German Theologians Demand Doctrinal Office Restructuring

By Allen, John L., Jr. | National Catholic Reporter, June 22, 2007 | Go to article overview

German Theologians Demand Doctrinal Office Restructuring


Allen, John L., Jr., National Catholic Reporter


More than 100 German theologians have expressed support for a call from an emeritus professor of dogmatic theology from the University of Tubingen who called for an "intelligent restructuring" of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's doctrinal agency.

Peter Hunermann published his proposal in a German theological journal titled Herder Korrispondenz, in response to the recent critical notification from the congregation on two works by the Jesuit liberation theologian Fr. Jon Sobrino.

Among those who have backed Hunermann's position are prominent German theologians such as Johann Baptist Metz, Dietmar Mieth, Bernd Jochen Hilberath and Otmar Fuchs. The response from German theologians was reported by the Italian news agency Adista. In terms of church Politics, many of these theologians would broadly be considered left of center.

After criticizing the notification on Sobrino, Hunermann offered a set of general observations about the congregation, arguing that since the middle of the 19th century it has been responsible for a series of "serious conflicts that are damaging to the image of the church and to its journey of faith."

For one thing, Hunermann asserted, deficiencies in the theological preparation of personnel in the doctrinal congregation sometimes "aggravate the conflicts."

More deeply, however, Hunermann said the real problem lies with the congregation's mentality.

"At bottom, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith--the successor to the Holy Office--has preserved the structure of a censor's office, which it had at the beginning of the modern era." By way of contrast, Hunermann said, "the guarantee of quality in the scientific field today is structured differently: Essentially, it's a matter of collaboration with the sciences, and possibly includes scientific authorities in the decision-making procedures relative to the politics of scientific research, and in the administration of scientific discoveries."

For that reason, Hunermann said, the time has come for an "intelligent restructuring" of the doctrinal congregation.

"Today, it's necessary to elaborate the ratio fidei [reason of faith] in a very complex culture, with its grave social, scientific and human problems," Hunermann wrote. …

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