Canon lawyers step into Johnson saga
The head of the U.S. bishops’ conference, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, received a letter today from the Canon Law Society of America offering to help the bishops develop their processes for investigations of theologians.
The letter was written in response to criticism of the process the bishops’ Committee on Doctrine used to evaluate and subsequently condemn a book by St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God, earlier this year.
Mercy Sr. Sharon Euart, the society’s executive coordinator, confirmed the existence of the letter in a phone interview with NCR this morning. The letter was written by society president Rita Joyce on behalf of the some 1,300 canon lawyers represented by the group.
Bishops’ conference spokeswoman Mercy Sr. Mary Ann Walsh said the canon law society’s letter had arrived at Dolan’s office today. She said that Dolan would likely forward the letter to the Committee on Doctrine since “competence in that matter” is with that committee.
While today’s letter has not been made public, Euart said it was the result of a resolution passed by the society at its annual meeting in October. That resolution was printed in the September edition of the society’s quarterly newsletter, which is available online.
The back and forth between Johnson and the bishops has “focused attention on the need for appropriate procedures for … investigations of the writings of theologians,” the resolution says. The Canon Law Society’s board of governors “offers the services of the Society to the USCCB to assist in formulating appropriate procedures for the conduct of investigations into the work of theologians in the United States.” [more]