The Catholic News Service reports that the The Catholic Theological Society expresses it’s profound distress at the Vatican’s censure of Roger Haight. CTS President Roberto Goizueta complained:
(Catholic News Service, Feb. 16, 2005.
Jamie Blosser (Ad Limina Apostolorum) offers in turn his personal reflection on the nature of “theological exploration”, with reference to the example Origen of Alexandria (the subject of his dissertation, and on whom he is already quite familiar). Jamie concludes:
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I’d like to offer some further thoughts on the nature of Fr. Haight’s “theological exploration,” having recently discovered the text of his address at a 2002 Call to Action conference “Four Gifts of the American Church to the Universal Church” 2002). Commenting on Dominus Iesus, Fr. Haight insists:
The reaction to Dominus Iesus shows that Catholics need a new theology and then a new doctrine that preserves the Christian commitment to God in Jesus Christ and at the same time guarantees the intrinsic validity of other religions in principle. Respect of peoples who have long histories of religious experience and practice demands in part that we acknowledge the autonomous truth and value that constitute their religions. This process is, I believe, going on in the mutual reinforcement of the work of theologians and the sensus fidelium of American Catholics. The point at which this experience will pass into doctrine is still far off, but one can see it on the horizon.
Haight’s choice of words is very interesting, as it clarifies his intent in “theological exploring” the salvific role of Christ and Christianity’s relationship to other religions. But he seems to be caught between a rock and a hard place, if his desire is to simultaneously uphold traditional belief in Jesus Christ as the “real mediator of salvation” AND maintain a “non-competitive spirit” that “guarantees the intrinsic validity of other religions.” It’s difficult to be “non-competitive” when identifying one’s self with a Savior that says “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
I suspect that Fr. Haight would find fault not only with Dominus Iesus but Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Redemptoris Missio as well, which figures prominently in the Congregation’s declaration, and is equally insistent on Christ as the “one mediator between God and mankind” and “the definitive self-revelation of God.”
As Redemptoris Missio acknowledges, the Church grants the possibility that Christ will save those without conscious and explicit knowledge of Him or formal membership in His Church (Redemptoris Missio 10):
For this reason the Council, after affirming the centrality of the Paschal Mystery, went on to declare that “this applies not only to Christians but to all people of good will in whose hearts grace is secretly at work. Since Christ died for everyone, and since the ultimate calling of each of us comes from God and is therefore a universal one, we are obliged to hold that the Holy Spirit offers everyone the possibility of sharing in this Paschal Mystery in a manner known to God.” [Gaudium Et Spes 22].
However, Catholics engaged in dialogue with other religions are sure to encounter those who will not content themselves with John Paul II’s qualification, who would positively bristle at the mere suggestion that Jesus Christ in any manner whatsoever “mediates” in their relationship with the Divine. Perhaps it is in response to such complaints that Fr. Haight argues against a Christianity that posits Jesus Christ as a “constitutive mediator” of salvation in his book Jesus: Symbol of God:
You have to admit, it’s a very convenient strategy for one engaged in interreligious dialogue. By isolating and confining the mediatorship of Jesus Christ to the “Christian community,” one may freely participate in discussion in a genuine spirit of “non-competitiveness,” recognizing that
But one doesn’t have to read all 500 pages of Haight’s book to discern the intent of his “theological exploration” — he conveniently provides a summary of’the Christian case for religious pluralism’ on p. 417:
Haight suggests here that Christianity’s belief in Jesus Christ as constitutive mediator of humanity’s salvation is an impediment to interreligious dialogue, relenquishment of which is a precondition for a fruitful encounter with other religions or in the interest of conducting theology itself in the modern world. Little wonder, then, that the Congregation took notice of Haight’s work, or that he should in turn criticize Dominus Iesus, which specifically addresses and repudiates propositions remarkably similar to those advanced in Symbol of God:
- That “Christ is a particular, finite, historical figure who reveals the divine not in an exclusive way, but in a way complementary with other revelatory and salvific figures”
- That “there is an economy of the eternal Word that is valid also outside the Church and is unrelated to her, in addition to an economy of the incarnate Word”
- “The hypothesis of an economy of the Holy Spirit with a more universal breadth than that of the Incarnate Word, crucified and risen”
Against which the Congregation firmly stated (with liberal quotation from Redemptoris Missio):
In conclusion, the action of the Spirit is not outside or parallel to the action of Christ. There is only one salvific economy of the One and Triune God, realized in the mystery of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, actualized with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, and extended in its salvific value to all humanity and to the entire universe: “No one, therefore, can enter into communion with God except through Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit”.41
(38) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 28. For the “seeds of the Word” cf. also St. Justin Martyr, Second Apology 8, 1-2; 10, 1-3; 13, 3-6: ed. E.J. Goodspeed, 84; 85; 88-89.
(39) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Redemptoris missio, 28-29.
(40) Ibid., 29.
(41) Ibid., 5.
“The Incarnate Logos and the Holy Spirit in the Work of Salvation” Dominus Iesus II, 9-12.
Defending his book against the Vatican’s investigation, Haight responds:
If the Vatican’s allegations are correct (and a glance at Height’s book suggests that they are and that the CDF has “done their homework”), I believe Haight’s requirements for “an open attitude to other religions” will be deemed far too demanding for those who wish to remain faithful to Christ and his Church.
Then again, perhaps we (and his Vatican inquisitors) just aren’t “educated” enough to appreciate him.
- A Metaphor Gone Wild, review by John Cavadi. Notre Dame. Commmonweal Oct. 8, 1999.
- Vatican Notification on “Jesus Symbol of God”. Published in the Feb. 9 weekly English edition of L’Osservatore Romano.
- Further discussion on Haight at Amy Welborn’s ‘Open Book’, including some excerpts of Haight’s response to his critics, and this memorable quote from the one and only Dale Price (Dyspeptic Mutterings):
“. . . this is why the CDF broke out the lumber. He’s absolutely inflexible and refuses to acknowledge the possibility he may be wrong. Four years of trying to dialogue with that mindset and you’d have the Little Flower baying for his head.”