Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Journey Toward Faith

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Eclesalia Informativo
April 11, 2012

John 20:19-31

While Thomas was absent, Jesus' disciples had an unprecedented experience. When they see him coming, they communicate it to him full of joy: "We have seen the Lord." Thomas listens to them skeptically. Why would he believe something so absurd from them? How can they say they have seen Jesus alive when He died crucified? In any case, it must have been someone else.

The disciples tell him that He showed them the wounds on His hands and side. Thomas can't accept anyone's testimony. He needs to see for himself. "Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands... and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."

This disciple who refuses to believe naively, will teach us the journey those of us who haven't even seen Jesus' face or listened to His words or felt His embrace, have to make to get to faith in the Risen Christ.

Eight days later, Jesus appears again to His disciples. He addresses Thomas immediately. He doesn't criticize his approach. There is nothing illegitimate or scandalous about his doubts. His resistance reveals his honesty. Jesus understands him and comes to meet him, showing him His wounds.

Jesus offers to satisfy his requirements. "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side." Those wounds, more than "proof" of something, are they not "signs" of His love poured out unto death? Therefore, Jesus invites him to go deeper, beyond his doubts. "Do not be unbelieving, but believe."

Thomas gives up verifying anything. He no longer needs proof. He only experiences the presence of the Master who loves him, attracts him, and invites him to trust. Thomas, who has made a longer and more laborious journey than anyone to meet Jesus, goes further than anyone in the depth of his faith. "My Lord and my God". No one had confessed Jesus like that.

We don't have to be frightened when we feel doubts and questions springing up within us. Doubts, when experienced in a healthy way, save us from a superficial faith that contents itself with repeating formulas without growing in confidence and love. Doubts stimulate us to go all the way in our trust in the Mystery of God incarnated in Jesus.

Christian faith grows in us when we feel loved and attracted to this God whose face we can glimpse in the gospel stories of Jesus. Then His call to trust will be stronger in us than our own doubts. "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe."

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Notification issued to Spanish theologian Andrés Torres Queiruga

One of Spain's most noted theologians, Rev. Dr. Andrés Torres Queiruga, has received a notification from the Commission for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Spanish Bishops' Conference about his work. The notification, issued on March 30, 2012, alleges that the following "elements of the faith of the Church are distorted in the writings of Professor Torres Queiruga":

"* The clear distinction between the world and the Creator, and the possibility that God intervenes in history and the world beyond the laws that he himself established.

* The newness of life in the Spirit that Christ grants us, with the consequent distinction between nature and grace, between creation and salvation. As well as the necessity of supernatural grace to achieve the ultimate goal of man.

* The undeductible character of Revelation, by which God has revealed to man his salvific plan, choosing a people and sending his Son into the world.

* The uniqueness and universality of the salvific mediation of Christ and the Church.

* The realism of the resurrection of Jesus as a (miraculous) historical and transcendent event.

* The true meaning of prayers of petition, and the value of intercession and mediation of the Church in its prayers for the dead, especially in the Eucharist.

* The real distinction between the time of personal death and the Parousia, understood as the culmination and fulfillment of history and the world."

The bishops conclude by saying that through this notification they hope to "safeguard the essential aspects of the doctrine of the Church to avoid confusion among the People of God and contribute to the strengthening of their Christian life." The bishops also hope that Torres Queiruga would "continue to clarify his thinking and make it fully consistent with the faith tradition authoritatively taught by the Magisterium of the Church."

It would seem that the Spanish bishops are as clueless as their American counterparts about the difference between theology and catechism. In an opinion piece refuting the charges against him, especially with regard to his theology on the Resurrection, Dr. Torres Queiruga explored the difference:

"First, I want to stress the distinction between faith and theology. In faith, all of us believers partake and questioning it in relation to others is a very serious matter, for which we should all keep an exquisite respect. No one will find in my work the slightest discreditation of anyone in this regard. The theological explanation is something different and, made with due consideration and sufficient rigor, deserves strict respect, unless with arguments against arguments it is shown to actually damage faith. But that damage should never be assumed simply because an explanation is inconsistent with the preferred one from the theology itself (which would amount to an idolatrous identification of a particular option with the common faith of the Church)."

He goes on to say that the language of theology and of catechism is even different. As an extreme example, he says "it's as if a theologian were accused of harming the faith of the Church because he clarifies that you cannot take literally that Christ "is sitting at the right hand of the Father", that "He rose up into heaven until a cloud covered Him", or that, once resurrected, He ate "a piece of grilled fish." And hence, using this method, the Christology published by Pope Ratzinger would not be approved either nor, of course, most of current theology."

Statements of support

Support is already beginning to pour in for Dr. Torres Queiruga. A priests' group, the Foro de Curas de Bizkaia, have started an online petition to the Bishops' Commission on the Doctrine of the Faith to reconsider the notification. "At stake", they say, "is not only the ecclesiality of Andres Torres Queiruga's theological proposal but also the credibility of our bishops' "authorized" magisterium and the ecclesial communion of many Christians."

And a group of Torres Queiruga's fellow theologians published the following open statement about the notification:

As companions and friends of Andrés Torres Queiruga we want to make public the following reflections:

1. As Catholics and members of the Church we are grateful for the intellectual work that Andrés Torres Queiruga has been doing for over forty years. The sum of his fertile thought is a historic summit of Spanish theology's service to the truth of the Christian faith. His determination to think in dialogue with contemporary culture has helped many Christians of today to believe ("intellige, ut credas" "understand in order to believe").

And we testify that, at the same time, his faith in the 'Dios Antimal' [Translator's note: This is literally "anti-evil God" but it's a term I have never run into before and I would welcome any suggestions for alternative translations from someone who is familiar with it] has required and stimulated his theological thinking ("Crede, ut intelligas", "believe in order to understand"). Therefore it seems very serious to us that the text of the Notification does not contain a word of acknowledgment of his intellectual commitment or of appreciation for the good he has done for the faith of Christians. We are confident that this approach has nothing to do with Jesus of Nazareth, the source and nerve center of the Christian faith tradition.

2. Without renouncing further and more extensive pronouncements on the Notification, we now state the following:

a. The theology summarized in the Notification would hardly receive a passing grade in an examination in most theological schools in the world. One need only visit the treatises by the most important teachers of the same.

b. It is unacceptable that the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" is a benchmark from which to evaluate and judge the consistency of Andrés Torres Queiruga's theology with the truth of faith. The dogmatic statements of the Church are the benchmark for all theological work and must always remain as such. But their catechetical manifestations have varied and continue to vary over time. It is more than arguable whether said Catechism in all its points expresses the truth of faith in its entirety and with all the necessary richness. Also, using it as an umpire to judge the scientific work of a recognized theologian is similar to rating the contributions of a first-rate researcher in light of the textbooks used to teach his subject in the initial courses of college program.

c. As is becoming customary in recent times, in this case the bishops' magisterium is identifying its theology with the truth of the faith. It is a practice that we roundly denounce because it seriously distorts the service to the gospel that is legitimately part of the bishops' ministry.

d. Andrés Torres Queiruga is being accused of "reducing Christian faith to the categories of the dominant culture" and of "eliminating or obscuring the novelty introduced by the Incarnation of the Son of God." Those who impute such a serious charge against him do it from a faith expressed in the categories of a venerable but obsolete culture. By acting in this way, are they not the ones who are reducing the faith to the categories of that culture? "New paradigms" are not decided by theologians, but by cultural transformations. We speak of a "new theological paradigm" when theology has to think of faith within a new cultural paradigm. It is what the Church was freely able to do in its most ancient tradition to express salvifically the Christological and Trinitarian faith within the Greek paradigm, quite different from the Semitic one. What evaluation would the Confession of Chalcedon earn from an unchanging concept of the paradigm of the gospel of Mark? This inculturation of faith is what is now being prevented, because the law of fear prevails in the theological community and many theologians are silent in order not to have to face problems that bring with them "side effects".

e. It's false that, as the Notification states, an extensive and lengthy dialogue has been maintained with the Author." One meeting for a couple of hours with some members of the signing Commission to point out the theological problems at issue and that, 48 hours before the Notification was signed, is far from what ought to be a serious, deep and honest dialogue and gives every appearance of seeking an alibi that fools nobody.

f. We end by encouraging Andrés Torres Queiruga to continue with strength and freedom his work of theological reflection and research for the best service to the Church and to put forward the credibility of the gospel proclamation against the challenges of the current culture.

April 4, 2012

Joaquín Perea, Josep Antoni Comes, Jesús Conill, Adela Cortina, Rafael Díaz-Salazar, Antonio Duato, Teresa Forcades, Carlos García de Andoin, Joaquín García Roca, Maria Dolors Oller, José Miguel Rodríguez, Demetrio Velasco, Javier Vitoria and José Antonio Zamora.

As always, I believe that the best weapon against theological censorship is to buy and read the works of the censored author. Fortunately, several of Dr. Torres Queiruga's publications are available in English from SCM Press in England. These include Resurrection of the Dead, Jesus as Christ, and Pluralist Theology: The Emerging Paradigm. His far more numerous works in Spanish are available from Several of his older works in Spanish are freely available in PDF or RTF format for downloading from the library section of Servicios Koinonia.