Both the Vatican and the U.S. bishops are investigating a book by a prominent American Catholic theologian, Vietnam-born Fr. Peter Phan of Georgetown University. The book raises issues about the uniqueness of Christ and the church, issues that were also behind recent censures of other high-profile theologians, as well as a recent Vatican declaration that the fullness of the Christian church resides in Catholicism alone.
The case confirms that no subject is of greater doctrinal concern for church authorities, including Pope Benedict XVI, than what they see as “religious relativism,” meaning the impression that Christ is analogous to other religious figures such as the Buddha, or that Christianity is one valid spiritual path among others.
John Allen Jr. writes that the investigation by the CDF has been ongoing since 2005 and so far Fr. Phan has not yet responded to questions given by Archbishop Angelo Amato.
As is always the case the CDF is slow and deliberate by giving theologians every opportunity to explain and to correct where necessary. It is rather interesting that Bishop William Lori, chair of the Committee on Doctrine for the U.S. bishops, is conducting a separate investigation with their own set of questions.