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.
This is something I can’t understand. I just started studying for the permanent diaconate and there is a lot of emphasis about Jesus’ Divinity, the Real Presence, the history of our Church as the one founded by Christ, etc. that I can’t fathom how some of these priests go through a supposedly more rigorous program and come out with that B.S. What kind of call did they have in the beginning anyway?
I think part of the problem has to do with the selection and approval of candidates. At a retreat a couple of weeks ago, a second year deacon candidate mentioned to a group of wives that “maybe in a couple of years you’ll be the ones in this position”. Fortunately, all the wives chewed him up along screams of “NEVER!”
The problem is that academic theologians worship at the pig-pail of tenure and the approval of cookie-cutter-thinking colleagues. For a “serious” theologian to suggest that the magisterium might be right is professional suicide.
Fr. Philip, OP
To be fair to Fr. Peter Phan, it didn’t seem like his ideas were half-baked for the sake of being contrary. I met him when he spoke at my university (a secular one but with a class on Catholicism), along with John Allen Jr. Fr. Phan did raise my suspicions a bit when [over]-emphasizing the Eastern and African birthrights of famous Fathers of the Church.
But his ultimate goal in trying to expand our concepts of Catholicism to its practice in non-Western cultures, and the cultural problems that result (i.e. the symbolic meaning of wine in Vietnam vs. Italy) was noble.
Go read one of his books on Asian Catholicism and stop ad-homineming.
If anything, both John Allen Jr. and Peter Phan (I couldnt tell if he was really a priest) both stressed the global character of Catholicism which I, as a Catholic Filipino, think is left behind amidst the emerging hardcore Catholics of “the West.” There is an important issue of aesthetics and ethnic character that causes some white western Catholics to point fingers at some Filipino and Mexican Catholics and call them liberals.
just my big two cents.
There is no “Catholicism of the West” or the east or the south or of white people or women or gays or anyone else…There is Roman Catholicism, period–given by Christ, taught by his apostles, defended by his church, and lived by those who want to follow him. The whole notion that Catholicism can be denominated by racial or social or geographical adjectives is the first step toward Protestantism and the further destruction of the True Faith. Bottomline: Fr. Phan believes that Jesus Christ is the final and unique Self revelation of the Blessed Trinity given to us for our salvation, or he doesn’t. There is no other name given under heaven for our salvation. Period. Done.
Fr. Philip, OP
For what it’s worth, I offer a different tack. I want to give a “Praise God” that this church has a CDF, and a Magesterium, and a Pope. There is a “Roma locuta, causa finita est!” Heretics may have a long tether, but eventually, they find the end of their leash (although in the interim you’ll have to eat a lot of Rolaids!).
Many times as a former Protestant I’d tear my hair out about heretical pastors, and every time I’d try to refute their heresy, either directly, or with fellow parishoners, I’d get “well, that’s YOUR interpretation.” And they would be right. Their interpretation was as good as mine, because neither of us could appeal to a higher court or tradition or authority outside of ourselves.
Yes, heritics come and go. Arius, Nestorius, dutch catechisms, Matthew Fox, et al. but they will always be on the outside looking in. As I told my Mom why I was becoming Catholic (who was non plussed), I told her that I wanted to live (and die) in a church where I won’t wake up one morning and find out that Christ is no longer Lord. She quetly nodded.
Christus Vincit; Christus Regnat; Christus Imperat