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USCCB names new executive director of Committee on Doctrine.

Today the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced that Peter Ryan, SJ, will succeed Thomas Wienandy, OFM Cap, as executive director of the Committee on Doctrine. From the press release: "Fr. Ryan has been director of spiritual formation and professor of moral theology at Kenrick-Gennon Seminary in St. Louis since January 2012. Prior to that he was professor of moral theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland, 2001-2011, and assistant professor of theology at Loyola College in Maryland, 1994-2001." He is a member of the Catholic Fellowship of Scholars, a theologically conservative group, and has served three times on its executive board. (Weinandy is also a member of the Fellowship, as well as the Catholic Theological Society of America.) Ryan's scholarly work has been published in the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, the National Catholic Bioethical Quarterly, and Theological Studies. (You can read his argument for adopting abandoned embryos here [.pdf]).

In 2011, Ryan co-authored a controversial article in Theological Studies designed to rebut a 2004 essay calling for a re-evaluation of the church's teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. The Vatican reportedly pressured the journal to publish Ryan's article unedited and without standard peer review. Its authors denied the latter claim, even though the article appeared with an editors note that read, "Except for minor stylistic changes, the article is published as it was received.” 

Plus ça change.

About the Author

Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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Speaking of actions by the USCCB, did your parish have a bulletin insert or commentary from the pulpit this past (Trinity) Sunday about the bishops' desire to have us all pray for the retention of DOMA and California's Prop 8?

I'm curious as to how successful their last-minute push was.

Also, the selection of a Jesuit to replace Weinandy ... isn't that a bit too blatant?

(I sure do like the ability to self-edit one's comments!!!!)

I'm sure he and Weinandy agree on several important issues.

(And we'll see how long that comment-editing feature lasts.)

The self-editing feature is good for those of us who are lousy proof-readers of our comments.  Or who commit grammatical faux pas.  Or who just shoot from the hip and then see how silly they sound.

Surely we weren't expecting a notorious dissenter to assume the job?  It is rather good to have a Jesuit in the post, if for no other reason than to demonstrate the diversity that the Society so warmly cultivates.

The theological sources, who asked not to be identified lest they come under pressure from the Vatican, say the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith pressured policy changes at Theological Studies.

Am I the only one who sees the contradiction, and the cowardice, in that sentence?

The more things change...

For the record, I am strongly opposed to the ability to self-edit.   Typos, grammer erros, emotional outbursts can all be accommodated on a blog, but a Matrix version of reality cannot.

How does the edit function work? I don't see an edit function after posting - only a reply function.

How does the edit function work? I don't see an edit function after posting - only a reply function.

Nor can I figure out how to delete a duplicate comment!

Mark --

This time we agree. Editing without notice is too close to "as the Church has always taught...". If you want to take something back you can always send a note saying how you've changed your mind.

I suppose US Catholics can expect more and more false theological problems with no promise of creative dialogue or greater and more mature theological vision. It will be nag, nag, nag, on contraception and other retrograde issues, and probably an even more wooden dogmatics than Weinandy's.

Joe: So many people were expecting a notorious dissenter. You hit the nail on the head. 

I can't see the edit function either.  After I type a comment, I see a "save" button which posts the comment.; I can't amke changes once I post.   But I do a see a liitle toolbar which allows  bulletting. boldface etc, of the comments.  Is that what we're talking about?

Typos, grammer erros,


Irene, and Anne C - I'm so glad it's not just me!

The man stepping down created the iConfession app for iphones to help people prepare and participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  That's a tough act to follow. 

Are you talking about Weinandy? That's not true. 

.This app from the I-tunes store credits Weinandy and another priest as collaborating on  its development.

Is it a different Weinandy?

That sounds almost like a koan.

Fr. Komonchak: Peter Ryan, S.J., is at the opposite end of the spectrum from being a notorious dissenter -- he's a notorious Roman Catholic fundamentalist. He's one of the dimmer lights in the Jesuits.


we need a "like" button.

Are all dissenters considered to be notorious?  How about Hans Kung?

NCR has an interview with Fr. Ryan this week.  To me he sounds like an improvement over Fr. Winands.  He doesn't criticize Fr. Winands, and he certainly talks Vaticanese, but he gives a bit of hope for some dialogue between the bishops and theologians:


"Obviously, under your predecessor Fr. Weinandy's time at the secretariat, the bishops' committee came into criticism from the theological societies, particularly regarding the handling of Sr. Elizabeth Johnson. As you enter the role, how do you see that now? Do you see it as part of your role to repair relations with theologians?

"I'm not really in a position to try and evaluate how things were done before. I have a great deal of respect for Fr. Weinandy, and my general impression is that he's done a marvelous job. But I can just make the general statement that it's really important to be in conversation and it's also really important to make sure that the faith is being handed down intact."

He is really promising only that he/the bishops will listen to dissenters.  But if they really mean it that would be a major step forward.  We'll see.  


Fr. Ryan was my senior thesis advisor and an important spiritual mentor to me at Loyola. He also presided at my wedding. I credit him with guiding a lot of my spiritual growth during college. He is a deeply humble man whose heart really is centered on Jesus. He is very traditional in many ways, but not rigidly so. I remember him being close friends with some other Jesuits who one could not desribe as traditional at all. While you aren't going to find him dissenting from Church teaching, he is open to the breadth of the Catholic tradition. He encouraged us to be open to charismatic prayer and he wasn't averse at all to singing folk hymns in our small prayer group. (Afterwards he would sometimes even sing us a song or two by Cat Stevens, whom he could do an uncanny singing impression of.) He would often preside at a 10:00 pm (!) weekday mass for a small group of us students. I think a lot of other priests would have thought it was not worth the effort for the small number of us that attended. But he was always willing to do it. Those masses still stick in my memory as some of the most intimate and prayerful that I have ever experienced. He would often sing some of the mass parts in Latin, but he would also invite the small group of us to stand around the altar in a circle for the eucharistic prayer. That blend of traditionalism with being very pastoral and personal is what really stands out to me about him. I think he will be very fair in his new capacity at the USCCB. He is a Jesuit with all the intellectual and spiritual formation that entails. And he is an academic. He understands the give and take of scholarly debate and what it is like to work and publish in the contemporary world of academic theology. My prayers go with him in his new role.

Thank you, David T.  That is indeed encouraging.  If only he will be *fair*, that will prevent the great scandal of treating theologians the way Sr. Johnston was treated.  Yes, some dissent needss to be criticized, but the Church is strong enought to handle it.  And if it isn't, then it has to learn to withstand unfair challenges.

What is Fr. Ryan's attitude about "the old ladies in the pews"?  Does he realize that the old ladies can also be scandalized by bishops' unnecessary rigidity and unfairness? 

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