Peter Phan investigated by Rome.

Georgetown University theologian--and Commonweal contributor--Rev. Peter Phan (a priest of Dallas) is being looked at, according to John Allen:

Both the Vatican and the U.S. bishops are investigating a book by a prominent American Catholic theologian, Vietnam-born Fr. Peter Phan of Georgetown University. The book raises issues about the uniqueness of Christ and the church, issues that were also behind recent censures of other high-profile theologians, as well as a recent Vatican declaration that the fullness of the Christian church resides in Catholicism alone.


Sources who asked not to be identified said that Phan received a July 2005 letter from the Vaticans Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith signed by Archbishop Angelo Amato, the congregations number two official. It presented 19 observations under six headings, charging that Phans book is notably confused on a number of points of Catholic doctrine and also contains serious ambiguities.

The letter said the book is in tension with the 2000 Vatican document Dominus Iesus, which states that non-Christians are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the church, have the fullness of the means of salvation.

The congregation asked Phan to write an article correcting the problems identified in Amatos letter, and to instruct Orbis not to reprint his book. Phan wrote back in April 2006 offering to comply under certain conditions, and, according to sources, to date has not had a response.

Last May, Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., chair of the Committee on Doctrine for the U.S. bishops, also wrote Phan to indicate that the Vatican had asked his committee to examine the book, and that it wanted Phan to respond to an enclosed three-page set of observations. Lori indicated that the committee feels obliged to publish its own statement.

In a subsequent letter dated June 20, Lori indicated that his committees examination is separate from that of the Vatican.

According to sources who have seen the correspondence, the central issues flagged both by the Vatican and the U.S. bishops are:

  • Christ as the unique and universal savior of the world;
  • The role and function of the Catholic church in salvation;
  • The saving value of non-Christian religions.

These themes certainly are familiar. This is also another opportunity for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), and now apparently a USCCB committee, to show their cards as they attempt to dispel the "confusion" they've identified in Phan's 2004 book. If Lori was essentially ordered by the CDF to investigate Phan, why should Phan have to answer to separate investigations?

Grant Gallicho joined Commonweal as an intern and was an associate editor for the magazine until 2015. 

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