Us theologian banned by Vatican
by Desmond O'Grady in Rome THE Vatican has decided that the controversial American moral theologian Fr Charles Curran is no longer "suitable nor eligible to exercise the function of Catholic theology". Fr Curran, a professor at the Catholic University of America, was notified by a letter last month. The decision was made public on Tuesday.
Announcing the decision, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that it had Pope John Paul's personal approval. It effectively ends Fr Curran's career at the university where theologians work under church mandate because graduate religious degrees are granted under a papal charter.
After meeting top Vatican officials in March, Fr Curran refused to back down or renounce his acceptance under certain circumstances of artificial birth control, homosexual acts, masturbation, pre-marital sex and divorce. "I remain convinced of the truthfulness of these positions at this time".
In view of the stance of the two sides, Fr Curran suggested a compromise in April whereby he
would continue to teach moral theology but would steer clear of the area of sexual ethics. Such a compromise was unacceptable, the cardinal said "because of the organic unity of authentic Catholic theology, a unity which in its contents and method is intimately bound to fidelity to the Church's magisterium."
In his letter Cardinal Ratzinger expressed the hope that "this regrettable, but necessary outcome . . . might move you to consider your dissenting positions and to accept in its fullness" the teaching of the Catholic Church.
Fr Curran has claimed that his criticised views were responsible dissent, as they diverged only from the non-fallible teaching of the Church. The congregation replied that the authentic magesterium is not confined to infallible teachings.
In his letter, Cardinal Ratzinger also noted Fr Curran's demand to know who his accusers were. "Your own works have been your 'accusers' and they alone", he told him.
Fr Curran is the fourth celebrated theologian to fall foul of Rome since Pope John Paul was elected in 1978. In 1980 Fr Hans Kung was deprived of his permission to teach Catholic theology at the German University of Tuebingen. He had repeatedly questioned papal infallibility.
Then the Vatican launched an inquiry into the views of Belgian-born Dominican, Fr Edward Schillebeeckx which ended with the priest agreeing to modify some of his views. Two years ago Fr Leonardo Boff OFM, the Brazilian liberation theologian was silenced for a year.
Writing in a Jesuit magazine last year, Fr Curran said that it was "simplistic and wrong to defend older Catholic teachings on specific issues, such as contraception and sterilisation, as truths of faith opposed to the evils of the modern world".
Fr Curran was once fired by his university in 1967, but was reinstated following a campuswide faculty and student strike.
• Two booklets on homosexuality and confession, published by Veritas, have been withdrawn from sale at the company's Dublin bookshops at the request of the Archbishop, Kevin McNamara. Veritas is part of the bishops' conference of Ireland.
The booklet on homosexuality, Understanding the Homosexual by Fr Raphael Gallagher, a lecturer at the Jesuit Institute of Theology and Philosophy at Milltown Park, urged sympathetic understanding of homosexuals and an end to prejudice, and as such was largely in line with the bishops' own treatment of the subject in the 1985 pastoral letter, Love is For Life. The booklets remain on sale at Veritas outlets outside Dublin.