Both the Vatican and the U.S. bishops are investigating a book, which raises issues about the uniqueness of Christ and the Church. Fr. Peter Phan of Georgetown University authored the book, titled Being Religious Interreligiously.
The Dallas priest and prominent theologian is a former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America. The book in question was published by Orbis in 2004.
According to a report by John L. Allen Jr., Fr. Phan received a July 2005 letter from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith. It presented 19 observations under six headings, charging that Phan's book "is notably confused on a number of points of Catholic doctrine and also contains serious ambiguities."
The central problems with Fr. Phan’s text are reportedly related to: Christ as the unique and universal savior of the world; the role and function of the Catholic Church in salvation; the saving value of non-Christian religions.
The letter said the book is in conflict with the 2000 Vatican document Dominus Iesus, which states that non-Christians are "in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the church, have the fullness of the means of salvation."
The congregation asked Fr. Phan to write an article to correct the problems and to instruct Orbis not to reprint his book. Fr. Phan reportedly replied in April 2006, offering to comply under certain conditions.
According to Allen, Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, chair of the Committee on Doctrine for the U.S. bishops, also wrote Fr. Phan in May.
The bishop said the Vatican had asked his committee to examine the book, and that it wanted Fr. Phan to respond to an enclosed three-page set of observations. He indicated that his committee would publish its own statement.