|| Theologian Dupuis says hes free at
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Jesuit Fr. Jacques Dupuis, whose pioneering theology on the relationship between Christianity and other religions has long set off Vatican alarms, said Feb. 27 that after two and a half years of very great suffering, he feels like a free man.
He added, however, that he wouldnt recommend his particular mode of liberation.
The price of Dupuis freedom was a Feb. 26 Vatican censure of eight ambiguities in his best-known book, Toward a Theology of Religious Pluralism, published in 1997. The result ends 36 months of silence imposed as part of the investigation.
Most observers believe the Vaticans main concern with Dupuis complex book is his belief that other religions play a positive role in Gods plan for humanity. Officials worry that this idea will lead to diminished missionary efforts as well as to a ones as good as another kind of religious relativism.
Dupuis, who spent 36 years in India before coming to Rome to teach at the Gregorian University, was among primary targets of the recent Vatican document Dominus Iesus. It criticized theologians who relativize Catholicisms superiority over other religions and Christian churches.
The Feb. 26 Vatican censure, known as a notification, came from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The notification lauds Dupuis for raising new questions and for his attempt to remain within the limit of orthodoxy. Nevertheless, it cites notable ambiguities or difficulties in the book, and lists several points that theologians must uphold. Those points are:
Dupuis told members of the press Feb. 27 that he had not contradicted these principles, even if his approach to them differs from his critics.
The notification appeared in the Feb. 27 issue of LOsservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, with Dupuis signature. Dupuis told reporters, however, that a paragraph had been inserted that was not in the document he signed. It obliges him to hold the doctrinal content of the notification; the other asked him to take account of that content.
Despite the switch, Dupuis said he would not challenge the notification. Instead he claimed vindication, noting that it condemns possible misinterpretations rather than errors in his book.
Dupuis also made it clear that he regards the more than two years of silence and investigation as unjustified.
What I have held and written is not against the faith of the church, he said.
Dupuis first learned of the investigation in September1998, when he was instructed to respond to 12 pages of accusations and refrain from further diffusion of his ideas. The ban meant that the 77-year-old Jesuit had to cancel the last class he was ever to teach at the Gregorian, which has a mandatory retirement age of 75.
Dupuis was summoned to Cardinal Joseph Ratzingers office on Sept. 4, 2000, and presented with a draft notification. It contained accusations of grave errors, Dupuis said. That draft was revised in light of the meeting.
Dupuis was accompanied by Jesuit Fr. Gerald OCollins, an Australian theologian who was his advocate, and Jesuit superior Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach. Ratzinger was joined by his assistant, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, consultant Salesian Fr. Angelo Amato and a stenographer.
In meeting with the press, Dupuis said that despite having taught at Romes premier pontifical university for 16 years, this was the first and only time he has met either Ratzinger or Bertone.
Dupuis said Kolvenbach pointed out the lack of references to page numbers or quotations from Dupuis book. The suggestion was that the authors of the notification had relied on negative reviews rather than the book itself.
OCollins argued that the errors cited were either not in Dupuis book or were lines from works Dupuis himself was criticizing.
Ratzinger agreed to revise the notification, although the pope had already signed it.
One oddity produced by the behind-the-scenes maneuvering is that John Paul actually signed three different versions of Dupuis censure, in June and November of 2000 and again on Jan. 19. Each time he ordered publication, although only the final version appeared. The sequence seems likely to renew speculation about how closely the pope scrutinizes documents that appear under his signature.
The e-mail address for John L. Allen Jr. is email@example.com.
The text of the notification to Dupuis by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the accompanying congregation commentary and the statement released afterward by Jesuit superior Kolvenbach are available on the NCR Web site at http://www.natcath.com/NCR_Online/documents/index.htm
National Catholic Reporter, March 9, 2001