Theologians can be a “curse and affliction upon the church,” according Capuchin Fr. Thomas Weinandy, Executive Director of the USCCB Secretariat for Doctrine.
Thomas Weinandy remember is director of the bishops’ committee that recently condemned Sr. Elizabeth Johnson’s book on the Trinity, Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God. Weinandy’s committee said Elizabeth Johnson’s book “completely undermines the Gospel and the faith of those who believe in the Gospel.” Strange talk from a fellow who is supposed to know what theology is all about.
The Board of Directors for the Catholic Theological Society of America responded to the USCCB Committee’s critique by noting that Weinandy’s committee demonstrated a “deficient” reading of Professor Johnson’s work as well as a “narrow understanding” of the work of theologians.
In their statement the board of directors stressed, what any good theologian should know and understand:
Theologians throughout history have promulgated the riches of the Catholic tradition by venturing new ways to imagine and express the mystery of God and the economy of salvation revealed in Scripture and Tradition. This is a Catholic style of theological reflection that very many Catholic theologians continue to practice today. The teaching of the Second Vatican Council in its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) is especially eloquent on this responsibility:
“From the beginning of its history [the church] has learned to express Christ’s message in the concepts and languages of various peoples, and it has also tried to throw light on it through the wisdom of philosophers, aiming so far as was proper to suit the gospel to the grasp of everyone as well as to the expectations of the wise. This adaptation in preaching the revealed word should remain the law of all evangelisation.… It is for God’s people as a whole, with the help of the holy Spirit, and especially for pastors and theologians, to listen to the various voices of our day, discerning them and interpreting them, and to evaluate them in the light of the divine word, so that the revealed truth can be increasingly appropriated, better understood and more suitably expressed.” (#44)
USCCB theologian Weinandy, on the other hand, sees theologians as propagandists for the institutional church. Their responsibility, says Weinandy is one of “promoting, advancing and defending” philosophical and theological truth as taught by the church.
In fact…..ever since Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), Catholic theologians have clearly understood the theological task as one of “Faith seeking understanding.”
If Thomas Weinandy and his committee were my students I would send them all back to school: for remedial theological education.