Fr. Jacques Dupuis, S.J, Fr. Roger Haight, S.J, Fr. Anthony De Mello, S.J. .Fr. Tissa Balasuriya, OMI

Vatican denounces book, *Jesus: Symbol of God *

American Jesuit Fr. Roger Haight  prohibited from teaching at Weston School of Theology.

Among the seven criticisms is that the book challenges that Christ existed as the divine Word of God prior to his incarnation as Jesus. In addition, the book presents Jesus as a human being who *mediated* the saving presence of God, as opposed to being truly divine and truly human.


Dear Sirs,  15 SEP 05


We have been reading your page on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith In the last part, in the list of documents related to the CDF's position regarding the writings and activities of Vassula Ryden, you have copied a link to the official website of Mrs Ryden. In her website, Mrs Ryden affirms that the CDF has modified it's position towards her and implies that the 1995 Notification is no longer valid. This is not true, as the Catholic Church of Scotland has recently reminded us (


In fact, the Ratzinger Fan Club website (, which has the same information that you have on your page, has in fact cancelled it's link to Mrs Ryden's page, and replaced it with the link to the following page: , which contains the text of the July 2004 letter of Mons. Ratzinger, together with the confirmation from the Swiss Bishops Conference that the CDF has not modified it's position regarding Mrs Ryden.


Since your homepage indicates that the site wishes to be faithful to the Holy Father and the Magisterium, we have considered it important to inform you of the above.


Very warmly in Christ,







Vatican City, Feb. 09, 2005 (CNA) - The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has denounced the book ³Jesus: Symbol of God² by American Jesuit Fr. Roger Haight as containing "grave doctrinal errors,² reported John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter.


 As a result, Fr. Haight has been prohibited from teaching Catholic theology "until his positions have been corrected so as to be in full conformity with the doctrine of the Church," said the notification from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.


 The book was reviewed in 2000, and the Congregation for Catholic Education ordered him suspended from the Jesuit-run Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass., soon after. 


 Fr. Haight is currently an adjunct professor at the non-Catholic Union Theological Seminary in New York, reported Allen.


The notification presents seven criticisms of the book but does not say the book contains "heresy." It also does not prevent the Jesuit from publishing.


 Among the seven criticisms is that the book challenges that Christ existed as the divine Word of God prior to his incarnation as Jesus. In addition, the book presents Jesus as a human being who *mediated* the saving presence of God, as opposed to being truly divine and truly human.


 Allen reported that Fr. Haight has described his book as an attempt to express traditional doctrines in a post-modern culture.




Theological Progress: An Analogy


by Dr. Jeff Mirus special to


 The revocation of Fr. Roger Haightıs right to teach theology by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in February was greeted with a public statement of dismay by the Catholic Theological Society of America. This dismay is so out of touch with reality that it reminds me of someone who believes the forward progress of an automobile is caused by constantly changing the scenery.


My Car is Making Funny Noises


Speaking of autombiles, the first sign of a major breakdown is often a strange sound emanating from the engine compartment. The CDFıs announcement, approved by the Pope and published in the February 7-8 edition of LıOsservatore Romano, identifies a high-pitched whine in Fr. Haightıs work occasioned by deviations from the Catholic Faith concerning the Incarnation, the Resurrection, the Person of Jesus Christ, the nature of the Trinity, the salvific role of the Church, and the nature of Truth itself. The errors in question are as serious as they are numerous, and as numerous as they are obvious.


They are also old, indicating a long-standing problem. Essentially, Fr. Haight insists that we cannot know precise information about God, that Revelation is therefore fundamentally symbolic, and that this symbolism must be reinterpreted in every age, particularly in our post-modern culture, which does not relate well to previous expressions of the Christian Faith. In other words, Fr. Haight is making exactly the same assertions that Modernists have made for the last 150 years, assertions taken for granted by all the various forms of religious accommodationism throughout the history of the Church, and in fact the same assertions which have dominated the Western theological community at least since the modern crisis of Faith struck the academy in the 1960ıs.


Revving the Engine


One wonders whether academic theologians are a particularly tortured breed doomed to constantly reinvent Christianity in the vain hope of making it palatable to the natural man, or if like the rest of us they are simply tempted to win the approval of the surrounding culture by obscuring the demands of Faith. In either case, the forward progress of mainstream academic theology over the past generation has been virtually non-existent. The engine has been revving well enough, but the vehicle has stayed firmly in one place. This is what makes the expressed dismay of the Catholic Theological Society so strange.


As if to prove the point, the CTSA Board of Directors sniffed that peer review is the method by which theological theories should be tested and filtered. They acclaimed Fr. Haightıs constant openness to review and gracious acceptance of criticism, in contrast to the peevish unfairness of CDF procedures. They fear the CDFıs unwarranted intrusion into the conversation will stifle further criticism and undermine the ability of Catholic theologians to critique their colleagues in order to advance the theological enterprise. Finally, they resent the CDFıs presumption in moving beyond theological criticism to a ³negative judgment upon a theologianıs personal integrity and responsibility² by revoking Fr. Haightıs right to teach.


But these are the same unsettling sounds we have heard every time weıve listened to the engine for a generation or more. The erroneous theologian is always kind and gracious; the Church is always unfair and authoritarian. The theological profession is always self-correcting and progressive; Church authority is always personally hostile and repressive. Every time the Church has censured a theologian, the same script has been used for the academic response. The engine roars, but the car doesnıt move.


Transmission Problem


Modern Catholic theologians, including Fr. Haight, have largely forgotten the fundamental fact that their craftıs dependence on objective Revelation is so complete as to have no meaning without it. The Judaeo-Christian tradition is unique in claiming direct, public Revelation from God to man, and the whole point of Revelation is to make up for the obvious fact that man cannot figure God out on his own. All man can do on his own is express his vague intimations of immortality through figures and symbols. In other words, all man can do on his own is what Fr. Haight has done in the work questioned by the Vatican, Jesus Symbol of God (1999).


Just as passengers in a car have it backwards when they think progress toward a destination is achieved by moving the scenery, so too are Fr. Haight and the CTSA gravely mistaken in their belief that they can make theological progress by rearranging Revelation. To the contrary, only when the fixed nature of Revelation is taken seriously can an intelligible examination of the Faith take place. Moreover, it is the Churchıs Magisterium which infallibly provides the needed connection between the mind and this fixed supernatural scenery. The Magisterium thus performs a role analogous to the transmission in a car. Unless it is engaged, the wheels donıt turn.


Now, consider that Fr. Haight is saying exactly what dissident theologians were saying when I was a boy a half-century ago. Consider that the academic/journalistic establishment is still so backward that his book won the Catholic Press Associationıs award for the yearıs best book on theology in 2000. Consider that the book contradicts teachings of the Church on several key matters which were definitively settled in the fourth century (nearly 1700 years ago!). And consider that the CTSA is now rebuking the Church for nastily interrupting the all-important progress of the ongoing discussion. Diagnosis: The transmission has been disconnected for a long, long time.


The Church as Mechanic


In our time it may fairly be said that the Church is very good about making the latest manuals available but reluctant to pick up the wrench and the air gun. Still, in this case she has rolled up her sleeves, gotten her hands dirty, and reconnected the theogicial engine with the landscape of Revelation by reinserting the Magisterium. If the accelerator is now depressed and the engine speed increased, the theological vehicle will actually move. The Faith will be explained, elucidated and, well, transmitted.


This must be terrifying to men and women who have long enjoyed the comforts of the SUV without understanding the purpose of wheels. We must urge them to be calm and to keep the gears engaged. Yes, motion sickness can cause dismay. But it is not the scenery that is supposed to move.





Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith


According to the Vatican website, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was founded in 1542 by Pope Paul III with the Constitution "Licet ab initio," and was originally called the Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition. It was charged with the obligation of defending the Church from heresy.


 Pope St. Pius X in 1908 changed the name to the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office. It received its current name in 1965 with Pope Paul VI. Today, according to Article 48 of the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, "Pastor Bonus", promulgated by the Holy Father John Paul II on June 28, 1988, "the duty proper to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is to promote and safeguard the doctrine on the faith and morals throughout the Catholic world: for this reason everything which in any way touches such matter falls within its competence."


 The congregation is now headed by Prefect Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

 Selected Documents


Please Note: What follows is a list of selected statements from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (such as Dominus Iesus), and a special section on specific investigations of notable theologians. For a complete list of documents published by the Congregation, both doctrinal, disciplinary, and those on sacramental questions, see:


€      Doctrinal Documents


€     Disciplinary Documents


€     Documents on Sacramental Questions




On the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World May 31, 2004, the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.



Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons. June 3, 2003, Memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga and his Companions, Martyrs.




Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life November 24, 2002, the Solemnity of Christ the King.




Note on the Expression "Sister Churches" The proper use of the expression "sister churches" is discussed in a note by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that was distributed to heads of bishops' conferences. The note, accompanied by a letter from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the congregation, was signed June 30, 2000.

Declaration Dominus Iesus on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church. August 6, 2000, the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.

Documents concerning The Message of Fatima. June 26, 2000.




The Primacy of the Successor of Peter in the Mystery of the Church. Reflections of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith dated October 30, 1998 on the primacy of Peter's Successor in the Mystery of the Church.

Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the 'Professio fidei'. Issued by the CDF on June 30, 1998 to go with the Apostolic Letter Ad Tuendam Fidem (In Order to Safeguard the Faith) released the same day. Also contains the Profession of Faith and the Oath of Fidelity on Assuming a Church Office.



Regulations for Doctrinal Examination. une 29, 1997, the Solemnity of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.




Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some aspects of the Church understood as Communion - Communionis notio . May 28, 1992.




Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian. Given at Rome on May 24, 1990, the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord.



Instruction on respect for human life in its origin and on the dignity of procreation - Donum vitae. Given at Rome on February 22, 1987, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the Apostle.



Instruction on Certain Aspects of the "Theology of Liberation". Given at Rome on August 6, 1984, the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord.


 Resources Pertaining to Specific Investigations


Occasionally Cardinal Ratzinger and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has had to fulfill it's sacred office of disciplining and correcting a particular theologian who's teaching is not in line with that proclaimed by the Catholic Church. What follows are resources (statements and articles) relating to a few of the more noteworthy skirmishes that have made the headlines.


 Paul Collins


In the Press . . .

 "Paul Collins Resigns from Priesthood amid Vatican Probe", by John Allen. National Catholic Reporter, March 16, 2001.

"Collins Told to Revise His Views", by John Allen. National Catholic Reporter, July 16, 1999.

"Collins Views on Papacy face Heresy Investigation", National Catholic Reporter, February 20, 1998.



Documents Pertaining To...

Paul Collins' Explanation of his Resignation from the Priesthood, February 1, 2001.

Letter from Cardinal Ratzinger to Father Michael Curran, December 8, 2000.



Fr. Jacques Dupuis, S.J


In the Press...

Jacques Dupuis, SJ 1923-2004 Times Online. January 12, 2005.

Remembering Jacques Dupuis, by John Allen, Jr. Word from Rome January 7, 2005.

"Rome sends mixed signals on Jesuit contributions", by John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter, April 27, 2001.

 "Theologian Criticized by Vatican Wrote Interreligious Guidelines". America. April 23, 2001.

 "A Matter of Justice : Was the trial of Jacques Dupuis really necessary?", by Ladislas Orsy. America. April 16, 2001.

 "Ways of Salvation? On the investigation of Jacques Dupuis", by Francis J. Sullivan. America. April 9, 2001.

"Theologian's work merits encouragement, not censure". National Catholic Reporter. March 9, 2001.

"Theologian Dupuis says He's Free At Last", by John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter, March 9, 2001.

 "Cardinals Air Differences on Role of Doctrinal Congregation". America. April 10, 1999.

"Provincials decry Vatican Suspicion of Asian Theology", National Catholic Reporter, April 2, 1999.

"Ratzinger Rips Konig's Criticism", National Catholic Reporter, April 2, 1999.

In Defence of Jacques Dupuis, by Cardinal Franz Konig. The Tablet, January 16, 1999.

 "Indian Archbishop Defends Jesuit Theologian". America Dec 5, 1998.

"Two European Scholars Under Scrutiny for Heresy", by John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter, Nov. 20, 1998.



Documents Pertaining To...

Commentary on the Notification of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding the book Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism by Father Jacques Dupuis, S.J., Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, March 20, 2001.

Statement of Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Feb. 26, 2001.

Notification on the book Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism (Orbis Books: Maryknoll, New York 1997), by Father Jacques Dupuis, S.J., Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Jan. 24, 2001.



Fr. Roger Haight, S.J.

In the Press...

Jesuit Roger Haight's Book Has "Grave Doctrinal Errors": Author of "Jesus: Symbol of God" Barred From Teaching Catholic Theology Feb. 8, 2005.

Ratzinger seeks further explanation from US theologian. 17 Sep 2003.

"Haight Silencing Feeds Theologians' Fears", by Margot Patterson. National Catholic Reporter, May 4, 2001.

American Jesuit's Book Spurs Vatican Inquiry, by Teresa Watanabe. The Los Angeles Times. April 25, 2001

"Rome Targets Another Jesuit", by Gerald Renner. National Catholic Reporter, August 11, 2000.

Haight on Trial. Commonweal May 18, 2001 / Volume CXXVIII, Number 10.



Documents Pertaining To . . .

Vatican Notification on "Jesus Symbol of God". Published in the Feb. 9 weekly English edition of L'Osservatore Romano.


 Fr. Anthony De Mello, S.J.


In the Press...

The Enigma of Anthony de Mello, by Parmananda Divarkar. America. Nov. 7, 1998.

The Prayer of the Frog Called into Question. Ecumenical Review April 1999.

Dr. Seuss condemned: grinches go after de Mello, by David Toolan. Commonweal, Oct. 23, 1998.

"De Mello Censure reflects Vatican Misgivings about Eastern Thinking", by John Allen Jr. National Catholic Reporter, Sept. 4, 1998.


 Documents Pertaining To...

Notification Concerning the Writings of Father Anthony De Mello, S.J., Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Jan. 24, 1998.



Fr. Tissa Balasuriya, OMI


In the Press...

"Condemned Priest is Restored to Church", by Pamela Schaeffer. National Catholic Reporter, January 30, 1998.  Cardinal Ratzinger vs. Fr. Balasuriya. Christian Order Dec. 1997.

"Chronology of Balasuriya's Troubles", National Catholic Reporter, January 30, 1998.

The Balasuriya Affair, by Pravin Thevathasan. pp. 622-627,  Christian Order. December 1997. [documents key questionable elements from Balasuriya's texts].

"Vatican Excommunicates Balasuriya", by Pamela Schaeffer. National Catholic Reporter, January 17, 1997.

"Theologian Under Heavy Fire, Appleals to Pope", by Pamela Schaeffer. National Catholic Reporter, Dec. 27, 1996; January 3, 1997.



Documents Pertaining To...

Notification Regarding the Text Mary and Human Liberation, by Father Tissa Balasuriya, OMI, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.



Dear Sirs,  15 SEP 05


We have been reading your page on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith In the last part, in the list of documents related to the CDF's position regarding the writings and activities of Vassula Ryden, you have copied a link to the official website of Mrs Ryden. In her website, Mrs Ryden affirms that the CDF has modified it's position towards her and implies that the 1995 Notification is no longer valid. This is not true, as the Catholic Church of Scotland has recently reminded us (


In fact, the Ratzinger Fan Club website (, which has the same information that you have on your page, has in fact cancelled it's link to Mrs Ryden's page, and replaced it with the link to the following page: , which contains the text of the July 2004 letter of Mons. Ratzinger, together with the confirmation from the Swiss Bishops Conference that the CDF has not modified it's position regarding Mrs Ryden.


Since your homepage indicates that the site wishes to be faithful to the Holy Father and the Magisterium, we have considered it important to inform you of the above.


Very warmly in Christ,





 Vassula Ryden


In the Press...

Press Release: Vassula Ryden Notification, Dec. 1996. A clarification on some elements in the October 1995 Notification.

Puerto Rican Bishops, by Fr. Brian Harrison, O.S. Bishops warn the island's Catholics against the unauthorized 'ecumenical' activities of Vassula Ryden. The Wanderer May 11, 1995.



Documents Pertaining To...

Notification on Vassula Ryden. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. October 6, 1995.

Correspondence between Vassula and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (April/June 2002), consisting of questions put to Vassula by Fr. Prospero Grech of the CDF and her answers to the Congregation.

Modifications by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the situation concerning True Life in God. January 2005.




Vatican bans Jesuit from teaching as Catholic theologian



 After a five-year investigation, the Vatican's doctrinal congregation said it had found "serious doctrinal errors" in the work of US Jesuit theologian Fr Roger Haight and forbade him to teach as a Catholic theologian.


The Vatican's critique focused on Fr Haight's 1999 book, Jesus Symbol of God, which explored the themes of Christ's divinity, the resurrection, the Trinity and salvation for non-Christians.


A lengthy notification summing up the investigation's conclusions was published by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano this week. The notification, dated 13 December, was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. A a note said Pope John Paul II had approved the notification and ordered its publication.


The doctrinal congregation said Fr Haight's book contains "serious doctrinal errors against the Catholic and divine faith of the church."


"As a consequence, the author is forbidden to teach Catholic theology until his positions have been rectified in such a way as to be in full conformity with the doctrine of the church," the notification said.


The notification said Fr Haight's assertion that Catholic theology must be "in dialogue" with the modern world leads him to downplay or deny central teachings of the church.


The congregation also criticised Fr Haight's assertion that "because of modern pluralistic consciousness," one cannot continue to affirm that Christianity is a superior religion or that Christ is the centerpiece of God's plan for salvation.


Fr Haight has declined to comment. But in a brief statement, his New York Province Jesuit provincial Fr Gerald J. Chojnacki said Fr Haight "has collaborated with the congregation and is available for consultation with them."


He said the priest submitted a letter of resignation to the president of Weston in February 2003, and it was accepted in October 2004.


"Fr Haight now lives in New York City, where he continues his research and writing," Fr Chojnacki said.



Vatican forbids US Jesuit to teach as Catholic theologian (Catholic News Service 8/2/05)



Roger Haight: Jesus Symbol of God (Amazon - includes contents, excerpt)

Haight on trial (Commonweal/Looksmart 18/5/01)

Roger Haight: Spirituality and Social Justice: A Christological Perspective (Spiritiuality Today Winter 1982)

Roger Haight: Four Gifts of the American Church to the Universal Church (2002 Conference Speaker's Texts, Call to Action USA)

Haight silencing feeds theologians' fears (National Catholic Reporter 4/5/01)



Ratzinger seeks further explanation from US theologian (CathNews 17/9/03)



Work of Jesuit Haight contains 'grave doctrinal errors,' Vatican says (National Catholic Reporter 8/2/05)

Vatican denounces book, suspends US Jesuit from teaching Catholic theology (Catholic News Agency 9/2/05)

American Jesuit Roger Haight barred from teaching Catholic theology (Jesuits-Europe 9/2/05)

Jesuit Roger Haight's Book Has "Grave Doctrinal Errors" (Zenit 8/2/05) 


 10 Feb 2005

Post details: Warning on "Jesus" Book Is Seconded




 10:56:43 am 






Warning on "Jesus" Book Is Seconded    

 Categories: News, 931 words


 And of course the warning comes from that conservative Catholic bastion, the U.S.?




WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 17, 2005 ( A U.S. bishops' committee welcomed the Vatican's recent Notification concerning "Jesus, Symbol of God," a 1999 book by Jesuit Father Roger Haight that questioned the divinity of Christ.


In a statement, the bishops' Committee on Doctrine said the notification by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was issued "in order to clarify any misconceptions, to affirm our support for the decision of the Holy See, and to reassert the importance of authentic theological inquiry."


"It is essential that we, as the authentic teachers and guardians of the Apostolic Faith, ensure that the faithful throughout our country, be confirmed in their faith, and not become confused by ambiguous or erroneous theological speculation," said the statement, approved Monday.


"Authentic doctrine, contained in the Scriptures and in the Apostolic Tradition and defined by the Councils of the Church, must be the explicit and unambiguous foundation not only for catechetical instruction, but also for theological teaching and inquiry."


 In its notification, the Vatican's doctrinal congregation, after a lengthy process, found that Father Haight's book contained serious doctrinal errors contrary to Scripture and the ecumenical councils of the Church, particularly the Council of Nicaea.


 Here´s the U.S. Bishops' Statement on Vatican Notification On the 1999 Book "Jesus, Symbol of God"








 WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 17, 2005 ( Here is the text of the statement by the U.S. bishops' Committee on Doctrine welcoming the Vatican's notification about the book "Jesus, Symbol of God."


* * *


Regarding the Notification from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith concerning the book: Jesus, Symbol of God, by Fr. Roger Haight, S.J.


In the light of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's recent Notification concerning the book: "Jesus, Symbol of God" (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1999) the Bishops' Committee on Doctrine offers the following brief statement in order to clarify any misconceptions, to affirm our support for the decision of the Holy See, and to reassert the importance of authentic theological enquiry.


Firstly, the Notification does not comment on the author's personal character, but assesses the book, judging it to contain "serious doctrinal errors regarding certain fundamental truths of faith." The errors concern "the pre-existence of the Word, the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, the salvific value of the death of Jesus, the unicity and universality of the salvific mediation of Jesus and of the Church, and the Resurrection of Jesus." Because the author continues to hold views that are erroneous, and "until such time as his positions are corrected to be in complete conformity with the doctrine of the Church," the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith judged that he "may not teach Catholic theology." Such a decision is a judgment solely on the author's suitability to teach Catholic theology given his own present mistaken theological positions.


Secondly, this negative judgment concluded an involved process, including consultation with the author over the course of five years. At the end of this lengthy process the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith rightfully concluded that Fr. Haight's book contained serious doctrinal errors that were contrary to Scripture and the Ecumenical Councils of the Church, particularly the Council of Nicaea (325 AD).


Thirdly, the Bishops' Committee on Doctrine for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops welcomes the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's Notification. It is essential that we, as the authentic teachers and guardians of the Apostolic Faith, ensure that the faithful, throughout our country, be confirmed in their faith, and not become confused by ambiguous or erroneous theological speculation. Authentic doctrine, contained in the Scriptures and in the Apostolic Tradition and defined by the Councils of the Church, must be the explicit and unambiguous foundation not only for catechetical instruction, but also for theological teaching and inquiry.


Fourthly, in accordance with "Ex Corde Ecclesiae," "bishops should encourage the creative work of theologians," for they indeed "serve the Church through research done in a way that respects theological method." At the same time, however, "it is intrinsic to the principles and methods of their research and teaching in their academic discipline that theologians respect the authority of the Bishops, and assent to Catholic doctrine according to the degree of authority with which it is taught" ("Ex Corde Ecclesiae," 29-30). While the Catholic theological community is not only competent but indeed obliged to address creatively and to debate strenuously theological issues that are open to authentic development, theologians are not permitted to espouse theological positions that are contrary to the teaching of Scripture and the Ecumenical Councils of the Church. The competence to judge authoritatively what is and is not in conformity with the faith of the Catholic Church resides within the charism of the Bishops in union with the Pope. Thus, the Notification assists the bishops in teaching that the divinity of Jesus, the reality of the Trinity, the salvific value of Jesus' death and bodily resurrection, and the universality of his salvific mediation are to be accepted in faith by all members of the Catholic Church, for such doctrines are at the very heart of the Christian Gospel -- the good news of salvation.


Most Reverend William J. Levada, Chairman

 Archbishop of San Francisco


Most Reverend Leonard P. Blair

 Bishop of Toledo


Most Reverend William E. Lori

 Bishop of Bridgeport


Most Reverend Edward W. Clark

 Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles


Most Reverend José H. Gomez

 Archbishop of San Antonio


Most Reverend Robert J. McManus

 Bishop of Worcester


Most Reverend Arthur J. Serratelli

 Bishop of Paterson




The following articles are from dissenting authors and publications:


Rome targets another Jesuit



 Special to the National Catholic Reporter


In its latest attempt to rein in theologians who hint that Jesus  of Nazareth is not the exclusive path to God, the Vatican is investigating  Jesuit Fr. Roger Haight, a priest of the Weston Jesuit community in Cambridge,  Mass.


Haight confirmed rumors that an investigation is under way, but  said he had been asked by church officials to refrain from commenting about  it.


Haight is the author of Jesus, Symbol of God, a book  published last year by Orbis Press. The book has drawn high praise from many  theologians for the way the author avoids discussing Jesus in traditional  dogmatic formulas, but rather presents an interpretation of Jesus in modern  terms. It was a selection of the Catholic Book Club, operated by America  Press.


Regarding the investigation, Haight said in a brief telephone  interview July 19 from the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, the graduate  theology school where he teaches, ³I want to handle this like Jacques  Dupuis did and not comment.²


Dupuis, 76, is a Jesuit who taught at the Pontifical Gregorian  University in Rome until the fall of 1998, when he came under Vatican  investigation for his book Toward a Christian Theology of Religious  Pluralism (NCR, Nov. 20, 1998).


Dupuis told the Italian news agency ANSA at the time that he had  been ordered to refrain from speaking about the investigation, the charges or  his theological views.


It is believed Dupuis is under suspicion of heresy for suggesting  that salvation can be attained other than through Jesus Christ. No resolution  of the case has been announced.


In 1993 and again in 1996, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the  Vaticanıs top doctrinal official, warned that the theology of religious  pluralism represents a threat to Roman Catholicism today similar to that of  liberation theology in the 1980s. In that decade, the Vatican silenced and  censured a string of authors in order to impede liberation theology, a popular  movement in Latin America. Vatican officials warned that the movement  downplayed supernatural elements in Christian theology in its efforts to  support social and political struggles of disadvantaged people.


Since Ratzinger issued warnings against religious pluralism, a  similar campaign has been unleashed against theologians believed to be diluting  the uniqueness of Jesus as the universal savior for all humankind.


Haight, like Dupuis, argues that while Jesus is  ³normative² for salvation for Christians, other world religions may  also offer ways to God and salvation.


That Haight is a target of the Congregation for the Doctrine of  the Faith comes as no surprise, even to his most ardent supporters who had  expected a challenge almost from the moment his book was published.


John B. Switzer, a Boston College doctoral candidate and a former  student of Haight, reviewed Haightıs book on the Web site earlier this year. ³This work is truly on the cutting edge as it brings Catholic tradition into dialogue with postmodern realities.  Haight seems destined to ask the difficult questions, and one worries that this  penchant may well find him in Œhot waterı with those short-sighted  minds who claim the prerogative of preserving Roman Catholic doctrine in the curial halls of Vatican City.²


Switzer said in a telephone interview he regretted that he had  been so prophetic. He noted that church doctrines had been formulated at a time  in church history when ³some of the greatest theological minds were among  the hierarchy.² That is no longer the case, he said. ³The hierarchy  is more interested in shoring up edges of the church that they see as tumbling,  and I think that is a mistake,² he said, because it prevents the case for  Christianity from being presented in a fresh way to modern generations.


Jesuit Fr. David Toolan, theologian and associate editor of the  Jesuit weekly magazine America, said he was not surprised to learn that  Haight had been called on the carpet, given his fresh approach. Toolan, who  chose Jesus, Symbol of God as a selection of the Catholic Book Club,  said Haight has paved a way for theologians to talk sensibly about the Holy  Trinity for the first time in centuries.


³Certainly the dominant interpretation in Christology, the  interpretation of Christ, is the one that comes from Johnıs Gospel -- the  eternal Word became flesh. It is what Roger and others call ŒChristology  from above,ı the Divine Person sending [Jesus] to earth,² Toolan  said.


³Haightıs approach takes from the three synoptic  gospels² -- that is, Matthew, Mark and Luke -- ³which are very  different,² Toolan said. ³It is Christology from below with no real  reference to [Jesus as] a divine person [but as] an utterly human being raised  and glorified by God. It is quite a different approach.²


Matthew, Mark and Luke are called ³the synoptic gospels²  because they correspond closely to one another in their accounts of the life of  Jesus.


³Roger is so respectful of theological tradition,²  Toolan said. ³He is not denying the Johannine theology² -- that is,  the Christology drawn from the Gospel of John -- ³but he is emphasizing another motif. I expected it would upset people. It seems to me within bounds  of Catholic orthodoxy but somewhat unfamiliar.²


There are reports that Haight is not expected to teach in the  coming semester. Toolan said, ³I heard by hearsay that the Vatican told  the school at Weston he was not to be teaching.² Toolan said he respected  Haightıs decision to obey but considered the process to be unfair to  Haight.


The Vatican investigation fails to follow due process, Toolan  said. ³He doesnıt know who his accusers are and probably even what  the accusations are. Itıs a terrible system and very unjust.²


Fr. Charles Curran, probably the most famous contemporary American  moral theologian, fired from Catholic University in Washington for his writings  on sexual ethics, said he was surprised that Haight had come under fire so soon  after publication of his book.


³Rome doesnıt work that fast,² Curran said from his  home in Dallas where he teaches at Southern Methodist University.


Curran speaks from experience. When he was a theologian at the  Catholic University of America, Curran challenged Humanae Vitae, Pope  Paul VIıs document upholding the churchıs ban on artificial  contraception, shortly after it was issued in 1968.


Nothing was done formally until 1979, a year after Pope John Paul  II was installed. The process against Curran began then. He wasnıt ousted  until 1986.


³That shows how these things can drag on,² he said.


However, another well-connected theologian, who asked not to be  identified, said, ³The Vatican has been getting its act together and moves  more quickly on these things nowadays.²


As previously reported in NCR, several American Jesuits  have been targeted by Vatican crackdowns in recent years. Specifically, the  Vatican has refused to approve at least five U.S. Jesuits to serve as  administrators or members of pontifical faculties at Weston School of Theology, Cambridge, Mass., or Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley, Calif. The Jesuits  include: Frs. William J. Rewak, Edward Glynn, Michael Buckley, David Hollenbach  and John Baldovin.












 National Catholic Reporter, August 11,  2000


Pluralism conference report; A conversation with Fr. Roger Haight; The Sant'Egidio conference; Slovakia preview




At a four-day summit of religious pluralists, or theologians who believe that all the worldıs great religions are valid paths of salvation, I was especially struck by affinities between the Christians and Muslims. Although much conflict in the world today can be analyzed in terms of clash between these two traditions, it was clear to me in new ways how much they also share.


Among other things, both Christianity and Islam police orthodoxy in ways that other religions often canıt, or wonıt. While that capacity to enforce boundaries can afford cohesiveness and a strong sense of identity, it also means that creative thinkers inside both traditions sometimes face special pressures.


The September 6-9 summit, the first of its kind, amounted to a ³whoıs who² of the pluralist world. It was held in Birmingham because thatıs the home of English philosopher John Hick, 81, the father of the movement. In books such as 1986ıs God Has Many Names, Hick argues that since Christianity does not produce more kindness and goodness than other religions, itıs untenable to regard it as a superior revelation.


Catholic luminaries such as Paul Knitter of Xavier University and Jesuit Fr. Roger Haight and Chester Gillis, both of Georgetown University, took part, as well as Protestants, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists and Sikhs. All told, some 40 scholars from 16 countries participated.


In theological debate, pluralism is usually contrasted to ³exclusivism,² the view that only one religion saves and followers of others are excluded, and ³inclusivism,² the view that only one religion saves and followers of others can be included. The official


Roman Catholic position is generally held to be a form of inclusivism ‹ salvation comes from Jesus Christ, but non-Christians can receive its fruits, though in a less comprehensive way.


 The charter for Catholic concerns with pluralism is the September 2000 Vatican document Dominus Iesus, which insists that followers of other religions are in a ³gravely deficient situation² in comparison to Christians who alone ³have the fullness of the means of salvation.²  Critics worry that pluralism produces relativism, meaning skepticism about objective truth. They say that pluralism implies at least a reinterpretation, if not an outright rejection, of elements of the Nicene Creed ‹ such as that Jesus is the ³only Son of God,² not one savior among many, and that he came for the salvation of all, not just of Christians.


 The German Evangelical Church (EKD) recently issued a set of ³Guidelines for Interreligious Dialogue² strikingly similar to Dominus Iesus, reaffirming the definitiveness of the revelation in Christ.


The Birmingham summit was my first experience of John Hick ³in the flesh,² and whatever one makes of his philosophy of religion, it should be said that Hick is an unfailingly gracious man. Knitter, now retired from Xavier and more or less the master of ceremonies in Birmingham, is likewise a gentle and endearing soul. If one were to evaluate theological movements on the basis of congeniality, it would be tough to fault this one.


Of course, thatıs not how itıs done.


In fact, pluralism arouses resistance from religious institutions. If all religions are equally valid, itıs hard to know why I should be especially committed to any one of them except for psychological or biographical reasons. Itıs no surprise that pluralists face a backlash. To judge from Birmingham, thatıs especially the case for Christians and Muslims.


Hickıs own biography offers an example. In 1987, while teaching at the Claremont Graduate School in California, he was rejected as a minister in the Presbyterian Church in the United States after a wrenching four-year debate. Haight is presently facing a Vatican investigation for his 2000 book Jesus Symbol of God (Obris), in which he presents a Christology ³from below,² stressing the humanity of Jesus, as a way of opening Christianity to the pluralist view.


Muslim participants had their own cautionary tales. One concerned Nasr H. Abu Zagd, an Islamic theologian who until recently taught at Cairoıs prestigious Al-Azhar Institute. A shariah court found him guilty of apostasy for suggesting that the Koran was fallible, one legal consequence of which is that he is regarded as a non-Muslim. His wife was ordered to separate from him since under Islamic law a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-believer. The couple went into exile, and is today in the Netherlands.


The account tracked with the experience of Muslims in Birmingham. A Malaysian theologian said she couldnıt be identified as a participant in the summit because of pressures she would face back home. An Iranian scholar said heıs teaching at an American university because his views are unwelcome in Iran.


On the Christian side, a German scholar who works at a Catholic mission institute said he and his colleagues are all ³cryptic pluralists,² but canıt say so out loud for fear of being fired. An Asian Catholic described the loyalty oath his bishop had forced him to sign, under Vatican pressure, for inviting a well-known pluralist thinker to speak to the church group he serves.


Tensions over pluralism, of course, are not exclusive to Christianity and Islam. A Jewish scholar pointed to Britainıs Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who was threatened with a heresy trial for offering a positive view of other religions in his 2002 book, The Dignity of Difference. In the end, Sacks revised the book. A Buddhist said that while Western converts sometimes act like the tradition has no doctrine, in fact Buddhists in Japan and China have complex systems of belief and are just as chauvinistic about them as anyone else.


 At the same time, it was clear that the pressures endemic to Christianity and Islam sometimes puzzled other participants. One Indian Hindu, after listening to several such accounts, shook his head and said of religious systems in the West: ³We canıt understand what youıre doing.²


Strategies adopted by Christian and Muslim pluralists for re-interpreting their own traditions are likewise similar. Just as Christians craft new readings of traditional doctrines such as Christology and pneumatology, Muslims look for ways to open up the Koran.


For example, Abdulkarim Soroush, a Shiite Muslim from Iran, said theologians committed to a ³reformed Islam² are drawing on the distinction between portions of the Koran revealed in Mecca and those in Medina. In Mecca, Soroush said, Mohammed was strictly a prophet, and these texts are positive about other religions. In Medina, Mohammed ran a state, and the revelation became more legalistic and harsh towards ³non-believers.²


 Traditionally, Soroush said, Islamic jurists have favored the Medina texts. Reform-minded theologians argue that the Medina revelation represents only one possible application of Meccaıs religious and moral principles, which should be seen as more fundamental.


Remarking on these parallels, Haight said on the summitıs final day he had learned from Muslims that ³Christians are not the only ones with strict structures of religious authority,² and that ³Christianity and Islam can learn from each other how to use tradition to open up authority structures.²


* * *


Most experts in inter-religious dialogue say that if relationships are to mature, they have to grow beyond the ³tea and cookies² stage into the capacity to challenge one another. The problem is that issuing challenges tends to make people mad in a way that tea and cookies rarely do.


 A clear example in Birmingham came with the summitıs last panel, composed of three rabbis: Marc Ellis and Michael Kogan of the United States and Dan Cohn-Sherbok of England. Up to that point, most participants had used their five-minute speaking blocks to outline how pluralism could be accepted from within their traditions.


Ellis, however, flung down a gauntlet.


 He denounced what he called an ³ecumenical deal² in Jewish/Christian dialogue, which in his opinion works like this: Jews agree to forgive mainline Christian churches for anti-Semitism, and in return Christians agree not to push Jews on Israelıs conduct in Palestine. Criticism of Israel is interpreted as a reversion to anti-Semitism. The end result, Ellis said, is that out of guilt over the Holocaust, Christians end up being silent on another historical crime.


One consequence of this ³ecumenical deal,² Ellis said, is that Jewish dissenters such as himself are frozen out of the dialogue. One example, he said, is that he had been asked in advance of the pluralism summit not to address the Palestinian problem.


³This deal is upheld by Jews such as Eli Wiesel and by mainstream Christian organizations such as the World Council of Churches,² Ellis said. ³Some people in this room are among the architects of the deal.²


Sparks flew.


Kogan later said that had he known in advance the Palestinian problem would be on the table in Birmingham, he would not have come. ³Unless weıre also going to deal with the caste system in India, and the oppression of women in Arab states, and the problems of the American Indians, etc., to focus exclusively on the sins of Israel seems to many Jews to be scapegoating,² he said.


Kogan insisted on focus.


³We canıt get hijacked by social and political issues. This isnıt a deal, but a matter of what we choose to cover and not to cover.²


Interestingly, however, the most passionate reaction came from Christians.


 Perry Schmidt-Leukel of the University of Glasgow argued that relationships across religious boundaries arenıt ready for the kind of ³tough love² Ellis proposed.


³When it comes to inter-religious criticism, historically it served only one purpose, which has been to denigrate the other and claim oneıs own superiority,² Schmidt-Leukel said. ³For now we should stay with the prophetic function of criticizing oneıs own tradition. We might find forms of inter-religious criticism, after friendship develops.²


Jesuit Fr. Roger Haight asked aloud if the pluralist approach inherently implies bracketing some criticism in order to advance understanding.


Ellis wasnıt buying it.


³When youıre silent, you actually denigrate us,² he said. ³Itıs patronizing.²


Wesley Ariarajah, a former official of the World Council of Churches, largely agreed with Ellis.


³We dare not say thereıs anything wrong for fear of being accused of anti-Semitism,² Ariarajah said. ³The Jewish community is so well-organized to put out dissent they donıt get the criticism they need to become a more mature religious community.²


Ariarajah said that as an Asian, he is frustrated that so much in the Jewish/Christian relationship pivots on 20th century European history, especially the Holocaust.


³We need a relationship between two mature communities, not so over-burdened by European history. The dialogue has to relate to Christians in all parts of the world.²


 Michael von Brück, a German Protestant theologian, said there are other ³ecumenical deals.²


³Catholic dissenters accuse us Protestants of the same thing,² he said. ³They complain that we dialogue only with the Roman Catholic hierarchy and freeze them out. In effect, they say that we Protestants are no longer protesting, and we should be ashamed.²


* * *


Here is the revised statement of principles as adopted by the participants in the Birmingham summit.


 1.      Interreligious dialogue and engagement should be the way for religions to relate to one another. A paramount need is for religions to heal antagonisms among themselves.


2.      The dialogue should engage the pressing problems of the world today, including war, violence, poverty, environmental devastation, gender injustice, and violation of human rights.


3.      Absolute truth claims can easily be exploited to incite religious hatred and violence.


4.      The religions of the world affirm ultimate reality/truth which is conceptualized in different ways.


5.      While ultimate reality/truth is beyond the scope of complete human understanding, it has found expression in diverse ways in the worldıs religions.


6.      The great world religions with their diverse teachings and practices constitute authentic paths to the supreme good.


7.      The worldıs religions share many essential values, such as love, compassion, equality, honesty, and the ideal of treating others as one wishes to be treated oneself.


8.      All persons have freedom of conscience and the right to choose their own faith.


9.      While mutual witnessing promotes mutual respect, proselytizing devalues the faith of the other.


Readers who compare this list with the preliminary draft I published last week will notice that itıs been softened in some key respects. This was a subject of debate at the summit. Some felt the tweaking was needed in order to speak outside the circles of the already convinced, while others saw it as a frustrating retreat on key ideas.


 * * *


Sources in Rome say that Haight was notified of a review of his work by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2000, and shortly thereafter the Congregation for Catholic Education ordered him suspended from the Jesuit-run Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Haight is currently on a sabbatical year at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University).


Haight responded to a critique from the CDF of his 2000 book Jesus Symbol of God (Orbis). Meantime theological debate over the book continues in the Catholic world. Some find it an exciting new Christological approach, while others feel that in trying to make room for the pluralist hypothesis Haight goes too far in jettisoning or reinterpreting core doctrines.


While the CDF has given no public hint of how things will fall out, most observers expect a strong intervention. In February 2001 the Vatican issued a stern notification warning of eight "ambiguities" in the 1997 book Toward a Theology of Religious Pluralism by Belgian Jesuit Fr. Jacques Dupuis, whose inclusivist position is considerably more moderate than Haightıs.


I had the chance in Birmingham to sit down with Haight, awaiting the final outcome of the Vatican review of his work. Does Haight believe that Catholicism will ever come around to his view?


"I have no expectation that pluralism will become the official understanding of the Roman Catholic church," Haight said. "What Iım trying to do is carve out space for it to be accepted as an orthodox Catholic view, even if itıs a minority position."


 In other words, Haight hopes that the inclusivist/pluralist debate can be like the 16th century argument between the Jesuits and the Dominicans over grace ‹ two views that can both be accommodated within the bounds of orthodoxy.


Does he see evidence of movement in that direction?


³I think of the Modernist crisis in the early 20th century, when so many things were declared unacceptable that later were approved at Vatican II,² Haight said.


 I flippantly asked if that made him George Tyrell, the English Jesuit who was considered one of the fathers of modernism, but Haight rightly waved it off as a loaded question.


³I also look at American Catholicism on the ground, with a Catholic population more and more educated in the faith,² Haight continued. ³We have an extremely polarized right and left, and a great body in the middle. Many, for example college and university students, are used to pluralism, and are asking how they can square it with the Catholic faith.


³I try to put critical words on their experience, and keep this experience in touch with the tradition,² Haight said. ³Very few reflective young Catholics arenıt asking questions about other religions.²


I asked Haight if he could see any value in the concerns expressed by the Vatican.


³Theyıre saying that one has to attend to the tradition, to the community,² he said. ³I try to do that in what I write. I proceed very, very carefully and responsibly to address issues that cannot go unaddressed.²


Haight insisted that this work is a service to the Church.


³My fear is that educated Catholics will walk if there isnıt space for an open attitude to other religions,² he said.


In the end, Haight believes, the kind of inclusivism represented by Dupuis doesnıt do the trick.


³Itıs not finally open to the other religions, because it postulates the superiority of Christianity,² he said. ³It doesnıt allow God to do Godıs will in the other religions autonomously, apart from Jesus of Nazareth.²


* * *


While the pluralists were meeting in Birmingham, an inter-religious dialogue much more closely tethered to the official centers of authority in the worldıs great religions was unfolding in Aachen, Germany, under the aegis of the Community of SantıEgidio.


 Some 10,000 people took part in more than 30 panels over three days, and thousands more followed the event on the SantıEgidio web site: The official theme was ³Between War and Peace: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue.²


Bishop Heinrich Mussinghoff, the Catholic bishop of Aachen, set the tone on the opening day by declaring, ³God is not Catholic, nor Orthodox, nor Protestant; neither is God Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Buddhist; God is God for all.²


 Pope John Paul II sent a message, urging the representatives of the great world religions to intensify their dialogue for peace, recognizing that ³differences do not compel us to conflict but to respect, to loyal collaboration and to the construction of peace.²


 The Israeli/Palestinian problem drew a couple of creative ideas, one set to become reality, the other still in the ³maybe² phase.


Fr. Elias Chacour, director of the Prophet Elias College in Israel announced that his institution on Oct. 21 will open the first mixed Israeli-Palestinian university in the world. Instruction will be in English, Hebrew and Arabic, and courses will be offered in computer science, chemistry and communications.


 Rabbi David Rosen proposed that SantıEgidio organize a conference among Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders in the Holy Land to try to reach a joint accord on the status of Jerusalem, given that disputes over the city are at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


 On the subject of the alleged harmony of Eastern religions, a Tendai Buddhist leader from Japan, Kojun Handa, decribed how hard it was to organize an inter-religious summit on the holy mountain of Hiei, near Kyoto, in the spirit of the 1986 prayer for peace hosted by John Paul II in Assisi. Handa works on dialogue between Japanese and Chinese Buddhists, long complicated by Chinese bitterness over the brutal Japanese invasion in the 1930s. Handa said he hoped Chinese Buddhists may be able to attend futute SantıEgidio meetings.


 Perhaps the greatest drama in Aachen was generated by Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk and Kalilinigrad, the number two figure in the Russian Orthodox hierarchy. Given the ³big chill² in Catholic/Russian Orthoidox relations in recent years, Kyrillıs mere presence would have made news.


 Kyrill went considerably further in his remarks.


 ³This is a season in which dialogue, beyond the incomprehensions of the past, is possible,² he said during a panel with Cardinals Walter Kasper and Roger Etchegaray, along with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius IV Hazim and Catholic Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni.


³People say that the Orthodox are closed to dialogue, but if that were true, I wouldnıt be here,² he said.


Kyrill spoke more positively about the idea of a meeting between John Paul II and the Patriarch of Moscow, Alexy II, than at any time in recent memory, though he continued to insist that first the pope must put a stop to Catholic missionary work in Russia.


³Between the Vatican and Moscow there is no divergence in the system of values. But in real life the opposite sometimes happens. The principal painful point is missionary activity. None of the Russian Orthodox priests in the West have received instructions for converting the German people or the Italian people to Orthodoxy,² Kyrill said. ³We know that no Catholic priest who works in Russia has received such instructions from Rome. But today the mission of the Catholic priests in Russia is a reality.


³There are other painful points that have to be healed, for passing to another level in the relationship. It would be a beautiful symbol if this new page in relations could be turned over together, by the Pope and the Patriarch, meeting one another in Moscow, or in Rome, or in another place.²


* * *


After almost three months, Pope John Paul II is on the road again. As this column appears, Iıll be in Slovakia watching the pope defy age and infirmity, traveling outside Italy for the 102nd time in his pontificate. You can view stories about this trip on the NCR Web site:


The popeıs physical condition is certainly part of the subtext to this trip, especially for much of the worldıs secular press, since a visit to Slovakia in itself is not an especially ³sexy² story. Over the summer John Paul has appeared tired and weak at many public appearances, struggling to make his way through prepared texts, often breathing and perspiring heavily. Vatican officials, speaking on background, have explained that the popeıs treatment for Parkinsonıs disease was reduced to a bare minimum for a period of time to prepare him for a change in dosage. They say he should be in better shape by the time he leaves Castel Gandolfo for Slovakia.


On the other hand, his immobility continues to limit travel options. A top Vatican official recently told me that John Paul is covering the roughly 20 miles between Castel Gandolfo and the Vatican for his Wednesday audiences by car because itıs too complicated to get him into the helicopter.


It seems probable that future papal travel will be confined to spots that fall within a zone of two hoursı flight time or so from Rome. Heıs scheduled to visit a Marian shrine in Pompeii Oct. 7. For 2004, thereıs talk of trips to France, Switzerland and Poland, with a visit to an international Eucharistic congress in Mexico in October in the ³maybe² column.


 John Paulıs message in Slovakia will pivot on the Christian identity of Europe. An intergovernmental conference whose task is to revise and finalize a new constitution for Europe will begin deliberations in the Palazzo dei Congressi in Romeıs EUR neighborhood on Oct. 4. The popeıs ardent desire is that the constitutionıs preamble contain a specific acknowledgment of the Christian roots of Europe. For now, the text is generic, referring only to ³the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe.²


Other issues more internal to Slovakia will also loom large during the papal trip.


In July, the Slovak parliament voted to legalize abortion up to the 24th week of pregnancy, but President Rudolf Schuster vetoed the bill. Currently, a rule by the health ministry allows abortion up to 24th week and the proposed law was an attempt to make that rule into law. Parliament is expected to take up the issue again in October, and the pope will certainly want to weigh in.


The Vatican is also pushing the Slovak government to sign a treaty that would recognize a right to ³conscientious objection² for Catholics, not just on abortion but across a wide range of issues. Under the terms of the treaty, employees could refuse to work on Sundays and Christian holidays, gynecologists could refuse to carry out abortions or prescribe contraception, judges would be able to refuse divorce cases, and teachers to refuse to teach sex education.


Slovakia authorities say they expect the four-day visit to cost $2.1 million. Apart from Bratislava, John Paul II will visit Trnava in west Slovakia and Banska Bystrica and Roznava in central Slovakia. Trnava is the heart of Slovakian Catholicism, and is known as the ³Slovak Rome.²


This will be John Paulıs third visit to Slovakia. His first was in 1990, shortly after the fall of communism, and the second in 1995.


One footnote: Readers of the ³Word from Rome² who have ever attended the Sunday morning English liturgy at Romeıs Oratory of St. Francis Xavier at Caravita will be pleased to know that Jesuit Fr. Vlasto Dufka will play oboe for the pope when he visits the cathedral in Trnava. Those of us who remember the beautiful music Dufka created at Caravita know that John Paul is in for a treat.


The e-mail address for John L. Allen Jr. is







Inquisition Continues  (Sun Feb 13, 2005 9:30 am)


Fr.Roger Haight's JESUS: SYMBOL OF GOD


Cardinal Ratzinger's Inquisition type condemnation of the work of Fr. Roger Haight, S.J. has the unintended consequences of bringing this superb book to our attention. ARCC Board member Fr. Tom Doyle, O.P. speaks for those among us who have written on Catholicism, "I love it. The wizards at the CDF don't get it. When they read something they don't understand they condemn it thus making sure the book becomes a best seller. If they condemned phone books everyone would buy them. I think I'll start sending my stuff straight over there and by-pass the snitches who send their anonymous notes and letters. Maybe I too can get condemned for supporting Christianity and then become a best selling author and get rich. Haight follows in a great tradition. In all seriousness however, I am amazed that in this age, when the ineffectiveness of authoritarian systems is acknowledged by a majority, the CDF still presumes that it can treat adult, believing Catholics, lay, clergy and religious, as if they were impressionable and non-thinking infants. The action against Roger Haight is itself the most duplicitous form of dissent......dissent from the ideals of Vatican II; dissent from the concept of freedom of conscience but above all, dissent from the fundamental Christian concept of charity."


A quick survey of reader reviews in the website is very instructive. One enthusiastic reviewer notes, "Once in a while a masterful book comes along in the field of Christology ... this is one of those books! ... Haight's grasp of the field is incomparable. This work is truly on the cutting edge as it brings catholic tradition into dialogue with postmodern realities. Haight seems destined to ask the difficult questions and one worries that this penchant may well find him in 'hot water' with those short-sighted minds who claim the prerogative of preserving Roman Catholic doctrine in the curial halls of Vatican City."


 Another reviewer writes, "Overall, Haight has given us a well conceived and thoughtful Christology. He has not intended it to be the final answer.  Theologians of all denominations can and should engage in unfettered debate of the individual issues he raises. In this, Haight does well in keeping ecumenical considerations in mind." Clearly, Haight reaches out to non-Catholics and non-Christians in the grand Jesuit tradition"


The Catholic Magisterium would earn the respect of the Christian community if it were to stop violating the dialogic principles embodied in Right No. 20. of ARCC's Charter of Rights that "Catholic teachers of theology have a right to responsible academic freedom. The acceptability of their teaching is to be judged in dialogue with their peers, keeping in mind the legitimacy of responsible dissent and pluralism of belief. (Canon Laws 212:1, C. 218, C. 750, C. 752, C. 754, C. 279:1, C. 810, C. 812)."


This heavy-handedness of the Vatican seems to illustrate clearly that the Vatican methods have not changed in 30 years condemning what the People of God judge to be a significant contribution to the understanding of our faith. Roger Haight has joined the ranks of Hans Kung, Schillebeeckx, Murray and many other outstanding theologians who, we suggest, will be read and remembered long after Cardinal Ratzinger is forgotten.


Editorial Exegesis by Paul Kelly


A Notification is Not a Notification But a Prohibition


By Paul Kelly



 The notification that Fr. Roger Haight, SJ, a good and decent Jesuit theologian, has been prohibited from teaching Catholic theology by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is the most recent example of autocratic power as manifested by the Holy See and one of the dicasteries in its Curia, in its continuous control over the minds of its scholars. There is no such thing in the church as academic freedom, or even creative thought.


 The notification has no practical effect, because Fr. Haight is currently teaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, not a Catholic institution. Nor will much obeisance be given the CDF by people who are opposed to the absolute power and control of papal primacy.


 There is no intent to debate the merits of the theological opinions set forth by either Fr. Haight or the CDF. I never took a single course in the four years required of those who are ordained as priests, and am, quite obviously, not qualified. As a person among the people of God, I object to the attempt to control freedom of thought and uninhibited scholarly research. It is an abuse of power by men whose only desire is to preserve and protect the institution they call church, which is just that, an institution and not a religion, nor a faith, not even holy.  There is, of course a Catholic religion, with a faith of Catholicism, and it is holy. The organization bearing the name ³Roman Catholic Church²  is merely an institution of celibate men, still hanging on as the very last feudal system out of the Dark and Middle Ages.


 What appears to be at bottom here is the perplexing and complex issue of Pluralism, the relationships among the worldıs diverse and numerous faiths, the religions of all the cultures of humankind.  The simplistic way to put it is that the CDF has ruled that Catholicism is the sole superior religion and the others have merit only insofar as they recognize that superiority. Commonweal in an excellent article on May 18, 2001, wrote:


 Catholics everywhere must grapple with the challenges of religious pluralism--as Haight, and others recently scrutinized, have been doing. When theologians struggle with questions about Jesus, about salvation, and about the worldwide role of the church itself, how can silencing and harassment possibly advance our understanding? What is required is dialogue, conversation, criticisms, countercriticisms, prayer, and Christian charity. This may not be easy, but it is absolutely necessary.



 In any field of scholarship, there are bound to be differences of opinion. Harassing and squelching those with whom the CDF disagrees is not the way to handle such differences That is, however, the secretive method of operation employed by that dicastery, ever since its creation in 1542, when its first name was The Universal Inquisition. No field of learning, whether in the liberal arts or the physical sciences, has seen and suffered from such tyranny of censorship, silencing, and the denial of the freedom to teach.


 Imagine if Albert Einstein were silenced and forbidden to teach when he published his General Theory of Relativity in the early 1900s, which went contrary to the accepted physics of Isaac Newton. Remember the abject treatment of Galileo Galilei, who did not receive an apology until Pope John Paul II made one in the 1980s. Think of the illustrious names of our theologians of the last century: Teilhard de Chardin, Henri de Lubac, Yves Congar, John Courtney Murray, Edward Schillebeeckx, Hans Küng, Charles Curran. Think, if you can, of the many, so many, destroyed minds of other theologians and scholars, denied, in the cruelest punishment of all, the interchange of daily conversation with their peers in their world. Jesuits who lived in the New York community with Teilhard de Chardin have described how devastatingly brutal was his solitude, unable even to talk about The Phenomenon Of Man with scholars whose intelligence was equivalent to his own. Those stories have gotten around, their own  suffering, as they observed Fr. Pierre, day after terrible day,  being almost as keen.


Commonweal, almost four years ago, wrote of Father Haightıs difficulty with the CDF:


 [There should be] . . . a Vatican-sponsored public examination of the state of the question, drawing in theologians, philosophers, missiologists, and others. How does Haight's work . . . fit in with the work of other Catholic and Christian theologians? How do the novel elements of their theology relate to classic formulations? What impact do their conclusions have on other areas of church teaching and on church practice? This is a long process that should engage theologians, bishops, pastors, and indeed, at some level, the whole people of God.


 What does the church teach? How does the church teach? These are critical matters. Who could deny that? But the CDF's secretive methods do nothing but undermine the very teaching role of the church. Neither by popular vote, nor by curial fiat will these matters be resolved, as the history of theological silencing shows . . .


 Another process is needed--one that honors both the struggle of theologians to clarify and enlarge our knowledge and the responsibility of the church for right teaching. If the CDF cannot do that, the church should devise another means.


 The CDFıs  control over scholars is wrong, very wrong. And yet, and yet, it continues, oblivious of  the rights of humankind it so piously preaches to the civil governments of the world. This notification is what Lord Acton so insightfully called the absolute corruption of absolute power, when he and Cardinal Newman tried their utmost to thwart the dictatorship of Pope Pius IX. Bishops have abdicated their responsibilities to teach the Gospel, content with disciplinary edicts only. Theologians are in chains and have nothing to teach, in the abject fear of those constantly being spied upon. The CDF controls all of us this way, as mindless illiterates, demanding and getting total obeisance, making sure that we are unable to form a thought without their approval. What they do is called The Official Teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.


 As the people of God, we are a pretty sorry bunch, arenıt we? 


 As far as theology is concerned, it really isnıt much of a science at all, nothing more or less than the parroting back to the CDF what it wants to hear and see from obeisant sheep whose minds simply cannot be trusted with a single thought of their own. It is forbidding to imagine anyone wanting to study the stuff and then living in absolute fear that something they published might offer their very necks to the claws of the CDF, as it pounces yet one more time. What a way to live a life of scholarly research. What a waste of a human mind. What is so startling is that theologians are treated worse than women, whose denigration is beyond all human comprehension.


 I am so grateful for having been free in my professional life to ask questions, to challenge authority, to be a member in a real profession, to practice law with colleagues and peers. We honored those at the top, the law professors, the legislators, the justices on the Supreme Courts, who listened to what we had to say and read what we wrote and issued their learned decisions, which they called by that marvelous phrase, The Opinion of the Court. To which we gave assent freely, if with some natural disappointment, until the next case in which we decided to challenge the ruling, one more time.  And I thank the Lord for letting me duck theology, which, from my catbird seat, looks like the slavery, the abject slavery of the soul.


 As you read this, say a prayer for Fr. Roger Haight, SJ. He is a Jesuit, an authentic one, and will act as Jesuits always have, as men for others, Ad majorem Dei gloriam ­ For the greater glory of God. A fitting act of defiance to obeisance is to purchase the trilogy, as he himself calls his work:  Dynamics of Theology;  Jesus Symbol of God; , Christian Community in History. I had Volume I of the last title, with Volume II on order. When the news of the notification came down, I bought the other two from So, there!


 Also, ask the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete the Lord gave to us so long ago, to put an end to the terror of the Roman Catholic Church as an institution of celibate males wielding power with such disregard for the sacredness of Godıs own people, especially those who should be Godıs Best and Brightest, The Theologians.