The Australian priest who had questioned and re-interpreted a number of essential Christological doctrines, has written a letter of explanation and has apologized, although I use the word "apologize" quite loosely in light of his remarks:
“I can understand why the article in “The Australian” (October 29) has appalled so many people. It has caused scandal and anger, concern and anguish and has hurt me personally. It saddens me that such hysteria has erupted and I feel obliged as a Catholic priest to quell the tempest as best I can.
In other words, he's apologizing that a newspaper printed some of his manuscript and somehow caused a wave of hysteria. Sad. As for having "unwittingly scandalized or hurt" anyone, it's mind-boggling that Fr. Dresser does not understand the serious nature of his overt denial of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, his disparaging remarks about "doctrine and dogma"—clearly aimed at both Magisterial teachings and the works of orthodox theologians—and his denial of the unicity and truthfulness of Christianity. (See my lengthy November 2nd post for more on this.) See, for example, his statement: "Each creed or religion has its own orthodoxy and its own experience and understanding of God. One’s God cannot be said to be better than another’s. For a Christian to state that the fullness of redemption and salvation is to be found in Jesus Christ is not an acceptable statement for other faiths or religious traditions. And it is offensive to proclaim it as universal truth." That is indeed scandalous and heretical for any Catholic, never mind a priest, to state.
And yet Fr. Dresser's manuscript mentions more than once his frustration, even disgust, with what he calls "the muddle of doctrine and dogma"; there is also his recent article stating, "The Institution continues to exist but the liberating, freeing and inclusive teachings of Jesus remain hidden behind a quagmire of bureaucratic nonsense and doctrine and dogma which remain quaintly irrelevant in the world we live in." Perhaps the word "cherish" means something different than it does on this side of the Pacific?
In which case, having read several pages of the manuscript, I can only conclude that Fr. Dresser needs to take Theology 101, Christology 101, and Catechism 101, and many other such classes at an orthodox Catholic seminary. Seriously. For example, the chapter entitled "Jesus the Avatar" stated:
Fr. Dresser 1) states that Jesus was not God, at least not in the sense the Church teaches, 2) that the Arians were right and the councils (referring, apparenlty, to the councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon) were wrong about who and what Jesus was, 3) that those councils taught that Jesus was a human person. The latter remark is misleading in a more subtle way than the first two points since the councils taught and the Church continues to teach that "Jesus Christ is true God and true man, in the unity of his divine person; for this reason he is the one and only mediator between God and men" (CCC 480) and "The Son of God therefore communicates to his humanity his own personal mode of existence in the Trinity" (CCC 470). Or, in the word of the Council of Ephesus (431), "the Word, uniting to himself in his person the flesh animated by a rational soul, became man." Back to Fr. Dresser's letter:
Then why does he blast the newspaper for creating hysteria when he readily admits what is obvioius to those of us who have read some of his manuscript?
Huh? So as long as he doesn't titled the manuscript, "My Creedal Statement," it shouldn't be a problem that he either denies, misrepresents, or undermines essential doctrines and dogmas? Does he not comprehend that "explorative theology" does not mean playing outside the sandbox, but (hopefully) carefully examining and thinking about what is in the sandbox and why the sandbox has limits?
Translation: my manuscript exhibited both poor thinking, confused scholarship, and sloppy writing.
He should be. The world and the Church needs Catholics—whether bishops, priests, religious, or laity—who are working to live and explain Catholic doctrine, practice, and devotion in ways that are accessible, clear, inspiring, challenging, interesting, compelling, orthodox, dynamic, and life-changing. When theological exploration turns into authority bashing navel-gazing exercises in syncretistic New Age blatherings, something has gone dreadfully wrong.
Again, quite weak, since he suggests that the problem is with those who have been scandalized by his "prayerful, refreshing and invigorating document." I found it to be none of those things. In the meantime, still no word, that I know of, from Fr. Dresser's bishop.
By the way, just to end on a positive note, for those who would like to read a prayerful, refreshing and invigorating work of Christology and have not yet read it, I recommend Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI (also see newly published study guide).