Theologians say ‘pressure’ from authority preserved article’s integrity

By Benjamin Mann

Denver, Colo., Sep 1, 2011 / 10:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Two theologians have responded to a rumor that the Vatican “pressured” a journal to publish their new article on marriage, saying Church authorities sought to ensure the work was published accurately.

Germain Grisez and the cover of Theological Studies

If Theological Studies had published, without a mandate from higher authority, the unchanged final version of their article on marriage, “its doing so would have contributed to its credibility as a forum for fair and thorough treatment of vital theological controversies,” said Professor Germain Grisez and Father Peter F. Ryan, S.J., in an August 30 response to allegations that a Vatican congregation forced the article through.

Unidentified sources told the National Catholic Reporter that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Church’s highest doctrinal office, has “been pressuring the editors at Theological Studies” since 2004, when it published an article advocating a change in Church teaching on divorce and remarriage.

Fr. James Coriden, one of the authors of that paper, told the Reporter that he “concluded (Theological Studies) had been forced to publish” Gisez and Fr. Ryan’s new work that criticizes his arguments.

In a claim disputed by Grisez and Fr. Ryan, the Reporter also alleged that “Indissoluble Marriage: A Reply to Kenneth Himes and James Coriden,” had been published not only under threat, but “unedited and without undergoing normal peer review.”

Their article argued against claims made in the 2004 Theological Studies article “The Indissolubility of Marriage: Reasons to Reconsider.” The earlier article offered “several considerations that suggest the teaching on (marital) indissolubility ought to be revised … to admit of exceptions,” in order to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the Eucharist.

“Indissoluble Marriage” appeared in the June 2011 issue of Theological Studies, stripped of the original abstract written by Grisez and Fr. Ryan. In place of the authors’ customary summary of their work, there appeared a disclaimer they had not written, saying: “Except for minor stylistic changes, the article is published as it was received.”

Prior to publication, Grisez and Fr. Ryan had complained that the disclaimer was “misleading,” since they had done “a great deal of work to respond to the criticisms proposed by the first group of readers assigned by Theological Studies.” They had submitted the article for review in 2009 and again in 2010, having made revisions in response to professional feedback.

The disclaimer printed along with the published article, however, made it appear that the article had not undergone “normal peer review,” as the National Catholic Reporter mistakenly reported on August 29.

According to Grisez and Fr. Ryan, that disclaimer appeared because they – and later, a “higher authority” in the Church – opposed Theological Studies’ editorial decision to publish their article in what the journal’s editor called “a substantially reduced form.”

That “substantial” reduction, they said, effectively gutted the article by stripping away critical facts and rebuttals.

“The editor’s proposed ‘trimmed version’ … excised our arguments showing that much of Himes and Coriden’s case is unsound and that Piet Fransen’s interpretation of (the Council of) Trent on marriage, on which they rely, is based on false factual claims.”

Grisez and Fr. Ryan acknowledged that Church authority had played a role in getting the article published with these arguments intact. They maintained that the intervention served to prevent their work from being distorted and compromised.

“As for the quality of our scholarship,” they wrote, “we ask only that readers of the two articles set aside the fact that higher authority had to mandate publication of the unexpurgated version of our article and judge for themselves.”