The following was a message from Eric's ex-Mormon mailing list.


Mormon scholars are apparently not the only ones to feel the heavy hand of ecclesiastical conformity. Here is a news item from Deutschland Nachrichten (a weekly newsletter about German affairs, which I subscribe to, in German). I have translated it from German:


RETURN OF THE INQUISITION?

At a convention in Muenster [Germany], the German "morality theologians" have complained about the increasing censorship by the church. Their spokesman, Professor Hans Kramer, called the actions of the Vatican's Congregation of Faith, which oversees doctrinal matters, a "return to the Inquisition." Kramer said that the human rights of the theologians are being "trampled on," particularly by a recent "dictatorial" edict from the Vatican under which Catholic theologians without prior notice could lose their permission to teach.

Kramer complained that the Vatican is attempting to intimidate the theologians, while, on the other hand, giving Bible scholars "almost a free rein."

Also Professor Dietmar Mieth of Tuebingen and Antonio Autiero (executive secretary of the International Association of Morality Theologians and Social Ethicists) complained of the increasing pressure on their profession by the Vatican: young colleagues who have dealt with sexual morality too openly or critically find that they cannot get a teaching position. (In Germany, based on the Concordat of 1933, the Vatican has the veto right over appointments to teaching positions in Catholic theology at public universities.)

The tensions between the Vatican and the theologians began with a book by the German theologian Alfons Auer, which appeared 26 years ago under the title "Die autonome Moral" [Autonomous Morality]. Auer wanted to establish Christian ethics on a rational basis rather than on biblical revelation. His view was that the free, responsible, sound reasoning power of human beings should be sufficient to allow the individual to distinguish between good and evil.

Dietmar Mieth says that the Vatican instead wants to continue to force Reason "beneath the scepter of Faith, the Bible, and papally administered Grace." He maintains that the moral competency of the conscience, which was recognized 30 years ago in Vatican II, is now being denied.

Antonio Autiero went even further, when in Muenster he called the moral decrees of the Bible "intended for those times only ['zeitbedingt']" and therefore inappropriate today as a foundation for morality. Only the Bible's image of the human being is timeless, he said.

[omitted: report on the convention's position on abortion]


I was reminded of Boyd K. Packer's statement about qualifications for teaching Mormon church history:

"There are qualifications to teach or write the history of this church. If one is lacking in any one of these qualifications, he cannot properly teach the history of the Church... I will state these qualifications in the form of questions so that you can assess your own qualifications. Do you believe that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ personally appeared to the boy prophet, Joseph Smith Jr., in the year 1820? Do you have personal witness that the Father and the Son appeared in all their glory and stood above that young man and instructed him according to the testimony that he gave to the world in his published history?" BYU Studies, Summer 1981, pp 272-273.

[My note: in the same address Packer states, "There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful."]

One of the first things that made me wonder about the truth of Mormonism was the odd fact that the Mormons were so critical of the Catholic church, and yet the Mormon church was so much like it. Things apparently haven't changed.

Richard Packham


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