SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- An outspoken theologian predicts most fellow theology professors at U.S. Catholic colleges will refuse to seek approval from their local bishop to teach, as required under new rules awaiting Vatican endorsement.
The regulations -- aimed at controlling theologians and what they teach -- won lopsided approval from U.S. bishops at a meeting in November and require that all theology professors receive a ''mandate'' from the local bishop.
The Rev. Richard P. McBrien, a professor at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., said he will not seek that approval, repeating the position he took in the current issue of America, a Jesuit magazine.
He predicted most of his colleagues will eventually make the same decision. ''I'm simply the first one to come out,'' he said.
McBrien, 63, is former chairman of Notre Dame's theology department and one of the most outspoken critics of Vatican policy under Pope John Paul II.
Before the November vote, most organizations representing theology professors at the nation's 235 church-related colleges opposed the mandate proposal. Now individual professors will have to make their own decisions.
One academic who has endorsed the mandate is the Rev. Michael Scanlan, president of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. ''It enables you to project more clearly who you are,'' he said.
Supporters say the new system will limit theologians' dissent from official teachings and strengthen the Catholic identity of church-related schools.
McBrien said the new system will be unworkable.
If tenured faculty members say no, he said, ''What can the bishops do? Try to fire theologians who don't seek the mandate? Break contracts? No.''
If the dispute goes to civil court, the result will be ''an academic Kosovo,'' damaging to all, he said.
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