June 9, 2012

Catholic theologians divided

A book – and the Vatican's reaction to it – ignites disagreements expected to play out at an annual gathering this weekend.


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"It's as if intelligent people can't really believe what the church teaches," Echeverria said. "There are all these (huge theologians in the past) who wanted to be faithful to the mind of the church, and it's as if, 'We don't bother to read these people."

Farley, who has been challenging church teachings on the male-only priesthood and abortion for decades, is an author favored by liberals. On the right, the celebrity theologian is Christopher West, who used to do marriage preparation classes for the Washington Archdiocese and runs seminars and chats on the radio about Pope John Paul II's landmark "Theology of the Body."

Meanwhile, the censure by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith continued Thursday to elevate Farley far beyond theological circles. Her book, which came out in 2006, remained in the top 20 bestsellers on Amazon, above "The Hunger Games" box set but below "Eat to Live." That's about 200,000 spots higher than where it sat before the censure was announced.

"Have they seen 'Footloose' at the Vatican? Jeez," said Rocco Palmo, a popular blogger who writes about the Vatican and the U.S. clergy. Meaning: Forbidden fruit tastes better.

In St. Louis, the Theological Society's board on Thursday approved a statement in support of Farley, who has been comfortable in the center of controversial sexual and gender storms for decades.

The board is "especially concerned," its statement read, about the Vatican's view of the role of theology.

The notification by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith "risks giving the impression that there can be no constructive role in the life of the Church for works of theology that 1) give voice to the experience and concerns of ordinary believers, 2) raise questions about the persuasiveness of certain official Catholic positions, and 3) offer alternative theological frameworks as potentially helpful contributions to the authentic development of doctrine."

While many won't be in St. Louis this weekend, conservative sexual ethicists have had their own flurry of activity since the announcement of the notification, the first from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in five years.

Colorado theologian E. Christian Brugger wrote a piece entitled "Three Cheers for the CDF." Others zapped around critical reviews from when Farley's book debuted in 2006. This week moral theologian William E. May called Farley's work "atrocious" and said she is arrogant.

"People have gone into their own enclaves," Cahill said.


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