Theologians: Young & Older

A Response to Christopher Ruddy

Christopher Ruddy ["Young Theologians," April 21] has written an intriguing and challenging essay on the state of academic theology and its relation to the church [see also, Correspondence, this issue, page 4]. He thinks the mandatum—formal episcopal approval to teach theology—will not "scare away" potential students of theology, even though it appears to be more an "instrument of control" than a means of cultivating a genuine ecclesial theology. Despite that, Ruddy seems to have doubts about the value of academic freedom and the "shrillness" of its defenders on Catholic college and university campuses.

Ruddy writes that theology should be more "effectual," that is, "make a difference in the life of the church." It’s hard to disagree with this goal. And Ruddy thinks that academic theology can do so only if young theologians are given spiritual formation and encouraged to focus their efforts more on writing for popular journals than for "myopic and arcane publications" that are produced "for the sake of gaining tenure and promotion." He proposes that theologians write and speak in a more popular vein, and that tenure committees give these activities more weight in their deliberations.

Ruddy overlooks the fact that theologians spend a great deal of time teaching college students, and that this is where...

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About the Author

Stephen J. Pope is a professor of theology at Boston College. He is the author of Human Evolution and Christian Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 2007).