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New York Times, March 23, 2007

Bishops Denounce Writings of a Catholic Theologian


In a rare step, Roman Catholic bishops in the United States have declared as “false teaching” two pamphlets by a Catholic theologian who argues that abortion, contraception and same-sex marriage are morally permissible under Catholic doctrine.

The theologian, Daniel C. Maguire, teaches religious ethics at Marquette University, a Jesuit institution in Milwaukee. He is a 75-year-old former priest and a prolific writer, educated at the prestigious Gregorian University in Rome, who has been challenging Catholic teaching on sexuality for years.

Last summer, Mr. Maguire mailed two of his pamphlets, “The Moderate Roman Catholic Position on Contraception and Abortion” and “A Catholic Defense of Same-Sex Marriage” to 270 Catholic bishops. In them, he argued that the Catholic position on these issues was “pluralistic,” and that Catholic theologians through history had taken a variety of acceptable stances on these issues.

The bishops’ Committee on Doctrine denounced the pamphlets as “irresponsible.” The bishops said that it was a “serious error” to claim “that the teaching of the pope and the bishops represents merely one voice among many legitimate voices within the Catholic Church.”

The Rev. Thomas G. Weinandy, executive director for the bishops’ doctrine committee, said in an interview, “The big concern was that the pamphlets are written in a very popular and lively style, and from what the bishops knew, they were very widely distributed.”

Father Weinandy said it was “quite unusual” for American bishops to formally denounce Catholic theologians, especially when the Vatican had not issued something first.

Last week, the Vatican rebuked a Jesuit priest in El Salvador who is a leading scholar of liberation theology, which emphasizes religious advocacy for the poor.

Mr. Maguire said in an interview that there were only a few thousand printed copies of the pamphlets in circulation, though the one on same-sex marriage was accessible on a Web site. He said he sent that one to members of Congress and state legislators in Wisconsin.

“They’re simply uninformed,” Mr. Maguire said of the bishops. “There is no one Catholic view on contraception, abortion or same-sex marriage. There’s a diversity of views. And it’s not just Dan Maguire versus the bishops. There’s a large school of thought that agrees with everything I’ve said in these pamphlets.”

Marquette University, responding to questions from a reporter, issued a statement saying that the university “agrees with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Doctrine that 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.”

Mr. Maguire is a tenured professor and “has rights related to his academic discipline,” it also said.

Here is the article the bishops condemned: Letter from a Catholic Theologian to All 270 U.S. Catholic Bishops

One of the pamphlets sent to the bishops: Moderate Roman Catholic Position on Contraception and Abortion

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