How Catholic is the CTSA?

In June 1997, Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston aroused great indignation by writing that the Catholic Theological Society of America "has become an association of advocacy for theological dissent" and, in fact, "a wasteland."

To assess the validity of this characterization one has only to peruse the recent volumes of the CTSA Proceedings. The latest volume, based on the 1997 convention, is a show-case example. The convention theme, "The Eucharist for the Twenty-First Century," might be regarded as a promising Catholic enterprise. But the outcome belied the promise. The convention speakers mounted a series of attacks on Catholic doctrine more radical, it would seem, than the challenges issued by Luther and Calvin.

Most notoriously, the convention put itself on record as collectively opposing the irrevocable character of the teaching that the church has no authority to ordain women. The conclusions of a committee report to this effect were endorsed by a landslide vote of 216 Yes, 22 No, and 10 abstentions. The vote was widely, and I believe correctly, interpreted as a dissent not only from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s declaration on the subject but also from the pope’s call for definitive adherence to his teaching.

The theological dissent, however, runs far deeper, as the convention addresses demonstrate. In an orchestrated chorus they rejected fundamental...

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About the Author

Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, held the Laurence J. McGinley Chair of Religion and Society at Fordham University until his death in December 2008.