Women Erased Series

FutureChurch will host multiple online presentations which will uncover the many ways women's leadership, witness, and ministries have been erased from our Church's Scriptures and Lectionary, historical record and memory, and communities. These sessions, featuring leading Scripture scholars and Church historians, will not only name and explore the history, but also put forth resources for correcting the record and telling the true story of women's central role in shaping and spreading Christianity from its beginnings to today. 

Please use the registration form following the presentation descriptions to sign up to join us. 


Women Erased:  Catholic Women, Feminism, and a New Paradigm for Being Church
Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 8pm ET with Sr. Sandra Schneiders, IHM

In the spring of 2012, the CDF, under the leadership of Cardinal Gerhard Müller, issued a statement accusing Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) of promoting "radical feminist themes" and "corporate dissent."  Most U.S. nuns vigorously rejected this misrepresentation as thousands of Catholics  in the United States and around the globe rose up in their defense.  After the election of Pope Francis and the shift in priorities in Rome, on April 15, 2015, in a report issued jointly by officers of LCWR and the three bishops who had been mandated to investigate the group's doctrinal orthodoxy, both sides agreed that the mandate had been accomplished and their conversations had "borne much fruit."  

Sr. Sandra Schneiders has written extensively about the impact of feminism as a comprehensive framework for the Catholic Church, Vatican II, and the prophetic nature of religious life.    After the dust settled from the 2009 Apostolic Visitation, and more acutely, the 2012 Vatican investigation, Sr. Schneiders wrote that the upheaval ultimately strengthened the bond between women religious and helped them to define the feminist principles that served as a foundation for their work in the Church.  

In her Madaleva Lecture, “With Oil in Their Lamps: Faith, Feminism, and the Future”, Sr. Schneiders extols the promise of a Gospel-informed feminism on the life of the Church and the work of  the Gospel in the world.  Yet, she holds no illusions about the inevitability of feminism’s impact.  “We cannot predict the future, we can only create it.”  In her presentation for our Women Erased series, Sr. Scheiders will explore the questions surrounding feminism’s role and efficacy  in the Catholic Church today. Where have Catholic feminism(s)  and Catholic feminists made inroads?  What more can needs to be accomplished? 

Does feminism, in general, and religiously committed feminism make a positive contribution to the future of the human family and our universe, or is it destined to be suppressed or fade away, leaving the world still structured by patriarchy, torn by violence, divided between the have and have nots, and driving by individualism, greed, and hedonism?*

Join us for this extraordinary conversation with Sr. Sandra Schneiders.

*Schneiders, Sandra M., With Oil in Their Lamps: Faith, Feminism, and the Future (New York, Paulist Press, 2000), p 83.  

Biography:  Sandra M. Schneiders is professor emerita of New Testament studies and Christian spirituality at Jesuit School of Theology, Santa Clara University, Berkeley, Calif., and author of Prophets in Their Own Country: Women Religious Bearing Witness to the Gospel in a Troubled Church (2012), among other publications. She is a member of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Monroe, Michigan.

Sr. Schneiders was one of the first two nuns to receive a theology doctorate from a pontifical university after Vatican II, and  went on to become the first non-Jesuit female professor to be tenured at JST. She is a pioneering, and often-cited theologian of St. John’s Gospel and in the field of “hermeneutics,” or how to interpret texts. She helped establish the country’s first doctoral program in Christian spirituality, at the Graduate Theological Union, and is a highly regarded and sought-after expert in Biblical studies and the modern-day theology and spirituality of women religious.

Her extraordinary life and work were featured last year in a gallery exhibit at Santa Clara University’s Learning Commons, and her professional papers have been donated to Santa Clara University’s official archives—the first collection of its kind at SCU.


May 18, 2021 at 8:00PM ET
Women Erased: The Role of Latina Women in Shaping the Future of the Catholic Church

by Natalia Imperatori-Lee, Ph.D.

Professor Natalia Imperatori-Lee explores how dominant narratives about Catholicism in the United States often render the stories of its significant and growing Latinx membership, especially that of Latina women invisible or irrelevant. Few U.S. Catholics understand that Latinx/Hispanic Catholics encompass both the oldest Catholic inhabitants of this land and its newest arrivals. "The earliest Catholic theology done in America was done in Spanish," writes Imperatori-Lee in her new book Cuéntame: Narrative in the Ecclesial Present.  Through the literary and artist works of Latina women like Rosario Ferré and Yolanda López, as well as the popular faith practices such as the devotion to Guadalupe, Imperatori-Lee illustrates how the sensus fidelium subverts institutional notions of holiness and offers a more truthful, complicated, but wholistic understanding of the intuitions and holiness of the laity, in general, and women in particular. 

Natalia Imperatori-Lee is Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College in the Bronx, NY, where she also coordinates the Catholic Studies program. She is the author of Cuéntame: Narrative in the Ecclesial Present (Orbis Books, 2018). Her work has appeared in Theological Studies and The Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. A Cuban-American native of Miami, Florida, Imperatori-Lee has served on the Board of Directors of the Catholic Theological Society of America and the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the US. She lives in the Bronx with her spouse and two sons.


Thursday, July 29, 2021 at 8pm  ET
Women Erased:  Grappling with Patriachal Constructs of Women in the Lectionary and the Bible

With Rev. Wil Gafney, Ph.D.

Hebrew Bible Scholar, Rev. Wil Gafney, Ph.D. argues that the overwhelming majority of Christians receive their scripture mediated through a lectionary. Lectionaries are not simply as androcentric as are the scriptures, but women are even less well represented than they are in the biblical text. To the degree that biblical texts function as scripture for religious readers, it ought to be possible to tell the story of God and God’s people through the most marginalized characters in the text. Though the bible is an androcentric document steeped in patriarchy, I expect a women’s lectionary to demonstrate and grapple with the gender constructs of the text rather than romanticize heroines.

The story of Jesus and those who tell his story may begin for some with the gospels and the story of a miraculous pregnancy. At least that is what the table of contents suggest. Tables of contents are implicitly suggested reading sequences. But suggested by whom? All of our stories have editors behind the curtains who curate or shape what we read. Scholars of the text will tell us that another beginning to the story of Jesus is the epistles, the letters written by the presumptively male followers of his followers to tell his story because the first hand eye-witnesses had died or were dying. Some of the accounts of those witnesses would later be written down as gospels and some of them would be canonized, receiving official table of contents status. Again, hidden hands, male hands, shape the contours of the story of these sacred stories.

Some may well ask, why bother with these stories when the voices of women and gender-full kin are so few and far between and the words on their lips – even if not placed there by men – are edited to serve their interests, articulating their theology that places them at the center of all things and creates a god in their male image who is as patriarchal and, in many cases, as misogynistic, murderous and slave-holding as they. We do so, I do so, because I have found in them words of life and a God who transcends every idol constructed in or out of the text, even those constructed with the words of the text.

I’m asked over and over again why I stick with these scriptures and their androcentrism and their marginalization of women and their portraits of God that sometimes look like a small-minded human man. The answer is the same: In spite of their Iron Age theology and all of its limitations – and sometimes because of it and them – the word of God shines through all the cobwebs and encrustations and with it, the God who is too big to be confined to text or tradition or religion or denomination, the God who Is and who loves and who is Love.

Even ordinary literature transcends the hands that write it and the context and limitations of its production. Great literature and art and music soar across continents and cultures and peoples and places and language and limitations. The scriptures are more even than this. They are, in my reading and hearing and praying and preaching, imbued with the voice of God. Not in the strictures of literalism, for that would not be possible with their many originating manuscripts with their many differences or in their many translated languages – some of which don’t even have the same grammatical structures as their original languages, but in the power that illumines, transforms, convicts, inspires and, reveals.  And so, I turn to the scriptures knowing that there are stories within the stories, stories among the stories, stories between the stories, and stories behind the stories if we know where to look and listen. And in the story of Paul and his chest-thumping exploits, late to the apostle game, always chasing the legacy of the Apostle to the Apostles, Miriam of Magdala whom you know as Mary Magdalene, there is another story, the story of Priscilla, preacher, pastor, professor and – I will postulate – apostle, indeed, there are some scholars who credit her with authoring the epistle to the Hebrews in whole or in part.

Biography:  The Rev. Wil Gafney, Ph.D. is Professor of Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas. She is the author of Womanist Midrash: A Reintroduction to Women of the Torah and of the Throne, a commentary on Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah; Daughters of Miriam: Women Prophets in Ancient Israel; and co-editor of The Peoples’ Bible and The Peoples’ Companion to the Bible. The first two volumes of her Women’s Lectionary are due this spring. She is an Episcopal priest canonically resident in the Diocese of Pennsylvania and licensed in the Diocese of Fort Worth, and a former Army chaplain and congregational pastor in the AME Zion Church. A former member of the Dorshei Derekh Reconstructionist Minyan of the Germantown Jewish Center in Philadelphia, she has co-taught courses with and for the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Seminary in Wyncote, PA.



Women Erased:  Women in Catholic Media -- Authority and Influence in Shaping the Stories We Read and Hear

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 at 8pm ET with Heidi Schlumpf, Executive Editor of National Catholic Reporter

In this "Women Erased" session, we ask how the stories of women's experience, dissent, contributions, and advocacy are covered in today's Catholic media landscape.  How does Catholic media shape the way we view the Church?   Who writes the stories and the commentary?  Who decides what will be covered and how it will be covered?  To what extent do women and women of color make editorial decisions and shape the Catholic stories we read?  What barriers do women and women of color as journalists, editors, bloggers, and commentators face when it comes to getting their perspectives read/heard?



Women Erased:  The Women of the Second Vatican Council

Tuesday, February 16, 2021 at 8pm ET with Maureen Sullivan, OP

The Second Vatican Council is regarded by most theologians to be the most significant ecclesial event in modern church history.  As we reflect on the Council today, fifty-six years after it concluded, it is important to remember that Vatican II was a product of its times.  This fact is especially important when we discuss the role of women in the church, specifically the role women had at Vatican II.  Many Catholics are not aware that women were also invited as auditors at the Council.  Even though they did not have a “formal” presence at Vatican II, the many books and articles written in the years since the Council demonstrate that these courageous women left their mark on the Council’s documents. This presentation will examine the impact of the women at Vatican II and also discuss the struggles and achievements of women in the church in the years following the Council.

VIDEO Transcript

Women Erased:  Women Icons of Christ

January 28, 2021 (Thursday) at 8:00pm ET with Dr. Phyllis Zagano

Phyllis Zagano traces the history of ministry by women, especially those ordained as deacons. History teaches that women ministered in baptism, catechesis, altar service, spiritual direction, and confession, and anointed the sick, either as deacons or as lay persons. Women: Icons of Christ demonstrates how priestly clericalism effectively removed women’s leadership, voices, and official ministries from the life of the Church by eliminating women from sacramental ministry, altar service, and preaching.  The question, “Who can be an icon of Christ?” underlies the discussion. There seems to be a simple answer. We know from the revelation of Scripture that all Christians are equally human, all Christians are part of the Body of Christ. Yet, the Catholic Church both really and symbolically excludes half its members.  Women cannot be ordained to the renewed diaconate, even though the most complete Church histories demonstrate genuine precedent. Why? The reduction of all the arguments, supported by the manipulation of history, is that women cannot image Christ. Phyllis Zagano presents cogent arguments supported by history to refute arguments against restoring women to the ordained diaconate.


Women Erased: Adam has a Womb

Tuesday, November 17, 2020 at 8pm Eastern Time with Lizzie Berne DeGear

The story of Adam and Eve has been used for centuries to put women in their place ("Eve was made from Adam's rib as a helpmate for him") and to castigate the LGBTQ community ("It's Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve!"), but did you know that the Bible does not actually tell that story? FutureChurch hosted a screening of the delightful and eye-opening animated short film (m)adam: Adam's Rib Reframed and a no-holds-barred discussion with filmmaker, Catholic Chaplain Lizzie Berne DeGear, PhD. (m)adam just won Best Religious Film at the Viva International Film Festival.


Women Erased:   #NunsToo -- Media's Role in Obscuring the Abuse of Women by Priests

October 8, 2020 at 8pm Eastern Time with Tara Tuttle, Ph.D.

The sexual exploitation/abuse of women religious by Catholic priests was first reported by Sr. Maureen O'Donoghue in her 1994 report to the Vatican -- a report that remained largely overlooked until 2001.  This practice of "erasing" the experience and reality of Catholic women remains today. Professor Tara M. Tuttle probes the manner in which media outlets submerged the experiences and realities of Catholic women, both lay and consecrated, as they sought to affirm their own biases regarding the connection between clergy sexual abuse and homosexuality.  That motif, along with inordinate deference for prelate and priest abusers, corrupted the truth and propped up the abuser's narrative where women's credibility was questioned and their efforts to access justice were routinely discounted or despised.  Thus, women, accused of treachery against the Church for going public, suffered, too often, in silence. Professor Tara M. Tuttle is the Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion and a Senior Lecturer in the Lewis Honors College. She has a Ph.D. in Humanities with an emphasis in 20th century American culture, a graduate certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of Louisville, and an MA in Humanities from Indiana State University. Passionate about Honors education, she worked in the Honors Program at Indiana State University, taught Honors courses as affiliate faculty in the Honors Program at Ball State University, and developed the Honors Program at St. Catharine College (now closed) before joining the faculty in the Lewis Honors College here at the University of Kentucky. Her research examines contemporary women writers’ uses of scriptural allusion to challenge conventional understandings of gender and justice. She is interested in the ways in which members of marginalized or contested groups deploy biblical allusion to prompt reconsiderations of hierarchical interpretations of scripture used to validate social, political, and legal inequities as moral or divinely mandated.  Her recent contribution, "#NunsToo" in Crisis and Challenge in the Roman Catholic Church, provides a window into the research she conducted on this topic.


Women Erased:  Talking Truth About Women and the Sacraments

September 22, 2020 at 8pm Eastern Time with Dr. Susan A. Ross

Women have always been at the heart of the sacraments and the sacramental life of the Catholic Church.  In the real world where Catholics participate in the Eucharist and the Eucharistic life of the parish/community, women are the backbone.  As evidenced recently by women's witness at the Amazon, they heal, teach, preach, bury, baptize, witness marriage, listen to confessions, offer liturgies of the word, and more.  But their ministry is, too often, erased -- unrecognized, and undervalued in that they do not receive the same official sanction as male ministers - yielding both sacramental grace and authority for their ministry.


Women Erased: Restoring the Memory of Black Catholic Women in Our Tradition and History

Thursday August 27, 2020 at 8pm Eastern Time with Sr. Anita Baird
Black Catholic Women have been instrumental in shaping the life and faith of the Church, yet, our collective memory of their work, courage, challenge, generosity, and faith is too often made "invisible" in our Catholic education, Catholic liturgy, and Catholic art.  Sr. Anita Baird, a native of Chicago, IL,  and a member of the Religious Congregation of the Society of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary will share the stories of some of the Black Catholic Women who challenged the Church, challenged their communities, and brought enormous change to this country as they stood against racism and for a more just Catholic Church and world.


Women Erased: In Search of the Majority

Tuesday July 14, 2020 at 8pm Eastern Time with Dr. Carolyn Osiek, RSCJ
Throughout the early (2nd-6th) Christian centuries, the lives of most women were lived in silence, while the few elite ascetic women got at least some attention. What about the rest? Dr. Carolyn Osiek, RSCJ, Catholic Professor of New Testament emerita at Brite Divinity School and past president of the Catholic Biblical Association, will explore the lives of these early Christian women, paying attention to how prevailing cultural norms and philosophies - not the gospel of Jesus - silenced them. 


Women Erased:  Reading the Bible "Against the Grain"

Thursday June 18, 2020 at 8pm Eastern Time with Professor Carol J. Dempsey, OP

For centuries, readers and interpreters of the Bible have traditionally read the text “with the grain.”  Many have sought to use the Bible for personal and spiritual enrichment and nourishment Today, however, we live in the twenty-first century globalized world, and if we want to achieve global justice, then we have to begin reading the biblical text “against the grain.” and interpreting it critically. New interpretation theories help us to see how cultures and cultural attitudes have shaped the Bible and how the Bible, as the most read book in the world, continues to shape and re-inscribe various oppressive cultural attitudes today that have had an effect on our political, social, economic, and religious institutions.   Professor Carol J. Dempsey, OP is an internationally recognized and award-winning scholar who teaches courses in Biblical Studies, specifically in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. With particular expertise in the Prophets, Professor Dempsey’s interests lie in a feminist and liberation approach to biblical texts, gender studies, biblical theology, literary and rhetorical criticism, and environmental/ecological studies. She teaches an introductory course in Bible as well as courses in the Prophets, Wisdom, Gender, Biblical Spirituality.   Prof. Dempsey is the author of eight books and the editor/co-editor of 12 books. The former Vice-President of the National College Theology Society, she serves on the editorial board of The Catholic Biblical Quarterly and Old Testament Abstracts. She is active in several professional societies and has lectured widely, both nationally and internationally. She is currently working on two commentaries on Isaiah among other contracted research projects.


Women Erased from the Lectionary

Wednesday May 6, 2020 at 7pm Eastern Time with Michael Peppard, Ph.D.
The books, witnesses, stories, and accomplishments of Biblical women are disproportionately underrepresented in the assigned Scripture readings for the Church year. Some women are omitted entirely, others are only read at weekday mass, and still others are made "optional." Who are these women? And how can we recover their stories? Michael Peppard, PhD, associate professor of New Testament Studies at Fordham University, will offer insights from his research on the women of Romans 16 and previous studies of women omitted or made optional in the Roman Catholic Lectionary. Read Michael Peppard's Commonweal article, "Household Names: Junia, Phoebe, & Prisca in Early Christian Rome" by clicking here.  



***Additional presentations forthcoming. After registering just once below, we will send you updates about future presentations and links to join.*** 

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