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US bishops issue caution on Georgetown theologian's work December 11, 2007

The US bishops' conference has issued a caution on the work of a Georgetown University theologian.

After a lengthy investigation that was undertaken at the suggestion of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the US bishops' doctrinal committee issued a statement on December 10 saying that the work of Father Peter Phan contained "pervading ambiguities and equivocations that could easily confuse of mislead the faithful."

Father Phan, a former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, came under scrutiny because of his book, Being Religious Interreligiously. Church officials questioned whether the book's approach to religious pluralism could be reconciled with established Catholic doctrine. Father Phan argues in that book that certain doctrinal statements regarding the unique role of Christ and his Church in the economy of salvation may have "outlived their usefulness."

The US bishops' doctrinal committee-- chaired by Bishop Wiliam Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut-- said that Being Religious Interreligiously contained "statements that, unless properly clarified, are not in accord with Catholic teaching." Because the Georgetown theologian failed to provide that necessary clarification, the bishops explain, a caution about his work is necessary.

[The full text of the statement released by the US bishops' doctrinal committee, critiquing Father Phan's book, is available on the web site of the US bishops' conference.]

No disciplinary action was taken by the US bishops against Father Phan, who continues to hold an endowed chair at Georgetown, America's oldest Catholic university.

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