Theological society admits sidelining conservatives

After an internal inquiry found members of the Catholic Theological Society of America sideline theologians with conservative or traditional views, the society has committed itself to work for greater inclusivity.

The society, which counts some 1400 academics among its ranks, has adopted a set of new guidelines to help members better respect “diverse theological and ecclesial sensibilities”.

The inquiry, by an ad hoc committee, found that meetings frequently “include jokes and snide remarks about, or disrespectful references to, bishops, the Vatican, the magisterium, etc. These predictably elicit derisive laughter from a part of the audience.”

The committee’s report noted that public discussions at meetings frequently display demeaning references toward conservative theologians and cites two examples: “The phrase ‘thinking Catholics’ is sometimes used to mean liberals. The phrase ‘people who would take us backwards’ is sometimes used to mean conservatives.”

The report also described a variety of exclusionary tactics aimed at more conservative members, including a failure to invite conservative theologians to speak.

As a result, conservatives felt “not only marginalised but unwelcome”.

In its conclusion, the report says: “In sum, the self-conception of many members that the CTSA is open to all Catholic theologians is faulty and self-deceptive. As one of our members put it, the CTSA is a group of liberal theologians and ‘this permeates virtually everything’.

“Because the CTSA does not aspire to be a partisan group, both attitudes and practices will have to shift if the CTSA is to become the place where all perspectives within Catholic theology in North America are welcome.”

The society’s president, Richard Gaillardetz, explained in a letter to the members that while the board does not share all of the concerns of the committee’s findings, the report is still “an opportunity for an examination of conscience regarding our treatment of colleagues whose theological and ecclesial commitments differ substantially from our own.”

He added: “The Catholic Theological Society of America should aspire to be a ‘big tent’ professional society that models in its attitudes and policies a commitment to the full catholicity of our theological tradition.”


National Catholic Reporter

National Catholic Reporter

Catholic News Agency

Image: National Catholic Reporter

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