Theological Bar Fights

dotCommonweal gets a 100-comment-post on David Gibson’s report on the CDF putting the theological smackdown, as it were, on Roger Haight, for questionable Christology. Lots of comments either celebrating (as if this were a long-lost victory in the war on terror) or foaming (at the unfariness of it all).

So what’s up with this? Some kind of ecclesiastical Emily Litella moment? A blogging gaffe? A test?

As David Gibson recounted in his biography The Rule of Benedict, Joseph Ratzinger was once a critic of this kind of CDF shenanigans. If indeed these were shenanigans to begin with.

It’s hard to know what to make of this kind of clumsiness: was it in the CDF, the reporting, the leaks, the blogging and commentariats?

You won’t be surprised that I think the Roman curia is mostly responsible and mostly to blame. This kind of discipline is like dysfunctional parents meting out punishment with the siblings in attendance. Criticize the articles, books, and teachings. Keep the censure private. Observers can ask questions, sure, but they don’t necessarily have a “right” to answers of a personal note.

When bloggers get into this, are we much better than gossip columnists? The churning that results raises levels of digestive juices, blood pressure, hit counts, and all that. But is it really productive? We know what the curia is and how they operate. Just because no theologian has been condemned today doesn’t mean the institutional flaws have disappeared in the bright Roman sunshine.

I’d like to comment on Fr Haight’s book, but I haven’t read it. So I’ll confess I have no real dog in the fight about his theology or symbols or others’ interpretation of it. It just seems that if the CDF has a function, it should be able to exercise that function without the repeated questions on methods, procedure, fairness, and all. What if Catholicism had a body that truly defended and defined the faith, and could do so without the cloud of bias, bile, and incompetence? A body that was above the fray, as it were, and not in the middle of the barfight throwing punches with everybody else?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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3 Responses to Theological Bar Fights

  1. Liam says:

    Well, there is no body that would be *above* the fray in this world. And bias, bile and incompetence are assured.

    Cuz human beings are involved.

    The question is whether there is a structure that would ameliorate such things better than the current one. One could fairly debate that – I don’t think the answer’s as obvious as many appear to think.

  2. Todd says:

    Agreed. I can tell you I don’t have an answer for which I’d feel 100% enthusiasm. All I can say is it seems there should be a better way. The key to a better way would be to have serious theologians sitting down in openness to assess what’s best for the Church … but a declaration like that might well be declared suspect by the CDF itself.

    There are lots of instances in human culture where a person is judged an offender, but can concede in good faith, “I don’t agree with the result, but I cannot attack the process–is was just as it should be.” Clearly, we don’t have that.

  3. Jimmy Mac says:

    These seem to apply in this case:

    Listen with the ear of the heart. St. Benedict.

    Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle. Philo of Alexandria.

    This is worse than a crime, it’s a blunder. Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

    Once a fixed idea of duty gets inside a narrow mind, it can never get out.

    In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas.

    Faults are thick where love is thin. English proverb.

    He who travels in the barque of Peter had better not look too closely into the engine room. Msgr. Ronald Knox

    Violence is the last resort of the incompetent – Isaac Asimov

    God will see you through when you believe you’re through. Abp Gabriel Zubeir Waco of Khartoum.

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