I am a writer and scholar of religion specializing in contemporary Roman Catholicism, that is, Catholicism since Vatican II. From 2000 to 2009 I was on the faculty at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA, where I taught contemporary Christian theology and American religion. Now I’m Research Professor of Catholic Studies at the Center for World Christianity at New York Theological Seminary in New York City. My husband and I live in the amazing culturally and religiously diverse Flatbush section of Brooklyn where you can walk in ten minutes from mosques to Orthodox synagogues to Pentecostal store fronts to Haitian/Chicano/Caribbean Catholic churches.
The purpose of this blog is to continue and share with friends the conversation I begin in my book, Tracing the Sign of the Cross: Sexuality, Mourning, and the Future of American Catholicism (Columbia University Press, Gender, Theory and Religion Series, 2009). In that book, I consider the ways in which the Catholic culture wars, especially over sexuality and gender, have protected many American Catholics from engaging and working through the losses they and their church sustained during the last third of the twentieth century. I do this in a series of close readings of novels, memoirs, and essays by four American writers with “distinctively Catholic imaginations”: James Carroll, Mary Gordon, Donna J. Haraway, and Richard Rodriguez.
As I work my way through these texts, I find that by “tracing the sign of the cross” in their writings–engaging with and mourning loss–these authors point the way toward a more faithful and productive American Catholic future. I also conclude that for myself, the path beyond the Catholic culture wars moves inexorably in the direction of the church “in the Global South,” in its multiple manifestations, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and indigenous. Also, as Pope Francis indicates in his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’, the future of Catholicism and everything else is integrally connected to the current environmental crisis. If we fail to act on that, the rest is window-dressing.
Please join me, then, as I blog my way from twenty-first century American Catholicism to global Christianity, the climate crisis, sex/gender issues, and a whole lot more. And please comment whenever you are able. The conversation is what counts.