instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cardinal Wuerl: The crackdowns will continue until disputations resume

In 2007, Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, a theology professor at Fordham University, published a book called Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God.

Last month, the USCCB Committee on Doctrine issued a statement on the book, to the effect that "this book contains misrepresentations, ambiguities, and errors that bear upon the faith of the Catholic Church as found in Sacred Scripture, and as it is authentically taught by the Church's universal magisterium."

In short, the bishops concluded that Sr. Elizabeth just made a bunch of stuff up and tried to pass it off as legitimate Catholic theology.

Sr. Elizabeth is kind of a big deal in circles that like to make a bunch of stuff up and pass it off as legitimate Catholic theology. And on a completely unrelated note, Quest for the Living God won First Place in Theology at the 2008 Catholic Theological Society of America convention. So it's little surprise that many of the officers and directors of CTSA objected to the bishops' statement. Among their complaints is "that this criticism of Professor Johnson's work seems to reflect a very narrow understanding of the theological task."

Donald Cardinal Wuerl, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Doctrine, don't play that game.
Once ideas are written and published by a theologian, they must stand on their own; it is the bishops who are entrusted with the office of referee, who must call the play. To be sure, as in other disciplines the most effective check on fruitless investigation is the vigorous exercise of peer review, critique, and dialogue, as once was a strong tradition in the theological disciplines. When that peer review is absent or ineffective, however, it is the responsibility of the bishop to make the call and to declare, if necessary, certain notions out of bounds, the bounds of Christian revelation. [emphasis added]
If theologians don't care whether the books they celebrate lie within the bounds of Christian revelation, says his Eminence, then they can hardly complain when bishops do.