The following comes from an August 17 story in the National Catholic Reporter.

The U.S. bishops’ committee tasked with enforcing church doctrine adopted new procedures for investigating theologians a year ago, apparently unbeknownst to the theologians whose teachings and writings would be subject to the protocols.

The procedures seem to indicate that the committee is eschewing dialogue with theologians when concerns over their adherence to church doctrine are reported, instead preferring a private in-house review process.

The procedures, dated Aug. 19, 2011, would have been formulated and approved at a time when the bishops and their committee were being questioned about their treatment of St. Joseph Sister Elizabeth Johnson, a distinguished theologian whose work they sharply criticized in March 2011.

In various statements last year following the Johnson critique, the two primary U.S. theological membership societies faulted the bishops for not following a set of procedures promulgated in 1989 for dealing with doctrinal questions.

Those procedures were the result of deliberations between a group of bishops and theologians over a period of years, and were approved by the full body of U.S. bishops and endorsed by the Vatican.

The existence of new procedures came to light this summer in two academic journal articles by noted canon lawyer Father James Coriden. In the latest issue of the theological journal Concilium, Coriden writes that he had received a copy of the protocols from the U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee, but their existence came as a surprise to several prominent theologians NCR called for comment.

The protocols state that while theologians being investigated by the committee “may be invited to respond to the Committee’s observations in writing,” the committee “reserves the right” to publish criticism without consultation “if it judges that intervention is needed for the pastoral guidance of the Catholic faithful.”

To read the entire story click here.