This is a recurrent problem in some of the comments at Pray Tell. Some folks don’t seem to understand that we do Catholic theology here. (And, I hope it goes without saying, we do ecuemnical theology here, or to put it another way, we do Christian theology ecumenically. But that’s a topic for another post. Here I’m talking specifically about Catholic theology.)
Some folks think that Catholic theology means simply repeating magisterial statements without question or comment. It’s never been so, and never will be. Catholic theology means raising questions, oftentimes new questions arising from new cultural/societal contexts, to assist the Church in the development of doctrine. Said development has been going on for 2,000 years now, and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.
Now, everything has a time and place. There is a difference between a homily and an adult education discussion. There is a difference between junior high catechesis and undergraduate theology. There is a difference between faith formation in the RCIA and discussion groups at the Catholic Theological Society of America. And there is a place for acknowledging the role of the magisterium in making definitive judgments. Pray Tell is the place for those who are ready to do theology, sometimes at a rather high level.
Our assumption at Pray Tell from the outset has been that we do theology here. Not only – some of our material is more catechetical or homiletic. But we do defend our mission – in the Church, for the Church, with respect for Church officials – to do Catholic theology.
Bishop Kicanas says it better. Here’s an excerpt from his recent address to the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities:
Clearly there needs to be room in an academic community for disagreement, debate and a clash of ideas even in theology. Such debate and engagement can clarify and advance our understanding. In discussions with local bishops, faculty need to be able to disagree and question with mutual respect. However, the bishop is the authentic teacher of the faith and, in union with the Pope and bishops, responsible to interpret the faith.
See the story here.