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Book on interfaith relations by theologian differs from Roman Catholic teaching

Roman Catholic teaching has not got much in common with a book on interfaith relations by a Georgetown University theologian.

The Rev. Peter C. Phan, in his book "Being Religious Interreligiously: Asian Perspectives on Interfaith Dialogue," writes that the terms "unique" and "absolute" when referring to Christ may "have outlived their usefulness and should be jettisoned," the doctrine panel said.

Phan also wrote that religious pluralism "'may not and must not be abolished' by conversion to Christianity," the committee said. That assertion is in conflict with Christ's commission to the church to evangelize the world, the panel said.

Phan, a priest in the Diocese of Dallas, declined to comment Monday. He teaches Catholic social thought at Georgetown, which is a Jesuit school in Washington.

The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the doctrinal watchdog for the church, asked the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to evaluate the book.

The bishops' Doctrine Committee spent two years on the review, asking Phan to explain his writing. But the panel said that Phan "did not provide the needed clarifications," so the panel issued the statement Monday to warn Catholics and others that the book could be misleading.

No other action by the committee was announced.

Julie Green Bataille, a Georgetown spokeswoman, said in a statement that Phan and the school's other faculty have "a long and distinguished tradition" of writing on complex religious issues, and the school "embraces academic freedom and supports the free exchange of ideas."

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