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Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA) 
Press Release on the U.S. bishops' approval of 
Ex corde ecclesiae:
17 November 1999
While it is not yet clear what amendments have been made to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' document regarding Catholic higher education, it is clear that the document has been approved.  It is disappointing that the bishops did not respond to the appeal of theologians for further dialogue with them prior to the vote on the document.  Many theologians hoped that discussions on a scale comparable to the discussions between bishops and Catholic college and university presidents could resolve the difficulties the document contained. 

Catholic theologians and bishops share a common goal—that is, the development and teaching of theology that will serve the Church and the Church's mission to the world.  Their disagreements are over the means to this goal.  The bishops' document calls for juridicizing, legalizing, the relationship between theologians and their bishops.  This is what the requirement of a mandatum will do.  While some theologians welcome this and interpret it as an affirmation of the importance of theology, most worry that it will foster a breakdown of trust between bishops and theologians. As such, it may discourage young scholars from pursuing theological degrees or from seeking teaching positions in Catholic colleges and universities. 

Theologians recognize the concerns of bishops for genuinely Catholic theology, and they share these concerns.  However, efforts to control the work of theologians, as they are laid out in this document, are both unnecessary and potentially damaging to the best work of theology.  Most theologians believe that the rigorous procedures of scholarly peer review required in American colleges and universities can serve well the concerns of the bishops. The requirements of the academy, when implemented with justice and with concern for an institution's mission, should foster responsible research and teaching. This serves not only the academy and the wider society, but the needs of the Church. 

Given today's decision by the National Conference of Catholic bishops, theologians will work with it as best they can.  Departments of theology will be meeting to discern responses.  The Catholic Theological Society of America continues to offer to assist the bishops with whatever new dialogues can take place. The document needs interpretation, and the theological community stands ready to participate in identifying remaining questions and concerns.

Other voices

Another Voice

Questions From a Ewe

Challenges Facing Catholicism
(Bishop Geoffrey Robinson in converation with Dr Ingrid Shafer)

Ingrid H. Shafer, Ph.D.
e-mail address: ihs@ionet.net
Posted 10 March 2001
Last updated 10 March 2001
Electronic version copyright © 2001 Ingrid H. Shafer
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