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Daniel Malone wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Is the designation or title of Catholic theologian a formal investiture?

Specifically, I'm thinking of Matthew Fox who refers to himself as a "silenced theologian."

I thought that a degree in Chemistry from Harvard does not make you a professor of chemistry at Harvard but only an appointment does. I know that he was not silenced, nor formally banned, from teaching theology at Catholic universities, as he had no appointment.

So I wonder where his claim comes from.

Dan M.

  { Is the designation or title of Catholic theologian a formal investiture? }

Richard replied:

Hi Dan,

In academic use, theologian means that he's had professional training in the field. This is true enough in Fox's case. He earned a Ph.D. in theology at a respected Catholic institution,
the Institut Catholique in Paris.

And in 1988, the CDF ordered Fox not to publish any statements for a year, so it's reasonable to say that he was "silenced".

At the time, he was teaching at Holy Names College in Oakland, California.

In 1992, Fox was expelled from the Dominicans for disobedience and he became a minister in the Episcopal Church.

Maybe you are thinking about Church approval because there are two types of Church approval for theology professors, however, they didn't apply to Fox:

  1. The first type of approval, "canonical mission", is required in institutions that grant ecclesiastical degrees (STB, STL, STD, etc.) Holy Names College was not that type of institution, so this requirement didn't apply.

  2. The other type, called the "mandatum" granted by the local bishop, is required for all professors in theological disciplines in Catholic colleges. This requirement was defined by Pope John Paul II in 1979, but the USCCB took some years to develop guidelines for a process, and issued them in 2001.

In the 1980s, when Fox was teaching in California, bishops were not enforcing this requirement. Even today, this procedure remains unimplemented in some places.

I hope this helps.

— RC

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