incomparably superior Persons, but only, as Modernism and "process theology" maintain, the depersonalized spirit of mankind yearning for meaning, then there is no divine moral law, and man (read also "woman") "is adrift in an existential sea - with no hope of finding the right way home, because there is no right, and no home" (p. 281). There is for them no hope, because demons have led them to base "creation spirituality" upon the act of despair, and the tragedy of Catholic feminist philosophy is that they have accepted despair as their act of "hope." This may be why they almost always look so sad.

        Donna Steichen foresees that the hierarchy will eventually have to deal with religious feminism as a spiritual disease that is harming Catholic women. The longer this task goes unrecognized, and the more this disease is allowed to spread, the more dramatic will this critical moment of truth be. There is a place for promoting women's rights and women's duties in an equality of persons having distinct roles to play, but religious feminism is not really advancing this cause. The problem lies in acceding to the demands of feminists, rather than in listening to the requests and the advice of good Catholic women like Donna Steichen. As she so well puts the case: "Because the division of roles in the family is natural and universal, hope remains for the restoration of the family. Few of those who abjure the place of patriarchy will survive as families. But until Catholic authorities again honor patriarchy in the Church as well, there is little prospect for restoring a mature priesthood" (p. 385).
Click here to buy Ungodly Rage from Amazon Books
        Mrs. Steichen does not leave her readers simply waiting for Catholic authorities eventually to begin honoring patriarchy again. She dedicates the last few pages of her book to describing the many things that are already being done towards the restoration of the Church in North America. This includes some good advice to parents on how to promote their lives of faith in contemporary circumstances. She has given a fine example of Catholic action by presenting her study of religious feminism. It is better to write a single book than to curse the darkness.

Ungodly Rage : The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism by Donna M. Steichen
(Ignatius Press, 1991), 420pp, ISBN 0898703484

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