Catholic Feminist ‘Witches’ and the ‘Convivium’ Connection

News: US News
by Jim Russell  •  •  January 20, 2019   

The Franciscan book scandal may be about more than just a book

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So, witchcraft really is a thing. The Church has always taken it seriously because Scripture definitely takes it seriously. At its root is Satan himself, from which any actual, non-delusional "power" that may be wielded by a witch arises. This is the Church's view, so let's keep that in mind.

This is why it boggles the mind that so many Catholic feminist literary types have publicly embraced the "witch" persona as something noble and sacred. This is doubly ironic because the very core of satanic witchcraft is to profane that which is sacred. And the profanation of the sacred is exactly what a number of these women are currently tolerating and even promoting in their defense of Franciscan University of Steubenville (FUS) English Professor Stephen Lewis, who now himself publicly defends having shared profane and obscene content about the Blessed Virgin Mary in one of his university courses.

The profanation of the sacred is exactly what a number of these women are tolerating and promoting in their defense of Professor Stephen Lewis.

A significant aspect of this scandal is that Lewis' wife, Suzanne Lewis, co-founded with fellow feminist and FUS alumna Rebecca Bratten Weiss a literary/cultural journal called "Convivium," which itself is a spin-off project of Lewis' 501(c)3 non-profit corporation "Revolution of Tenderness," whose website, once public, is now currently private. Its 2016 tax form 990 shows Weiss is on the Revolution of Tenderness payroll, the only one among the non-profit's employees to report compensation ($5,000).

When you take a closer look at Lewis and Weiss' "Convivium," the "witch" motif emerges as a disturbingly vivid feature.

One very influential figure in this emergence is another Catholic feminist writer and blogger deeply connected to both Lewis and Weiss: Catholic writer Jessica Mesman Griffith. Griffith is prominently featured not only in the "Convivium" arena but also via her blog site "Sick Pilgrim," hosted at the Patheos Catholic Channel, whose editor is Weiss. Griffith refers to herself as an "affiliate faculty member" at the Convivium School, a sub-project in which Weiss and Lewis offer "online and low-residency workshops and courses in creative writing, literature, film, and more."


Rebecca Bratten Weiss (center) at the

Trying to Say God conference in 2017.

Griffith also co-founded a "literary festival" at the University of Notre Dame called "Trying to Say God." The June 2017 conference also featured Weiss, who said she was excited to participate "because of the delight of talking about my favorite topics — women's writing, vulgarity and the sacred, [and] eco-criticism." She was also meeting her online friend Griffith for the first time.

"It turned out that Jessica and I got along even better in real life than we did on the internet," Weiss says. "[A]nd since then we have worked together as artistic collaborators... . We also worked together in organizing Revolution of Tenderness' first literary event, Convivium Gathering, in Pittsburgh last year. Jessica Mesman Griffith was our keynote speaker at that event and succeeded, as she always does, in working magic."

Griffith's "magic" was also present in that summer 2017 "Trying to Say God" festival at Notre Dame. She was part of a panel presentation titled "Rendering the World Strange: Folk Piety and Imagination," which was recorded and shared online. She describes how she met the co-founder of the Sick Pilgrim community and blog site:

I told him that I thought that dabbling in the occult is what had made me Catholic. ... And he laughed and told me he came into the Church because of his interest in ghosts and exorcisms, and that's when I knew that we'd be friends and that we would work together and that really is pretty much how "Sick Pilgrim" was born.

Griffith continues:

So, in the description for this panel, they called me "the witch," which ... I am not a witch, I'm so sorry. ... They do tease me about being a witch because I like witches and I'm always defending witches. And there are actual Catholic witches who I am friends with, and who believe in the God-given power through creation to work with both the seen and the unseen to bring about blessing and change. And they also rely heavily on the Saints. All of this makes sense to me, I think, because I’m from New Orleans, and this is a huge part of my spirituality.

May I suggest that you stop and read that last quote at least once more? Many feminist Catholic women seem to be searching for a historical "muse" by which they can express their contemporary feelings of victimhood and powerlessness in a so-called man's world. But Griffith does not embrace witchcraft as a mere persona or literary motif. No. Rather, a key figure closely collaborating with Lewis and Weiss really, really claims to know Catholic "witches" who are practicing a supposedly okay form of witchcraft.

At first when I read what Griffith's friend and collaborator Weiss had posted in January, in which she assumed the persona of a witch ready to sacrifice Nazi testicles to the pagan goddess Hecate, I'd come away thinking that Weiss’ behavior was akin to a medieval re-enactor who dresses up in armor and period garb to immerse himself in a role-playing form of "homage" to his hero. Next, I'd thought perhaps the public nature of this "homage" to witches — viewed by today's feminists as wronged characters with whom to sympathize — was another kind of identity ideology at work. As with the LGBT community, publicly "coming out" as witches via an imagined witch-sacrifice scenario reveals the author's embrace of this kind of character as something good, something sacred to the writer, something not to be ashamed of.

But Griffith's smoking-gun quote above makes it clear that even more is at work here than these likely elements. Witches — whether pagan in origin, whether inspired and led by Satan or whether falling into this inexplicable category of good "Catholic witches" — are to be affirmed, defended (as Griffith says), sympathized with and even admired and believed.

Yet, at the end of the day, all witches, good or bad, pretend or real, assumed as persona or actual identity — they all undermine the sacred by profaning it, either intentionally as practitioners of evil witchcraft, or unintentionally as practitioners of a witchcraft they somehow think is a blessing.

And this is why the Franciscan University book scandal is so serious a matter. The wife of the man at its center is financing and leading an organization — with a school, with conferences, workshops, and publications — that tolerates making the sacred profane under the guise of the witch persona.

And this is why the Franciscan University book scandal is so serious a matter.

If, like Weiss, one of your "favorite topics" is "vulgarity and the sacred" and you fantasize about offering human sacrifice to a pagan goddess; if, like Griffith, you know Catholic witches and their witchcraft "makes sense" to you; If, like Suzanne Lewis, you front an effort like "Convivium" that gives a platform to these voices; If, like Stephen Lewis, you openly defend teaching from works containing blasphemies against the Blessed Virgin Mary — just one of these elements should be enough to yield a judgment that something not authentically Catholic is at work here.

But all four together?

Anyone who thinks the scandal at Franciscan is merely about literature and academic freedom isn't really paying attention.


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