Rosemary P. CARBINE and Kathleen J. DOLPHIN, eds. Women, Wisdom, and Witness: Engaging Contexts in Conversation. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2012. pp. 292. $34.95 pb. ISBN 978-0-8146-8064-3. Reviewed by Ella JOHNSON, St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry, Rochester, NY 14618
The first pages of this book’s three sections contain excerpts from Hellwig’s inaugural lecture, which serve as an organizing principle and frame of reference for the essays in each section. The three thematic sections of the anthology address relevant concerns for contemporary women’s experience: suffering and resistance, academia and higher education, and religion and public life. Each essay self-consciously aims for a twofold task: (1) to use sources in order to reflect critically and confront particular contexts of contemporary women’s experiences with regard to each of the book’s three themes; and (2) “to explore as well as appraise women’s creative approaches, both religious and practical, and to enhance women’s and wider human well-being, understood as ‘reciprocal, collaborative energy that engages us personally and communally with God, with one another, and with all of creation in such a way that power becomes synonymous with the vitality of living fully and freely’” (xiv).
Section I contains an essay on “Mary of Nazareth and the Mysticism of Resistance”, which reconsiders the reality of “bondwoman” in the Lukan narrative of Mary’s canticle. Another essay, “Art as Witness to Sorrow: Käthe Kollwitz, Emmanuel Levinas, and Dorothee Sölle” regards the role of art and prayer as modes of witness to suffering, with a special view to maternal grief. “Trafficked: Sex Slavery and the Reign of God” theologically reflects on the sex trafficking and trade of women and children. Finally, “Feminicide and the Reinvention of Religious Practices” demands a more adequate account of historical salvation and resistance in the face of feminicide.
Section II, with a focus on ethics and social teaching, features “Virtues and Voices: Building Solidarity among Women Scholars,” which articulates a feminist virtue theory of “listening for voice.” “The Conundrums of New Catholic Women Theologians” analyzes the post-modern context and current ecclesial climate within which newer theologians find themselves situated. “Suffering or Flourishing? Marriage and the Imitation of Christ” offers a feminist response to the US bishop’s pastoral letter on marriage, arguing for a fresh focus on self-care. “Feminism a Must: Catholic Sexual Ethics for Today’s College Classroom” details components and challenges in a Catholic sexual ethics course.
Section III leads with the essay, “Icons and Integrity: Catholic Women in the Church and in the Public Square”, which focuses on the role of women to tell women’s stories. “Bridget Jones, Cancer Patient: On Navigating the Health Care System of a Singleton,” looks at overlooked issues of gender and spirituality for single women in the US health care system. “Reservoirs of Hope: Catholic Women’s Witness” considers the role of women religious in the reform debates of current US health care. Finally, “The Beloved Community: Transforming Spaces for Social Change and for Cosmopolitan Citizenship” examines the notion of community in the Civil Rights Movement and the re-emergence of such a notion in the New Sanctuary Movement.
The book engages in issues at the forefront of contemporary women’s experience, and does so in a practical and rational way, combining both theology and ethics. It approaches these issues in a disciplinary manner, while giving voice to a diverse group of women scholars. The anthology is, therefore, a valuable resource for theological libraries, scholars, teachers and students. It should prove to be useful for readers interested in any of the individual areas it treats, as well as for required reading in feminist theology courses.