a promise to teach "authentic doctrine"
- I read the following in today's LOS ANGELES TIMES. We might draw
an analogy to theosophical groups. What if a theosophical group
were to require its public speakers to pledge in writing that they
teach "authentic theosophical doctrine"? Some would probably say
that it is a good idea, and that public speakers should not lead
new students astray. Others would say that it is a bad idea, since
it stifles academic freedom, freedom of spiritual self-discovery.
Could the requirement for a pledge arise as theosophical groups
seek control over an expanding group of lay theosophists who do
not take "vows of obedience" to theosophical group authority as
public speakers for the groups might be though to do?
The conflict appears to arise between two conflicting views on
the promotion of doctrine (Catholic and perhaps theosophical too).
One faction sees the job of theosophical public work to persuade
others to accept the theosophical doctrines. The other faction
sees the job as a chance to expose inquirers to a variety of views
and help them think critically about life.
Looking at situations like this loyalty oath problem in the
Catholic Church can help us better understand the theosophical
situation. Human nature is the same, regardless of the group someone
belongs to. Drawing analogies, we might be better able to understand
ourselves, and with understanding comes the opportunity for
>'Loyalty Oath' Divides Catholic Theologians
>TERESA WATANABE, TIMES RELIGION WRITER
>July 15 2001
>Glen Coughlin will sign. Gladly. Oh yes, says the dean of Thomas Aquinas
>College in Santa Paula, he fully backs the Vatican requirement for Roman
>Catholic theologians to pledge, in writing, that they will teach
>"authentic Catholic doctrine."
>Call this truth in advertising, Coughlin says: Those billed as Catholic
>theologians should accurately present Catholic teachings.
>John Connolly will not sign. Absolutely not. The lay professor at Loyola
>Marymount University in Los Angeles has devoted three decades to teaching
>theology. But he says the so-called loyalty oath, formally known as a
>mandatum, is an affront to academic freedom and would restrict his ability
>to serve Christ and his church. "It is unnecessary, unjust, un-Christian
>and a bad law," he says.
>The tale of two theologians underscores the divisions roiling the Catholic
>Church and campuses over the loyalty issue. As the nation's Roman Catholic
>bishops prepare to implement the mandatum after more than a decade of
>debate and their recent approval of procedural guidelines, Catholic
>theologians are wrestling with how to respond.
>Under the guidelines, all Catholic theologians--priests and lay teachers
>alike--at the nation's 235 Catholic colleges and universities must obtain
>a certificate from their bishop that they are in "full communion" with the
>church. They also must commit to teach authentic doctrine as defined by
>the pope and bishops and to refrain from presenting as Catholic teaching
>anything contrary to church authority.
>Promulgated because of concern that Catholic universities are losing their
>religious identity, the requirements took effect in May and must be
>fulfilled within the next year.
>For many theologians, the loyalty issue has raised profound dilemmas over
>faith and academic freedom, sparked fears about jobs and reputations, and
>created concerns of a chilling effect on robust classroom debate. It has
>also heightened tensions between Vatican orthodoxy and increasingly
>independent American Catholic theologians on a range of moral, gender and
>Some critics see a dark attempt by Rome to extend control over the
>expanding group of lay theologians, who do not take vows of obedience to
>church authority as priests do.
>In the last three decades, amid the liberal reforms of the Second Vatican
>Council, lay Catholics have flocked to the field of theology and today
>outnumber priests on many Catholic university faculties, said Kenneth
>Himes, a Franciscan priest and past president of the Catholic Theological
>Society of America.
>The Vatican installed the mandatum as part of canon law in 1983, but U.S.
>bishops essentially ignored it until 1999, when Rome pushed the issue. In
>finalizing procedural guidelines at their national conference in June, the
>bishops did not adopt any penalties for failing to obtain a mandatum.
>But some theologians are nervous at the prospect that Rome may eventually
>insist on them. And some conservative Catholic groups said they intend to
>push for consequences--including pressing bishops to publicize names of
>those who lack mandatums and remove them from Catholic theology courses.
>Other consequences could include barring non-compliant theologians from
>speaking at Catholic events, from training religious teachers known as
>catechists or from representing the church at ecumenical gatherings, said
>Chris Erickson of Catholics United for the Faith. He said his group
>planned to alert bishops to any "problem" theologians.
>"These kinds of steps will start to pinch the theologians and separate the
>wheat from the chaff," said Erickson, whose Ohio-based group claims 95,000
>members. "There are more Catholic theologians teaching contrary to the
>faith today than those who are authentic and loyal to the faith."
>Already, a controversial Web site, http://www. mandata.org, has published
>the names of theologians and their mandatum status. Connolly, for
>instance, is a marked man, with a red circle and slash next to his name,
>for his public pronouncements that he will not seek a mandatum. Mandatum
>supporters are distinguished by check marks on the site, which has been
>traced to a priest in Alabama.
>Erickson views such information as consumer aids to help students decide
>where to study and with whom. "You've got wayward theologians in there
>leading our children astray," Erickson said.
>Connolly does not see it that way. His job is not to persuade students to
>accept church doctrine, he said, but to expose them to a variety of views
>and help them think critically about them. Loyola Marymount's 4,500
>students--60% of them Catholic--are required to take two theology courses,
>such as World Religions, Buddhism, Roots of the Catholic Tradition or
>Issues in the Contemporary Church.
>Any classroom impact of the mandatum would involve the Catholic theology
>courses. In his undergraduate course, What Is Faith in Jesus Christ?, for
>instance, Connolly has introduced a variety of views on whether Christ is
>the sole path to salvation. The church position, adopted by the Second
>Vatican Council in 1964, affirms that even non-Christians who lead good
>lives can find salvation but, whether they realize it or not, must attain
>it through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
>Connolly also, however, presents a view rejected by the church: God can
>bring salvation to people through their own faiths. Connolly guesses that
>half of his students probably embrace that view but says he doesn't push
>it, although he is sympathetic to it.
>"Down the line, we could be told that you can't teach anything outside the
>church position, which would totally destroy the notion of a Catholic
>university," Connolly fretted.
>Jon Nilson, president-elect of the Catholic Theological Society of
>America, recently wrote that the mandatum would spell the end of
>independent Catholic colleges by forcing them to eschew Rome and become
>secular, or become wholly sectarian and possibly lose government funding.
>A more overt sectarian focus might drive away the large number of
>non-Catholics who attend such universities as Georgetown and Notre Dame,
>The greatest fear is that universities and colleges will eventually change
>their bylaws to incorporate the mandatum in hiring, firing, promotion and
>Thomas Aquinas President Thomas Dillon said he would enact such steps if
>Rome requested them. "We don't fear Rome; we look to the church as a
>guide," he said.
>The campus, which has 300 students, 90% of whom are Catholic, was founded
>in 1971 specifically to shore up what founders saw as a diminishing
>Catholic identity on college campuses. The school requires eight semesters
>However, Loyola Marymount's president, Father Robert B. Lawton, said he
>would not take action against theologians without a mandatum or require
>one for faculty hiring or promotion.
>"My responsibility is to protect the academic freedom of the faculty,"
>said Lawton, a Jesuit, adding that the bishops have not asked for such steps.
>Father Thomas Rausch, chairman of Loyola Marymount's theological studies
>department, said the mandatum should be seen as an expression of a "purely
>personal relationship" between the bishop and theologian. Cardinal Roger
>M. Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, has told area theologians not to be
>"overly concerned and that he would make every effort to work with us,"
>"We said, 'We have great respect for you, but what if someone else becomes
>the bishop?' " Rausch added.
>An archdiocese spokesman said the cardinal was not planning to make a
>theologian's mandatum status public, but was still developing plans on
>precisely how to proceed.
>Rausch, who said he has not yet decided whether to obtain a mandatum,
>added that the issue has created "an enormous amount of anger, fear and
>hurt" at Loyola Marymount.
>In particular, younger scholars without tenure said the mandatum will make
>them think twice about applying to teach at Catholic universities.
>Some theologians see the mandatum as part of a broad Vatican attempt to
>quash growing challenges to traditional church teachings on such issues as
>women's ordination, religious pluralism, birth control, abortion, divorce
>Charles E. Curran, a professor of human values at Southern Methodist
>University in Dallas, said he knows at least four dozen people who have
>been contacted by the Vatican to explain their views during the
>pontificate of Pope John Paul II.
>In an internationally celebrated case, Curran--an ordained priest--was
>investigated by the Vatican, declared unfit to teach Catholic theology and
>removed from his teaching post at Catholic University in 1986 for liberal
>views on human sexuality and other moral issues.
>"Under Pope John Paul II, the church has become more centralized and
>authoritarian than any time since before Vatican II," Curran said.
>Members of the Catholic Theological Society of America have clashed
>repeatedly with Rome. In 1997, the group issued a paper expressing
>"serious doubts" about church teachings against women's ordination, and
>passed a resolution calling for continued debate on the topic.
>Two decades earlier, more than 600 American Catholic scholars signed a
>letter dissenting from a papal encyclical affirming the church ban on
>Today, some Catholic theologians argue that abortion might be permissible
>for the first 14 days on the grounds that the fetus has not yet become an
>individual, personalized life.
>Others have argued that condoms should be able to be used as protection
>against AIDS, and that same-sex relationships marked by stability, freedom
>and mutual respect could be sanctioned.
>Such positions have appalled Catholic conservatives such as Erickson, who
>praised the pope for addressing a "crisis of faith" in the church. He said
>scholars who disagree are free to leave Catholic campuses and teach elsewhere.
>That suggestion makes Loyola Marymount's Connolly bristle.
>He regards himself as a faithful Catholic. The Alabama native served as an
>altar boy, attended Catholic schools throughout his years of education,
>even spent eight years studying for the priesthood.
>He decided to become a lay theologian instead, responding to what he
>described as Vatican II's spirit of openness and encouragement of a
>"living role" for laity.
>In his courses, Connolly has sought to teach that devout believers can
>still raise questions about their faith. He has prepared a letter to
>Mahony detailing legal and theological reasons why he will not seek or
>accept a mandatum. And he said he will not let his opponents drive him away.
>"I'm not going to leave the church to them," Connolly said.
>Copyright 2001, Los Angeles Times