Testing the Boundaries


Over the past few years, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C., has been at the forefront of attempts by Catholic bishops to define the scope of Catholic theology in the United States. To his credit, he is keen to engage with younger theologians in Catholic colleges and universities. His most recent effort to explain the relationship between bishops and theologians (“The Noble Enterprise,” America, February 4) situates the theological task within the “New Evangelization.” In short, we are to “think and feel with the church (sentire cum Ecclesia).”

I could not agree more. But where the rubber meets the road—namely, in addressing the question What is the ecclesial task of the theologian?—Wuerl’s argument leaves at least this young theologian uninspired. His essay acknowledges that theology is not “simply catechesis,” yet its argument allows for very little by way of newness in theological research. “Authentic theology does not presume to generate new teachings,” Wuerl writes; rather, theologians must go “beyond” catechesis “in depth, in intensity, and in precision.” While this deepening describes one aspect of thinking with the church—and the work of many theologians—there also exists a strain of theological thinking that seeks to broaden the field of inquiry. And here Wuerl expresses concern. He exhorts...

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About the Author

Michael Peppard is associate professor of theology at Fordham University, author of The World's Oldest Church and The Son of God in the Roman World, and on Twitter @MichaelPeppard.