|Archbishop John Nienstedt|
Jesuit Father Peter Ryan has been named the new executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Doctrine and Canonical Affairs. The selection of a Jesuit spiritual director, teacher and scholar, who has defended Church teaching in his academic work, will draw renewed scrutiny of the U.S. bishops’ efforts to address problematic theological texts, while also recruiting academics to help advance the New Evangelization. Father Ryan’s primary responsibility is to serve the USCCB doctrine committee, which provoked a furor among some American theologians after it issued a 2011 statement strongly criticizing a popular undergraduate textbook written by Sister of St. Joseph Elizabeth Johnson, a theologian at Fordham University and the former president of the Catholic Theological Society. The USCCB announced on May 28 that Father Ryan would replace Capuchin Father Thomas Weinandy, who had signaled his decision to resign earlier this year.
Archbishop John Nienstedt of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, the chairman of the doctrine committee, told the Register that Father Ryan first came to his attention “eight years ago, when we worked on the Vatican seminary visitation together. I have been impressed with his scholarship, his teaching abilities and his organizational skills.”Archbishop Nienstedt also underscored the distinctive mission of the committee: “Unlike other USCCB committees, doctrine is less pro-active in terms of initiatives, serving, rather, as a resource to the bishops in clarifying doctrinal issues.” However, the committee has also reached out to scholars, organizing a March 2013 exchange between bishops and academics that addressed the need to promote the New Evangelization and focused on potential areas of collaboration.
“Father Ryan’s work as a moral theologian will prepare him for his duties as the director of the committee on doctrine of the USCCB. Much of the committee’s work will deal with questions emerging from the field of moral theology,” Brian Benestad, a professor of theology at the University of Scranton, told the Register.“He is a very fair person who will listen carefully to what theologians have to say about their approach to theology and to the various theological issues that are being discussed today. Thinking with the Church will always be an important source of guidance for Father Ryan,” added Benestad, who has served with the Jesuit on the executive board of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.
Link (here) to the National Catholic Register