Pope Francis says this is the difference between theologians and catechists


Pope Francis / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 24, 2022 / 06:40 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Thursday distinguished between how catechists and theologians interact with Church teaching.

A theologian, he said, has a vocation to go beyond existing doctrine, because “he is trying to make theology more explicit.”

While a catechist, when instructing children and adults in the faith, “must give the correct doctrine, solid doctrine.”

Pope Francis’ comments on the role of the theologian and the catechist were made in a meeting with the prestigious International Theological Commission (ITC) at the Vatican Nov. 24.

The International Theological Commission exists under and to advise the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. Members are appointed by the pope for five-year terms, during which time particular theological questions are studied and the results published.

The 10th commission, which has 28 members, was appointed in 2021.

Pope Francis meeting with the International Theological Commission (ITC) at the Vatican Nov. 24, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis meeting with the International Theological Commission (ITC) at the Vatican Nov. 24, 2022. Vatican Media

“Theologians must go further, try to go beyond,” the pope said in his remarks to the commission. “But I want to distinguish this from the catechist: the catechist must give the correct doctrine, solid doctrine; not the possible new things, of which some are good…”

“The catechist teaches the solid doctrine,” he continued, adding that the theologian “ventures to go further, and it is the magisterium that will stop him.”

“But never [teach catechism] to children and people with new doctrines that are not certain,” he said.

Francis explained that this distinction comes from St. Ignatius of Loyola, “who I think understood something better than I do.”

The International Theological Commission is at the Vatican this week for the group’s annual plenary meeting.

Pope Francis expressed his appreciation for the commission’s willingness to explore three themes during its meetings.

The first, he said, is the “relevance of the fruitfulness of the Christological faith professed by the Council of Nicaea, at the completion of 1,700 years since its celebration.”

The commission will also examine some anthropological issues relevant today “and of crucial significance for the journey of the human family, in light of the divine plan of salvation.”

Pope Francis did not say which specific “anthropological issues” the theological commission will be studying.

The third theme the commission will deepen is “the theology of creation from a Trinitarian perspective, listening to the cry of the poor and the earth,” he said.

Two U.S. theologians are among the ITC’s members.

Robin Darling Young, a spirituality professor, and Reinhard Huetter, a theology professor, both teach at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

A French-American, Father Etienne Emmanuel Vetö, is also a member. He teaches theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

Marianne Schlosser, a well-known German theologian, and recipient of the 2018 Ratzinger Prize, has been a member of the commission since 2014.

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  1. We read that the three themes to be explored by the International Theological Commission are Nicaea, a Trinitarian theology of creation, and yet-undefined “anthropological issues.”

    Regarding the possible anthropological issues, Three points:

    FIRST, we at least have an encouraging clue from Cardinal Parolin: “I am very sorry for the loss of faith in our Europe, in our culture, in our countries, and these anthropological changes that are taking place, losing the identity of the human person” (https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/247167/cardinal-parolin-i-am-sad-to-see-the-loss-of-faith-and-reason-in-europe)

    SECOND, a cry in the wilderness, this, as it is set aside by synodality’s Cardinal Hollerich: “I believe that the sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching [on sexual morality] is no longer true [….] I think it’s time we make a fundamental revision of the doctrine” (https://www.aol.com/news/liberal-cardinal-calls-revised-catholic-135429645-181222377.html). So much for Christian anthropology!

    Will catechists and theologians “not walk together” on their diverging anthropological paths? Will the (bigoted and rigid?) catechists of, say, Veritatis Splendor and moral absolutes be ever more eclipsed by an ambulatory plebiscite “combined, aggregated and synthesized” by synod-ism—-with the process itself as THE message? Will even Nicaea be insinuated more as a procedural synodal artifact?

    THIRD, will the Church deal coherently with the “anthropological-cultural change” (Parolin, a few years back) of the day, as more clearly articulated by Cardinal O’Malley: “The amazing thing is that historically the Church was persecuted mostly for the truths that we taught concerning Christ and the Church. The controversies were Arianism [Nicaea], transubstantiation or papal infallibility. Today, the attacks directed at the Church are directed at our teaching concerning the dignity of the human person, the sacredness of life and the importance of marriage…” (Cardinal O’Malley, National Prayer Breakfast, May 13, 2014).

    What about consistency and clarity in both doctrine and theology (Vincent of Lerins, and Cardinal Newman!) about the human person and, say, binary/complementary human sexuality. Also “walking together” with the timeless wisdom of St. John Chrysostom: “The road to Hell is paved with the bones of priests and monks, and the skulls of bishops are the lamp posts that light the path.”

    • “The road to Hell is paved with the bones of priests and monks, and the skulls of bishops are the lamp posts that light the path.”

      That would be, in essence, unfaithful priests, monks, and bishops, as we can know through both Faith and reason that The Faithful, those who remain in communion with Christ and His One, Holy, Catholic, And Apostolic Church, Through The Unity Of The Holy Ghost (Filioque), affirm The Word Of God in regards to sexual morality, and thus respect The Sanctity of the marital act within The Sacrament Of Holy Matrimony, and respect the inherent equal Dignity of every beloved son and daughter from the moment of conception to natural death.

      “It is not possible to have Sacramental Communion without Ecclesial Communion”, due to The Unity Of The Holy Ghost” (Filioque), For “It Is Through Christ, With Christ, And In Christ, In The Unity Of The Holy Ghost”, that Holy Mother Church, outside of which there is no Salvation, due to The Unity Of The Holy Ghost (Filioque ) exists.

      Pray for our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, who has not rejected The Gift Of The Holy Ghost in regards to Papal
      Infallibility and The Deposit Of Faith.

      “For the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might make known new doctrine, but that by His assistance they might inviolably keep and faithfully expound the Revelation, the Deposit of Faith, delivered through the Apostles. “

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