Catholic Theological Society of America

John Allen took a break from covering such mundane matters as the meeting of George Bush and Pope Benedict XVI to cover the meeting of the Catholic Theological Society of America. He has a series of reports at NCR.

The CTSA was addressed by an ELCA theologian, Michael Root of Southern Seminary, who pointed out what he regards as contradictions within Catholic theology on ecumenism and the ordained ministry. Vatican II said although the church of Christ “subsists in” the Catholic Church, there are elements of sanctification in other churches and “ecclesial communities” (literally, I suppose, “churchly communities”); these “ecclesial communities” are “defective,” though, because they don’t have real bishops or real priests or real deacons, in Catholic teaching, and so no real Eucharist or confirmation or anointing of the sick, etc.

To resolve the paradox, Root argued, Catholicism needs to move away from the concept of “validity” in evaluating ordained ministry, which he said is an “all or nothing” concept, and towards a “more or less” model, meaning one that allows for varying degrees. He suggested that the concept of “ecclesial communities” offers such a tool, because it allows for the real but imperfect presence of the church in varying Christian bodies. Similarly, Root suggested, Catholicism needs a way of acknowledging the real but imperfect presence of ordained ministry in these bodies.

In other talks, the theologians grappled with questions of how to hold bishops accountable (and here), how to keep bishops from shooting themselves in the foot when issuing statements on public policy, and how to keep themselves from similar self-injury when issuing statements criticizing bishops and the Vatican.

3 thoughts on “Catholic Theological Society of America

  1. It is well known that the “Catholic Theological Society” is a group of dissenters from Catholic doctrine and the Magisterium of the Church who are intellectually dishonest, and as an organization is no longer entitled to the name Catholic. Recent Papal statements on the relationship of those who would be “theologians” with Church Authority have made crystal clear that those dissenting from Catholic teachings (like those in that Society) are no longer in full communion with the Church.

  2. That’s a bit of an overstatement. Search their membership list and you’ll find some interesting names. Membership of the society includes some orthodox folks, many of whom they’ve alienated, though, as they acknowledge in that statement saying they need to be more prudent in their criticism.

    There are dissenters, but there’s a problem, as you know: many of these dissenters have the mandatum from their bishops, and these bishops not only seem very shy about saying who has it or who doesn’t, they don’t seem inclined to withdraw it once given. One wonders the point of it.

  3. Dissenting from the Magisterium doesn’t make you wrong. For example, anyone prior to Paul VI teaching religious freedom did so in opposition to the pope, but if you subscribe to Dignitatis Humanae, you have to hold that he truly espoused the Catholic position while the pope was wrong, and commend the theologian for his vision and insight. A priest I know is fond of pointing out that Vatican II espoused much of the theology for which theologians like de Lubac were condemned. I don’t see how this is morally any different.

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