Rorate Caeli

For the record: Cardinal Ezzati's letter announcing the removal of a dissident Jesuit theologian from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile

{UPDATE 04/11/15: The "punishment" of Fr. Costadoat: a slap on the wrist? An important clarification from Chile}

The Salesian Archbishop of Santiago de Chile, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, made waves last week in the Hispanic Catholic world when he refused to renew the mandatum of one of South America's most high-profile and liberal theological dissidents, Fr. Jorge Costadoat SJ - yes, a Jesuit, like the Pope. The decision effectively bars the Jesuit from continuing to teach theology in the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, of which Cardinal Ezzati is also the Grand Chancellor. The Cardinal communicated his reasons for taking action against Costodoat in a letter to the University's Superior Council:

Pontifical Catholic University of Chile
Office of the Grand Chancellor

Santiago, March 24, 2015

Esteemed members of the Honorable Superior Council,

The Faculty of Theology has a central role within the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (cf. ECE [Statutes] 19), placed under the foremost and direct guardianship of the Grand Chancellor -- as is the case in the other schools of Catholic theology in the world --, among other reasons because the future consecrated persons are formed in it and because it carries out a fundamental task at the service of the entire academic community. The right to confer the canonical mandatum belongs exclusively to the Grand Chancellor and is an indispensable requirement for the teaching of theology in our Faculty.

The academic path of Professor J. Costadoat includes unwise affirmations that blurred the magisterial teaching of the Church in various central points of the same, generating enough reasons to affirm that he has not sufficiently laid down in his positions the basic principle that, "the theological disciplines, in the light of faith and under the guidance of the magisterium of the Church, should be so taught that the students will correctly draw out Catholic doctrine from divine revelation" (Vatican Council II, Decree on Priestly Training [Optatam Totius], n. 16). Taking into consideration this situation, in the year 2012, following a dialogue with him, aware of the difficulties that he has, and in an act of trust, I granted him the canonical mandatum for 3 years, under the assumption that his work would be carried our and would advance with the aim to overcome the aforementioned difficulties.

With the passage of the established period, I have had to ponder the situation once again. After evaluating that his theological activity did not overcome the difficulties mentioned in the above paragraph, I have decided to not renew his canonical mandatum to teach, with the certainty that the teaching position of professor J. Costadoat, in the current state of affairs, is far -- as it had already been said -- from the theological teaching that is expected from a university that has the characteristic, and the demands, of being Catholic and Pontifical.

As I have expressed, I respect that the professor may exercise his freedom as a theologian and as a researcher, but it is not only my right, but also my duty, in the exercise of the freedom that belongs to me as Grand Chancellor -- in accordance with the Statutes --, to assure that in the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, and particularly in its Faculty of Theology, the authentic doctrine of the Church be taught, and that the students formed therein may receive it with complete clarity and without confusions (cf. Statutes, 20 a).

With no further information,

Cardinal-Archbishop of Santiago and Grand Chancellor of the
Pontifical Catholic University of Chile

There are reports (such as this) noting that the Cardinal made his decision despite the opposition of the Dean and many faculty members and students of the University's Faculty of Theology -- itself an indication of just how widespread the climate of dissent has become in that University. Shortly after the Cardinal's decision became public, 60 faculty members from various departments of the university wrote a letter attacking Costadoat's dismissal. (The domination of theological dissent in Catholic institutions of higher education is, alas, not limited to North America and Western Europe.) 

The move against Fr. Costadoat came after he publicly reiterated his longtime support for communion for "remarried divorcees" in a series of letters to Chile's 'newspaper of record', El Mercurio. Costadoat himself has long been known in Chile for his "progressivist" views on interreligious dialogue and liberation theology, his position that Catholic teaching on sexual morality ought to be changed, and his frequent statements demanding complete "freedom of thought" in Catholic universities even to the detriment of the Church's doctrine. Prior to receiving a mandatum in 2012, Costadoat had been under investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for nearly a decade, mainly due to his writings on liberation theology. 

This conflict also comes while Chile continues to be rocked by the scandalous appointment of Msgr. Juan Barros as Bishop of Osorno despite credible multiple allegations of his involvement in the sexual abuse of minors. It also comes only months after Chilean media reported that Cardinal Ezzati had denounced three Chilean dissident priests to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, a claim quickly denied by the Cardinal.