Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Too much Theology and not enough Catechisation?

At first glance, Bishop Manning's outburst against "too much theology" seems worrying. Isn't it precisely in the area of theology that so much is going haywire in the Church today?

But reading carefully, I see that what he is saying is not much different from what I was saying below about "expert litugists".

One of the things that struck me when I entered the Catholic Church is that these terms "theologian" and "liturgist" are used with a strong "professional" and "academic" edge.

When Bishop Manning says ""Many people have educated themselves in theology and so on. I often wonder what it is for?", he isn't criticising people for doing a bit of adult education, or for seeking out opportunities for catechesis and deepening their faith. There needs to be much more of this type of "grass roots" learning about the Church's faith.

Bishop Manning appears to be talking about people doing degrees in theology--without having a clear ministry objective or service area in which they intend to use this knowledge. And I must say I share his question: "What is it for?"

All the baptised are "theologians" by their birthright. That means that they have a right to learn about the Faith of the Church and to deepen their knowledge of God's Word. It means they have a responsibility to use their knowledge for the building up of the Church.

The Church needs Catechists and Evangelisers, and these people need to be "Deep in the Faith". In other words, we need practical and pastoral theologians.

But I agree with the bishop. The Church needs more professional "theologians" almost a little as it needs more professional "liturgists".

5 Comments:

At Wednesday, August 15, 2007 2:09:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

[i]When Bishop Manning says ""Many people have educated themselves in theology and so on. I often wonder what it is for?", he isn't criticising people for doing a bit of adult education, or for seeking out opportunities for catechesis and deepening their faith. There needs to be much more of this type of "grass roots" learning about the Church's faith.

Bishop Manning appears to be talking about people doing degrees in theology--without having a clear ministry objective or service area in which they intend to use this knowledge. And I must say I share his question: "What is it for?”[/i]

A little learning is fine, but too much is a dangerous thing? Them’s fightin’ words! I somehow doubt that that is what the Bishop meant.

And as for “what is it for?”, well, there was a time (before neo-liberal views of education became fashionable) when the pursuit of knowledge and understanding was considered to be a good thing in its own right; it didn’t need a career to justify it.

I think what may be at issue here is the risk that the study of theology becomes, not an aspect of evangelism, communion, liturgy, etc, but an alternative to it. We are all called to live the gospel according to our talents, aptitudes and situations, but if you actually read the gospel there’s a great deal in it about loving my neighbour, feeding the hungry, protecting the stranger, comforting the widow and the orphan and visiting the imprisoned, and very little about [i]really[/i] getting to grips with Hans Urs von Balthasar.

Theology, like the gospel, needs to be lived, not just read. If your theological study doesn’t change your life, then maybe you’re not studying enough. But, the point is, you read theology because of what it can do for your life, not what it can do for your career.

 
At Wednesday, August 15, 2007 11:50:00 pm , Anonymous Christine said...

I also agree. Too many people consider themselves theologians (and liturgists) these days.

As I recall, St. Ignatius teaches us that where the bishop is there is the catholic church.

Not the theologians.

By the way, Happy Feast Day on the Assumption of our Blessed Lady.

I went to the vigil Mass yesterday evening -- incense, chant, and the glorious strains of O Sanctissima and Salve Regina.

Deo Gratias!!

 
At Thursday, August 16, 2007 5:59:00 pm , Blogger Athanasius said...

I agree with Peregrinus' comment about the dangers of study becoming a substitute for a genuine Christian life. This is a real danger in the departmentalised and credentialist atmosphere of modern philosophy and theology.

I am studying no theology, only philosophy, but I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that modern philosophy has so thoroughly and deliberately distanced itself from people's lives that it serves little purpose, other than to provide post hoc rationalisation of whatever I might already believe. It is bound to be so unless united with a erotic desire for the Truth (capitalisation is deliberate!) and a spirit of obedience.

Perhaps this explains why saints like Benedict and Francis each had more beneficial influence on the course of Western history that the whole boatload of modern philosophers.

But in the current academic circumstances, it is not hard to imagine philosophy (and I assume theology) damaging a person's spirit rather than nourishing it.

 
At Thursday, August 16, 2007 8:24:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

"A little learning is fine, but too much is a dangerous thing? Them’s fightin’ words! I somehow doubt that that is what the Bishop meant."

Me too, Peregrinus, and it isn't what I meant. And I certainly wasn't talking in terms of theological study being to aid one's "career".

I was asking, as you put it, in what respect all this study of theology was "an aspect of evangelism, communion, liturgy" rather than "an alternative to it".

To those who are given the charism for study and learning, there should be no limit to which they seek to learn more about their faith. But I question it as an academic exercise separated from living faith and ecclesial life.

And as for “what is it for?”, well, there was a time (before neo-liberal views of education became fashionable) when the pursuit of knowledge and understanding was considered to be a good thing in its own right.

Again I agree whole heartedly, but somehow the pursuit of knowledge and the pursuit of academic qualifications have become synonymous in our society, to the degradation of the former.

As I said, I wasn't suggesting that theological study needed "a career to justify it", but, rather, as in the parable of the talents, when one is given a gift in the life of faith, one is also given the responsibility to use that gift. So what are all these folk studying theology going to use it for? At best they will use their knowledge to building up the Church. At worst, they will attempt to use their knowledge to try to tear the Church down.

 
At Friday, August 17, 2007 7:31:00 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The bishop is absoultely correct - we have over-theologised the Church today. There is too much book knowledge and far too little spirituality -a lack of prayer among the priests especially. When was the last time (or indeed the first) when you saw your parish priest at prayer in the church? Try to remember that. We need a holiness revolution in the Church; a return to prayer and fasting. Where do you find priests praying one or two hours a day, instead of just administering, doing social work or drinking, or going to the races. Is this why they were ordained? I suggtes that priests need to be revolutionary men of prayer and set the example of contradiction to the world. Indian holy men, tibetan monks have no trouble praying and be ing seen to do so. We have become so caught up in theologising today that we have forgotten the simple message of the gospel. Forget raising money, building schools - Jesus never wrote a theological treatise, never built one school, never built a church - but he did pray 40 days in the desert, did heal and raise the dead to life AND taught us how to pray. We have just failed to carry out his message. It is time to return to examine the lives of the saints, men and women of prayer who focused on the Lord and spent time with Him in prayer. Now is the time to do it. Adam G

 

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