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.