Wednesday, June 13, 2007

An Interesting Coincidence

In a rather harsh rebuke from the USCCB concerning one particular Theologians views this past March, the following passage pretty much lays down the rules…

Catholic teaching is authenticated by the Church's teaching office that mirrors and transmits the revelation of Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. While there may be individuals who disagree with the teaching of the Church, such divergent views cannot be considered authentic Catholic teaching or the basis for reliable guidance regarding faithful Catholic moral life. It is a serious error, therefore, to claim that the teaching of the Pope and the bishops represents merely one voice among many legitimate voices within the Catholic Church, all of which are vying to be heard and accepted.

The bishops are the successors of the apostles, who were given the authority to proclaim the teaching of Jesus Christ. Jesus himself commissioned the apostles to preach the Gospel in his name. The apostles in turn appointed trusted men to succeed them in this ministry. These successors, the bishops, have thus been authorized to preach and teach in the name of Christ himself. The bishops, therefore, have a responsibility to foster among the faithful those actions that promote holiness and are in accord with the Gospel as well as a duty to condemn those actions which are evil and so are incompatible with living a holy life.

Thus, when the bishops together with the head of the college of bishops, the Pope, invoke the authority given to them by Christ to proclaim that one moral position is correct and another erroneous, this teaching is binding in conscience on all who hold the Catholic faith. It is not one of many possible "Catholic" positions proposed by and debated among various theologians. There is but one Gospel of salvation which has been revealed by our Lord Jesus Christ and which continues to be authoritatively taught within the Catholic Church. Laity and clergy embody and express the sense of the faith precisely when they conform their consciences to what the Church authentically professes and teaches. Therefore, it is illegitimate to set in opposition the belief of some of the faithful and the teaching of the bishops and the Pope

And so today, we find the following bit of news at CNS…

Theological society head warns against publicly criticizing church

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- In his presidential address to the Catholic Theological Society of America, theologian Daniel K. Finn warned the society against issuing public statements critical of church policies or church authorities.

"The problem is that these statements become the public face of the CTSA for nearly everyone who doesn't attend our conventions," he said. "Taken together, they present us as individuals who come together as a group primarily to defend ourselves against hierarchical authority."
"We insiders know this is only a small part of what we are up to," he added. "But no group can control its public image completely, and in my opinion we have done too little thinking about this."

Finn, who teaches theology and economics at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., spoke on the final day of the society's June 7-10 annual convention in Los Angeles.Two years ago the society's board of directors expressed strong "distress" at the Vatican's condemnation of a book by American Jesuit Father Roger Haight. In 2000 a report from a society committee, headed by Finn, expressed ongoing concern about church policy requiring that Catholic theologians have a "mandatum," or authorization to teach, from the local bishop.In 1998 a society task force report questioning the level of authority of church teaching that women cannot be ordained priests was widely reported and interpreted as challenging the teaching itself.

The women's ordination report and other issues with the 1998 convention led Jesuit Father (now Cardinal) Avery Dulles to criticize the society for "theological dissent" and to call for it "to clarify or restore its Catholic character." Society leaders said Father Dulles had not attended the convention he criticized and had misrepresented its proceedings.

Finn's presidential address focused on the need for theological reflection on the nature of power and its use.

"My own guess is that the church, and Catholic theology more generally, has not understood power with sufficient descriptive accuracy," he said. "It is a more pervasive and far more important part of organizational life than theology has usually recognized.His comments on the society's public stances came near the end, almost as a footnote, although they immediately became a focus of media attention -- in a sense proving what Finn was saying."Outside commentators have often not read our statements carefully and have often attributed to them views not expressed there," he said. "But even this is a lesson in power."

"It's difficult enough to achieve mutual understanding in a one-to-one conversation," he said. "In public relationships, it's much more difficult and it's a big mistake to presume that the other will hear exactly what we intend to say.

"Whether an organization like the CTSA can influence 'public' understanding depends not just on the words we use but on the pre-existing institutional relationships -- including the electronic and print media -- that will interpret our words and in most cases make only some of them public. ... It would be naive for us to craft statements without gauging their public effect," Finn said.

The problem, he said, is not that CTSA statements have been "erroneous.""The problem is that these statements become the public face of the CTSA for nearly everyone who doesn't attend our conventions," he said.

Finn said the society's reputation for statements critical of church authorities also has had an "internal cost."

"Put simply, there are a lot of conservative theologians who used to attend the CTSA convention who no longer do," he said. "A goodly number are no longer members."

He said the society "should be the place where Catholic theologians from all perspectives within the church come to do their theology."

"Our church is wracked by divisions caused in part by ideological simplicities -- on all sides -- that a professional society like ours can challenge and improve," he said. "Our church and our world need a broader dialogue within the church than is occurring today. I judge that part of the price of achieving that dialogue is making fewer statements that defend theologians against ecclesiastical power."


There are so many things to talk about in this article that I wouldn’t know where to begin. Just a coincidence? I think not…

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