Thursday, June 05, 2003

The Mandatum, Theology and Catechesis

In a recent National Catholic Register article Tim Drake quotes a theology department chair, who says,
    Theology isn't catechesis. Otherwise, we couldn't defend ourselves as an academic discipline. We have to balance between fidelity and fostering independent thinking.
Now, I know where this professor is going, and I agree: theology isn't catechesis. As is noted elsewhere, undergrad theology profs are forced to engage in catechesis instead of theology proper, because most of their students lack the catechetical foundation necessary to do real theology. In this way, I completely agree.

On the other hand, the quote above suggests a dichotomy between fidelity (to the magisterium) and independent thinking, when in fact there is no such dichotomy. It's sad that it even needs to be said, but it is completely possible to be faithful to Catholic teaching and still to actual theology. It happens all the time. I'm sure this chair doesn't intend the implication of the quote, which is that those who are faithful to the magisterium do not engage in independent thinking. As he well knows, such is manifestly not the case.

The controversy over the mandatum really is unnecessary; as Fr. Neuhaus noted once, all it means is this: when one teaches Catholic theology, what is taught must be Catholic theology. An academic is free to teach any form of post-modern, feminist, deconstruction, anti-authoritarian theology they want to, but it can't be called Catholic.

That's all. Nothing more, nothing less.

What's the big deal?

No comments: