OT 16: Teaching Theology

Optatam Totius 16 starts off:

The theological disciplines, in the light of faith and under the guidance of the magisterium of the Church, should be so taught that the students will correctly draw out Catholic doctrine from divine revelation, profoundly penetrate it, make it the food of their own spiritual lives, and be enabled to proclaim, explain, and protect it in their priestly ministry.

Note the emphasis that theology is not solely an intellectual exercise; it is intended as food for the soul as well as of the mind. Speaking of soul …

The students are to be formed with particular care in the study of the Bible, which ought to be, as it were, the soul of all theology. After a suitable introduction they are to be initiated carefully into the method of exegesis; and they are to see the great themes of divine revelation and to receive from their daily reading of and meditating on the sacred books inspiration and nourishment. 

Exegetical methods carefully taught: good. Then a list: Scriptures, Fathers East and West, History, etc.:

Dogmatic theology should be so arranged that these biblical themes are proposed first of all. Next there should be opened up to the students what the Fathers of the Eastern and Western Church have contributed to the faithful transmission and development of the individual truths of revelation. The further history of dogma should also be presented, account being taken of its relation to the general history of the Church. Next, in order that they may illumine the mysteries of salvation as completely as possible, the students should learn to penetrate them more deeply with the help of speculation, under the guidance of St. Thomas, and to perceive their interconnections.

Then the connection with liturgy:

They should be taught to recognize these same mysteries as present and working in liturgical actions and in the entire life of the Church.

Then pastoral application:

They should learn to seek the solutions to human problems under the light of revelation, to apply the eternal truths of revelation to the changeable conditions of human affairs and to communicate them in a way suited to men of our day.

Misunderstood on both left and right is the notion of change. Change was undertaken at and after Vatican II to ensure the pastoral connection with people is, in fact, there. Old approaches and old ways were clearly not getting the point across. And despite some good things to bring to the Church, documents such as Humanae Vitae served to drive people away from the message rather than invite them into it.

Likewise let the other theological disciplines be renewed through a more living contact with the mystery of Christ and the history of salvation. Special care must be given to the perfecting of moral theology. Its scientific exposition, nourished more on the teaching of the Bible, should shed light on the loftiness of the calling of the faithful in Christ and the obligation that is theirs of bearing fruit in charity for the life of the world.

Moral theology based on Scripture, rather than “We said so.” It can be done, but it seems that it is done so ineffectively.

Similarly the teaching of canon law and of Church history should take into account the mystery of the Church, according to the dogmatic constitution “De Ecclesia” promulgated by this sacred synod. Sacred liturgy, which is to be considered as the primary and indispensable source of the truly Christian spirit, should be taught according to the mind of articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

Lumen Gentium and Sacrosanctum Concilium are essential. 

The circumstances of various regions being duly considered, students are to be brought to a fuller understanding of the churches and ecclesial communities separated from the Apostolic Roman See, so that they may be able to contribute to the work of re- establishing unity among all Christians according to the prescriptions of this holy synod. Let them also be introduced to a knowledge of other religions which are more widespread in individual regions, so that they may acknowledge more correctly what truth and goodness these religions, in God’s providence, possess, and so that they may learn to refute their errors and be able to communicate the full light of truth to those who do not have it.

Another example of what I would call the “Spirit of Vatican II,” a sense that students and priests have a contribution to make in the realm of Christian unity and interfaith understanding.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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