Dr. Fastiggi Responds to Gaillardetz’s Letter

Monday October 5, 2009

Dear John,

Thank you again for alerting me to your website and the controversy surrounding Dr. Richard Gaillardetz’s appearance at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Assembly, Oct. 19-23. I have read through Dr. Richard Gaillardetz’s letter to Archbishop Weisgerber, and I have decided that I too must write to the Archbishop.  Gaillardetz obviously has my comments in mind when he refers to “a misleading document” containing misrepresentations of his views that “can only be seen as intentional and malicious.” Since my name is associated with this document, I certainly must defend myself before the Archbishop because Gaillardetz has taken it upon himself to impugn my motives.

I should first explain that I never intended my comments on the three books by Gaillardetz to “float” around the Internet. I shared them with one friend who asked for my opinion on Gaillardetz. Now, however, I realize that my comments have been made available to the public. It’s, therefore, important that I offer a few observations:

1)      I read through all my comments on Gaillardetz’s three books, and I checked the actual texts in question. I stand by all my prior comments except for one that needs qualification.  I had noted that, on p. 169 of his book, Witnesses to Faith (1992), Gaillardetz, in presenting Lumen gentium, 12 as the model for the infallibility of the sensus fidelium, leaves out the phrase “guided by the sacred Magisterium and obeying it.” In fact, he does cite this phrase using a different (and I would say weaker) translation. He does, however, leave out the phrase of LG, 12, which states that from the Magisterium, the faithful receive “not just the word of men but truly the Word of God (cf. 1 Thes 2:13).” My overall point, though, is still valid: Gaillardetz does not pay sufficient attention to how the “infallibility in believing” of the People of God can only be exercised in faithful obsequium to the Magisterium.

2)      Gaillardetz informs Archbishop Weisgerber that I suggest he agrees with Hans Küng in his rejection of Vatican I’s teaching on papal infallibility. I never say or suggest any such thing. I merely state accurately that, “Gaillardetz (on p. 149 of Teaching with Authority) endorses, in part, Hans Küng’s analysis of infallibility.” I then go on to quote Gaillardetz’s own words where he states that, “Küng rightly criticizes the linguistic impossibility of infallible propositions – human formulations that are immune from error.”  This is a direct quote that explains what part of Küng’s analysis of infallibility Gaillardetz accepts. I then go on to explain the problematic implications of this aspect of Küng’s analysis. I fail to see how this translates into a suggestion that Gaillardetz agrees entirely with Küng’s rejection of Vatican I’s teaching on infallibility. For Gaillardetz to accuse me of such a suggestion is simply unfair and inaccurate.

3)      In his letter to Archbishop Wesigerber, Gaillardetz explains that he does not deny that there are “non-defined dogmas” that pertain to morals but only that there are no ‘solemnly defined” dogmas that pertain to morals. Gailladetz is open to criticism on several counts here. First, his universal negative regarding solemnly defined dogmas pertaining to morals is refuted by the Council of Trent’s solemn and infallible condemnation of polygamy or several wives (plures … uxores) in canon 2 of its 1563 Doctrine on the Sacrament of Marriage (Denz-H *1802). This certainly seems to be a solemn and infallible teaching pertaining to morals. Second, although Gaillardetz tells the Archbishop that he accepts the condemnations of abortion and euthanasia as “non-defined dogmas,” his analysis of moral norms on pages 111-114 of Teaching with Authority seems to endorse the distinction between universal moral norms that pertain to salvation and concrete moral norms. This analysis relies heavily on Joseph Fuchs and others, but nowhere in these pages does he cite the analysis of John Paul II’s 1993 encyclical, Veritatis splendor, though he does cite this encyclical in passing later in the book (p. 182). So, it can’t be said that Gaillardetz was unaware of Veritatis splendor at the time he wrote Teaching with Authority. But in dealing with the question of concrete moral norms Gaillardetz ignores what John Paul II teaches on the subject of intrinsically evil acts in Veritatis splendor, 80-82 and chooses, instead, to present the analysis of Fuchs and like-minded moral theologians. So, while it’s good now to read of Gaillardetz’s acceptance of certain moral dogmas as infallibly taught by the universal, ordinary Magisterium, he should realize that his own analysis of moral norms on pages 110-114 has the cumulative effect of undercutting the possibility of definitive infallible teachings on concrete moral norms. It would be helpful if Gaillardetz could publicly distance himself now from his analysis of moral norms given in his 1997 book Teaching with Authority and his 2003 book, By What Authority?

4)      Gaillardetz tells the Archbishop that I “attack” him for citing the work of suspect theologians like Charles Curran and Joseph Fuchs. In several cases, I mention the citation of such authors without any comment. At other points, I mention them because of their connection with specific theological positions. My intent was simply to provide information of some of the sources being used. I never stated that Gaillardetz accepts all the positions of these theologians, so I don’t know why he wishes to give this impression to the Archbishop. 

5)      There are points in my analysis of Gaillardetz’s three books that are not touched on in his letter to Archbishop Weisberger. To be fair, Gaillardetz does mention that it would take a much longer document to deal with all of them. When I write to the Archbishop, I will explain why some of these other points are cause for serious concern — not only with respect to Gaillardetz’s total adherence to magisterial teaching but also with respect to his own reliability as a scholar.

6)      I will make one final point. Gaillardetz appeals to the authority of Francis A. Sullivan, S.J. in questioning the judgment of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in its 1995 Responsum ad Dubium: namely, the definitive and infallible status of what is taught about the ordination of women in John Paul II’s Ordinatio sacerdotalis. This, in itself, reveals a major problem in the methodology of Gaillardetz. The 1995 Responsum ad Dubium was approved by the Sovereign Pontiff, John Paul II, and ordered by him to be published. This means that John Paul II accepted the Responsum as an accurate interpretation of his intent in Ordinatio sacerdotalis. Now whose endorsement should we regard as more authoritative: that of Father Sullivan or that of the Supreme Roman Pontiff?  It’s interesting that Gaillardetz cites the authority of Pius IX’s Dec. 21, 1863 letter, Tuas libenter (though I believe he grossly misinterprets it). In this very letter, Pius IX affirmed the obligation of theologians to submit to decisions of Pontifical Congregations (cf. Denz-H, 2880). This being the case, let’s hope that Gaillardetz will submit to what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decided in 1995 regarding the infallible status of John Paul II’s teaching on women ordination in Ordinatio sacerdotalis.

Much more can be said, but I hope these observations are enough to show that Gaillardetz’s attempt to characterize my analysis of his three books as “misleading” and “malicious” is not accurate at all. As I will explain to Archbishop Weisgerber, my major concern in all this is simple: the defense of Catholic faith and morals and fidelity to the Magisterium. Let’s pray for all concerned, including Professor Gaillardetz.

Sincerely in Christ,

Robert L. Fastiggi, Ph.D.

Professor of Systematic Theology

Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI USA


This communication has been published with permission of Dr. Robert Fastiggi.

2 thoughts on “Dr. Fastiggi Responds to Gaillardetz’s Letter

  1. I bought one of Mr de Gaillardetz’s book and THEN read the comments on your website. I should have started at your website. I would then have saved myself £10.50. At least I have been saved from wasting my time reading the book. Thank you for alerting me to Mr de Gaillardetz’s unreliability.

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