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Vatican Notification on 'Jesus Symbol of God'

1999 Book "Contains Serious Doctrinal Errors"

ROME, FEB. 20, 2005 ( Here is the text of the recent Vatican notification on the book "Jesus Symbol of God," by Jesuit Father Roger Haight. The notification, by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was published in the Feb. 9 weekly English edition of L'Osservatore Romano.

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Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Notification on the book, "Jesus Symbol of God"


The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, after careful study, has judged that the book "Jesus Symbol of God" (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1999), by Father Roger Haight, S.J., contains serious doctrinal errors regarding certain fundamental truths of faith. It was therefore decided to publish this Notification in its regard, which concludes the relevant procedure for doctrinal examination.

After an initial evaluation by experts, it was decided to entrust the matter directly to the Author's Ordinary. On 14 February 2000, a series of Observations was sent to Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, General Superior of the Society of Jesus, with the request that he bring the errors in the book to the Author's attention, asking him to submit the necessary clarifications and corrections to the judgment of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (cf. Regulations for Doctrinal Examination, Ch. II).

The response of Father Roger Haight, S.J., submitted on 28 June 2000, failed to either clarify or correct the errors brought to his attention. For this reason, and in light of the book's considerable circulation, it was decided to proceed with a doctrinal examination (cf. Regulations for Doctrinal Examination, Ch. III), with particular attention given to the Author's theological method.

After an examination by the theological Consultors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Ordinary Session of 13 February 2002 confirmed that "Jesus Symbol of God" contains erroneous assertions, the dissemination of which is of grave harm to the faithful. It was decided, therefore, to follow the procedure for an "examination in cases of urgency" (cf. Regulations for Doctrinal Examination, Ch. IV).

In this regard, in accordance with Art. 26 of the Regulations for Doctrinal Examination, on 22 July 2002 the General Superior of the Society of Jesus was sent a list of the book's erroneous positions and a general evaluation of its hermeneutical approach, asking him to request that Father Roger Haight, S.J., submit, within two canonical months, a clarification of his methodological approach and a correction, faithful to the teachings of the Church, of the errors contained in his book.

The Author's reply, submitted on 31 March 2003, was examined by the Ordinary Session of the Congregation on 8 October 2003. The literary form of this reply was such as to raise doubts about its authenticity, that is, if it was truly the personal response of Father Roger Haight, S.J.; he was therefore asked to submit a signed response.

A signed response was submitted on 7 January 2004. The Ordinary Session of the Congregation, on 5 May 2004, examined this response and reaffirmed the fact that the book "Jesus Symbol of God" contains statements contrary to truths of divine and Catholic faith that pertain to the first paragraph of the "Professio fidei," concerning the pre-existence of the Word, the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, the salvific value of the death of Jesus, the unicity and universality of the salvific mediation of Jesus and of the Church, and the Resurrection of Jesus. The negative critique included also the use of an inappropriate theological method. It was therefore deemed necessary to publish a Notification on the matter.

I. Theological method

In the Preface of his book "Jesus Symbol of God," the Author explains that today theology must be done in dialogue with the postmodern world, but it also "must remain faithful to its originating revelation and consistent tradition" (p. xii), in the sense that the data of the faith constitute the norm and criteria for a theological hermeneutic. He also asserts that it is necessary to establish a "critical correlation" (cf. pp. 40-47) between these data and the modes and qualities of postmodern thought, characterized in part by a radical historical and pluralistic consciousness (cf. pp. 24, 330-334): "The tradition must be critically received into the present situation" (p. 46).

This "critical correlation," however, results, in fact, in a subordination of the content of faith to its plausibility and intelligibility in postmodern culture (cf. pp. 49-50, 127, 195, 241, 273-274, 278-282, 330-334). It is stated, for example, that because of the contemporary pluralistic consciousness, "one can no longer claim [...] Christianity as the superior religion, or ...

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  1. clarissa abina
    6 years ago

    you have a good article.

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