FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 21, 2008

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Catholic activists deliver letter with over 2,000 signatures to President and Vice President of the University of San Diego

San Diego, CAToday at 9:00AM, Catholics activists delivered a letter with over 2,000 signatures to the offices of the President and Vice President of the University of San Diego (USD). The letter expresses deep distress over USD’s decision to rescind a prestigious position to Catholic feminist theologian, Rosemary Radford Ruether. The letter and signature-gathering campaign was sponsored by the Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC), a Catholic organization that works for women to be ordained as priests, deacons and bishops, and the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER), a multireligious feminist educational center with Catholic co-founders. Among the signers are fifty USD faculty members, 42 Catholic organizations from 12 countries, and prominent scholars and activists, such as Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Edwina Gateley, Ivone Gebara, Sr. Jeannine Gramick, SL, Frances Kissling, Judith Plaskow, and Emilie Townes. The Catholic activists who delivered the letter spoke with the media at 9:30AM outside at the Colachis Plaza on USD’s campus, 5998 Alcala Park Drive.

“The University of San Diego has violated the principle of academic freedom, and we expect more from a Catholic university that states their intention ‘to uphold the highest standards of intellectual inquiry and academic freedom,’ as one of its five core values,” said Aisha Taylor, executive director of WOC. “Rosemary Radford Ruether is a highly respected, world-renowned theologian, and USD’s shocking treatment of her has inspired thousands of Catholics from around the world to take action and express their support for her and for academic freedom.”

“We are deeply concerned by this turn of events both because it is insulting to Professor Ruether and because of what it portends for academic freedom in a Catholic institution,” stated Mary Hunt, co-founder and co-director of WATER.

The letter provides two possible solutions to the issue at hand. First, the letter calls for USD to honor the offer made to Ruether to hold the Monsignor John R. Portman Chair in Roman Catholic Theology with an appropriate apology for this incident. Second, in the case the first is not acceptable, it urges USD to invite Ruether to deliver the Portman Lecture on the matter of academic freedom in Catholic higher education and remain on campus for a week of substantive discussion. In either case, the letter calls for USD to compensate Ruether with the full payment originally negotiated and set forth in the formal invitation.

“We call for a timely resolution lest not only the reputation of the University of San Diego but of all Catholic institutions that respect academic freedom suffer greatly,” concluded Hunt.

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Founded in 1975, the Women’s Ordination Conference is the oldest and largest national organization that works to ordain women as priests, deacons and bishops into an inclusive and accountable Catholic church. Ruether is a National Adviser of WOC. For more information, visit www.womensordination.org.

Founded in 1983, the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual is a feminist educational center doing work locally, nationally and internationally organizing programs and projects, publications and workshops, counseling, spiritual direction and liturgical planning which help people actualize feminist religious values in the service of social change. For more information, visit http://www.his.com/~mhunt/

Rosemary Radford Ruether writes a regular column for National Catholic Reporter, has 13 honorary doctorates and has written more than 40 books. Her work focuses on Christian feminism, social justice, and the relationship between religion and ecology. She teaches part time at Claremont Graduate University, about 40 miles east of Los Angeles.