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Marquette Tribune, March 29, 2007

Theology professor under fire

By Amanda Sheaffer

Pamphlets that Marquette theology professor Daniel Maguire sent to Roman Catholic bishops last summer have provoked a response from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and other Catholic groups, which denounced Maguire's teachings last week and reignited controversy over his positions.

Maguire's pamphlets, "The Moderate Roman Catholic Position on Contraception and Abortion" and "A Catholic Defense of Same-Sex Marriage," interpret Catholic Church doctrine to permit not only abortion and contraception, but also same-sex marriage, even though these practices have been consistently rejected by Church teachings.

Maguire, a graduate of Pontifical Gregorian University, a prestigious Roman Catholic institution in Rome, is a longtime professor who teaches theological ethics.

The USCCB issued a "public correction" last week, stating that Maguire's teachings contradicted mainstream Church doctrine and teaching.

Part of the statement read: "We the Committee on Doctrine of the USCCB concur that, despite his claims to authority as a Catholic theologian, the views of Professor Maguire on contraception, abortion and same-sex 'marriage' are not those of the Catholic Church and indeed are contrary to the Church's faith."

In an interview with the Tribune, the embattled professor responded to the USCCB statement, saying, "The bishops are guilty of theological autism. They live in their own little world. They only dialogue with the hierarchy.

"They seem to think they can control the truth," he said. "I think this is false and that there are many sources of truth in the Church."

Maguire said he believes the Holy Spirit expresses its influence all over the Church, not just on the hierarchy, and that to believe otherwise is "arrogant and mistaken."

Another Catholic group, the Cardinal Newman Society, sent University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild a letter Tuesday imploring Wild to reprimand Maguire.

The letter, authored by society President Patrick Reilly, said, "Publicly condemning Maguire's dissent and affirming the university's intent to preserve the integrity of Catholic theology in all future hiring and advancement decisions might reassure concerned Catholics."

"We're asking Marquette University to ensure students have clarity about who is teaching authentic Catholic theology," Reilly said in an interview with the Tribune, pointing out that Maguire does not teach accepted Church doctrine.

The Cardinal Newman Society formed in 1993 to "renew and strengthen the Catholic identity of U.S. Catholic colleges and universities," according to its mission statement.

Marquette has a number of options to remedy the situation, Reilly said, including transferring Maguire out of the theology department, which would not violate contractual agreements or his tenure. Reilly said a similar situation occurred at Duquesne University in 2001.

The ideal situation would be one in which a Catholic institution like Marquette wouldn't have a professor who blatantly flouts Church doctrine in teaching Catholic theology, Reilly said.

"A problem at most Catholic institutions is that there is real confusion over who is actually teaching Catholic doctrine," Reilly said. "This ought to be made more clear."

The Cardinal Newman Society has been in correspondence with Wild since last summer when the release of Maguire's pamphlets started the controversy, but Reilly said he was disappointed with Wild's response.

Maguire said the society is not a group of theologians, but rather just a "strange little group of fundamentalist Catholics" who understand the Church in terms of the hierarchy.

"According to them, all you have to do to be a good Catholic is listen to the hierarchy," he said. "You're not really Catholic unless you're repeating what the hierarchy says on every issue."

The hierarchy, or Magisterium, is made up of 3,000 men and the pope, Maguire said, emphasizing that no women were included in the Church's governing body.

Brigid O'Brien Miller, director of university communication, said Wild has issued responses to the Cardinal Newman Society in the past but had not yet done so for the March 27 letter because he was out of town.

Miller said if Wild were to issue a response to the society, he would probably do so directly.

The Rev. John Laurance, an associate professor and chair of the theology department, defended Maguire's right to teach as a theologian based on his tenure.

"This is a department of Catholic theology," Laurance said. "When the Church teaches something, theologians try to explore that teaching. People take and get different things out of it.

"Theologians try to teach an interpretation of Church doctrine; that's presumably what he's trying to do."

The theology department has a number of Catholic and non-Catholic instructors who provide "all kinds of perspectives given on moral issues," Laurance said, adding that he would hope professors characterize their teaching adequately.

The Cardinal Newman Society letter suggested Marquette explicitly label Maguire and his theology as non-Catholic and not fully consistent with Catholic theology.

According to Laurance, providing such labels is not a function of the theology department.

"We (the department) don't function as the Magisterium of the Church here," Laurance said. "The department doesn't function as an arbiter of true and false doctrine."

According to Maguire, students in his class leave with a deeper understanding of Church teaching.

"They're taught that Catholic theology is a lot richer and broader than hierarchical theology," Maguire said. "A lot of students taking my course say they were thinking about leaving the Church, but then afterward decide to stay because they realize there is room for their conscience (in regard to Church teaching)."

Laurance added that because Marquette is an academic institution, Maguire is not out of bounds.

"He puts his ideas out there and people are free to judge them and he has a right to do that in a university setting," he said.

The official Marquette statement said the university agreed with the USCCB. The statement reads, "The views outlined by Daniel Maguire in pamphlets he circulated to the hierarchy earlier this year do not represent the teachings of the Catholic Church.

"Dr. Maguire circulated the pamphlets as an individual theologian, not in any way representing the views of the university."

The statement went on to defend Maguire's rights to express his views and teachings as a tenured professor.

Miller noted that Maguire does not teach any required theology courses, and that students who take his classes do so as electives.

Maguire criticized Marquette's statement in a letter to the university. He said he wondered who in the administration was daring enough to say and decide publicly that what he was teaching was not Catholic.

"I thought it was a PR move on the part of the administration and a really stupid one," he said. "They (the administration) just don't understand Catholic theology, because it allows for this view (his teachings)."

The USCCB statement noted that Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan has criticized Maguire in the past, and that Dolan has affirmed that Maguire's teachings are both "erroneous and incompatible with the Church teaching."

Maguire in return criticized Dolan, saying he was not a theologian because he did not hold a degree in theology.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee had not returned phone calls at press time.
© Copyright 2007 The Marquette Tribune

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