Cardinal Müller: The Church and Theology Exist to Enlighten and Evangelize

The prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith presented his remarks Nov. 3 at The Catholic University of America.

Cardinal Gerhard Müller
Cardinal Gerhard Müller (photo: CNA/Lauren Cater)

WASHINGTON — Theologians must not be content with an intellectual pursuit of truth, but must evangelize with charity, so that the Gospel retains its freshness, the head of the Church’s doctrinal office insisted.

In a Nov. 3 lecture at The Catholic University of America, Cardinal Gerhard Müller,  prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, expressed his appreciation for the “charism of the theologians” in helping “the Church in her commitment to evangelization.”

However, the cardinal continued, in carrying out “this service as part of the Church’s saving mission,” theologians should carry the truth to the world.

Theologians, he urged, “must always remember that the Church and theology exist to evangelize and not to be content with a desk-bound theology.”

Cardinal Müller spoke at the invitation of President John Garvey of Catholic University. His lecture, “Donum Veritatis: The Contribution of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the Theological Enterprise,” focused on theology’s purpose in spreading the Gospel.

The study of God’s truth, the cardinal said, is ultimately for the service and love of the Church.

“The person proclaiming the truth has as his or her object not simply something intellectual, but human communion. That means that the truth must be transmitted in a way that offers an opportunity for people to give themselves unreservedly,” he stated.

Cardinal Müller also cautioned that the truth is not an “intellectual” protection against the difficulties of life. Instead, it exists to assist the faithful “to continue to make the self-gift professing the faith requires as children of God who abandon themselves entirely into his arms and to the exigencies of the dark.”

Helping the faithful to make this self-gift is the magisterium, the teaching body of the Church, which the cardinal said guarantees “the possibility of professing the authentic faith, free from error at all times and in diverse situations.”

The cardinal stressed that the magisterium “is not an extrinsic service imposed upon the Church,” but instead “occurs within” and “arises directly” from “Christian doctrine and the truth.”

Rather than bind the Church, the magisterium frees the Church to better give of itself, he said.

“One cannot give the freedom of truth unless one has given oneself to the truth,” he explained. “And this is the point of the service to Christian truth rendered by the magisterium.”

The freedom opens the Church and her theologians to their mission, a mission that “finds its context precisely in the Church’s mission to evangelize,” Cardinal Müller said, quoting Pope Francis in the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.

This message, he continued, requires engagement with different disciplines and culture.

“Theology,” the cardinal explained, “all arises from love and love’s dynamism, since love is ever desirous of better knowledge of the beloved.”

Such love and proclamation to different cultures and fields of thought “means an encounter between faith, reason and the sciences.”

Theologians, as evangelists, can also help the Church in presenting the Gospel to all ages, Cardinal Müller encouraged.

“Truly, it is the role of the evangelist to allow the original freshness of the Gospel to refresh the eloquence in all forms of expression,” the cardinal said, “so that the word remains living,” and so that it does not become an “artifact of history.”

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.