WASHINGTON (CNS) — The board of directors of the Catholic Theological Society of America has expressed "profound distress" at the Vatican action condemning a book by U.S. Jesuit Father Roger Haight and banning him from teaching Catholic theology."
Father Haight’s book ‘Jesus Symbol of God’ has done a great service in framing crucial questions that need to be addressed today," the board said in a statement given to Catholic News Service Feb. 16.
It said the book, sharply criticized for doctrinal errors in a notification issued Feb. 7 by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has provoked the kind of lively debate and criticism within the theological community that is encouraged by the church’s teaching authority.
"Ironically, rather than promote greater criticism of the book, the congregation’s intervention will most likely discourage debates over the book, effectively stifling further criticism and undermining our ability as Catholic theologians to openly critique our colleagues," the board said. [Source]
CTSA is the same group which was not too pleased with the Catechism and actively worked to both undermine it or to deny that it should be read by all Catholics. CTSA causes me "profound distress" with its loopy theology and dissent.
"The congregation’s intervention in this case gravely threatens the very process of serious, systematic, internal criticism which the congregation and the bishops have long been encouraging among theologians," it said. "While this process of internal critique can never replace the proper teaching and disciplinary roles of the magisterial, the intervention of the magisterium should be a last resort, reserved for situations where this process has clearly failed."
Roberto S. Goizueta, CTSA president and a theology professor at Boston College who is currently living in Spain during a sabbatical from his teaching post, told CNS in a telephone interview from Madrid that he viewed the doctrinal congregation’s notification as blurring the line between theology and catechetics. "What they’re trying to do is get him to restate the ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church,’" he said. "That’s not what theology is. Theology is about creative exploration of revelation and the doctrine of the church."
Truth has boundaries and there is nothing creative about theological speculation that is contrary to truth. True theology doesn’t create anything, but will help us to further and more deeply understand the truths of the faith. We might be creative in ways to better understand those mysteries, yet too deny truth such as the divinity of Christ is not creative but destructive. There are so many Catholic theologians who present their own "truths" (perhaps they should be called me/-ologians) and for the Vatican to take action against one of them shows just how far Fr. Haight had strayed from even the rest of the flock of his heterodox brethren.
"I just wish the congregation would let the theological community sort things out first," he said. He added that under the "principle of subsidiarity" he thought that before a public intervention by the church’s highest authorities, a number of intermediate steps might have been taken within the theological community and within the Jesuit order to address the problems in the book.
Waiting for the current Jesuit order to clean house might be the very definition of optimism. In modern times when have the Jesuits acted against a priest, unless of course they are orthodox like Fr. Fessio? When has CTSA called into question any theologian other than to shroud outright heresy as legitimate debate.
Thompson, who has written several books on Christology, said a number of reviews of Father Haight’s book by theologians, including his own in the Marquette University review, Philosophy & Theology, were quite critical of the book.
The doctrinal congregation said Father Haight denies Jesus’ divinity and eternal pre-existence as the word of God when he interprets the word of God as a metaphor rather than a reality and when he says Jesus was simply a man who mediated God’s saving presence in history as a concrete symbol of God.
Thompson called the Christology of the book "bland" and "pretty watered down." When theologians explore the Christian beliefs that Jesus was truly God and truly became a man, suffering and dying to save humanity and giving hope of eternal life by rising from the dead, "my own feeling is that there is nothing more radical than orthodoxy," he said. [Source]
Christopher Blosser previously had an excellent recap on Fr. Haight.
Update: Jamie at Ad Limina Apostolorum has some more in depth reflections on explorations in theology.
As “profound distress” goes, I’d say the CTSA board’s pushback is pretty watered down. If this is Fr. Haight’s defense by his peers, he must be indefensible.
And though I’m all for subsidiarity, I don’t want it at the expense of clear speech. “Bland” doesn’t mean “heretical,” even if heresy is bland.
Random question– is there an alternative to the CTSA for theologians who actually believe what the Church teaches? Just curious…
Yeah, we meet monthly in a coffee shop in northeast DC. Sometimes the other two guys don’t show up, though.
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