Father Peter Phan—whose book caused the U.S. bishops to issue a statement in 2007 saying it contained “certain pervading ambiguities and equivocations that could easily confuse or mislead the faithful”—wrote a public letter to Pope Francis defending the work of another theologian whose work is currently being investigated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).
Fr. Phan, the Ignacio Ellacuria Professor of Catholic Social Thought at Georgetown University, defended Father Michael Amaladoss, S.J., who reportedly has already agreed to endorse Church teaching in an article after a recent investigation into his writings by the CDF.
Fr. Phan’s letter appeared in the National Catholic Reporter. He wrote:
I am writing partly because I want to show support for Fr. Amaladoss, who is a friend of mine and who, I suppose, is not at liberty to defend himself publicly. But there is a much more important reason for my writing, and that is the future of the Catholic church in Asia and its theology. As you know well, the Catholic church is a tiny minority in Asia. Its mission is to proclaim the Good News of God's love -- or as you put it, "the joy of the Gospel" -- to all the people of Asia in a way that they find it understandable and believable. The Catholic church in and of Asia, through the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, has proposed to fulfill the Christian mission of evangelization through a triple dialogue with the poor people of Asia, its cultures, and its religions.
Through his long years of teaching, numerous writings, and international lectures, Fr. Amaladoss has made an enormous and lasting contribution to the elaboration of a genuinely Asian theology. But as you know, theologians in Asia do not enjoy the kind of institutional support, academic freedom of research and publication, and legal protection as theologians do in Europe and in the United States, especially if they teach at non-pontifical, non-Catholic, or state universities. Asian theologians are almost all priests and religious teaching in seminaries and church-controlled institutions. They are not protected by due process and academic freedom and can be fired at will by their religious and ecclesiastical superiors. I think that the CDF knows this well.
I am not a knee-jerk defender of "academic freedom" understood as the license to teach anything according to one's conscience and intellectual lights. I am convinced that Christian theologians must be responsible to the truth of God's revelation, the episcopal magisterium of the church, the magisterium of the faithful, and in Asia, the magisterium of the poor, as well. As a theologian, Fr. Amaladoss has fulfilled his responsibilities in teaching and writing in an exemplary fashion, in humility, kindness, and holiness.
Fr. Phan’s book, Being Religious Interreligiously: Asian Perspectives on Interfaith Dialogue, reportedly lessened the uniqueness of Jesus in salvation, which, the book indicated, could be achieved in non-Christian churches. The work is at variance with Dominus Iesus, issued by the Vatican in 2000.
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