VATICAN CITY — The task of giving the “authentic interpretation” of the Catholic faith ultimately belongs to bishops, not theologians, a Vatican panel said on March 8.
A report written by an advisory group of theologians that answers to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said defining Catholic teaching falls chiefly to the “college of bishops headed by the pope.”
The report, “Theology Today: Perspectives, Principles and Criteria,” was prepared by the International Theological Commission but is not considered part of the church's official teaching. Nonetheless, its publication was specifically approved by the Vatican's doctrinal chief, Cardinal William J. Levada.
It is aimed at defining the principles of theological research in the Catholic Church and at exploring the limits of theologians' freedom. The issues raised by the document have recently come into the spotlight after the controversial condemnation of feminist theologian Elizabeth Johnson by the U.S. bishops.
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