Rainbows of Possibilities: Reading Difference in Catholic Women's Nomadic Feminist Theologizing

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Wainwright, Elaine
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Rickson, Sally
Saunders, David
Bulbeck, Chilla
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In this thesis I analyze the presence of difference in the nomadic feminist theologizing of a group of eight Catholic women from an Australian diocese. This small christian community named Sophia-of which I am a member-has been meeting since October 1993 to support one another and share stories of our experiences as marginalized Catholics. In attempting to name and understand the various levels of rejection we had encountered, group members reflected on the performances of Catholic Church leaders, and we theologized on church leadership as well as other ecclesial and doctrinal issues. Participants readily agreed to be involved in the research project I was proposing, and they became interactive partners with me during the period that produced the theological discourses analyzed in the thesis. This production stage involved four phases: firstly, open or non-directed theologizing on issues raised by participants; secondly, a guided study-with myself as facilitator-of five traditional Matthean leadership texts; thirdly, a guided study of five Matthean women's leadership texts-again facilitated by me; and fourthly, a return to open or non-directed theologizing. My analysis of the group's theologizing focuses on d~'erence. Using Rosi Braidotti's work on embodied sexual difference which identifies three coexistent levels of difference, I explore and account for difference as it occurs: between women (Sophia) and men (the male representative voice of the institutional church); among women (in the seemingly homogeneous Sophian group); and within individual women (in Sophia). The analysis identifies signifiers of difference that signal Sophia ~s nomadic feminist renegotiations of dominant canonical Catholic discourses. Moreover, I account for the resisting readings mobilized by various Sophian members by exploring ideologies and key elements of interest-specifically power, conflict, desire, agency-that underpin Sophia 's theologizing. In doing this, difference, as evidenced in the multiple voices/perspectives that constitute the Catholic tradition and that feature in Sophia ~ theologizing, is valorized. The designing and de-signing of Sophia ~s nomadic feminist theological discourses in this thesis demonstrates that Sophia 's theological 'acts of going' intensified difference and engendered for participants multiple, transformative pathways and kaleidoscopic rainbows of ever so beautiful theological possibilities.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Theology
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Catholic women
Church leadership
Catholic discourses
Catholic tradition
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