CINCINNATI –– As U.S. bishops prepare to implement canon law requirements for theologians, several theologians have written articles explaining why they won't seek a mandatum — a bishop's assurance that they teach in communion with the Church.
The Register asked several Catholic theologians to tell readers why they will seek a mandatum. Their answers follow.
Sister Sheila Galligan, Immaculata College, Immaculata, Pa.
I desire to seek the mandatum within the comprehensive context of the compelling challenges of Pope John Paul II's apostolic constitution for higher education, Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church, 1990).
Within that context I believe that theology is a reflection upon faith within the commitment of faith. It is therefore an essentially ecclesial discipline. The marvelous theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar once stated that “truth is symphonic, but it needs a score.”
In seeking the mandatum, therefore, I will explicitly express my relationship to the Church and my personal responsibility to teach its “score.”
It will affirm in a public (juridical) way that I teach in full communion with the Church, that my academic endeavor to engage the culture, to promote the dialogue between faith and reason, will maintain and strengthen Immaculata College's Catholic identity and mission.
F.C. Bauerschmidt, Loyola College, Baltimore.
I intend to apply for the mandatum for a couple of reasons.
First, I cannot imagine a theologian not wanting to teach in communion with the Church, as represented by the local ordinary. I hope that my teaching is profoundly embedded in both the tradition and ongoing life of the Church. The mandatum simply formalizes that relationship.
Of course, this is relatively easy for me to say, since I have an ordinary who does not have an ideological axe to grind and who does not find heretics lurking at every turn. But I think most bishops are fairly sensible and, as long as there is some sort of appeal beyond the local ordinary, I think the mandatum is workable.
Second, as an academic theologian I am already accountable to a number of non-ecclesial groups, from the graduate schools where I earned my PhD. to various state accrediting agencies. So I am skeptical of claims that the mandatum constitutes unprecedented outside interference or infringes upon academic freedom. If anything, it establishes something of a balance between accountability to non-ecclesial groups and the Church.
Again, I am not saying that it is a perfect solution to the question of accountability, but I do think it is a workable one.
J. Brian Benestad, University of Scranton, Scranton, Pa.
Asking for a mandatum is a public statement about the proper way to do theology –– i.e. in full communion with the Catholic Church.
In my mind, an ecclesial theologian is actually more free than the theologian who chooses willingly or under duress to bow before the reigning opinions in professional societies and in the universities. I find the option for communion and freedom to be very appealing.
Father Matthew L. Lamb, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Mass.
I will be seeking the mandatum and the reasons are that Catholic theology is always in the service of the Church and her apostolic commission of preaching and teaching the salvific word of God in communion with the successors of the apostles, our bishops and the bishop of Rome, the pope.
Theology, like the disciplines of law, medicine and architecture, etc., is a discipline in the service of other social institutions besides the academy. Therefore, no matter how many academic degrees one has, one still has to be certified by these other institutions. In theology's case, it's the Church, which is responsible for the standard norms for the particular discipline.
It is this character of theology which is widely recognized in the university circle in Europe and also accounts for the fact that Ex Corde Ecclesiae and the request for the mandatum has not caused any controversy in Europe the way it has in the United States, because they understand the character of theology as an academic discipline that is in the service of another social institution, namely, the Church, whose authorities should be able to certify whoever is going to be teaching and practicing this kind of discipline.