Issue Date: February 18, 2005
Vatican denounces Fr. Roger Haight's book, bars him from teaching
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
In a strongly worded notification, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vaticans doctrinal agency, has denounced the book Jesus: Symbol of God by Jesuit Fr. Roger Haight as containing grave doctrinal errors against the divine and Catholic doctrine of the church.
In consequence, Haight, an American, 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.
Haight was notified of a review of his work by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2000, and shortly thereafter the Vaticans Congregation for Catholic Education ordered him suspended from the Jesuit-run Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass. Currently he is teaching as adjunct professor at the Union Theological Seminary in New York.
Haight has described Jesus: Symbol of God as an attempt to express traditional doctrines about Christ and salvation in a language appropriate to postmodern culture. Some reviewers have found it an exciting new Christological approach, while others say that Haight goes too far in jettisoning or reinterpreting core doctrines.
The notification presents seven criticisms of the book:
Though the notification asserts that Haights book contains grave doctrinal errors, it does not use the word heresy. It also does not prevent Haight from publishing. Because Haight is currently at a non-Catholic institution, the teaching prohibition in the notification is expected to have little practical effect.
As opposed to the 2001 notification from the doctrinal congregation about Jesuit Fr. Jacques Dupuis, who died in December 2004, this time the response from the Jesuit order has been muted. Whereas the head of the order, Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, put up a spirited defense of Dupuis, the Jesuits indicated he would have no statement on the outcome of the Haight investigation.
Sources told NCR that Jesus: Symbol of God sold something over 10,000 copies in hardback and paperback form.
In September 2003, NCR spoke with Haight about the Vatican investigation, asking if he saw any legitimacy to their concerns.
Theyre saying that one has to attend to the tradition, to the community, he said. I try to do that in what I write. I proceed very, very carefully and responsibly to address issues that cannot go unaddressed.
Haight insisted that this work is a service to the church.
My fear is that educated Catholics will walk if there isnt space for an open attitude to other religions, he said.
John L. Allen Jr. is NCR Rome correspondent. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Catholic Reporter, February 18, 2005
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