Haight Silencing Feeds Theologians' Fears

Article excerpt

Reports that Jesuit Fr. Roger Haight, a professor of systematic theology at Weston Jesuit Theological Union, has been barred from teaching while the Vatican scrutinizes his views made headlines recently around the country. Haight, in fact, has been on leave from teaching at Weston for the entire academic year, while he responds to questions about his newest book.

The investigation was prompted by Haight's book, Jesus, Symbol of God. Winner of the top prize in theology from the Catholic Press Association, it was published in 1999 by Orbis Books.

The Vatican's criticism turns on Haight's attempts to separate Christology from Greek philosophical concepts, on which many of the traditional doctrines on the role and nature of Christ depend. Specifically, the problems relate to formulation of the mystery of the Trinity, an interpretation of Christ's divinity and the role of Jesus in salvation.

The investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was reported in the Aug. 11, 2000, issue of NCR, but did not gain wide publicity until an article appeared a week ago in the April 24 issue of The Boston Globe.

In response to the recent news reports, Jesuit Fr. Robert Manning, Weston's president, released a written statement saying Haight was on leave at the request of Archbishop Zenon Grocholewski of the Congregation for Catholic Education.

Haight has not responded to inquiries from the press. In July, he told NCR, "I want to handle this like Jacques Dupuis did and not comment."

Dupuis is a Jesuit who taught at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome until the fall of 1998, when he came under Vatican investigation for his book Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism. Dupuis was later cleared.

Franciscan Fr. Kenneth Himes, a professor at Washington Theological Union and president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, said he found the sudden storm of publicity about Haight's silencing to be curious, given that the Vatican intervention had happened months before. The silencing is unfortunate, he said, because it is "a preemptive strike that short circuits the give and take of theological conversation."

"Roger Haight is a well-respected theologian among his peers," Himes said. "When he writes something, it gets noticed. …