Peter Phan investigated by Rome.
Georgetown University theologian–and Commonweal contributor–Rev. Peter Phan (a priest of Dallas) is being looked at, according to John Allen:
Both the Vatican and the U.S. bishops are
investigating a book by a prominent American Catholic theologian, Vietnam-born
Fr. Peter Phan of Georgetown University. The book raises issues about the
uniqueness of Christ and the church, issues that were also behind recent
censures of other high-profile theologians, as well as a recent Vatican
declaration that the fullness of the Christian church resides in Catholicism
Sources who asked not to be identified said that Phan received a July 2005
letter from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith signed by
Archbishop Angelo Amato, the congregation’s number two official. It presented 19
observations under six headings, charging that Phan’s book “is notably confused
on a number of points of Catholic doctrine and also contains serious
The letter said the book is in tension with the 2000 Vatican document
Dominus Iesus, which states that non-Christians are “in a gravely
deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the church, have the
fullness of the means of salvation.”
The congregation asked Phan to write an article correcting the problems
identified in Amato’s letter, and to instruct Orbis not to reprint his book.
Phan wrote back in April 2006 offering to comply under certain conditions, and,
according to sources, to date has not had a response.
Last May, Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., chair of the Committee on
Doctrine for the U.S. bishops, also wrote Phan to indicate that the Vatican had
asked his committee to examine the book, and that it wanted Phan to respond to
an enclosed three-page set of observations. Lori indicated that the committee
“feels obliged to publish its own statement.”
In a subsequent letter dated June 20, Lori indicated that his committee’s
examination is separate from that of the Vatican.
According to sources who have seen the correspondence, the central issues
flagged both by the Vatican and the U.S. bishops are:
- Christ as the unique and universal savior of the world;
- The role and function of the Catholic church in salvation;
- The saving value of non-Christian religions.
These themes certainly are familiar. This is also another opportunity for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), and now apparently a USCCB committee, to show their cards as they attempt to dispel the “confusion” they’ve identified in Phan’s 2004 book. If Lori was essentially ordered by the CDF to investigate Phan, why should Phan have to answer to separate investigations?