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
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). 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"
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
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).
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.