Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Catholic Theology: Cardinal Dulles’ 15 Points

In this excellent article from The Catholic Thing, they are described.

An excerpt.

“About fifteen years ago, the late Fr. Avery Dulles S.J. (later cardinal) explained “the criteria of Catholic theology” in a speech of the same title to a pre-convention gathering of the Catholic Theological Society of America. Leaving aside the irony of presenting such a topic before that highly resistant audience, the criteria are a succinct statement of the basic requirements of any truly Catholic theology. No surprise there, because Dulles was a master of the clear expression of orthodox Catholic thinking.

“Now theology is simply (or not so simply) faith seeking understanding. We might be explaining points in a catechism class or hearing a homily or reading formal church documents and statements. No matter. The teaching that we hear is theological, if it is any use at all. And it follows certain criteria. The foundation of everything is that “if it wishes to be Catholic, theology adheres to the faith professed by the Catholic Church.” I will follow Dulles’ numbering of the principles that follow from that initial adherence.

“First, when we look at somebody whose thinking claims to be Catholic, we need (1) to see reasoning within the faith. This requirement frames the operation of the individual thinker, however insightful and creative. Yes, human reason can really reach the truth, but only with the light of faith for all of the important matters of human life. Then the object of the thinker’s inquiry is (2) the God who is knowable. We don’t only have vague metaphors to describe God. Instead, we have real analogies that actually tell us something. God is one, true, good, and beautiful. He is Father, Son, and Spirit, and God is really known in Jesus Christ.

“Then too, we must acknowledge (3) the Catholicity of Christ, which is to say that everything came to be through him, “in whom all things hold together, the mighty Word who sustains the world in being.” (Dulles) Fourthly, this truth has a genuine missionary universalism. It actually is the horizon of the meaning of the whole world and needs to be spread to the ends of the earth.

“There is (5) an inescapable ecclesial context to this thinking because, “faith is ecclesial in at least three senses, the Church mediates faith, is perceived in faith and is the Great Believer.” The faith of the Church precedes the faith of the individual believer, and so thinkers serving the Church “cannot make themselves accountable in the first instance to secular communities whether academic, political or ethnic, or the like.”