Jesuit theologian Roger Haight, whose writings on Christology, especially in his 1999 book “Jesus: Symbol of God,” led the Vatican to bar him from teaching in Catholic institutions, has received a further punishment: The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has barred Haight from writing on theology (he may continue a work in progress on Ignatian spirituality) and he is forbidden to teach anywhere, even non-Catholic institutions. That means that at the end of the coming semester Haight, who resides at America House in New York, will stop teaching at Union Theological Seminary in Upper Manhattan.
See an update here:
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has asked U.S. Jesuit Father Roger Haight not to teach Christology at any university — Catholic or not, said the Rome-based spokesman of the Jesuits.
“He can continue to teach, but not systematic theology connected with Christology,” said Father Giuseppe Bellucci, spokesman for the Jesuits.
“The prohibition against teaching is not a condemnation and is not definitive; a committee of Jesuits, in fact, is studying the position of Father Roger, who is willing to collaborate to clarify his positions,” Father Bellucci told Catholic News Service Jan. 5.
For those of you who do not know the background to the controversy, one may look here.
Father Haight was one of my professors at Union. I read through his Christology (Dynamics of Theology, Jesus: Symbol of God, and The Future of Christology), under his supervision and with a few fellow students one summer. A short summary of his work (that he quite liked) I posted here. Why did he do this? Because we asked. And frankly, that kinda surprised him.
This ruling by the curia angers me. A lot. This hurts. A lot. I am indebted to Haight for a number of reasons — teaching me how to think theologically, a terrific example of pedagogy (I plan to follow his way of teaching in the future), and a great Christian model of humility in a process that now chews people up and spits them out.
Haight has been very quiet about the whole process. He isn’t using this in a bid for fame. The Commonweal is indeed correct particularly on Haight’s response: “I think even critics of the Jesuits or Haight’s work would have to give him (as well as other Jesuits, like Tom Reese) credit for the kind of obedience and graciousness that is too often overlooked in criticisms of the order.”
For crying out loud, he took ten years to write Jesus: Symbol of God. His life was and is dedicated to the Church, to which his current obedience attests to. He isn’t trying to ruin the Church. Do I agree with all of Haight’s arguments and conclusions? No. I don’t like Tillichian symbolism to begin with. And that is a pretty big hurdle. And frankly, its just the beginning. But this is what speculative theology does. It plays with boarders — tries out new things — kind of like a chemist in a lab experimenting with new chemical bonds.
But if the first slew of news posts were anywhere close to accurate, this isn’t the right way to handle it. It is still unclear to me if he must leave Union. But to think that Roger Haight is a danger to students at the Protestant Union Theological Seminary is absurd. Protestants at Union were and are glad to have him there. Hell, I even know of very legitimate Catholic institutions and perfectly orthodox Catholic theologians who use Haight’s three volume ecclesiology for their classes. He isn’t cancerous or infectious, he is a human being.
Again, if the first slew of news posts were anywhere close to accurate, this is too far. They’ve already taken away his title as a “Catholic theologian.” They’ve already therefore taken away any way for his christology to be officially Catholic. He has already been declared wrong in his Christology and it is printed in every single copy of Jesus: Symbol of God. This just seems like harassment now, if not punitive (as they very well may go beyond the current, “temporary” silencing). So much for the velvet gloves.