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Dominican leaders rebuke Dutch theologians January 24, 2008

World leaders of the Dominican order have issued a correction to three Dutch Dominican theologians who issued a popular pamphlet arguing that parish communities could celebrate the Eucharist without a priest, the French newspaper La Croix reporters.

The Dominican officials criticize the Dutch theologians for promoting views that contradict fundamental Church doctrines, according to La Croix. But the report issued from Rome stops short of disciplinary action against the theologians involved in the Dutch pamphlet.

Last June, three Dominican theologians in the Netherlands issued a pamphlet entitled Kerk en Ambt ("Church and Ministry"), which was fashioned as a response to severe shortage of priests in that country. The pamphlet, which was circulated widely among Dutch parishes, argued that in the absence of an ordained priest, any Catholic-- male or female, married or unmarried, homosexual or heterosexual-- could preside at the Eucharist. That role, the pamphlet said, "is not a prerogative reserved to the priest." The pamphlet was circulated with the approval of Dominican provincial leaders in the Netherlands.

The Dutch pamphlet drew calls for a response from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which in turn asked the leaders of the Dominican order in Rome to address the matter. The resulting report from Rome-- of which La Croix has obtained a copy-- is frankly critical of the Dutch pamphlet, saying that the authors distort the teachings of the Church and particularly the documents of Vatican II.

The report from Rome, dated January 23, does not call for disciplinary action against the Dominicans responsible for the pamphlet. But it directs the Dutch Dominicans to publicize the response in all the parishes where the original pamphlet was circulated last year-- as many as 1,500 parishes.

The Roman response acknowledges the severity of the shortage of priests in the Netherlands, and the need to make plans to serve the pastoral needs of parishes without priests. However, the document remarks, any such pastoral plans must be made with an eye to the teachings of the Church and the need for unity among the faithful.

The author of the Roman response, the French Dominican Hervé Legrand, does express some sympathy for the Dutch Dominican theologians on one issue: the question of priestly celibacy. On that issue "there must be a debate," the document says, noting that "the current situation for priests is not the only one possible."

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