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Prof. Dirk Ansorge, Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule, Sankt Georgen

Mutual Benefit: Arguments in Favour of the Presence of Catholic Theology at Secular Universities

ABSTRACT: Due to historical reasons, Catholic theology in Germany enjoys an extraordinary situation: Faculties and Institutes are integral departments of secular universities. Professors, staff, and libraries are publicly funded. This situation has been under question for some time, for a number of reasons. Some theologians fear that theology, as it strives to be recognized by secular sciences, loses its proper objective. Some secular scientists doubt at the scientific character of theology. The basic assumptions of faith can not be proven, they argue. Furthermore, they estimate that obedience to the magisterium is an obstacle to academic freedom. As the legal base for Catholic faculties in Germany is the education of priests, the increasing lack of vocations jeopardizes their existence. Against this background, this paper argues that the institutional integration of theology in secular universities provides opportunities for the exchange of new insights, projects, and methods between theological departments and departments of the secular sciences. Both sides benefit from the presence of theology in academia: theology is challenged to justify its claim for truth, while secular sciences can better recognise the presuppositions of their methodology and the limits of their insights.

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Prof. Lieven Boeve (KU Leuven, Belgium)

Recontextualizing Theology at the University: Identity, Dialogue and Difference

ABSTRACT: In a set of theses, the paper will enquire in what way the university, and the scientific-reflexive access it offers to the world, offers a locus theologicus: a place from where to speak about the God who revealed Godself in Jesus Christ and the Christian tradition. A place thus where the university challenges theology to speak up again today. A place urging theology to recontextualize, i.e. to search again for ways to develop in theologically legitimate and contextually plausible ways what is at stake at such locus: God’s interruption of histories of closure and hegemony. Even when that place at the university has become a marginal place.

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Prof. Sergio-Thomas Bonino, Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Rome

The Genetic Code of Catholic Theology: Theology Today: Perspectives, Principles and Criteria (ITC 2012)

ABSTRACT: This paper will present the genesis of the document of the International Theological Commission (2012), highlighting the concerns at the origin of its preparation and therefore explain its intentions. The aim is to show that legitimate theological pluralism, and no less legitimate specialisation within the theological field, should not lead to a fragmentation of theology, to the point that the extreme diversity of cultural contexts and methodological points of view would make any dialogue between theologians impossible. Thereby ruling out any mutual critical evaluation. In this perspective, the main theses that the document puts forward promote an epistemology of Catholic theology that confirms an assured unity. The document states precisely the genetic code of Catholic theology which must be found in the diverse range of theologies. It also insists on the need to distinguish theology from religious sciences and explains how the professing nature of Catholic theology, as a service rendered to the ecclesial community, is reconciled with its demand for rationality and scientific character.

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Prof. Cornelius Casey, Loyola Institute, Trinity College Dublin

Theology in a Conversation about Hope

ABSTRACT: Writers on hope leave marks of their historical time within their work. This is done sometimes by explicit reference, sometimes by distinctive emphases. Something new or terrible has loomed into view prompting a revisit to old questions: what is hope and what is its moral realism? When Gabriel Marcel in his classic ‘Homo Viator’ emphasizes that ‘hope is a knowing that outstrips the unknown’, a kind of absolute hope, he writes as a patriotic Frenchman at a time when his country is supine under Nazi occupation. When St Paul writes about hope he writes within a narrative of a cosmic transformation that overflows in all directions. To write on hope today is to write in the shadow of a fractious humanity struggling, desperately, to find a unified response to the existential threat of climate change. To write as a theologian is to write within an ecclesial self-understanding which sees itself not as standing opposite to and facing this world, but as presence within it: ‘the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well.’

Writing on hope today is a crowded field. Poets, song-writers, witness accounts (Nadezhda Mandelstam) are there alongside works of psychology, sociology, anthropology, philosophy and theology. The lecture seeks to be in ‘conversation’ with some of these, the most important of whom will be Charles Péguy, Walter Benjamin, the Czech theologian Tomáš Halík, and Ivan Illich, radical critic of some forms of modernity who writes ‘what a privilege to live in a time when our hope has lost its this-worldly, calendar, and watch-related scaffolding. We are in an age of scaffoldless hope.’ The lecture will try to elucidate what is meant by ‘a scaffoldless hope’ and what kind of privilege it might be to live in such a time.

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Prof. Michael Conway, Professor of Faith and Culture, Pontifical University, St Patrick‚s College, Maynooth

Vetera novis augere: New Tasks for Theology in Contemporary Culture

ABSTRACT: If theology is to survive in the contemporary university in a European context, it will need not only to reimagine its typical curricula, but also reconsider its modus operandi in terms of its engagement with students and the wider academic community. The changing cultural, ecclesial, and political contexts in themselves augur for such transformation, which, on the one hand, inevitably, evokes certain levels of anxiety about the discipline per se, but, which, on the other, may serve to save theology long-term from either exclusion or gradual disappearance (the more likely option) from the conversation that is the university. The discipline is now in danger of being viewed as an esoteric discourse that is reserved to a relative elite or marginalized group on the edge of society and culture. This paper will consider some modest proposals in terms of responding to the present time and culture, paying particular attention to the needs of the contemporary student.

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Prof. Massimo Faggioli, Villanova University

Theology between the University and the Church as a “Field Hospital”

ABSTRACT: It has become more difficult to make a case for the presence of theology in the university - not only in public/state universities, but also in Catholic universities. The status of theology and of intellectual knowledge is contested and embattled, in ways that were difficult to imagine at the time of Vatican II. It is therefore urgent to reflect on the ways in which the university and theology interact. The place of theological reflection in the intellectual life of the church must be clarified. Today the role of theology is being redefined not only by the technocratic paradigm and secularist ideologies, but also by intra-ecclesial pressures: the turn to the global, and also, for example, the transition towards the “field hospital”, as Pope Francis famously and effectively defined the Church. This lecture will explore some of the challenges to theology coming not only from the outside but also from the inside of the Catholic Church.

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Prof. Michael Kirwan, Loyola Institute, School of Religion, Theology, and Peace Studies, Trinity College Dublin

The Migration of Theology: Journey to a Promised Land, or an expedition “behind enemy lines ”

ABSTRACT: This presentation will offer a survey of the move of Theology out of the seminary (or “theologate”) and into secular university setting, which became a priority for the Society of Jesus in the post-Vatican II period. The speaker will draw mainly on his experience as a student, and then lecturer, at Heythrop College, which was a constituent college of the University of London from 1970 until its closure in 2018. Whatever achievements of the college during this period, the migration must be considered ambiguous, given the college“s ultimate demise. In fact, it shares a fate with similar theological enterprises across the global Society in the post-Conciliar period. This presentation will not look for systemic reasons for this pattern of real but short-lived success, much less offer a post-mortem analysis of any specific institution. The question will be posed, however as to whether - given the instability and uncertainties of higher education - it is a mistake to seek an “abiding city“ in the secular academy. Perhaps a more effective presence will be shorter, more precarious? This presentation will identify some of the “mysteries“- joyful, sorrowful and glorious- which may be of help in determining the future shape of theological commitment to the academy.

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Prof. Josef Quitterer, Institut für Christliche Philosophie, University of Innsbruck

Assuming True Beliefs – The Contribution of Theology for a Healthy University

ABSTRACT: Theologies commitment to the truth of specific religious beliefs seems to be an argument for those who want to get rid of theology in the University. According to this view, a minimal condition for the scientific status of a discipline is neutrality towards its object of research. This requirement seems to be met only by the scientific approach of religious studies which refrains methodologically from dealing with the truth-question – each religion is equal from this methodological point of view. In my paper I argue against this widespread opinion. I will demonstrate that there is a scientific value in the methodological approach of theology. When theologians assume the truth of specific religious beliefs and reflect upon them, they bring these beliefs into an open discourse. Assuming the truth of religious beliefs and relating it to other beliefs, experiences or common sense-intuitions enables theologians to explore hidden aspects or implications of these beliefs. In this way academic theology is able to account for the quality and rational coherence of religious and common sense-beliefs thereby contributing to a healthy university and society.

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Prof. Ethna Regan, Dublin City University

The ‘Problem’ of Theology in the University: Contestations, Complexities, and Contributions

ABSTRACT: This paper will begin by exploring the changing landscape of theology in Irish universities, from the compromise of its exclusion from the National University to the rich contemporary topography. It will then examine the various ways in which the discipline of theology, more broadly, has been de-centred in the past century, and conclude by sketching some of the challenges to and contributions of theology in the contemporary university.

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Prof Sharon Rider, Uppsala University, Sweden

Higher Education as a Road to Somewhere

ABSTRACT: In his bestseller, The Road to Somewhere (2017), David Goodhart made the case for an understanding of our current cultural convulsions as having to do with place. He distinguishes there between two “tribes”, one nomadic, the other rooted. The first, whom he calls Anywheres, value autonomy, mobility and openness, while the other, the Somewheres, value security, familiarity and loyalty. Importantly, the first group tend to be more educated than the second. He stresses that the worldviews of both are legitimate and deserving of respect, but happen to come into conflict on certain fundamental issues. Importantly, while the labels are his, the value groupings are something he finds in the data of sociological and psychological studies. One of the most salient features of Anywheres is that their cosmopolitanism is something they develop during their years at university: it is, as it were, central to the hidden curriculum of higher education. In a similar vein, Wendell Berry, in Home Economics (1987) and elsewhere, describes how especially public universities have betrayed the mandate to serve the people and places in whose name they were first established. Instead of educating the youth so as to make them useful for others, universities work “to uproot the best brains and talents, to direct them away from home into exploitative careers in one or another of the professions, and so to make them predators of communities and homelands, their own as well as other peoples.” This criticism has a long history, dating back at least to the Cold War (see, for example, Ivan Illich’s Disabling Professions from 1977). In this paper, I reconsider the place and purpose of higher education in the 21st century in light of such criticisms, hopefully without falling back into nostalgia for a remote and romanticized picture of the past.

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Prof. Fáinche Ryan, Loyola Institute, Trinity College Dublin

The University: a refuge of truth, and truthfulness?

ABSTRACT: Hannah Arendt, in her essay Truth and Politics posits the university as a refuge of truth. This paper will explore Arendt’s ‘idea of a university’, paying particular attention to this radical descriptor as ‘a refuge of truth’. The paper will first consider how Arendt understands elementary and high school education, before considering her ‘idea of a university’. While Arendt never dedicated an article specifically to the idea of a university, significant insight can be gained from recently published private correspondence and published essays. The paper shall argue that Arendt believed that an important role for the university is to provide a place, a refuge, where people can learn to ‘stop and think’, to develop their own creativity from a firm root in ‘tradition’. In this vision the humanities play an essential role. Within this purview the paper will conclude with a consideration of Josef Pieper’s argument that ‘a university without theology cannot be a university in the full sense’ (“What Does “Academic” Mean?)

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Prof. Robert J. Wozniak, Pontifical Academy of Theology, Kraków

Toward an academic universalism. Rethinking science and the university

ABSTRACT: The presentation is an invitation to return to a broad conception of rationality (Ratzinger, Marion) as the ground of the idea of the university. Modernity brought with it an ever narrowing idea of rationality. The many narrowings eventually had to bring with them a strongly restrictive theory of knowledge and understanding of scientific activity. This process was not indifferent to the very understanding of the nature and activity of universities, which increasingly focused on the sciences while gradually neglecting the humanities, philosophy and theology. All these transformations corresponded to a new epistemic consciousness that decisively rejects the hierarchical conception of knowledge, which was an essential moment for the self-understanding of theology in the Middle Ages. Faced with such challenges, I will attempt in my text to sketch a conception of knowledge and the university that is based on the latest findings of Trinitarian ontology.

Speaker details here.