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JESUITS-HAIGHT Jan-5-2009 (540 words) xxxi

Vatican action against U.S. Jesuit is not definitive, order says

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has asked U.S. Jesuit Father Roger Haight not to teach Christology at any university -- Catholic or not, said the Rome-based spokesman of the Jesuits.

"He can continue to teach, but not systematic theology connected with Christology," said Father Giuseppe Bellucci, spokesman for the Jesuits.

"The prohibition against teaching is not a condemnation and is not definitive; a committee of Jesuits, in fact, is studying the position of Father Roger, who is willing to collaborate to clarify his positions," Father Bellucci told Catholic News Service Jan. 5.

In 2005 the doctrinal congregation published a notification that Father Haight could no longer teach as a Catholic theologian because of "serious doctrinal errors" in his 1999 book, "Jesus Symbol of God."

While discussions with his Jesuit superiors and between the Jesuits and the doctrinal congregation continued, Father Haight has been teaching at Union Theological Seminary, a nondenominational graduate school in New York.

Several news agencies reported in December that last summer the doctrinal congregation barred Father Haight from theological writing and from teaching anywhere, but Father Bellucci said the reports were inaccurate.

The spokesman described the Vatican action as "a suspension" and added, "Father Haight is an excellent Jesuit and neither he nor anyone else is involved in a fight. The desire is simply to clarify his position."

The committee working with Father Haight consists of three U.S. Jesuits, who are all theologians, Father Bellucci said.

The doctrinal congregation's 2005 notification regarding Father Haight's book came after a five-year investigation and was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.

The notification said the book's exploration of Christ's divinity, the resurrection, the Trinity and salvation for non-Christians contained "serious doctrinal errors against the Catholic and divine faith of the church."

The doctrinal congregation said Father Haight's assertion that Catholic theology must be "in dialogue" with the modern world led him to downplay or deny central teachings of the church, including teachings that:

-- The Word of God existed from all eternity.

-- The Word was made flesh in Jesus Christ.

-- Jesus was divine.

-- Salvation is offered to all humanity through Jesus.

-- The Son and the Spirit are separate persons within the Trinity, not simply "metaphors" for actions of the one God.

The congregation also criticized Father 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.

Shortly after the doctrinal congregation notice was published, the board of directors of the Catholic Theological Society of America expressed "profound distress" at the Vatican action against Father Haight.

While many members of the society said they had strong disagreements with some of the statements in the book, the board of directors said the book had done "a great service in framing crucial questions that need to be addressed today."

"Ironically, rather than promote greater criticism of the book, the congregation's intervention will most likely discourage debates over the book, effectively stifling further criticism and undermining our ability as Catholic theologians to openly critique our colleagues," said the board's 2005 statement.


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