They may not be ready for a ride in a surrey (someone stop me), but NCR reports on what may be an effort by the bishops' committee on doctrine to repair the relationship with U.S. theologians and Fordham faculty in the aftermath of its critique of Sr. Elizabeth Johnson’s Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God.
NCR reports that, responding to chorus of objection to the committee's decision on Johnson's work, "Capuchin Fr. Thomas G. Weinandy, executive director of the doctrine committee, April 28 addressed a letter to the Department of Theology at Fordham. He said the doctrine committee 'takes seriously your concerns.'"
The letter assured the faculty that the committee never intended to tarnish Johnson’s reputation or impugn her honor or dedication to the church.
Weinandy stated the doctrine committee “in no way calls into question the dedication, honor, creativity, or service” of Johnson.
He went on to say the committee had written to Johnson reiterating its willingness to enter into dialogue with her. He said the committee would receive “any written observations on the content of the committee’s statement that she may wish to offer.”
One of the contentions of theologians and others has been that the committee failed to follow U.S. bishops’ guidelines in dealing with the Johnson matter.
They have said the committee never notified Johnson while it was studying her book, as, they allege, is called for in a 1989 bishops’ document.
The doctrine committee has defended its actions, explaining that Johnson’s book was already in print, that it was being used in colleges and seminaries, and so there was nothing to discuss. The committee’s head, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, lamented that Johnson had never sought an imprimatur, or episcopal approval, before publishing the book.
Throughout much of the 1980s, theologians, canon lawyers and bishops hammered out a document, finally issued in 1989, that established precise procedures for theologians and bishops to work out differences in private settings. The document, called "Doctrinal Responsibilities," calls on bishops and theologians to attempt to settle disputes privately before going public.
In his letter to the Fordham faculty, Weinandy wrote that “this might be a time to review” that 1989 document. “Such a review,” he wrote, “might also provide an occasion to see how well its provisions are understood and applied.”
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