24Feb Theologians lament the procedures of the CDF

A recent book edited by theologian Richard Gaillardetz entitled “When the Magisterium Intervenes” studies the processes by which the CDF operates when it censures theologians. The chapter by Bradford E. Hinze outlines ten ‘laments’ that theologians have about the procedures of the CDF. These are the ten he lists:
1. Anonymous Accusers and Critics: Who is the accuser? What is their competence? What is their motive?
2. The Scourge of Secrecy, Tortuous Isolation: Secrecy in these matters can be painfully onerous and in effect become a means of isolating an individual and thereby depriving him/her of support in time of need. Although this manner of proceeding may not be intended as a form of persecution, it is experienced by many as tortuous isolation.
3. Unfair interpretation: Work not fairly or accurately interpreted; sentences taken out of context; the CDF functions as the sole arbiter of correct interpretation.
4. Contested Doctrines Frozen in Time: There is too little acknowledgement of the fact of doctrinal development and of the hierarchy of truths.
5. The Same People are Investigators, Prosecutors and Judges: Moreover the accused often get the impression that they are presumed guilty rather than innocent.
6. A Failure to Communicate: This serves as another cause of anguish that weighs on the minds, psyches, and bodies of those being investigated.
7. Interrogation masked as Dialogue: What transpires is an interrogation in which the theologian is placed in the position of defending his or her position before a group of people who have already reached certain conclusions.
8. Defamation of Character: This process results in a defamation of character; often there are serious consequences for one’s life and work.
9. Failure to Trust the Community of Theologians and the Faithful People of God as a Whole: The CDF proceeds as if it is the primary or sole guardian of the truths of faith. It provides the only court of judgement. It frequently acts as if it is the teaching Church, the guarding Church, and everyone else is the learning Church and in need of their paternalistic protection.
10. Larger repercussions; Creating a Culture of Surveillance, Policing, Control and Intimidation: How many times since Vatican ll have we heard theologians cry out: ‘Do not extinguish the Spirit’. This articulates a fear shared by theologians of every generation and every continent, and it is voiced by many other members of the Church as well, lay people, women religious, and clergy.

8 Responses

  1. Brendan Butler

    I wonder has anyone who has been interogated by the CDF been declared innocent and an apology issued.

  2. Joe O'Leary

    The role played by Ratzinger’s personal piety and his very cut and dried ideas of orthodoxy (he is quick to spot what he calls “heresies” everywhere except in the ultra rightist circles where he has shown himself to feel most at home) is a significant factor. The faithful tend to think that this topic is about individual theologians who are bruised in their vanity. In fact it goes much further than that. It entails the destruction of Catholic theology; and it is a mockery of church professions of transparency and respect for human rights.

  3. Darlene Starrs

    If we had more time and space, I could relate my experience of being “officially” attacked for having an opinion about women’s ordination, about lay people being further empowered, and so on.
    We all know its cruel and devious, the methods, of the CDF, and other people, who want to be aggressive and accusatory. We will hopefully have a different administration at some point and if not, well, what ought to be done? I suppose, some people could follow the advice of Hans Kung, in his letter to the people to stand our ground against Rome. What to do, takes care careful discernment and concensus.

  4. Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh

    “1. Anonymous Accusers and Critics: Who is the accuser? What is their competence? What is their motive?”

    Thankyou for sharing these ten ‘laments’ that theologians have about the procedures of the CDF. It is a miracle to me that Richard Gaillardetz has had the courage, at this time, to write a book about the way the CDF is treating theologians, given the atmosphere of fear that has our church in bondage for many years, especially ever since the church of Joseph Ratzinger came into being.

    From 1 to 10, the laments show the utter lack of respect for fellow believers by the CDF. How can any of us have respect for church leaders who do not respect basic human rights, the most basic to me is knowing who my accusers are, what is their competence, what are their possible motives, and the need for dialogue and giving my side of the story.

    It is so incredible to me that in 2013, theologians are being treated as if this was the Middle Ages and the Inquisition has returned.

    It is even more incredible to me that the CDF refuses to be accountable for the widespread clergy sexual abuse and soul-murder and many suicides of victims around the world who gave up hope that their stories of being sexually abused by a priest or bishop would be believed.

    This is not the church of Jesus Christ. Jesus was a healer, not a dictator. Jesus was a servant-leader, not a prince of the church.

    I believe there is need for a new structure for the Catholic Church, where clericalism and legalism are replaced by collegiality and compassion, and where women and men, married and single, straight and gay, ordained and lay have their voices heard, some even as members of the hierarchy.

    Vatican II has not even been tried yet. The Holy Spirit has been silenced long enough by the power and control types. It is time for the freedom of the Holy Spirit to return to the church of Jesus Christ and for the captives, including Fr Tony Flannery, to be set free, for the greater glory of God.

    Please, Holy Spirit, free us from the terrible, crippling bondage of fear that the church is in at present, and send us a pope with wisdom and common sense, to break the chains that are holding us back from living the life that you want us to live, as your children created in your image. I place my trust in you. Thankyou for hearing my prayer.

    Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago, Illinois, USA

  5. Darlene Starrs

    Vatican II ushered in what looked like to many, just some changes! An agenda for updating! Vatican II actually will probably precipitate a paradigm shift…..So, indeed, Dr. Rosemary,
    there will be a “new structure of the Catholic Church where clericalism and legalism are replaced with collegiality and compassion.”

  6. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    Thank you Dr. McHugh for your words concerning the people worldwide who have suffered in some way. I know many and am one myself. Suffering, surprisingly, once fought through, creates a certain clarity. It’s the suffering that empties our souls of all that is worldly and what we are left with is a balanced faith in what is right and necessary. That is at least my experience although some may disagree. When you fight from the depths of despair to a point where you have regained a certain faith in the human condition, you feel like you can pretty much do anything you put your mind to. When you combine this with forgiveness, it is a powerful force. I hope this holds true for the Church. It is suffering and only with a united laity, will it have the strength to rise from the underworld it currently occupies. Without us, I fear it is on the brink of losing its God and certainly its connection with Christendom. Humanity is mature enough to deal with these worldly problems on its own; we were created in his image and given the heavenly gift of free will to decide what is right for us. The only thing holding us back is the idea that this freedom is yet to be bestowed upon us when it is clearly within our reach right now. The only thing left is forgiveness.

  7. Lynne Newington

    A total breach of the UN Declaration on Human Rights.

  8. Darlene Starrs

    While I empathize with the “laments” of the professional theologians, I do so,with some reservation. I have experienced, many a professional theologian, who came across, as quite protective and arrogant themselves. In other words, the first Church, the “People of the Way”, were probably, organic and humble, because, the Church had not yet, progressed to being, “professional”, that is, in the hands, of the so called experts…the clergy, and professional theologians…..The “little ones” of the Church today, who have theological insights, that are necessary for the Church, have really, been blocked……not only by the clerical leadership, but also by lay, professional, theologians………It seems that the “ordinary, organic, humble, Catholic Christian, has been buried, by a number of Church professionals. That is why, I, am so supportive and so excited about the ACI going and listening to and discussing with the Catholics in the parishes.


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