On the 3rd of October, the Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education presided the opening of the academic year 2019-2020 of the academic institutions of the Archdiocese of Seville, including the new Faculty of Theology San Isidoro of Seville.
The day began with the celebration of the Holy Mass, presided by Cardinal Versaldi, in the chapel of the Metropolitan Seminary of the area. Later the academic act took place, presented by the Archbishop of Seville, Monsignor Juan José Asenjo Pelegrina. The Prefect gave the inaugural lecture where he spoke about the value of theological science in the mission of the Church in the current context.
Cardinal in his inaugural speech, noted that it seems that today the faith has a tendency to favor, in evangelizing mission, much more the experience than reflection, much more mystical (understood as a direct experience of God) than theology (understood as a systematic reflection of Revelation). Therefore, we observe a certain discredit towards theological science and towards the doctrinal system, which is its fruit, almost insinuating that thought (cogitare) is an obstacle to the adhesion to the faith because it could enclose God within the limits of human reason. According to him, it is not about opposing faith and reason, but of integrating the two terms, clearly affirming the superiority of the mystery that transcends human reason, but which cannot be accepted by human creatures, but only through reason open to transcendence. In fact, without the use of critical reason, the gift of faith could be misleading, as evidenced by those religious experiences that fail to believe in the true God, but that adhere to idols, the result of the deception of a magical experience of the supernatural. The gift of faith, according to the best theological tradition, must be rational (rationabile obsequium) because, as recalled by the first Vatican Council, in the Constitution Dei Filius, this conforms to reason (obsequium rationi consentaneum).
The dialogue between faith and reason had a profound crisis or a greater break at the beginning of the seventeenth century with the arrival of Enlightenment culture, even thou the causes had begun much earlier. The Enlightenment, in its most general meaning, has been affirmed as a new vision of man and the world in which the human creature has proclaimed his self-sufficiency. Both, in thinking and acting on his own reason without having to submit to any authority, divine or human. Thus a natural religion was born which shelved all revelation from above and any institutional teaching. The Church (as well as state institutions based on its principle of absolute authority) found it difficult to respond to these new cases because it was devoid of theological reflection after the Thomistic synthesis, worrying more about accentuating its institutional and legal structures (not to mention abuses of its members in contradiction with the canonical norms). All these factors manifested themselves dramatically at the time of the Protestant Reformation within the Church and after the French Revolution which marked the social and religious life of these centuries.
With the Second Vatican Council, the Church had created an important space for a theological research, capable of religious awakening (despite being ambiguous) and offering people of our time a way to discover with critical and responsible thinking the message revealed in Jesus Christ and how to answer the deepest questions of the human spirit that every historical epoch provokes. A theology that leads to a religion that, respecting the mystery of God, is able to bring the human mind to the light of the Logos.
Later the Cardinal has indicated that it is evident that with theVeritatis gaudium, Pope Francis wants to intervene directly in the specific field of ecclesiastical studies so that they also participate in the so-called "pastoral and missionary conversion" of the whole Church.
Pope Francis is not content to insert ecclesiastical colleges and universities only in this general process of missionary transformation of the Church, but entrusts them with a specific task and a strategic role. In fact, ecclesiastical studies "should not only offer places and itineraries for the qualified formation of priests, consecrated persons and committed lay people, but also constitute a kind of providential cultural laboratory”.
It is in this cultural laboratory that the dialogue between faith and reason takes place which allows the inculturation of faith and the evangelization of cultures. Pope Francis invites scholars, starting with theologians, to commit themselves to promoting what he ardently calls "a courageous cultural revolution" because it is "evident that there is a need for an authentic evangelical hermeneutics to better understand life, the world, the men, not of a synthesis but of a spiritual atmosphere of research and certainty based on the truths of reason and faith" (VG, Proem, III).
To further clarify the thought on missionary change in ecclesiastical studies, Pope Francis indicates four criteria for the renewal and revival of the contribution that ecclesiastical colleagues and universities can make.
The first criteria that Pope Francis indicates, is directly connected to the substance of the Message that characterizes his teaching: every aspect of the life of the Church, entrusted to his Guide, must be connected to the heart of Kerigma. The second criteria indicated by the Pope, is dialogue at all levels. The third criteria, is a consequence of the previous one: "the inter- and interdisciplinarity exercised with wisdom and creativity in the light of Revelation" (VG, Proemio, 4c). The fourth, is "the urgent need to create networks between the different institutions, in any part of the world, to cultivate and promote ecclesiastical studies" (VG, Proemio, 4d).
The reflections of Pope Francis indicate the direction in which theology can develop and give its specific and irreplaceable contribution to the evangelizing mission of the Church. He invites theology not to be "on the desk", but then takes up another image to appreciate "the theology that kneels" (see Consistory, 21 February 2014). Obviously we are not dealing with simple physical positions assumed by the theologian, we are dealing mainly with different mentalities present in theological research. As someone pointed out, these are different approaches to the search for the truth and its communication, which modern science has shown.
Follows the homily of Card. Giuseppe Versaldi, Homilía inauguración año académico, in Sevilla 3 October 2019
Follows the speech of Card. Giuseppe Versaldi follows, El valor de la ciencia teológica en la misión de la iglesia en el contexto actual, in Sevilla 3 October 2019