Roger Haight, Jesuit theologian and past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, wrote Jesus: Symbol of God, which rejects the same literal beliefs I reject in God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky—that Jesus is God and his death saved the world. Predictably, Haight was punished by the Vatican’s doctrinal agency that Joseph Ratzinger headed before he became Benedict XVI.
Critics of Haight’s theology complain that it promotes relativism and religious pluralism, which accept the validity of other beliefs. One critic said that Haight reduces the Christian message to something even atheists can affirm, and Ratzinger condemned religious pluralism as the most dangerous movement in Catholic thought today.
But Haight's theology appeals to me precisely because of its relativism and pluralism. We should admit that our way of seeing things is not absolute; it is merely one good set of images that mediate spiritual reality, but it cannot define that reality. Admitting this does not mean abandoning our tradition.
In over-reaction to secular challenges, the Church veers toward literal belief. It fails to distinguish the symbol and myth of Christ from the man Jesus, whose teachings have universal appeal, even to atheists. Understood symbolically, Christian doctrine meshes well with other beliefs, including those of atheists. It becomes universal once we can get over the silly exclusivism and triumphalism.
In a homily that could have been appropriate for Trinity Sunday on May 30, Fr. Dale Launderville stated:
The reality of the divine life is relational; it is dynamic. It is the union of distinct persons who joyfully go forth from one to the other and find their life in such self-communication. This love of the Trinity is the perfect community.Yes. It nicely resonates with a myriad other Trinitarian images—Goddess, Buddhist, Hindu, and so on, all expressing with a three-fold image the universal truth of unity in diversity. But this symbolic interpretation is accepted by the Vatican only if it refers exclusively to the Christian terms of Father/Son/Holy Spirit, 3 guys in the sky.
Isn’t it sad that what terrifies Catholic officialdom is losing superiority, losing belief that ours is the one and only true faith? To be most joyfully relational and dynamic, let’s drop the superior attitude and respect other belief systems as equally legitimate instead of insisting we have the one and only true faith. How is this dangerous?
In response came this email:
Good job, Jeanette.It’s significant that this, like much of my support, comes from Catholic religious women. One, for instance, frequently says my writings nourish her.
I think the CC claim’s claim to superiority and absolutism is another sign of patriarchy. More and more I believe that patriarchy is a root cause of bad theology, morality and spirituality.
It will crash one of these years… Peace,
I feel like one grain of sand participating in the shift away from patriarchy. It’s how I explain the drive inside to keep writing about it.