Michael Peppard, who teaches theology at Fordham and is a regular contributor to "dotCommonweal," has a quite thoughtful article in the current issue of the magazine. In it he enters into respectful and spirited dialogue with Cardinal Donald Wuerl on the nature of theology and the ecclesial task of the theologian.Picking up the Cardinal's analogy to the workings of science, Michael disputes the Cardinal's analysis of how science actually proceeds and makes a case for a more open-ended and innovative role for Catholic theology and the theologian. He even invokes Pope Benedict in support of his view!Whether the analogy with science (whether invoked by Wuerl or Peppard) is adequate is not my direct concern. Rather, I'd like to question a standard trope among theologians. We often hear the refrain: "we're doing theology not catechetics." My question is whether such a statement posits too facile a separation in the one ecclesial task of "handing on the faith?"Michael writes in his article:

Following Pauls lead, we meet our students where they are, in order, God willing, to bring some of them forward on a path (educere). In that process of theological educationnot catechetical instruction (instruere)we learn and change together.

My question is: don't we, especially at the undergraduate level, do both: educere and instruere? Or, put another way, must we not incorporate the insights of both Cardinal Wuerl and Pope Benedict: the Catholic theologian is both "bounded" and "searching?" And is this the paradoxical freedom of the theologian?Peppard's full article is here.

Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is a longtime Commonweal contributor.

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