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Theological Studies and Editorial Independence

NCR has published a report and an editorial on the Jesuit-run journal Theological Studies being pressured to run an essay without peer review. In 2004, Kenneth Himes and James Coriden co-authored an essay in TS calling for the re-evaluation of the Church's teaching on the indissolubility of marriage on grounds of a deep disconnect between the Church's doctrine and its pastoral practice. The new essay, co-authored by Peter F. Ryan and Germain Grisez, forcefully rebuts that call. Nothing new so far--theology is a discipline whose practitioners disagree, sometimes profoundly. Most of us recognize that it is precisely in the engagement with those who disagree with us that our arguments are tested and honed. Theological discourse is a testing ground for ideas, a place where we feel free to launch new ways of thinking about the tradition, trusting our colleagues to help us identify powerful new vehicles of understanding, and to help us see which of the new vehicles are just theological Edsels. Of course, recognizing the integrity and value of positions we do not hold ourselves is also a basic virtue of teaching. Good teachers do not expect ovine obeisance from our students, but thoughtful engagement with ideas. It seems eminently appropriate for differing voices to be heard in TS. What's troubling here is the apparent imposition of an essay without peer review and the consent of the editor. TS editor David Schultenover, S.J., has not confirmed that he was forced to publish this piece, but NCR reports:

After years of mounting pressures, exchanges, and at least one rejected rebuttal submission written by Jesuit Fr. Peter F. Ryan, the Vatican finally mandated that Theological Studies publish -- unedited -- an essay coauthored by Ryan and theologian Germain Grisez titled Indissoluble Marriage: A Reply to Kenneth Himes and James Coriden.

On a good day, peer review helps to insure academic merit, not by imposing ideological criteria, but through the advice of other knowledgeable professionals in the area. It need not imply editorial approval or agreement with the author's thesis, but only that he or she finds the piece worth discussion. Peer review and editorial approval are especially helpful when scholars read outside their own area of expertise, for example when a scripture scholar reads an essay in systematics. I might not agree with the thesis of a particular piece, but it's helpful to know that other scholars in that area feel the ideas are worth a look.And peer review need not shut down diversity of opinion. One of the hallmarks of TS is its willingness to publish back-and-forth from authors in the name of ongoing dialogue, with peer review at each step. Indeed, Grisez' work has graced TS' pages many times, with peer review. One of the unfortunate effects of side-stepping peer review is the risk that doing so may diminish the reception of this work by scholars leery of the process for this essay. So what to do? This essay is published with a superscript that indicates that "except for minor stylistic changes, the article is published as it was received." I'd hope for a more explicit label for pieces that are published without peer review (at least for items normally subject to that process.) That fact may not be apparent to the reader, and is relevant to the reader's--especially the non-specialist reader's--approach to the text.

About the Author

Lisa Fullam is professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).



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I can understand the hierarchy/Vatican insisting that the official teaching be published. But it seem to me that any such article should include the official *reasons* that the Vatican has settled upon that view of the issue, and the journal should tell the readers that it is an unsolicited, un-peer reviewed article. OR the journal should have the right to publish at the same time objections by peers to the article. This latter would amount to a sort of peer review, and the reader would get both sides of the issue.

First paragraph of the NCR article:

In a move some theologians say undermines the credibility of the leading English-language Catholic theological journal, the Vatican has pressured it to publish a scholarly essay on marriage, unedited and without undergoing normal peer review.

That's the only occurrence of the phrase "peer review" in the article. It says that there was pressure to publish the piece without peer review, but it doesn't actually say that it was published without peer review. Did it receive peer review - just not "normal" peer review? Or was it not peer reviewed at all? Are all articles in TS - with this single exception - peer reviewed?I don't know what to make of this. Is it a tiny intramural incident being blown out of proportion or is it something that should sound loud alarms throughout the Church?

So it really comes down to who is the final authority, who is to be the judge of whether something is published or not.The Magisterium having such authority is bad. A crowd of self-appointed "peers" having such authority is good.In short, what is advocated is papacy by "peer committee."

For people who publish in scholarly journals: how would you feel about one of your articles being published in this way? Would you be happy you've been published or would this undermine you professionally? (Should Father Ryan be saying "Thanks, but don't do me any favors?")

Perhaps the article should have been published with the notice: "We publish the following essay by request (behest? command?) of Vatican authorities. It has not been peer-reviewed.") It would be interesting to know who these unnamed authorities were. Did the order come from "the Vatican" (that vague entity) or from the Jesuit curia, or from both? In any case, they ought to be made to take responsibility for their actions.I know of one case in which TS published an article without peer-review, because I wrote it at the request of the TS editors. I suspect that the many articles on religious freedom published in TS by John Courtney Murray were not peer-reviewed. Murray himself was the editor.

Irene BaldwinI prefer to publish peer reviewed articles for the simple reason that they are taken more seriously by my colleagues. It is simply the standard in academia. For example, in a tenure or promotion process articles in popular journals or non-peer reviewed journals do not count for much. I have nothing against writing popular articles, and I have done that, but for the academy it is still the case that peer reviewed articles are valued more.I think this is a very serious matter. This journal is published for professional theologians who are able to discern whether the author's position is at variance with the dogmatic teaching of the Church. It seems to me that there was very little need to publish a rebuttal to the article in question in order to clarify what is the official teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. Such a heavy handed approach does not bode well for Catholic theology. This kind of Vatican interference is, in my opinion, chilling. I am sorry that the reputation of TS has suffered because of this intervention. I have heard that the demand came from CDF. Whether that was direct or through the Jesuit curia seems immaterial. I doubt that the curia would have interfered with TS without pressure from CDF.

I am grateful that this story was published, and somewhat surprised that none of the comments so far seem to find such an intervention problematic. I am also glad that Fr. K could fill us in on the fact that other submissions to TS are published without peer review. Given the fact that peer review seems to be dispensible, perhaps we have two separate issues here. First, the agency responsible for imposing the article. It makes a great difference whether the editors themselves are so persuaded that something needs to be published that they skip an ordinary step, or whether an outside agency comes in and uses its majesty to overrule the editors (sorry, Bender, but the Vatican is not empowered to micro-manage everything in the Church, despite your absolutist-dictatorial vision of things). Second, the extent of the objections to the scholarship used in support of the thesis (which I assume is the same in both the Ryan article that was rejected, and the co-written Grisez-Ryan article that was imposed). Why was Ryan's submission turned down? Was it poor scholarship? If whoever imposed the article that was printed in the end was determined to side-step peer review are we to assume that it too is poor scholarship? If the scholarship was sound and yet the article was turned down anyway, this leaves us with another uncomfortable question. Are the editors and peer reviewers of TS ideologues and thus incapable of fairly assessing the fitness of articles for publication? Anything can happen, I suppose, but from seeing previous clashes over ideas I would suspect that this conflict is not due to ideologues at the helm of TS but rather is part you-name-it of the Vatican's war on modernity. If this is the case, then the ideologue's shoe is on the other foot.In either instance, and even if the editors are in the wrong in their assessment of a particular article, they are not children and should not be treated as such. Having a magisterium for the Church does not substitute for peer review of theological journals. Unless we want TS to run nothing but extracts from the Catechism, we have to stand up for their right and duty to do their job without interference.

Sorry, my comment above did not take into account Alan Mitchell's comment, which appeared while I was still writing mine. Yes, other commenters do find this move problematic!

RitaI find the intervention very problematic as I had noted in the post above yours.It should also be noted that Ryan worked for Ratzinger at CDF. Perhaps his connections there may have helped him get his article eventually published in TS, but it certainly is not the ordinary way one would go about that. If I were he, I would be humiliated that this matter has been made public. His own credibility as a scholar is damaged.

RitaYou beat me to it. Thanks

All peer review means is that a proposed paper does or does not meet sufficient standards of academic rigor and academic merit. Unfortunately, in practice, it is often used by petty academic rent-a-cops to reward "rightthink" and discourage unfashionable views. I suspect that's what happened here.Regardless, being compelled to publish something is not incompatible with peer-review. What TS should have done was either note, "While this article is being published at the Vatican's behest, we attest that it meets the standards of academic merit and rigor our board normally requires for publication." Or, "While we are publishing this article at the Vatican's behest, the editorial board remains concerned that it does not meet the usual standards for academic merit and rigor usually required by this journal for publication."Failing to do either smacks of passive-aggressiveness and childishness and does more to undermine the integrity of TS than anything the Vatican could do to it.G

If I knew that Germaine Grisez had a vigorous rebuttal to an important article I would be more than eager to read it as soon as possible and in the same journal. I would suspect that a delay of years could be explained if a) the Grisez article was embarrassingly bad or, far more likely, b) the editors were excessively pedantic.

There are a number of issues in play here;1)Rita and Alan anre correct on the issues of schol;arship and how and what gets published in a major professional(in this case theological) journal.2) The issue of doctrine/magisterium and the role of the theologian has been discussed here before.Saying the magisterium says something as determenative here leads us back to3)the problem of the command/control church. CDF m.o. lovers will poo poo the event but it's in keeping with trying to shut down ciriticism/examination of just trying to do business by the status quo.4)This is quite relevant today about the topic of marriage.Those of you who saw Ray Suarez's PBS report Monday night on the changing face of marriage in the US noted that therei s major shift away from the power of the institution and away fromauthoritarian ideas, especially that love is the essence of marriage(perhaps not affected by gender considerations), that procreatiopn (not the the love and care for children, but"every act must be open to") is not the main goal, and, importantly, that marriage itself has been a changing dynamic entity and will continue to be.Given, for example, deep dissatisfaction in progresive circles with the traditional view, serious analysis in major writings would seem to be a necessity,Imposition from above(sans peer review) weakens the credibility of what's presented and reinforces the view that (as in the attack on Sr. Johnson) thin scholarship supporting a more traditionalist(if that) from some perspective is preferable.Very sad.

Let's not idolize peer review. The process can be prejudiced/slap-dashed/mean-spirited/etc. depending on which peers are chosen to review an article Some academics claim their dissenting views are never heard because their views are rejected out of hand in the peer review process, not in the market-place of ideas that is meant to guarantee competent criticism. The Joseph Epstein article I recently recommended about the current state of the Humanities is a good indication that incompetent peer review can even be endemic in a discipline, as the Sokal caper showed some years ago.See: fact is that there is no perfect process which can guarantee the truth of a proposition. (And there is a proposition that itself is making an unprovable claim.) Unfortunately, the Vatican does claim such a process (though it is unclear just what it involves. That, ISTM, is why so many people pay little if any attention to what the Vatican says..

Ryan and Grisez have issued a statement which confirms that "higher authority had to mandate publication of the unexpurgated version of our article."According to the statement, he article was sent to peer review but two of the three reviewers chosen by the journal recommended that certain parts be deleted. See the statement at

The Ryan/Grisez statement does not tell the full history of the matter. It fails to mention that Ryan submitted a rebuttal of the Himes/Coriden piece authored only by him, which was rejected by the reviewers. It is only then that the second article co-authored by Ryan and Grisez was submitted. It was accepted on the condition that it be shortened, something that is not uncommon for a journal to ask of an author of an unusually long piece.

After Tom Reese was fired by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, a lot of people wondered whether the CDF would begin to exert editorial pressure on Theological Studies. Now we know. According to the NCR story, as noted by Alan Mitchell, Ryan alone submitted a response to the Himes-Corriden piece. Only after Ryan's article was rejected did Grisez get involved. Ryan's and Grisez's statement doesn't explain how that process unfolded. Did Ryan complain to the CDF? Did the CDF ask Grisez to coauthor with Ryan another response to the Himes-Corriden essay, knowing his prestige would make it tough to assail the piece as falling short TS's academic standards? If so, clever move. After all, if you're reading a piece by Grisez, you know you're not reading an untested scholar. The question of peer review is therefore less interesting than the one of editorial control. That one can't be dodged. If TS has another set of editors in Rome, they ought to put them on the masthead.

Sorry if this is a dumb question, but I'm not a professional academic. If I write an article and wish to submit it for peer review, who chooses the peers? Does the publisher/editorial board select the peers? If I submit my piece to five different journals, does that mean that five different panels of peers would review the same piece?What I don't understand about this whole scenario is, why wasn't the Ryan/Grisez article peer-reviewed? Did the Vatican forbid peer review? Professor Mitchell, I see your note that the piece was accepted on the condition that it be shortened. That condition wouldn't be imposed by the peers, but by the editors of TS, right?

There has to be a consensus with reference to the gospel in the church. The leaders can be the spokesman for that consensus. What the consensus should be about is the Question. As I see it the agreement should be about loving one's neighbor as shown in the didactic teaching of Jesus in the Good Samaritan narrative. Second should be about the danger of riches. Cfr. Dives and Lazarus. Third the mandate to love one's enemies. It is a mandate. Fourth, the mandate to forgive, beyond 70x7 or unlimited. Fifth, to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. Another mandate. ETC.Not whether Mary is conceived without sin or assumed into heaven, whether there are three persons in God, whether the pope is infallible (he's not). ETC.See the difference between the church of the Good News and the church of dogma.

Jim Pauweis,Each academic journal has an editorial board. The members of this board are the peer reviewers. In some instances a journal may ask someone not on the board to be a peer reviewer. The editor of the journal selects which of the members of the editorial board will review the submitted manuscript, and it is usually done on the basis of expertise. So there may be three members of the editorial board who are experts in moral theology. When a manuscript in moral theology is submitted the editor will select perhaps two of those three experts to review it on the basis of who is best able to evaluate whichever sub-dicipline of moral theology is covered in the manuscript. If no one on the editorial board is competent to review the manuscript, the editor will seek competent scholars outside the board to act as reviewer. If one reviewer recommends publication, but the other does not the manuscript is usually sent to a third reviewer, who would not know the evaluations of the earlier reviewers. In most instances the author's name and any references that might disclose his or her identity are removed. Contrary to Gergory Popcack's simplistic view of peer review it is generally done in a very professional manner and, in my experience, is something taken quite seriously by members of the editorial board. It is not accepted policy to submit a manuscript to more than one journal at a time. If the article is rejected by a given journal then the author is free to submit it to another journal.Originally, it was suggested that the Ryan/Grisez article was not peer reviewed. Apparently it was and the reviewer(s) suggested it be shortened. They refused to shorten it, and that is when CDF muscled the editor to publish it as is. The suggestion to shorten the article was recommended by the peer reviewer(s) and the editor complied with it. The editor is free to follow the recommendation of the reviewer(s) or not. In most cases, an editor would follow those recommendations.

Jim, the editors choose the peers. In my field, three fellow academics, chosen by the editor because they are experts on the topic discussed, typically review the submission and send a report to the editor who then makes a decision and communicates reviews and decision to the authors. There can be several rounds, particularly when the decision is "possible accept after major revision to address the following criticisms". From the viewpoint of academia, this is a very serious matter. It does not happen in my field, where topics are not so loaded, but it reminds me of climate change publications. I seem to recall that some climate change deniers published dubious articles under suspicious circumstances (external pressure, in the gentle form of lavish money), and that the climatologist science community reacted by shunning the journal, where they now no longer submit papers and whose papers they now no longer cite in their own work. I can't remember the details, sorry.If this happened in my field, I would go after the culprit. Who exerted pressure? Then I would require that the person responsible for this corruption of power resign from their post. If unsuccessful, I would shun the journal.

Why is it a very serious matter? Because peer review (and the whole process by which editors are selected and journals build a reputation) are our best effort for a process to build science in a rigorous manner, to avoid error. An analogy would be building a construction where each step of the project has to pass some stress and safety tests before being allowed to proceed. External pressure would be someone coming in and pressuring the project manager to skip a step, either by giving him money or by threatening to fire him.

Alan Mitchell: The members of the TS editorial board are not, or at least need not be, the peer reviewers. I am no longer a member of that board and yet I receive invitations to review submitted manuscripts. Ann Olivier is right that the process of peer review is no guarantee of justice or fairness. There are philosophy journals that would not accept an article unless it follows one line of inquiry or method, e.g., the analytical or the phenomenological, even though the title of the journal might speak only of "philosophy". Certain approaches will be considered philosophical and others not. I repeat that I think the best thing would have been to append a note that the essay was being published by mandate of higher authority. Higher authority shouldn't be afraid to accept responsibility.

...the cleric--as a scholar who speaks through his writings to the public as such, i.e., the world--enjoys in this public use of reason an unrestricted freedom to use his own rational capacities and to speak his own mind. For that the (spiritual) guardians of a people should themselves be immature is an absurdity that would insure the perpetuation of absurdities. -What is Enlightenment? Kant, 1784

Father Komonchak,I thought I said clearly that editors could select reviewers who are not members of the editorial board. Take a look at my third sentence.

in the name of transparency why not list all the recent articles that have not been peer reviewed? And all of those solicited by the editor.Aside from this current article were there any rebuttals of the original article published? Or were similar submissions rejected? Or did the guild of theologians not submit any criticisms?This episode almost serves as a natural experiment - - we can see the results of a free marketplace of theological ideas a la John Stuart Mill (or theologians gone wild) vs. the results of the slightest of interventions in that playground.

Well, I have received a useful education in the details of "peer review," though I agree with Grant that editorial control (and transparency on what happened) is the core issue. That said, has anyone read the Ryan/Grisez piece (and the earlier one) and can they offer some further "peer review"? I doubt these pieces are available online. Wish they were. It sounds as though Ryan/Grisez had some direct critcisms that could be fact-checked.

Here's the original 2004 article of which Ryan/Grisez offer a rebuttal.

Cool. Thanks ClaireGrant. I'll read tonight. Alas, I'm no peer.

Lisa, you have my utmost respect. Many long time posters to this site [I consider them to be old friends] are equally superior to me intellectually. I just hope that in some way shape or form intellectual superiority might manifest itself in a greater good that benefits the least among us. Religiousity and "star power" are. at least in my humble opinion incongruent. Your opinion regarding my contention would as always be appreciated.

"Well, I have received a useful education in the details of peer review""Same here - thank you

I repeat that I think the best thing would have been to append a note that the essay was being published by mandate of higher authority. Higher authority shouldnt be afraid to accept responsibility.Fr. Komonchak,This is not a challenge. Just a request for information. Exactly what authority does the CDF have in regards to "the Jesuit-run journal Theological Studies"? Is it official authority by order of the fact that the journal is run by Jesuits? Exactly what is the chain of command? Would the CDF have no authority, some kind of authority, or the same authority over the editors of Commonweal? What about over Catholic editors of a magazine that did not identify itself as Catholic? What is the purpose of insisting that the same journal that published the original article must publish the response?

On the substance: I quickly glanced through both articles, and didn't see either referring to my favorite book by John Noonan on the topic: The Power to Dissolve. you really want to get into the question . . . whether or not you're a professional theologian, I recommend this book, which deals with the development by dealing with particular cases. It's a beach novel with footnotes, in my view. Lots, and lots, of footnotes in four languages. But you can't put it down.

Two points --The Ryan-Grisez statement says that the reasons it gave for its conclusions were the parts that were removed. If this is so, this would violates at least the spirit of scholarly criticism -- which is that views are rational only if we have reason for holding them. If that is what happened, then Ryan-Grisez do have a valid complaint.On the other hand, perhaps TS simply didn't have room for the reasons, a practical matter that can preclude the optimum operation of the scholarly system. Maybe the root problem is a practical one -- Ryan was trying to do too much in one paper. Had he submitted two better supported ones the whole brouhaha might never have happened. Or not. Sigh.

On the policy, I think there are 3 questions:1. What responsibility does a Catholic journal have, positively, to publish material defending the official teaching--especially after it was called into question in that same jouranl?2. What should it do when such material is published not through usual processes, but through the exercise of external authority? Joe has a plan, I think.3. What responsibility does a Catholic journal have, negatively, to refrain from publishing articles that call for the development of the tradition?It is one thing to say that Grisez/Ryan should be published. It's another thing entirely to say Corriden/Himes shouldn't, on the sole ground that it is arguing for a development in the teaching.And it's 3 I'm most worried about.

The ability of an academic journal like Theological Studies or a respected journal of opinion like America to select and edit materials for publication freely and without interference from outside sources is vital to its intellectual credibility. Journals run by some religious orders may be subject to pressures they find it hard to resist. They may find various ways of coping with their situation. but each instance in which their freedom is seen to have been intruded on will be likely to weaken their reputations for intellectual integrity. It must have been painful for the editorial board at Theological Studies to face such an intrusion on their prerogatives. For people who know how to read the between the lines, the little comment at the head of the Ryan/Grisez piece would have been a stronger statement than it seems at first glance. I suspect most readers of Theological Studies would understand the situation immediately. Commonweal

I have been surprised at the archaic and myopic character of articles in ThS in recent years, as if it had surrendered to some sort of swoon into old-fashioned Catholicism. The latest embarrassment is along the same lines. Grisez is a failed theologian associated with a failed encyclical and is being propped up by artificial life-support. The creepy CDF world is trying desperately to project its dead theology on the organs of Catholic teaching and publication but the whole project is exhausted. The best Catholic theology is now being done outside these contaminated institutions. Some have even become Anglicans.Reputation for intellectual integrity is easily lost if a school or review is known to labor under Pravda-like pressures. The reputation of Catholic University of America has never recovered from the Curran debacle.

The first article voices well the misgivings that the current teaching on indissolubility arouses and tests the tradition for places where a basis for yielding and development might be divined. The Ryan-Grisez riposte strikes the high note of "the teaching is either true or false" and "the church cannot have been wrong for so long" at the very start, the same sort of reasoning behind the Humanae Vitae mess.

Joseph O'learyI love you

Prof. Mitchell: It was this flat statement that misleads: "The members of this board are the peer reviewers." That simply wasn't the case when I was on the board. David Nichol: I do not know how to answer your question in this case. From earlier examples, not all of them ancient history, this might happen: An important member of one of the Roman congregations gets in touch with the superior general of a religious order and urges that something be done about a piece published by a member of that order or in a journal sponsored by that order. Some negotiations make take place, involving the superior general, the author, the journal editor, and the member of the Roman Curia. In some cases, the Roman bureaucrat is persuaded not to make things worse, and the matter ends. In another case, the author might agree to write a clarifying article. In another possible case, the editor of the journal is persuaded to publish an article critical of the first piece. In yet another, the editor is placed under religious obedience to publish such an article. It seems to be the usual practice for Rome not to deal directly with the author but to deal with the matter through the superiors of the order. To repeat, I have no idea what happened in this case.

Joseph O'Leary, tell us what you really think...But a bit of moderation would be becoming.

The debate seems to have taken the correct form. My love to all...

Fr. Komonchak,Not to labor the point, but my experience is that members of the editorial board are the ordinary peer reviewers, but not the sole ones, which I was trying to say in the third sentence. At least that is the way it was when I was on the editorial board of the CBQ for eight years. I have been asked to review manuscripts for journals whose board I am not on. So we are in basic agreement.I have it on very good authority that in this case, which may be unusual, CDF dealt directly with the editor of TS.

What Rome and Academy should know that they have similar difficulty entering heaven than the rich man. Empire and Academy do not appear as gospel favorites. Matthew 11: 25At that time Jesus said, I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 26Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight."This is the real sign of contradiction which is lost sight of. Even Thomas Acquinas realized the vanity of learning as opposed to the richness of the Good News. The wise and intelligent are still not learning from infants.

I thank God that I am neither a theologian nor a Jesuit nor a priest nor anyone subject to pressure from the Curia. In this atmosphere, one should advise anyone tempted by such paths to look for other ways to minister to the Church.

What was so threatening about the Himes-Coriden article that warranted such an apparently vigorous counter-attack, albeit belated - number of citations in 5 years, quality of argument, adoption by others, scope, authors, journal, complaints to Vatican, ? Why couldn't it have been ignored until it faded away? It is hard to believe that all journal articles calling for re-evaluation of teachings get specific responses from distinguished authors supported by pressure to publish.

Rome wins as long as we let them set the agenda and relate to its absurdity.

Regarding the exchange between Fr. Komonchack and Dr. Mitchell: different journals operate in different ways. I do not know how Theological Studies works (except that I have never been able to get them to publish anything I have submitted to them), but when I edited the journal Modern Theology we did not use the editorial board for peer reviewers any more often than we used anyone else. The role of our editorial board was mainly advisory -- helping to set strategic goals for the journal. If someone on the board happened to be the right person to review a particular submission they would be asked, but we were as likely to ask someone else not on the board. Perhaps TS works differently, but Fr. K does not seem to think so.As to the substance of the debate: I am trying to put myself in the shoes, not of the editors of TS, but of the authors of the article (in the interest of full disclosure, Peter Ryan is a former colleague and I count him a friend, though we have plenty of theological disagreements; I have never met Germain Grisez). It seems to me that Ryan and Grisez were asked to cut their article in a way that they thought undermined their argument and, to put it bluntly, make them appear stupid. They could have, and perhaps should have, simply walked away. But I imagine they also wondered why the reviewers would ask for such cuts. Two possibilities probably presented themselves: (1) the reviewers had not grasped the argument and were only concerned about length or (2) the reviewers wanted the argument undermined. If I were in that situation and had recourse to a higher authority, and I thought the issues addressed by the article were important enough to the Church. . . well, I don't think I would have pressed it, because of my phlegmatic nature. But I can understand how someone with a more choleric disposition might just grasp the nettle and press that higher authority for unexpurgated publication.Finally, as to all the high-mined talk about peer review and academic freedom, all I can say is that the academy is (and probably always has been) a snake pit with more than its share of petty, biased, underhanded vipers who will use the rhetoric of freedom and mechanisms of "peer review" (i.e. I'll send this to my friends whom I know will give the thumbs down) to exert their will to power. To a certain degree the academy is my home, but I try not to have any illusions about it.

F. C. Bauerschmidt,Despite all you say, I question why it was so important to the powers that be to have the response published in Theological Studies. It seems almost punitive to me, like requiring them to print a retraction. Ryan and Grisez could have responded to Himes and Coriden in any number of venues. Those of us who would like to read what they have to say but are not subscribers to Theological Studies will have to wait five years or so until 2011 content becomes available free on the Theological Studies web site.

I think David Nickol and Professor Bauerschmidt get at much the same thing -- this sounds very much like a power play of great intensity because the stakes are so small (even if it signals something of greater import).

Fritz,Your point is taken about the existence of petty, biased, underhanded vipers lurking in academe. And your reason for thinking that petty, biased, underhanded vipers are not lurking in the Vatican is... ?

When Theological Studies, submitting to higher authority, agreed to publish the complete and final version of the Ryan-Grisez article making the case for the absolute indissolubility of covenantal marriage, the editor requested and we provided the abstract that usually appears just before the beginning of the text. The page proofs we received, however, replaced our abstract with an unusual editors note: The article is a reply to one by Kenneth Himes and James Coriden published in our September 2004 issue. Except for minor stylistic changes, the article is published as it was received.In our next note to the editor, we said: Were concerned that the second sentence of what appears instead is misleading, for we did a great deal of work to respond to the criticisms proposed by the first group of readers assigned by TS, and we thank them in the final note of our article. If the reason for the change is to suggest that the article is being published under duress, we think it would be well to say that straightforwardly.The editor replied: As to the abstract, I decided on this briefer form because what you said in your abstract is repeated at the beginning of article, and I wanted to save space. I dont think the abstract as it stands is at all misleading. What concerned us was that the editors rejection of the first draft of the article, in May 2009, was accompanied by his lightly edited summary of the [three] referees reports.In August 2010, having received our final draft, the editor wrote: I am pleased to report that my editorial consultants have recommended that we publish your manuscript, but in a substantially reduced form. That letter included comments from two referees along with the editors proposed trimmed version, from which were excised our arguments showing that much of Himes and Coridens case is unsound and that Piet Fransens interpretation of Trent on marriage, on which they rely, is based on false factual claims.Had Theological Studies not required a mandate from higher authority to publish the unexpurgated final version of our reply to Himes and Coriden, their publication of the article would have contributed to the journal's credibility as a forum for fair and thorough treatment of vital theological controversies. As for the quality of our scholarship, we ask only that readers of the two articles set aside the fact that higher authority had to mandate publication of the unexpurgated version of our article and judge for themselves.Grant Gallicho (comment 30 above) provides good links to both articles. For the record, pace Alan Mitchell's claim, Peter Ryan never "worked for Ratzinger [or anyone else] at CDF." Moreover, Mitchell mistakenly describes the point of our article when he says, "there was very little need to publish a rebuttal to the article in question in order to clarify what is the official teaching on the indissolubility of marriage." Our purpose was both to refute the case that Himes and Coriden made for dissolubility and to offer a fresh case for indissolubility.

Peer review does have its problems. And no system can compensate for ethical corruption. But does anyone think that there is a better system, overall, than double blind review?The editorial decisions in law reviews are made by second and third year law students. It's not blind. Does any one want a shifting population of people in the MDiv program making decisions for publication?It's also true that different journals deal with different things. One wouldn't, probably, send an article about a technical point in Karl Barth to Theological Studies, or an article on a technical point of Catholic theology to Modern Theology. Journals host conversations--and one function of the editorial board is to signal the conversation going on in a particular journal.At the same time, it's probably true that being known in the field --and in the particular journal's community--helps being published. The editors at TS would do well to think twice about rejecting an article on ecclesiology by Joe K--even if some shiny upstart rouge reviewer gave it a bad review. One of the judgments that an editor makes is which reviewers to trust--which can be done viciously, as Fritz says, but can be done virtuously as well. I think one of the skill sets you develop in the field is how to do anonymous reviews in ways that are helpful to both editor and author (because we are a community.). One of the most satisfying editorial board memberships I have ever been on is that of the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics. We as a society take very seriously the obligation to provide constructive and not destructive criticism, particularly to younger scholars.I think it wouldn't be a bad idea for four or five general editors of journals to put together a session at the CTSA or the SCE or AAR on how to do a good job at reviewing articles--a task for which grad school provides no preparation.

I would be tempted to favor articles where there is a polarized response rather than a bland consensus among peer reviewers. If everyone at TS agrees that article X is state of the art, cutting edge brilliant, I'd be a trifle suspicious.

Patrick, it depends why. If you have a bunch of reviewers from differing perspectives agreeing that a particular article is badly reasoned, then that says something. Also, in my experience, some reviewers tend to be tougher on articles that agree with their ultimate position, but which they think makes the case weakly. The other question, of course, is comparative--it's like college admissions. It's not just that the article has to be good. It has to merit publication more than nine other articles, also written by people in the field. So here, in my view, the question isn't merely "is the article good"--but "does it fit the journal's conversation?"

In TS of December 2010, a "clarification" in From the Editor's Desk by Editor in Chief Schultenover addresses what sounds like a similar problem of article content raised by a 2006 Salzman-Lawler article ""Catholic Sexual Ethics". He states the intended journal policy for such cases. The rest of the page is interesting for the editor's view on how the working world of theologians has changed in a few decades. (In Sept 2010, Salzman and Lawler had been lambasted by the USCCB Committee on Doctrine under then-Abp. Wuerl for their book "The Sexual Person". USCCB addresses have been changed recently. Critique is now at - 2011-04-25 The USCCB Committee bishops declared in their conclusion: "The efforts of theologians, however, can only bear fruit if they are in fact carried on within a hermeneutic of continuity and in the framework provided by the Catholic theological tradition and the teaching of the Church." Immediately before that, the bishops wrote: "The issues treated in The Sexual Person are indeed vital matters for the life of the Church in our time. They should be thoroughly studied and discussed by theologians as part of their service to the Church and to society.") Further clarifications seem needed. Cathleen Kaveny's (09/01 - 10:39 am) suggestion of s strategic clarification session sounds essential provided it includes a bit on journals dealing with anonymous higher authorities.

Bauerschmidt vs. O"Leary at 20 paces.The issue here is not "peer review" but control! What's the phrase ,"submitting to higher authority."Over at America, Ray Schroth has a fine piece started on Weinandy and the Sr. Johnson mess and, I'd venture to say, "higher authority."The issue of peer review may have different takes from different perspectives. butthe issue of divorce/remarttoage is very real and part of the issues that are tearing apart the church in Austriaand part of the broad isues about command/comtrol, and credib!ity!I'd leave it there but I think the isue of future scolarship in the church is in question - it's already a problem IMO in diocesan seminaries.

Cathleen, I agree that there are many combinations and permutations and thousands of factors that go into good peer reviewing. Hence the weakness of my generalization, which I nevertheless still affirm. I have a bias for debate.I spent a couple of years as a graduate student editor of a fairly prestigious social science journal at the University of Chicago - - rejecting an Andrew Greeley article, which was a common occurrence, was always an education in academic politics . The editorial board members were chosen mainly for their prestige and to indicate the broad direction of research the journal wanted to pursue. But these individuals rarely reviewed; at any rate their best research years were behind them. The worker bees doing the actual peer reviewing were listed annually, both to give them some credit and to show our audience that we cast a wide net and one which was intellectually as diverse as possible. I hope TS does the same.BTW, any staff member who did not know how to sabotage the process by sending the article to the appropriate reviewers would have to be pretty naive. And as you say, the ultimate guarantee of fairness must be anchored in the ethical sense of the editors.One aim of a professional journal is to stimulate debate. Why TS would not be eager to publish a reply to the original article is puzzling. If nothing else, high level controversy improves the circulation, in both senses. If the editor has any initiative I would think he would be shopping for a response such as the one finally published. Its ironic that it took intervention from above to persuade academics of that duty.

Here are some ways in which the authors of the rebuttal could have addressed their displeasure with the editor's proposed modifications, rather than overriding the editor's judgment via an appeal to some anonymous higher authority:1) Add to their paper a link to a full version on their web pages with the complete arguments.2) Split the paper into two papers submitted separately: one would be the refutation of the case that Himes and Coriden made for dissolubility, and the other would be offering a fresh case for indissolubility.3) Withdraw their submission and publish it in a different journal. As Bob said, the issue of divorce and remarriage is very real. It provides many examples of the disconnect between official church statements and human reality. When confronted with it, it forces us to acknowledge that the church's answers ring terribly hollow, and, abandoned by our supposed leaders, we are forced to each find a way to understand the mess of human life as best as we can in the light of our personal faith and of the helpful people or books whom we might encounter on our way (perhaps those encounters are the ways in which we are rescued from being left orphaned).

Fr. Ryan --Thank you for your response. I must s that this old liberal is alarmed by the actual editing out of the *reasons* you gave for your conclusions. To eliminate reasons is to abandon rationality, so the edited version of your article must have been unacceptable by both your own and the TS editors standards of scholarship.But does that justify calling in an umpire to enforce publication by the offending journal, especially without notice that the publication was forced? I think it's a draw. Sad all around.

Patrick, I think there's a few questions here. 1. Should TS and any reputable journal publish replies to controversial articles? Yes. And TS does. If you go to their website, and google "Wildes" and "Meileander" under authors, you will find a very fine debate on the topic of end-of-life decisionmaking, which I assign to my seminar on that topic. But you will also note that each reply is about half as long as the piece to which it is replying. And that is TS's rule, as I understand it. That seems to me to be a defensible rule, given all the other people that want to publish in TS.. My own experience with TS suggests that they care as much about word count as Commonweal does--a lot. In fact (sorry, Jesuits!) one reason someone might try to publish a particular piece somewhere else is the stringency of the world count.2. Should a reply to the Himes/Corrigan piece be published in TS? Yes, of course. Are Grisez/Ryan likely candidates to do it? Yes. I teach Grisez in class too (on cooperation with evil)-though I don't always agree with him, I think it is an intellectually worthwhile endeavor to clarify for myself when and why I don't. And then Himes/Corregan should get the last word. 1, .5., .25 in length. Just like the Wildes/Meilaender debate.3. As I read the debate (and Fr. Ryan can correct me if I'm wrong), the key issue in this case was the rule about length. Is it reasonable for TS to insist on a reply complying with the generally applicable length requirements? Yes, it seems to me. Now, maybe TS could have said "I don't care how you do it, reduce your article to (say) 7k words" --maybe that would have been better. Should the CDF make a journal take a longer article than normal? What should the editor's note be in that case? Should it say, "We normally limit replies to half the length of the original article, at the CDF's direction, we are printing this reply in its entirety?" After all, if there is no editor's note, than other voluble respondents to other articles might wonder why they didn't get the same privilege. 4. Should Grisez/Ryan, be free to follow Claire's suggestion 2, and split the paper into two (critical/constructive), and submit both parts to TS? Of course. Or maybe this is the nucleus of a book on the topic.

It would be interesting to know whether the editor of TS accepts Ryan and Grisez's version of events. Not all writers respond well to being edited.Peter Ryan reproduces the statement he and Grisez issued to Catholic World Report. That statement leaves several questions unanswered. Did Peter Ryan submit a rebuttal to Himes and Coriden on his own? Did he seek out Grisez as a coauthor after his piece was rejected? How did the CDF get involved? Did anyone at the CDF see their draft article before it was submitted to TS? If so, did the CDF offer editorial suggestions to the authors? Do Ryan and Grisez know how the CDF dealt with TS?Ryan and Grisez complain that the editorial note above their article was not sufficiently straightforward. Perhaps they should take their own advice and make clear what actually happened here. Vague allusions to "higher authority" won't do.

Cathleen,I give up. I thought we were concerned with the indissolubility of marriage, not word counts.I am now tempted to suggest another solution -- the next Pope should make a vow of special obedience to the Jesuit rules about word counts. But perhaps with a Jesuitical (?) or Michelle Bachmann codicil that obedience really means respect.

Patrick Molloy: Back to the arch position so soon. And there you were having a serious discussion. Jesuit or not, editors who aren't concerned about the length of articles they publish are not doing their job.

Patrick, you say you were an editorial assistant. Word counts matter to journals. The question I thought we were addressing is how an academic journal of theology responds to discussion or debate about an issue. I showed you what TS's normal practice is on another controversial issue . . the question is whether 1) CDF interference should warrant an exception to a generally applicable rule; and 2) whether some notice of that exception should be made available to readers. I suspect that what you're really saying is that theology isn't an actual academic discipline.I should also emphasize that each "extra" piece published in TS means that one other piece is rejected--and publication in TS is usually a boost for tenure consideration in theology departments, at least in the US.

Grant --Your questions raise a question I've wondered about for years: is there such a thing as a semi-official Vatican theologian? I mean a theologian who somehow represents the CDF besides the ones at the CDF who write official documents. The interference with the editorial process at TS indicates de facto that there are.Next question: if Ryan-Grisez aren't official representatives of the CDF, then why didn't the CDF do the article themselves?

Question from the unwashed: How wide is the theological journal landscape? How many well-respected, high-end journals like TS are there? Too many to list? And is there a "conservative" counterpart to TS?

One topic that has drifted in and out of this discussion has been the question of "obedience" to Rome's teachings. What does that mean? What is it to "obey" a statement from Rome? In the ordinary uses of the terms "statement" and "command" only commands are obeyed, not statements. Statements are agreed or disagreed with depending on whether or not one thinks they are true. The only way to "agree" with a statement which one actually thinks is false is to agree with it only verbally, but that is to lie.This, it seems to me, is the most important moral issue in the disputes between theologians (and the rest of us) and Rome.

I apologize to Peter Ryan for placing him at CDF. I had confused him with another Maryland Province Jesuit, whose last name begins with the letter "R", who worked there when Ratzinger was prefect.

I should also emphasize that each extra piece published in TS means that one other piece is rejectedAlso note that the page limit is an evolving concept. More and more journals are all-electronic, and then there is no reason to have page limits to any journal issue. This concern will vanish in the near future.

Claire - " then there is no reason to have page limits to any journal issue. This concern will vanish in the near future."Beg to differ. Consider that, obviously, no one should be expostulating knowledgeably here today without having absorbed and understood the 90+ densely written, footnoted pages that caused the uproar. (At your links 8/31, 4:10, 4:12) Brevity is the soul of getting across, paper page limits or not.

Actually, both articles are pretty long--nearly 50 pages each in print, and TS doesn't have word limits on its author page, so maybe I'm wrong about them. For some reason, I thought that they shoot for 8-10 k per article.

So, which authors have the better argument?

Jack: yes. I mean, the physical constraint disappears. How that will change journals in the future, I'm not sure.David: I have no idea. Even if I read them (beyond the first couple of pages which I did look at), I still wouldn't be able to tell. Maybe some journalist could interview them and write a synthesis accessible to the general public :)

"One topic that has drifted in and out of this discussion has been the question of obedience to Romes teachings."It is unfortunate that this central issue is quite poorly developed in the comments. Obedience is to the truth. While Rome may claim some authority, all things being equal, it has to be admitted that Rome has made serious mistakes. There is just no refuting that. Do we have to go thru that list again? As a result the claim of continuity remains a specious one and can only be held if one denies reason or common sense.This carries over into non-dogmatic areas also. No way Cardinal Egan should have listened to John Paul II about staying in New York. All Catholics should know that they are not absolved from fault if they listen blindly to Rome.

And your reason for thinking that petty, biased, underhanded vipers are not lurking in the Vatican is Rita,Oh, I'm sure they're there. but I figured that for Commonweal readers (among whom I count myself) that would go without saying.

Ann's point needs stressing. The proper response to the commands or laws of legitimate authority is obedience. The proper response to a teacher, including teachers in the Church, is assent. In the case at hand, if ecclesiastical or Jesuit superiors ordered that the article be published, then this could call for obedience. The teaching on indissolubility appeals for assent. Grave harm is done to the Church and to Church authority when assent is made equivalent to obedience, or when people speak about "obeying Church teaching." To repeat: one obeys laws; one assents to teachings. Teaching is not a species of legislation.

Don't the Jesuits have some rights with respect to a journal that they produce? It is not merely an academic journal, but is one "run" by Jesuits. That means it reflects in some way on the Jesuit charism, which is guided by Jesuit superiors and has a heavy emphasis on obedience to the Pope. In that context, TS is doing a service by bringing the CDF into conversation with readers. Theology, and journals, are not abstract entities that have no relation to personal realities. They are expressed by particular individuals with particular povs, and sometimes are influenced by particular groups. TS probably has enhanced prestige because of its connection with the Jesuits, and the ability to foster this kind of dialogue ultimately will enhance that prestige.I liked Claire's suggestion that the article be split in two, but on further thought I think the TS editors did just the right thing. Cutting out the rebuttal/criticism of the earlier article, and focusing on the more constructive part of the article seems like the right way to go.

Thanks to Ann Olivier and Father Komonchak for those comments and clarifications. Very useful, I think. I find it hard to gin up the expected anger at Rome on this issue, perhaps because apart from the problem of spurning the conventions of publishing in scholarly journals -- a serious issue but one that needs more details to adjudicate, if that can be done -- the Vatican did in fact respond in kind to a debate over the teaching on marriage. They have engaged the debate, which seems to presume on their part that this is a teaching that does require assent, and cannot be settled by command. Of course, Tom Reese did that when he edited America, and we saw where that got him. But it is still better, I think, if the various arguments are put out there. Again, I have not been able to plow through both articles and am not sure I'd be able to say anything about them if I did.

The problem is that we are living through a major shift in the paradigms of anthropology, which affects marriage among other human realities. The thinkers of the world are grappling with this is many academic disciplines (law, ethics, cultural anthropology, religious studies, philosophy, psychoanalysis and psychology, sociology) and the would be deeply grateful for a coherent Christian and Catholic contribution. But the Catholic response has become totally predictable -- a focus on whatever threatens to bring change to official Catholic teaching and a dogged stone-walling and silence. The first TS article was an effort to give a Catholic response to current anthropological insights and questions. The second was defensive stone-walling.The Church is silencing itself, and remaining unhelpfully mute in face of the signs of the times and the questions of humanity. Catholic who do grapple honestly with the issues are not able to function in the formal institutions of their Church. A case in point is Charles Curran, flourishing among the Methodists.

So to say that "the Vatican did in fact respond in kind to a debate over the teaching on marriage" makes sense only if one accepts the complete validity of the old anthropological paradigm of Humanae Vitae and the documents in its wake. In fact the Ryan/Grisez article did not address contemporary questions but merely argued that for reasons of authority the church teachings were unchangeable.

And of course the procedure followed in the response was not "in kind" but the kind of strong arm tactics that have been used on many Catholic journals that have not organized independence of Rome -- Etudes, Intercom, America are among those that come to mind. There is even a question if these journals are giving honest value for money.

I apologize to Matthew and jim P. that I'm not going to cite the America or NCR(though I could mention Phyllis zagano there) websites.Unfortunately, I still think this is hardly a minor matter- got an e-mail this morning from an ex seminarian who said the ability to question anything is verboten in diocesan seminaries.From what I hear from my friends in New York and what I experience of our new deacons here(sorry Jim) who are more Roman than Rome, it strikes me that indoctrination is the name of the game and scholarship be damned.What's worse is that hierachical credibility concomitantly crumbles in the areas of sex abuse -the Lynn grand jury testimony in Philly just relaesed is shameful anfd the KC recport by its own hire is damning.In Ireland and Austria(Germany and Australia too?) things may be coming apart, but the future looks bleak to me here too in a Church not only of command and control but half truths and propaganda.I'll put my money with O'Leary on this one.

"what I experience of our new deacons here(sorry Jim) who are more Roman than Rome"Hey, Bob, God always puts us wherever we are for a reason. I feel sure that your assigned role in your parish is to knock those new guys off their pedestals :-)

This whole issue to me seems to revolve around the issue of Academia vs. Church. If a theologian writes something for publication as a academic, as a teacher whatever, and do not publish it as Catholic Theology, then Rome would have little right to say anything. However, when one dons the mantle of Catholic Theologian, and submits articles about Catholic Theology, or publishes a Journal (like Theological Studies, which is published by the Jusuits) then one enters the realm of the Ctholic Church. And the Church, the magisterium, gets to define what is "correct theology". It can forbid theologians from teaching as Catholic Theologians in Catholic Universities, and it can prevent publication of documents it percieves as in error. The Jesuit order is under the authority of the Church, so it seems logical that a jounal published by them also falls under that authority. Also, the idea of obedience, even in the face of injustice is not unheard of. One need only reference the life of Yves Congar, who was silenced, remained obedient, and played a significant role at Vatican II and became a Cardinal. Also it should be noted that the authors of the article in question have said that it was submitted for peer review.

Fr. OLeary (@ 8/31//2011 - 6:18 pm) unburdened himself of a considered judgment of Germain Grisez and his theological efforts.Grisez is a failed theologian associated with a failed encyclical and is being propped up by artificial life-support. In a feat of bilocation the ubiquitous theologian made a similar claim at Catholic World Report to which there was a reply that is worth reporting here:8/31/2011Dear Joe O'Leary, The last time I checked, I was not on life support. I leave it to those willing to read our article to judge whether I'm a failed theologian.Germain Grisez

"They have engaged the debate, which seems to presume on their part that this is a teaching that does require assent, and cannot be settled by commandDavid G --I fear that our problems aren't solved simply by distnguishing a command and an assent. Look at your statement above and the phrase "a teaching that does require assent". A teaching is a statement, but what about this "requiring" assent? If that means that the Vatican requiring a theologian (and the rest of us) to assent, isn't that the same thing as *commanding* assent? We can be commanded to do many kinds of things, and, I submit, commanding assent is one of them. But then a real problem arises. What is a theologian to do when he thinks that dogma A which Rome is requiring/commanding him to assent to is actually false? Is it even *possible* for him (or anyone else) to assent to something that he thinks is untrue? It seems to me that that is impossible, because he would have to think that dogma A both is and is not fact. The theologian migh assent verbally (i.e., repeat the statement expressing dogma A), but he would be lying, and the Church forbids that.

Following Ann's point, the distinction doesn't go quite far enough. Some qualifiers are required. As stated, blind obedience is the proper response to commands or laws from a legitimate authority, even if the particular command or law given is illegal or immoral. Similarly, assent is said to be the proper response to a teacher, even if the particular matter being taught is demonstrably in error or false. In other parts of the world, the "just following orders" justification has been found to have significant limits. Are there no situations in which the obedience or assent becomes an improper response?

"The proper response to a teacher is assent."I don't understand assent. When I teach, if the student meekly says "Yes teacher", I get frustrated. The student hasn't learned anything in any depth, and it has very little value. I want the student to dissent, raise objections, challenge my statements in every way possible, so that I have a chance to convince him and so that he finally believes what I teach, not because I said it but because he can see for himself that it is true. That's learning. (Of course sometimes the student raises valid criticisms; then I just have to acknowledge his point and we can amicably continue.)What difference does it make that I am his teacher rather than, say, his roommate? The difference is that, based on prior experience, or on reputation, or on blind trust in status, he trusts that he has something to gain from our interaction, and is thus willing to put some serious effort into listening, understanding, and challenging my claims. For me the proper response to a teacher is attentiveness in that sense.

Ann, you make a good point, but I think that can be resolved by making the distinctions clearer. I understood the assent to a teacher meaning that the teacher had made a convincing case, and hence not assenting to something made intelligible and convincing would be obtuse. Ratzinger's view on this is, to my mind, problematic. I here quote myself -- a terrible thing that requires no assent -- but easiest way to illustrate the point, from my B16 bio:

"In writing about his old seminary professor, the biblical scholar Friedrich Wilhelm Maier, Ratzinger warmly recalled how much he learned from him and how Maiers scholarship, which led to Maiers condemnation and exile from the university for many years, was now fully accepted and remains fundamental to me. Although he acknowledged that Maiers treatment was unjust, Ratzinger does not raise a finger in protest on behalf of his shabby treatment. Instead he cooly criticizes Maier for not getting past the trauma of his dismissal and harboring a certain bitterness against Rome. More to Ratzingers liking was the example of another professor of his, Gottlieb Shngen, who in 1949 argued strongly against the burgeoning movement to have the teaching on the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven proclaimed a dogma.. Asked what he would do if the pope did proclaim the Assumption a dogmaas Pius XII subsequently did in 1954Ratzinger notes with satisfaction that Shngen replied: If the dogma comes, then I will remember that the Church is wiser than I and that I must trust her more than my own erudition.

That's his take on such things. I think it raises the problems you note.

\David G. --It sounds to me as if Fr. Sohngen's final acceptance of the Assumption dogma was a matter of his being convinced that he must be have been mistaken after all. In other words, he *reversed* his initial thinking based on his even stronger belief that the Church knew more than he did. So his was not a case of needing to both accept and deny the Assumption.But in some cases, when the official Church puts something out as settled or "definitive" or whatever, the theologian/believer *cannot* honorably change his initial belief because his evidence overwhelms his trust in Rome's evidence. Perhaps he sees that Rome has contradicted itself or perhaps Rome's argument in favor of the dogma is not really supported by its purported evidence or perhaps Rome in proposing the dogma has contradicted what it says elsewhere about equally important matters. These are the cases when conscience must be followed and dissent is the honorable, virtuous course. Of course, there are people who honestly believe that anything that comes out of Rome must be true, and that if one initially disagrees with Rome then one must simply have been mistaken for some reason one does not yet understand. But as in Fr. Sohgen's case, for such people there is no dilemma because their trust in Rome changes their minds. (Where is Nancy, anyway?)Whether such belief is itself rational is another question.

David G. --Another part of the Church's intellectual heritage that needs to be honored is it' classic meaning of "conscience". Conscience is NOT a feeling that inclines one to do or not do something. Conscience is a person's best *judgment* that something ought or ought not to be done. It is a cognitive appreciation, not an affective one. Conscience is what we honestly *think* we ought to do, not what we are feel we ought to do.

David, that's a very interesting quote, thank you. If the dogma comes, then I will remember that the Church is wiser than I and that I must trust her more than my own erudition.That way of thinking is very strange to me.And who is "the Church"? If some day a near-unanimity of Catholics are in favor of the ordination of women, will that represent the wisdom of the Church, and will the pope assent in spite of his own erudition going against it? I don't think so. I think that the profound trust in that quote is in short supply these days. The Vatican does not trust the Faithful, and the Faithful do not trust the Vatican. In practice that way of thinking is now marginal and outdated, I think.Also note the "if". Assent is not required until something is proclaimed as a dogma. At that point -- is discussion closed? Is there no point in exploring the claimed dogma with an open mind any further? Does that not bind future generations to assent superficially, without the understanding that comes from honest challenges? Doesn't that result in a weakening of the faith?I live in a world where the willingness to radically question long-held evidences is the key to scientific progress -- Einstein in physics, Church-Turing in logic. The "basic truths" of science (the dogmas) must be questioned. The progress of science does not invalidate them but reveals that they are incomplete approximations, and enables the discovery of deeper truths. I can see how assent is a useful shortcut that, in the multitude of topics open to question, provides a convenient set of beliefs that free the mind for other pursuits. It would be exhausting to spend our whole time questioning everything, and it's nice to have quick guidelines when we don't have time or interest to learn about something. But that's only a convenience, not a requirement. And requiring even the erudite specialist to maintain his assent in the middle of his intellectual exploration -- isn't that stifling, limiting, and doesn't it prevent the truth from being understood? If scientists were forbidden from questioning the basic tenets of their fields, that would be disastrous.

All of this discussion is due to the reversion to the Ottavaini HJoly Office/now BXVI /CDF Church of"command/control." And, its enforcement by the JPII/Law Bishops.Resorting to authority/obedience/ magisterium arguments, like brian, is circular to the discussion.Calling someone a"failed theologian" is ad hominem unhelpful.The issue is contol. The topic (marriage/divorce etc.) desrves better attention then this kind of debates in TS nad sometimes here.

Mr. Barry: I don't see any place in which either Ann Olivier or I, in distinguishing between obedience and assent, state or imply that the first is "blind" or that the second is due "even if the particular matter being taught is demonstrably in error or false." Speaking for myself, I believed that certain things simply didn't have to be said, so obvious are they.Claire: It all depends on the subject matter. There are many things that I still believe (assent to) today that I learned in grammar school, high school, and college without ever having felt the need to investigate them on my own or prove them for myself. It's been said that very little of the furniture of our minds consists of things that we have experienced ourselves, come to understand first by ourselves, and verified for ourselves; and even those things that we did experience, figure out, and verify are intertwined with other things that we hold only by believing the reports, appropriating the insights, and accepting the conclusions of others. And there need not be anything irrational about this. In other words, there are kinds of assent. When I taught my course on Vatican II, there was much to which any student might respond by dissent, raising objections, challenging my statements, but if any one or several of the students did this at every point, it could have taken a day or a week to get beyond my very first statement: "On January 25th, 1959, less than one hundred days after he was elected, Pope John XXIII startled the Catholic world by announcing that he intended to convoke an ecumenical council." The students accepted the statement on my authority even thought they could have undertaken the laborious task of determining for themselves the truth of the many elements of this statement. Acknowledging that kind of authority in a teacher (authority = trustworthiness) need not be "meek," or superficial, or without value. That also is learning.

Father Komonchak, I agree with your examples; the kind of assent you refer to is a useful shortcut to get to the meat of the discussion. (Even then, though, the assent is tentative. The student is willing to accept the statement at its face value, for the sake of moving forward, but reserves the right to go back and revisit it if it turns out to be a possible source of critical controversy.) But I don't think that applies to the indissolubility of marriage or to any of the other "hot" topics in which people are intensely interested. I see no value to mandating assent on such controversial topics.

JAK -I agree with all you say above, but I think that Claire makes an important point, at least about learning some subjects. I mean matters of fundamental importance, such as religious and scientific knowldge. There are practical limits, of course, how far intro. courses can go into challenging the fundamentals that are the meat of intro courses. But student do need to learn that experts often disagree about at least some aspects of the fundamentals of their subjects. And at times, when contrary evidence piles up, paradigms have to be abandoned and new ones supplied. However, the new theories don't reject everything, usually, only the structuring of the data or large portions of the data that have been collected over eons.By conincidence, 10 minutes ago I finished reading an article and comments about Einstein possibly being a plagiarist and his theory being inconsistent in some aspects. One comment even cites a place in his own writings where he contradicts his initiall rejection of ether. But we don't usually hear about that. This little kink will, no doubt, take some pretty high=powered physicists to straighten it out. See, even the big guys are not beyond suspicion of error. (I've also read years ago that Galileo fudged some of his calculations, though they don't affect the big sweep of his claims.) fundamental problem, besides possible moral ones, are epistemological, I think. How and when do we know that an authority is speaking the truth? Perhaps an even more fundamental qustion is: how should theological authorities be established as authorities? E.G., why trust Rome/the bishops? and/or *when* should we trust Rome/the bishops?

JAK --Yes, there are kinds of assent. The most primitive kinds are, I suppose, those such as 'That is a red ball", or 2 is smaller than 4. These are judgments in the philosophical sense. Then there "assent" to the judgments of others as being better informed and thought out than our own, e.g., "Yes, the trouble is his appendix, not too much sauerkraut", a judgment based in turn on a complicated little process: "The doctor says that's what it is, and so I go along with him". Sometimes this use associates with it a certain grudging admission that he's most probably right and I'm probably wrong. Authorities are those whose knowledge, like the doctor's, is superior to our own, and accepted by us as such. First we judge them to be authorities, then we judge that their statements are true.Then there is the sense of "assent" as in "give in". This includes an act of the will, as is the case when we finally agree to promise something or agree to a contract or agree to allow something -- e.g., Bishop X finally assented to having altar girls in his diocese. The opposite of this term is the almost poetic old one to "nix". Bishops do a lot of nixing.

Fr. K. - Thank you for the response.I see nothing explicit or implied in "The proper response to the commands or laws of legitimate authority is obedience" to indicate that the properties of a particular law or command have, in your view, any bearing on the propriety of obedience as a specific response. I disagree based on observations of legitimate authorities in Church and State, in peace and war, and in military, science, and business. The legitimacy of the source does not ensure the legitimacy of individual pronouncements. Similarly on assent and teacher. As for assent, In some areas, wisdom based on experience leads to granting assent in degrees - maybe, probably, certainly (as far as we know at present), or equivalent. While, ideally, one's judgment to assent or not is based on weight of support presented for the matter and on foreseeable consequences of a possible error in the judgment, other influences act. Ann O raises a relevant example of the conflicted theologian at 9/2 8:22pm, although she stops short of the mental reservation option that he might have available as an escape. Resolving uncertainty is the challenge. Ignoring it leads to what I meant by "blind obedience", which leads to "It wasn't my fault. I just did what I was told."

"Resolving uncertainty is the challenge. Ignoring it leads to what I meant by blind obedience, which leads to It wasnt my fault. I just did what I was told."I agree that moral issues of obedience as well as issues of assent often revolve around questions of uncertainty. It's in cases such as this one, I think, that I think Charles Taylor's article in Crisis is so relevant to matters that *perhaps* require obedience -- or requiredisobedience. While the official Church does indeed possess general moral principles that are valid, the application of them to individual, contingent circumstances is in no case a matter of faith or morals. It follows that commands based on them are intrinsically iffy == never totally sure. I think the reason I have never been able to admire the special Jesuit vow of obedience to the pope is because the vow is a definite commitment to as yet undetermined, undescribed circumstances, circumstances which in reality could well imply that a command of a pope is a misapplication of a principle. In other words, how can you agree to something when you don't know what it is you're agreeing to? This is indeed blind obedience. But that's another thread, I suppose. Still, I suspect the issue of the special Jesuit vow *is* a factor in this dispute and no doubt was involved in Fr. Reese's troubles over at America. Complexity, complexity.

It wasnt my fault. I just did what I was told. is more properly replaced by It was my fault. I just did what I was told. I should not have trusted him.

Yes, those vows of obedience are baffling.Already in marriage vows, promising lifelong sexual fidelity is a pretty bold step. How can we make a commitment on behalf of our future self, decades into the future, when we (and our spouse) will change in unpredictable ways? In some ways that is preposterous. The Jesuit's vow of obedience is even more extreme: not only does it stretch decades into the future, but it also concerns some unknown successors to the current pope, and it is much broader than just fidelity. Both, I guess, are based on hope and on some foolish trust that those vows will turn out to be wise.

Mr. Barry: For St. Thomas Aquinas, a law was "an enactment of reason promulgated by someone responsible for a community." He also maintained that an unreasonable law was an act of violence. I took these views for granted when I wrote the sentence you cite. Clearly I shouldn't have. To be clear now: I do not favor blind obedience.As for assent, there will be degrees depending among other things on what trust one has in the person whose judgment is presented for your belief. And there is, of course, no guarantee here that one's trust will not be disappointed or betrayed. Unintelligent and unreasonable people tend to trust people they shouldn't and to distrust people they should. One of the problems with many Catholic presentations of the functioning of authority is that they seem to think that it works mechanically, that it does not require human and Christian authenticity not only in those subject to authority but also, and no less, in those who wield authority. There is no substitute for conversion, for virtue, in either group. Authority, whether sacred or secular, is not given in order to relieve us of the responsibility to be intelligent, reasonable, and responsible ourselves.

Ann O. - Parallels to science are limited in applicability. In science, truth is recognized as an ideal, a goal toward which people strive, and not a final product beyond examination, revision, or rejection. In practice, the "truths" du jour are re-examined to increase understanding and confidence in their validity and identify their limits. If this process were not routinely practiced long-term, we would still be trapped by concepts dependent on the strange notions of human biology that Aquinas adopted from Aristotle. It has been said of science that old ideas don't die out - the holders of them do - and that is how scientific intellectual paradigms change. Church authorities are selectively more reluctant to bury some old ones, notwithstanding their long history of having selectively done so. Science by its nature makes allowance for ignorance, error, and human imperfection in thinking in ways that the Church does not permit in certain areas, as the current TS discussion illustrates. (Peer review is one of the tools of the truth-seeking.)

Jack B. --Yes, science is intrinsically less than sure, and these days scientists talk about its assertions as more or less "probable". But the concept of probability itself is rather fuzzy, at least metaphysically speaking if not mathematically speaking. So what does it really mean to say that science is a matter of probability? And how shall we describe the assertions of faith -- dogma -- as probable, even less probable than scientific ones? I think not.This issue is, I think, part of that whole nebulous field of theological epistemology which, I insist, desperately needs to be charted much better than it has been. Certainty, probability, alternate explanations, the various sorts of evidence, semantic problems and problems of translation, the various sorts of competence, authority, limits of human knowledge, and some or the old topics such as judgment itself, all of these need to be worked on -- preferably by a giant of a mind. Sigh.

Fr. Komonchak - Recently nearby, you referred in passing to the distinction between political authority (the power to affect actions) and epistemic authority (the power to affect thought or belief). That and the corresponding obligations and both proper and improper options of those subject to the authority seem to me to be central to the ongoing discussion. Space precludes adequate amplification here. Is it addressed it elsewhere? Unrelated question. The Editor-in-Chief of Theological Studies aims to comply with Benedict XVI's call to "do theology 'on the frontiers' while necessarily remaining 'rooted in the center'". Vague geometric metaphors aside, how does a creative, thoughtful theologian starting work on a worthwhile question and not yet knowing her conclusions decide whether it is worth the effort since she may end up on the wrong side of the frontier as Himes and Coriden did in TS?

I think a conference that would be worth having would be how different fields deal with dissent. The idea that a law review cannot /should not publish articles criticizing a Supreme Court decision (arguably the "ordinary magisterium" of American law) is preposterous, for example.

Here is Newman's brilliant response to Mr. Barry's question:"It is the very law of the human mind in its inquiry after and acquisition of truth to make its advances by a process which consists of many stages and is circuitous. There are no short cuts to knowledge; nor does the road to it always lie in the direction in which it terminates, nor are we able to see the end on starting. It may often seem to be diverging from a goal into which it will soon run without effort, if we are but patient and resolute in following it out; and, as we are told in Ethics to gain the mean merely by receding from both extremes, so in scientific researches error may be said, without a paradox, to be in some instances the way to truth, and the only way. Moreover, it is not often the fortune of any one man to live through an investigation; the process is one of not only many stages, but of many minds. What one begins another finishes; and a true conclusion is at length worked out by the co-operation of independent schools and the perseverance of successive generations. This being the case, we are obliged, under circumstances, to bear for a while with what we feel to be error, in consideration of the truth in which it is eventually to issue."The analogy of locomotion is most pertinent here. No one can go straight up a mountain; no sailing vessel makes for its port without tacking. And so, applying the illustration, we can indeed, if we will, refuse to allow of investigation or research altogether; but, if we invite reason to take its place in our schools, we must let reason have fair and full play. We cannot use it by halves; we must use it as proceeding from Him who has also given us revelation; and to be ever interrupting its processes, and diverting its attention by objections brought from a higher knowledge, is parallel to a landsman's dismay at the changes in the course of a vessel on which he had deliberately embarked, and argues surely some distrust either in the powers of Reason on the one hand, or the certainty of Revealed Truth on the other. The passenger should not have embarked at all, if he did not reckon the chance of a rough sea, of currents, of wind and tide, of rocks and shoals; and we should act more wisely in discountenancing altogether the exercise of Reason than in being alarmed and impatient under the suspense, delay, and anxiety which, from the nature of the case, may be found to attach to it. Let us eschew secular history, and science, and philosophy for good and all, if we not allowed to be sure that Revelation is so true that the altercations and perplexities of human opinion cannot really or eventually injure its authority. That is no intellectual triumph of any truth of Religion, which has not been preceded by a full statement of what can be said against it."Do we know whether Himes and Coriden have been subject to any ecclesiastical discipline? The disciplinary actions, if I understand what has been stated here, affected the editors of TS, and have not gone beyond requiring them to publish a counter-argument to the Himes/Coriden piece.

" Let us eschew secular history, and science, and philosophy for good and all, if we not allowed to be sure that Revelation is so true that the altercations and perplexities of human opinion cannot really or eventually injure its authority."IF truth is a relationship of mind to what is, then the statement above prompts this question: whose mind is it that possesses the truth-relation to Revelation that Newman is referring to? In other words, who interprets rightly what Revelation says? Who is it who has the truth which cannot be overcome by arguments? Who is this religious authority and how do we recognize that authority when we find it?So we've ended up with still unanswered epistemological questions.

I don't see a reference to a "religious authority" in this particular text of Newman. It is revelation that is said to have authority, and I would say that revelation resides as true in those who believe it to be true, and who do so with a conviction that its truth cannot be overcome by arguments. Aquinas, for example, was convinced from the start that no argument could demonstrate anything that contradicted a truth of faith, and he was furious with those who thought that something could be true in philosophy (to which I suppose we might today add: in history, in science, etc.) and false in theology, or true in theology and false in philosophy.And would one really hold as true something that one believed could be overcome by arguments?

Newman *says* that there is Revelation and that it is known truly. My question is: by whom?? Wherein does Revelation lie truly? Given the arguments for and against different interpretations of. for example, Scripture, how does anyone know which of the interpretations is the true one, and that includes one's own interpretation?Sometimes I think the big theological problem is that on the one hand the Church teaches that faith is not a matter of proof and cannot of itself alone convince anyone of its truth -- it is not self-confirming, but on the other hand it teaches that the faith is the surest of knowledge because God guarantees it. But that begs the question -- it assumes that we know *through faith* that God guarantees the faith. It is similar to the belief of Protestants in the Bible -- they say they know thta it it is true because God says it is. Same begging of the question.

To understand the long quotation from Newman posted about four hours ago, it helps to know that it is from THE IDEA OF A UNIVERSITY, a lecture entitled "Christianity and Scientific Investigation," written for the School of Science, and immediately preceded by the following:"I am not, then, supposing the scientific investigator (1) to be coming into collision with dogma; nor (2) venturing, by means of his investigations, upon any interpretation of Scripture, or upon other conclusion in the matter of religion; nor (3) of his teaching, even in his own science, religious parodoxes, when he should be investigating and proposing; nor (4) of his recklessly scandalizing the weak; but, these explanations being made, I still say that a scientific speculator or inquirer is not bound, in conducting his researches, to be every moment adjusting his course by the maxims of the schools or by popular traditions, or by those of any other science distinct from his own, or to be ever narrowly watching what those external sciences have to say to him, or to be determined to be edifying, or to be ever answering heretics and unbelievers; being confident, from the impulse of a generous faith, that, however his line of investigation may swerve now and then, and vary to and fro in its course, or threaten momentary collision or embarrassment with any other department of knowledge, theological or not, yet, if he lets it alone, it will be sure to come home, because truth never can really be contrary to truth, and because often what at first sight is an 'exceptio,' in the event most emphatically 'probat regulam.'""This is a point of serious importance to him. Unless he is at liberty to investigate on the basis, and according to the peculiarities, of his science, he cannot investigate at all. . . ."

Newman eloquently answered no question of mine. I am aware of the process. Q: How does a creative, thoughtful Catholic theologian starting work on a worthwhile question and, not yet knowing her conclusions, decide whether it is worth the effort and potential for official criticism if she should end up on the wrong side of the frontier as Himes and Coriden apparently did in TS, 7 years ago? One individual, this year, not the global process over ages that Newman describes. Consequences of this little TS incident publicly affect the journal, editor, and 4 authors. A professional journal that can be required to print an article against its editorial judgment becomes suspect for its integrity. The editor is held responsible for what comes out. Two authors have become noteworthy and, next time they show up to publish, an editor may have cause to wonder on behalf of his journal who may be specially monitoring them for suspect publications. The other two, next time they show up to publish, will automatically raise the question of who may be behind them now pressuring publication, notwithstanding their prior reputations. I lack capability and motivation to unravel 94 pages of dense, footnoted journal. However, my wife, friends, neighbors, I, et al. have cause and right to get an honest, accurate understanding of the Church's present situation on the indissolubility of marriage. The imposition of the rebuttal after 7 years suggests something strange going on. If the situation was "No change. Business as usual.", that would have been useful. Why wasn't it?

JAK --I would say that Revelation is the supreme religious authority. But the meaning of "Revelation" with a capitol "R" needs clarification.I don't argue that the so-called "Two-Truths" theory. All truth must be consistent, or there is some problem somewhere.Yes, I think that Newman is right -- the acquisition of truth in science and any other discipline is a communal project, or, rather the *process by which it is reached* is communal. But I also have to admit that my use of "truth" just now is ambiguous. The ancients' distinctions between mental, verbal and ontological "truth" can help clarify matters, I think.Mental truth is the relationship between a mind and what is, verbal truth is a verbal expression of what a mind actually thinks is so), and ontological truth is what is so.So what does scientific "truth" mean? Well, it can mean true thoughts about what is which scientists have discovered/explained, verbal expressions about what scientists have discovered/explained, or the facts that the scientists have discovered/explained. It can also mean the sum total of all such truths established by scientists, and sometimes it even means all three sorts of things at once.And, hopefully, there are also mental, verbal, and ontological theological truths. The question then becomes; what kind of truth(s) does "Revelation" with a capital "R" refer to? Somebody's thoughts? Somebody's words/symbols? Or does it meanhe facts referred to by those thoughts and those words/symbols? I fear that Newman doesn't always make it clear which sort of truth he's referring to in the quotations above.At any rate, my original question in this context becomes: which thinker of true theologicall thoughts can be trusted to always reveal truth? I suspect that there is only one real theological authority: the Holy Spirit, and it's hard to know, just what He is trying to tell us

Prof. Grisez --Thanks for the Newman quotation. He certainly showed an appreciation of the scientiifc project. But although theology theology also is a communal project and proceeds by fits and starts, so to speak, Catholic theology (at least the theology(ies) of the popes and bishops) have a very different object, and some of the popes/bishops have made different sorts of claims for it.First, science is general knowledge, concerned with (hopefully) necessary relations among all things of one kind. Theology is concerned with contingent, singular events.Second, science proceeds by observation and experimentation. Theology does include some initial observation (the witnessing of the early Christians) but it is experimental only an analogous sense, if that.Still, the popes and bishops (at least some of them) make claims of which they are supremely certain -- even though they admit that belief is not something that can be proven. So what guarantees, or even just supports, the claims of the theologians/popes/bishops/faithful?Most particularly, how do the faithful find the religious authority(ies) they crave without begging the question I pointed out above? How to sift out the (ontological) truths presented in conflicting (verbal) claims from (authoritative) claimants?I'll say it yet again: we need a new Aquinas to develop a theological epistemology to answer these the epistemic challenges that are plaguing the Church..

Ann:I agree that much work is needed to clarify how believers in Jesus are to identify the truths they are to believe. The first question that needs to be answered is: Where is the entire divine revelation that was completed in and by Jesus? I think that the answer is: The whole of that revelation exists in the faith of the Church.That answer, of course, needs to be defended and clarified. That, however, is not a task that I discern to be mine. I still have other work to do.Not only what belongs to divine revelation but what is absolutely indispensable to explain and defend it is--unlike any merely human knowledge--sacred and inviolable. Theology should be thought about divine revelation. Insofar as such thought clarifies what is sacred and inviolable, its results are sacred and inviolable. But insofar as such thought results in other propositions, which are only more or less likely to be true, theology necessarily develops as human inquiry in general develops. (Of course, the general conditions of inquiry always need to be adapted to the subject matter being investigated.)I have three thoughts about theology's development with respect to what does not pertain to faith. (1) A great deal of it has been handed on and is received by many believers with undue deference. (2) Popes and bishops propose some--and sometimes propose too many--propositions that do not pertain to faith for acceptance by the faithful, and it is here that there is a need for religious assent that is not the assent of faith, and so also here that there is a possibility of reasonable dissent. (3) Theologians whose minds are conformed to this world regularly propose propositions for acceptance by other believers that at least implicit contradict truths that are sacred and inviolable, and in doing so claim the authority of their expertise and/or the consensus of like-thinking theologians in an attempt to legitimate their views.

Mr. Barry: Your question is: "How does a creative, thoughtful Catholic theologian starting work on a worthwhile question and, not yet knowing her conclusions, decide whether it is worth the effort and potential for official criticism if she should end up on the wrong side of the frontier as Himes and Coriden apparently did in TS, 7 years ago?"I suppose she decides this in terms of her sense of the importance of the question, of her personal scholarly aims, her competence, her willingness to risk official criticism, and many other elements that would enter into this existential decision. Newman himself postponed work on his Grammar of Assent for many years, even decades, because he knew that it would likely be misunderstood in Rome, as indeed proved to be the case to the point that well into the 20th century he was regarded by some as a Modernist. Some scholars will shrink from a fight; others seem to enjoy it. But certainly the Church does not benefit if scholars are frightened into silence on important issues. Newman's great statement of principle is often quoted, that the believer "is sure, and nothing shall make him doubt, that, if anything seems to be proved by astronomer, or geologist, or chronologist, or antiquarian, or ethnologist, in contradiction to the dogmas of faith, that point will eventually turn out, first, not to be proved, or, secondly, not contradictory, or thirdly, not contradictory to any thing really revealed, but to something which has been confused with revelation." Perhaps less often noted are the principles that will guide the representative of the "imperial intellect" in his investigations: "If he has one cardinal maxim in his philosophy, it is, that truth cannot be contrary to truth; if he has a second, it is, that truth often seems contrary to truth; and, if a third, it is the practical conclusion, that we must be patient with such appearances, and not be hasty to pronounce them to be really of a more formidable character." That plea for patience is very important, I think, and it involves both the assessment of the scientific or historical claim and the evaluation of the claim to dogmatic authority. Free inquiry and conversation will hasten the clarification needed on both sides.

Ann: Only God can neither deceive nor be deceived, and this wisdom and righteousness is what the First Vatican Council meant as the authority of God on which the act of faith rests. That Council, which is often unjustly accused of hyper-rationalism, followed the tradition in maintaining that divine revelation was absolutely necessary for truths that are either utterly supernatural (e.g., the Trinity) or state things that depend solely on the divine will (e.g., that the world had a beginning in time). Revelation is morally necessary for truths that of themselves could be known by simple human reason but because of human weakness and sin would be likely to be known only by a few, only after long effort, and only with much error mixed in (this last paraphrases Aquinas' argument) (e.g., the existence of God, the immateriality and immortality of the soul). No purely rational proofs can demonstrate the first category of truths, and in all cases the act of faith is impossible without the light and grace of God.By the way in the modern era theologians worked on what was called the analysis fidei, an analysis of the concrete way in which people come to believe. Some of these analyses were over-rationalistic [all the proofs were "objective"]; others followed Newman in giving attention to the subjective elements involved. Newman's great effort, of course, was to show how it was not unreasonable for the unlearned to believe.But another element you mention has been relatively neglected: what might be meant by the "assistance of the Holy Spirit" which is said to be promised to Church leaders in their teaching role. If, as everyone agrees, this "assistance" is not the same thing as divine revelation (we aren't to follow the pope because Jesus talked to him last night) nor the same thing as biblical inspiration, then what is it? Is it, as some have maintained, merely negative (the Spirit would not allow pope and bishops to lead the whole Church into error) or is it something positive? If so, what is it? And what is the relationship between it and scholarly inquiry? What virtues does it entail? Etc., etc.

"The first question that needs to be answered is: Where is the entire divine revelation that was completed in and by Jesus? I think that the answer is: The whole of that revelation exists in the faith of the Church."PRof. Grisez --It seems to me that "divine revelation" is ambiguous -- it can mean the symbols which reveal (e.g., the Bible), the thoughts accompanying those symbols, and the referents of those symbols and thoughts, i.e., that is the actually realities to which the symbols and thoughts refer.When you say "The whole of that revelation exists in the faith of the Church", the question becomes: "revelation" in which sense exists in the faith of the Church? If you mean the symbols themselves, then they do not exist in the faith of the Church but are independent of the faith of the Church. If you mean the thoughts, i.e., the direct meanings of those symbols, which are attached to those symbols, then we must ask: whose thoughts? Surely not all Christians understand all of the thoughts accompanying the symbols, and certainly not all understand them without contradiction.So the problem is to find whose thoughts we're talking about. ISTM that the thoughts which those symbols express are first, foremost and completely only the thoughts of God Himself. No one and no group of people have all the meanings intended by those symbols. If that were true, then there would be no development of doctrine. Yes, there is a sense in which *most*t of the Church is a repository of the meanings of the symbols (e.g., those who assent to the Creeds), but even among those who accept the Creeds, there are some which thoughts about the Creeds which are false. And we are left looking for criteria to distinguished the true meanings of the Creeds from the false. In other words, there really haven't been any universal understandings of the meanings of the Creeds (much less the Bible, etc.)Enter the question of the authority of some to interpret and/or teach what those symbols mean. (Note: to interpret and to teach are not necessarily the same thing.) I believe that Christ did indeed found an apostolic Church, meaning, among other things that the popes/bishops have a special charism to teach the meanings of the sacred symbols as best they can, OR, I would say, they have the authority (power to warrant) that certain interpretations of those symbols are what they (the bishops) think are the best interpretations of the meanings of the symbols, at least the best interpretations of the symbols so far. Now the very knotty problem of the meaning of "hierarchical authority" rears its difficult and sometimes ugly head. Entangled in that knot are threads concerning the power(s) of the bishops to interpret/teach/explain Revelation, powers which (as best I can make out), are the grounds of their authority: it is because they have special powers (graces) that we ought to trust their thoughts about Revelation. I think so. But how do they come by these graces (beyond their ordinations) and how are these powers to be exercized? And what are their limitations? Further, to what are those powers directed? Interpreting Sacred Scripture and Tradition? If their function is only to teach, where do the interpretations come from ? The theologians? Other bishops? The people of God?????And still further, how do the bishops themselves distinguish those powers -- those actions of grace within their own souls -- from their other inclinations that are not Heaven sent? (Lordy, Lordy, that's a really BIG question.) In other words: how do *bishops* know they aren't making mistakes? Not to mention the question we Faithful must ask: how do *we* know the bishops aren't making mistakes?So far as I know, no bishop claims that their charism protects them from error in their interpretations and teachings. ( Indeed, popes regularly excommunicate bishops whom they say are in error.) But the epistemological question is not answered for all that. We still don't have any fail-safe method to distinguish the bishops who are right from the bishops who are occasionally wrong.My brain is worn out, so I'll quit here :-)

At the beginning of this thread I mentioned external pressure applied to climate science journals. BBC: "The editor of a science journal has resigned after admitting that a recent paper casting doubt on man-made climate change should not have been published. The paper, by US scientists Roy Spencer and William Braswell, claimed that computer models of climate inflated projections of temperature increase. It was seized on by "sceptic" bloggers, but attacked by mainstream scientists. Wolfgang Wagner, editor of Remote Sensing journal, says he agrees with their criticisms and is stepping down."It's a different situation -- a marginally relevant journal, incomplete bibliographical references, unwisely chosen incompetent reviewers and, as a result, faulty decision by editor -- but it leads to a relevant discussion on peer review. and have a funny nugget: "It's peer review, not God review"! Very apt!!The hero there is not Newman but Feynman, and here is what they quote from him: "We've learned from experience that the truth will come out. Other experimenters will repeat your experiment and find out whether you were wrong or right. Nature's phenomena will agree or they'll disagree with your theory. And, although you may gain some temporary fame and excitement, you will not gain a good reputation as a scientist if you haven't tried to be very careful in this kind of work. And it's this type of integrity, this kind of care not to fool yourself, that is missing to a large extent in much of the research in cargo cult science. "

Claire --No doubt Feynman was talking about the same sort of self-deceptive inclinations that I was thinking of when I asked: how do the bishops themselves distinguish those powers those actions of grace within their own souls from their other inclinations that are not Heaven sent?Unless one holds that the bishops are somehow divinized by their teaching authority, I don't see how we can avoid being skeptical of their claims to always be right in certain circumstances (.i.e., their claims to infallibility at times).

We still dont have any fail-safe method to distinguish the bishops who are right from the bishops who are occasionally wrong.Ann,Isn't that what faith is? We are not certain, and are skeptical of individual assertions or even everything from a bishops, but we trust them and the God who placed them in their positions. This is a heavy responsibility to place on a person, and I am surprised anyone accepts the job, since it better for a millstone to be placed around their neck and they be thrown into the sea than for him to mislead God's children.That is probably why the gift of office is to teach, sanctify and govern, not simply to teach. These not entirely separable things, so that one governs by teaching and sanctifying etc. So teaching should not be torn out of the context of sanctifying, but must be understood as embodying the unpredictable Holy Spirit. Laws, eg a way of determining truth that does not rest on the Spirit, are notoriously susceptible to distortion and misapplication.NB saying "the whole revelation exists in the faith of the Church" does not mean it, or the understanding of it, exists within every individual. Or in any individual. It means collectively as in 1 Cor 12, where the members of the Church are compared to the members of a body. A brain is not the whole body, but the body is not whole without a brain. Revelation is entrusted to the whole Church like the human form is entrusted to a body, with interdependence rather than independence.

"Isnt that what faith is? We are not certain, and are skeptical of individual assertions or even everything from a bishops, but we trust them and the God who placed them in their positions."Well, we used to trust them. Now we know that some bishops lie easily enough, and other bishops let them get away with it easily enough. So, no, faith is not trust in bishops, it is trust in God.Neither did God ever tell us to trust in them as we trust in HIm. In fact, in Scripture we find Jesus calling the very first pope "Satan". So, no trust in the bishops is not faith."That is probably why the gift of office is to teach, sanctify and govern, not simply to teach." Yes, those are their specific functions (though not exclusive to them). And though it is undoubtedly more efficient to have all charisms in the same persons, it also allows for even greater mischief to be done by one person. We have no reason to trust that they will indeed support sanctity nor govern fairly and well. Not only graven images can be idollized.My problem with the whole truth of Revelation residing in the faithful as you put it is that you seem to think that the faithful even collectively have the *whole* truth. History shows this isn't true. At least if you grant that there is development of doctrine, it is obviously not true that all of Revelation is present whole and entire at all times in the Church. If it were, the theologians, including the bishops, could just go read the old theology books.

Ann: You wrote: "We still dont have any fail-safe method to distinguish the bishops who are right from the bishops who are occasionally wrong."First, I suspect that all bishops are occasionally wrong. Second, what would a "fail-safe method" be like? As "objective" as a yardstick that we can use to measure the length of a piece of wood? Some method that doesn't require the use of their intelligence, reason, and responsibility by limited and sinful human beings? There are no "fail-safe methods" in any area, not in the interpretation of the Bible, not in the assessment of the tradition, not in the reception of magisterial pronouncements. That notion of an objective "fail-safe" method is a myth.

JAK --I think that absolutely speaking there is precious little that is certain, and it's going to stay that way, though I would grant that there are certain simple truths that are accessible to us (e..g, a small thing is not larger than a large one), and we can know that we are now perceiving certain sensory data), but beyond those few there is no complete certainty. A fail-safe method would make all mistakes impossible, and there ain't no such animal, and, true, probably all bishops make theological mistakes.But speaking within the frame of common sense, there are some ways of sifting out many sorts of truth (reason being the primary one) that only a mad person would reject. Further, there are certain propositions which are, I would say, reasonable to accept rather than reject e.g., that man did go to the moon. But even with regard to these, there is still the possibility of error. (I wouldn't call them "more probable" than there opposites, but that's a different kettle of worms we can ignore.)Which brings us to the problem at hand: the magisterium of the Church, and how to discover when theologian is thinking what God knows to be true. As I've argued in other threads, the notion of infallibility in human beings is untenable. But, speaking within the common sense frame, it is reasonable to think that some theological views have more evidence in their favor than others, and some views are so obviously part of fundamental assumptions of Christianity that we'd be crazy not to adopt them (e.g., the Creeds). It is at this point we have to ask: if there are differing views about a subject within the Church how do we proceed to discover which of the views is the more reasonable one, the one more likely to be true? It is here that I think it is possible to use certain methods of discovery (e.g., reason, historical methods of gathering evidence, linguistic principles, psychology, etc.) which will likely take us closer to what are the true meanings of God's Revelation (the symbols, that is). These methods, and their philosophical grounding, would make up the specifics of the theological epistemology that we need so badly. Granted, the methods even when taken as a whole and as correcting each other, are not fail-safe. But it would be reasonable to try to systematize them so as to reach some agreement about how to proceed on the paths leading to Truth.

Ann,You have misunderstood some of what I have said, and I am not sure how to convey it properly. Faith entails trusting without certainty. Your active distrust of bishops is based on certainty; is in no way universal in the Church; but is a component of the uncertainty that elicits faith. It serves as a foundation for faith but also challenges it. Many have walked, or drifted, away from that challenge. Others ignore it. Some deny it. Simply, it is not simple.The old theology books do not contain Revelation. The only book that comes close is the Bible. Interpretation intervenes in either case. V2's Dei Verbum, on Revelation, defined Tradition: "what was handed on by the Apostles includes everything which contributes toward the holiness of life and increase in faith of the peoples of God; and so the Church, in her teaching, life and worship, perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes." It is not just the old theology books, which are a small part of "teaching" but also the Church's life and worship that carries the faith. That is why we can speak of Revelation ending with the last of the Apostles, and yet still understand doctrine as developing.

Ann: My objection was to your term "fail-safe". I'm glad to see you agree. Elements of your desired theological epistemology, of course, have been elaborated for centuries, even millennia--think of Vincent of Lerins. Fr. Congar wrote a very lengthy article for the Dictionaire de Thologie Catholique that was mostly devoted to the idea of theology, its methods, etc. over the history of the Church. It was long enough to make a whole book when translated into English. What is lacking is something similar for the idea of the teaching office, although he also did two preliminary articles on that.

JAK --I'm sure a very great deal has been done in the relevant disciplines, but what we need is the systematization of the findings. What we especially need are not just principles of judging theological matters (ranging all the way from hermeneutic ones relating to Scripture to psychological ones relating to the very nature of being human) but also principles which *prioritize* which principles should obtain when there is a conflict of principles. For example, in the case at issue, does the Vatican have a right to demand that TS publish a rebuttal? To say Yes seems to infringe on the independence of theologians. To say No is the infring upon the duties of the Vatican that all sides should be heard even if it takes some muscle from them.True, I'm asking for principles of prudential judgment which sounds like a contradiction in terms. But I dare say there are some such principles of *guidance* if not principles that obtain in every case. By the way, I think that the nature of "prudence" also needs a huge amount of attention from the philosopher/theologians. Like so many lingering philosophical problems it is concerned with *contingent* values, and so the topic is not entirely amenable to scientific thinking. Ethical judgments have to be a matter of *both* scientific knowledge and shall we say some sort of *art* of reaching fair conclusions not wholly based on what is necessary. Aquinas recognized this, but he didn't get very far with it, unfortunately.

P. S. What I just said doesn't even touch on the ordinary epistemological matters that ground *all* knowledge. As you might have gathered, I think the official theologians have officially ignored the most severe epistemological problems going all the way back since Hume. (See the Index of Forbidden Books.) Any new theological epistemology would have to include metaphysical and epistemic grounds of knowledge in general as well as considering the nature of religious intuitions of various sorts. The latter is a particularly knotty area, but I think that the new neurosciences could be a help in clarifying just what is natural knowledge and what is supernatural (to use an old, unpopular term). Much has been done in the philosophy of the self in recent years, and some of it could also be of help in analysing religious experience. OK, so I"m asking for a new Aquinas. No surprise there.

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