05 January 2009

Haight "punished" by the CDF (Updated)

In 2000, the Congregation on the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) published a "notification" regarding the book, Jesus, Symbol of God, written by Fr. Roger Haight, S.J. The notification details the many errors the book contains regarding the nature of Christ and his relation to non-Christian religions. Essentially, Haight denies the divinity of Christ* contra the Nicene Creed and centuries of settled Catholic teaching and equates non-Christian religions with Christianity. In the book, he argues that Christ is a symbol of God but goes on to argue that all symbols of God are inadequate. Therefore, we must conclude, that Jesus is an inadequate symbol of God. A CCD class at St Bubba's can figure out that this is not the Christian faith.

Fortunately, this book is a dense morass of postmodernist gibberish, mostly incomprehensible even to intelligent, well-informed readers. It will remain a favorite of dissident theologians but have little influence outside this self-selected cadre of initiated brights. His introductory theology textbook, The Dynamics of Theology, is also packed with dodgy claims about the faith and should be avoided by anyone wanting to know what the Church actually teaches.

Because of the errors found in Jesus, Symbol of God, the CDF removed Haight's license to teach theology in Catholic universities. Haight moved to the Union Theological Seminary in NYC, a Protestant school.

Now, Commonweal is reporting that the CDF has removed Haight's license to teach theology at any university, Catholic or otherwise. He has also been told to cease writing on Catholic theology.

The howls of protest against the "Inquisitional Church" have already begun. Accused of conducting its investigations in secret, the CDF is once again the target of pampered Catholic academics who see any attempt to hold them responsible to the wide limits of orthodoxy as an act of an abusive father bent on spanking his unjustly accused children. The irony here is that a public investigation of Haight would have been called a "witch hunt" and unnecessarily damaging to his reputation. A "secret" investigation saves him from this public scrutnity. But his defenders then claim that the CDF is acting unjustly in keeping the proceedings secret. So, the CDF is damned either way. Surprise, surprise.

If the proceedings were truly secret, then how do Haight's defenders know anything at all about how the investigation was conducted? As far as we can tell, the CDF communicated with Haight's Jesuit superiors and his superiors communicated with him. That Haight is just now finding out about this most recent sanction seems to be the fault of his superiors not the CDF. We can imagine that any attempt by the CDF to communicate with Haight directly would be called "harrassment."

Critics of the CDF will whine and moan that the congregation is acting to suppress creative thinking and legitimate theological research. They will rend garments and gnash teeth over the cosmic injustice of asking a Catholic theologian to actually teach the Catholic faith. They will use Haight's sanctions as evidence that they being persecuted by a medieval Church who hates any and all difference of opinion. Let's be quick to note the ratio of publishing, teaching dissident theologians to those investigated and sanctioned by the CDF. What, maybe one in every 10,000 theologians merit the CDF's attention? Hardly a worldwide "crackdown" on dissent. But maybe that's the problem. The CDF isn't paying these whiners any attention and their reputations among the heretical inner-circle are suffering.

So, ignore the mewling academics and leftist pundits and focus on the fact that Haight himself chose to write against well-established, infallible Christian doctrine. He will not go hungry. He will have a place to live. God still loves him. He's still a priest, a Jesuit, and a member of the Church. He can still write on questions in spirituality, and he will no doubt become a conference/lecture circuit star among the thousands of professionally aggrieved institutions and individuals the Church allows to flourish despite its apparent bloodthirsty, inquistional ways. If anything, the CDF sanctions have guaranteed Haight's books a spot on most theology syllabi well into this century.

UPDATE: The Vatican is doing some "nuancing" with regard to Haight's recent trip to the magisterial woodshed. The CNS report mentions that the Vatican has asked three American Jesuit theologians to review Haight's work. Anyone know the names of those three?

*Type "LOGOS" in the "Inside this Book" search field and then click on the link to page 177. This excerpt from the book shows that Haight understands the Prologue to the Gospel of God as a poem, relegating the Logos (the Word) to the status of a mere metaphor for God's presence in Jesus. In other words, he denies that Christ is God and argues that Christ is simply a metaphor for God.


  1. The more I think about it, my life's goal is to work for the CDF:)

  2. Why do men like this remain in the priesthood? Why not just follow through where their hearts already are?


    Thank God for Seton's religious ed materials. My girls will know better.

    Speaking of which, it's time to start our school day.

    God bless, Father.

  3. Christine,

    Someone once asked a famous dissenting theologian why she remained in the Church if she found so much of its doctrine and practice so detestable.

    She answered, "It's where the Xerox machine is." In other words, she remains b/c the Church butters her bread and pays her rent. The Church provides her with the resources she needs to undermine the Church.

    Make no mistake. These people do not want to destroy the Church. They want to control it.

  4. "...cosmic injustice of asking a Catholic theologian to actually teach the Catholic faith."

    The nerve!!

  5. Well this is timely. I'm currently writing a paper on something like this and Haight was one of the sources I was using that reflects the opposite of my own position. Maybe it's time to go find new sources.

  6. Gobbler,

    The CDF's sanctioning of Haight should not prevent you from using his work in an academic paper, esp if you are refuting him.

    Keep in the mind: our Holy Father regularly quotes Nietzsche in his homilies!

  7. That's a good point father. I was perhaps just looking for a reason not to read more postmodern gobbledy gook than I had to. A sloth is me. Time to go read...

  8. And the good Holy Spirit reminded us yesterday:

    "This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God, and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus
    does not belong to God. This is the spirit of the antichrist..." (1 Jn 3)

  9. Re: Update

    I'm curious to know who the three American Jesuit theologians are. Are they dissidents like Fr. Haight?

  10. Kate,

    I don't know the names. It's becoming clearer and clearer that the SJ leadership in the US has taken up the detailed investigation. Likely, this was done at the request of the CDF. This allows the SJ's to review one of their own in lieu of a potentially invasive review by the CDF. If this is the case, then I would imagine that the American SJ's selected would be orthodox...if for no other reason than to insure that the CDF has nothing to complain about when the review is done.

    I should note here that Haight rec'd high praise for the book, especially his treatment of the early councils, but reviewers consistently pointed out methodological as well as theological problems with his argument. For the most part, his arguments were described as "unnecessarily reductive" and "minimalist." There is little doubt in my mind that Haight is an amazing scholar, but his conclusions in the book contradict centuries of Christian teaching.

    My own frustration in all of this is the entirely predictable whining of Catholic academic theologians that the Dark Lords of the CDF are trying once again to rob the simple Hobbits of the University Shire of their untouchable right to poke the Church in the eye any time it serves to pad their CV's.

  11. I think that it was Scott Hahn who said that Theology must be practiced on one's knees. It doesn't look like Haight was doing this, priest or not.

    May St. John Vianney pray for us.

  12. One does not have to be one of the cast of characters in the "Emperor's New Clothes", to recognize these recycled heresies. Why does it take so long to see what is OBVIOUS?

  13. Nancy,

    One of the ironies of these contemporary heretical re-hashing is that they are presented as if they are Brand New!

    The methodology of Haight's book is stuffed with references to recent developments in theology, modern critical approaches, the newest discoveries, etc. Yet, despite all of these spanking toys to play with...he comes up with a centuries old heresy. Weird.

  14. Fr.Philip, keep up the Good work!

  15. "Yet, despite all of these spanking toys to play with"

    pleeeeease tell me I read that wrong!

  16. (blushing)....ummmm...that should read "spanking NEW toys..."

    Oy. I have to stop replying to comments at 4 in the morning.