news conference this week in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He asked that the Church withdraw the penalty, saying he never committed heresy.
On 4 January, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith formally declared that Fr Balasuriya, 72, was excommunicated and could no longer be considered a Catholic theologian. The statement, approved by Pope John Paul II, cited the theologian's positions on original sin, papal infallibility, Mary and the saving role of Christ.
But theologians around the world have expressed deep concern at the Vatican's declaration of excommunication, and several of those acquainted with Fr Balasuriya have echoed his contention that he has been judged unfairly. Some called the action unfair and said it would provoke more polarisation in the Church. Others who agreed that Fr Balasuriya's writings were off the mark questioned the harshness of the penalty. Officials at the Vatican, however, portrayed the action as a predictable consequence of a theology that is seen as downplaying Christ as the key to redemption.
The action came after four years of written correspondence between the priest and Church authorities.
While Fr Balasuriya may no longer celebrate the sacraments, he remains a priest and a member of the Oblate order unless a separate process to dismiss him from the clerical state is initiated, according to the Code of Canon Law.
See Paul Murphy, page 5 Photo: CNS