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transparency, anyone?

By Diogenes (articles ) | Feb 14, 2005

The current America has a brief notice on the wing-clipping of Roger Haight, S.J. by the CDF:

The notification said Father Haight's assertion that Catholic theology must be "in dialogue" with the modern world leads him to downplay or deny central teachings of the church, including that the Word of God was made flesh in Jesus Christ, that Jesus was divine and that salvation is offered to all humanity through Jesus. ...

In the book, Father Haight says the religious pluralism of the world is a given, and "theologically, from a Christian standpoint, this pluralism should be interpreted positively. The normative revelation of Jesus posits that God's grace is operative in other religions." He argues that "affirming the validity of other religions does not undermine the normativity of Jesus Christ. And affirming the normativity of Jesus Christ, not simply for Christians but for all human beings, does not undermine the validity and truth contained in other religions."

OK, there's nothing factually false in America's script, but the innuendo is plain: Haight is just a faithful and sober Catholic scholar innocently trying to find a positive aspect to pluralism, and the Vatican trogs, drooling and moving their lips slowly as they tried to read the dusk-jacket, caught the word "postmodern" and went ballistic. Unmentioned by America is any of the material quoted by the CDF, e.g., Haight's claim that "one can no longer continue to assert that Christianity is the best religion or that Christ is the absolute center point to which all other historical mediations are related." Methinks I detect a plurality of normativities in the woodpile.

There's another very curious paragraph in the CDF's Notification that I haven't seen discussed elsewhere. Having noted that the Jesuit General was sent a list of Haight's errors and that he was asked to invite Haight to submit a clarification, the document reads:

The author's response, submitted March 31, 2003, was examined by the Ordinary Session of the Congregation on October 8, 2003. The literary form of the text was of such a kind as to raise doubts about its authenticity -- that is, whether it really was a personal response by Father Roger Haight, S.J. For that reason a response signed by him was requested. Such a response with his signature affixed arrived January 7, 2004. The Ordinary Session of the Congregation on May 5, 2004, took it under consideration and confirmed the fact that the book Jesus Symbol of God contained assertions contrary to the truth of divine and Catholic faith...&c.

Weird enough? Regrettably, America missed the opportunity to set us straight on this mystery also. To my thinking, the most likely explanation is that Haight initially refused to respond to the CDF's request for clarification, that the Jesuit General gave the job to a more tractable sympathizer and submitted that guy's (unsigned) document as a clarification, that the CDF smelled a rat, and that Haight's own eventual submission -- almost certainly unapologetic -- made it clear to the CDF that it was right all along.

It's particularly interesting that the CDF doesn't return to the question of the authenticity of the ghost submission. This strongly suggests that the Society of Jesus never satisfactorily accounted for its provenance. It also would go far to explain the unusual prominence given to the Notification in the Osservatore Romano and the severity of its language -- in retaliation, so to speak, for the questionable good faith of the CDF's partners in dialogue. Not to worry:

In a brief statement, the Jesuit provincial superior in New York, Father Gerald J. Chojnacki, said Father Haight "has collaborated with the congregation and is available for consultation with them."

Roger and out.

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  • Posted by: - Feb. 14, 2005 11:46 AM ET USA

    In December I received a letter informing me that my participation in a lay formation program was discontinued (I am a recent convert and apparently way too orthodox) -- after seeing the report on Roger Haight I checked the text "An Intro to Christology" by Luttenberger -- guess who is quoted numerous times? I feel somewhat vindicated. Thanks.

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