Bishop McManus Statement on the Writings of Professor Tat-siong Benny Liew

by Bishop Robert J. McManus, STD

Descriptive Title

Statement on the Writings of Professor Tat-siong Benny Liew About the True Nature of Jesus Christ 


Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Massachusetts, has said that Tat-siong Benny Liew, a theology professor at Holy Cross College, must be asked to retract the “highly offensive and blasphemous notions” that he published several years ago. “If he disavows them, then he must state so publicly,” the bishop said. If the professor does not retract his statements, Bishop McManus went on to say that he would be compelled “to clearly state that such teaching is a danger to the integrity of the Catholic faith” and “has not place in a Catholic college.”

Publisher & Date

Diocese of Worchester, March 30, 2018

A few days ago I learned of the highly controversial writings of a local Holy Cross professor, Tat-siong Benny Liew, that cast doubts on the male sexuality of Jesus Christ based on Professor Liew’s seriously flawed analysis of some texts of the Gospel of St. John. I am deeply troubled and concerned to hear that someone who holds an endowed chair in New Testament studies at the College of the Holy Cross has authored such highly offensive and blasphemous notions. Such positions have no place in the biblical scholarship of a professor who teaches at a Catholic college and who, as such, should be supportive of the college’s Catholic identity and mission.

Fr. Philip Boroughs, SJ, president of the College of the Holy Cross, has stated publicly that Professor Liew “is a man of deep faith” but that “scholars are … free to push boundaries on widely accepted thought.” Academic freedom certainly plays a critical role in the intellectual life of a Catholic institution of higher learning like Holy Cross. However, how that academic freedom is exercised, particularly in the fields of Theology or Religious Studies, cannot provide cover for blatantly unorthodox teaching. Clearly the biblical conclusions that Professor Liew has reached in his writings are both false and perverse. I am particularly concerned that Professor Liew’s book that contains these unorthodox views is featured on display in the Religious Studies Department at Holy Cross.

The Church is the steward of her authentic Catholic faith, and Catholic institutions of higher learning have the mission to teach the normative faith of the Church in communion with the Church’s authentic Magisterium. The U.S. bishops, relying on St. John Paul II’s insightful document, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, (“From the Heart of the Church”) about the nature and purpose of Catholic universities, have asked Catholic colleges to reaffirm their Catholic identity in all aspects of their intellectual endeavors. Central to the orthodox faith of the Church is the acceptance of Jesus Christ as fully divine and fully human that the early Fathers of the Church and the Church’s Councils so clearly taught. In light of the controversy caused by Professor Liew’s writings, Holy Cross has a duty to, at least, ask Professor Liew if he rejects the biblical positions he penned some ten years ago or if he supports and defends those positions today. If he disavows them, then he must state so publicly, so as not to create confusion about the nature of Christ. If he does not, then it is my duty as the Bishop of Worcester to clearly state that such teaching is a danger to the integrity of the Catholic faith and, in prudence, warn the Catholic faithful committed to my pastoral care that such unorthodox teaching has no place in a Catholic College whose mission is to promote and cultivate the Catholic intellectual tradition.

It is particularly disheartening for me to be addressing this issue during Holy Week. Our commemoration of the Easter Triduum, namely Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, would be meaningless if we did not recognize the suffering that Jesus Christ as the God-man bore for us and that our relationship to him as Savior is the most important dimension of our Christian lives. May our hearts and minds as Christians remain focused on bringing ourselves and one another to a deeper appreciation of the Easter celebration of Christ’s resurrection which is the source of hope for the world.

© Diocese of Worcester

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