Carr, feminist divinity scholar, dead at 73

By Christina Schwartz

Anne Carr, a frontrunner in feminist theology and the first woman appointed to a permanent faculty post in the University’s Divinity School, died on February 11 at the age of 73.

Carr was a Roman Catholic nun in the order of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary for nearly 50 years and a renowned scholar of modern theology, specializing in Catholic thought and feminist theology.

Her academic interests spanned a broad range of topics, and included the theology of Karl Rahner, the spirituality of Thomas Merton, and theological anthropology. However, she is best known for her 1988 book Transforming Grace: Christian Tradition and Women’s Experiences, a comprehensive survey of contemporary Christian feminism. The work pointed to sexist strains in the Christian tradition and advocated a new, more gender-aware line of scholarship to the foreground.

“Some people may have a tendency to think of her feminist theology as radical but it was an original and balanced approach,” said Bernard McGinn, a professor in the Divinity School and a former colleague of Carr’s, in a University press release. “It was an important new way of thinking and teaching theology.”

Although Carr was a devoted Catholic, she disagreed with a number of the Church’s traditional positions. She was one of 91 priests and nuns who endorsed a New York Times ad backing vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro’s statement that there was “a diversity of opinions regarding abortion among Catholics.” Carr also passionately advocated permitting women to serve as priests.

Carr was born on November 11, 1934 and grew up on the South Side of Chicago. She received her B.A. from Mundelein College in 1956. After graduation she taught kindergarten in the Chicago Public Schools before taking her vows to join the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1958.

She subsequently attended Marquette University and graduated with an M.A. in theology in 1962. She began teaching in Mundelein’s theology department, where she stayed until 1966. Carr began her career at the University of Chicago in 1966, earning a second M.A. in 1961 in Christian theology. She was awarded a Ph.D in 1971. In 1975, after teaching at both Mundelein and Indiana University, Carr returned to the University of Chicago where she served as assistant dean and assistant professor of theology in the Divinity School.

Carr is survived by her sisters Jeanne Horan of Indian Head Park, IL; and Mary Patricia Zeiler of LaGrange Park, IL.