Tina Beattie has a piece over at The Conversation, on ‘Pope Francis: people’s pope or sharp politician?’
The following are a series of reflections prompted by our recent Symposium on the Role of Lay Catholic Theologians. They are offered by John Sullivan, Professor of Christian Education at Liverpool Hope University.
Here are a few thoughts I had about how I saw the relationship between faith and scholarship in my own case, in the hope they will be of interest.
- My Catholicism is integral to my scholarship, feeding into (a) its motivation, (b) the sources I turn to, (c) the nourishment I seek, (d) as a principal point of reference, (e) the topics I attend to, (f) and a key audience I want to reach.
- My Catholicism is informed by my scholarship – philosophical, historical, theological and educational.
- My scholarship is guided by but not limited to my Catholic faith; it draws on work (and methods) from outside that faith (as well as from within it).
- My scholarship seeks to serve the world beyond the Church, both the academy and society.
- There can be a mutually beneficial relationship between the church and the academy. I wrote about this in an article in Journal of Beliefs & Values, published in August 2012 entitled ‘Religious faith in education: enemy or asset?’ (subscription required).
- The academic disciplines have a derived or relative autonomy from theological/religious authority/concerns, as do their practitioners/exponents.
- There is a need for balance between the institutional, the intellectual and the spiritual (Friedrich von Hugel and John Henry Newman).
- There is a need for balance between the multiple organs of the magisterium in the church (parents, pastors, scholars/theologians, bishops, papacy).
- In recent years there has been a serious (and damaging) dysfunction in the ecclesial community regarding communication between these magisteria and a disconnect between the hierarchy and the sensus fidelium.
Last Friday Reuters reported that Pope Francis has formed a commission to tackle Vatican reform.
Made up of seven international lay experts and one cleric, the commission will report directly to the pope and advise him on economic affairs, improving transparency and enforcing accounting principles.
Its members will have the right to examine any paper and digital document in the Vatican…
… The new commission’s lay members are experts in economics, finance, management and law and come from Spain, Germany, Italy, Singapore, Malta and France, the Vatican said in a statement. The cleric will act as the commission’s secretary…
… Francis ordered all Vatican departments to collaborate with the commission and bypass usual rules that oblige officials to respect the secrecy of their office.
As Daniel Horan points out on his blog Dating God, this announcement is getting little media coverage, despite the unprecedented nature of the commission. He provides a link to Vatican Radio’s coverage, which includes a list of the members:
Dr. Joseph FX Zahra (Malta), President
Msgr. Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda (Secretary of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs), Secretary
Mr Jean-Baptiste de Franssu (France)
Dr. Enrique Llano (Spain)
Dr. Jochen Messemer (Germany)
Ms. Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui (Italy)
Mr. Jean Videlain-Sevestre (France)
Mr. George Yeo (Singapore)
So not only has the Pope convened a commission composed almost entirely of lay people, it includes one female member (though it should be noted that it is overwhelming European). It remains to be seen what the commission will be able to accomplish, but this announcement is yet another move suggesting that Francis marks a real departure from previous Vatican administrations. The hopes for a greater role for the laity, expressed at last week’s symposium on the Role of Lay Catholic Theologians, may actually be fulfilled!
Last week the Digby Stuart Research Centre for Religion, Society and Human Flourishing was pleased to host a one day symposium on ”The Role of Lay Catholic Theologians’. In the next few weeks, we’ll be posting thoughts inspired by those discussions.
To begin, a number of essays and books were mentioned as particularly helpful resources for thinking about the role of lay Catholics and the challenges facing lay Catholic theologians today. The following is an initial list. Please add your own suggestions in the comments below.
Janet Soskice, ‘Love and Attention’ (from her Kindness of God)