Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — Theology is not simply an academic discipline or a means of explaining the faith to believers, it also has a role in promoting peace and harmony, Pope Benedict XVI said.
Catholic theology’s attention to the links between faith and reason “is more necessary than ever today” because it demonstrates the compatibility of different sources of knowledge, avoiding “the violent results of a religiosity opposed to reason and of a reason opposed to religion,” the pope said.
Pope Benedict made his comments Dec. 2 during a meeting with members of the International Theological Commission, a group of theologians appointed by the pope to study themes of current interest and offer expert advice to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
During the commission’s plenary meeting Nov. 28-Dec. 2, members continued work on three studies: the Catholic understanding of belief in one God, the relation of Catholic social teaching to Catholic doctrine and the status of Catholic theology today.
Pope Benedict said Christian monotheism — the belief in one God in the three persons of the Trinity — teaches that God is a community of love to which people are invited in a way that makes it possible for brotherhood and harmony among the men and women God has created.
Because “the ethnic and religious conflicts in the world make it more difficult for people to recognize the uniqueness of Christian thought about God and the humanism it inspires,” he said, “Christian theology, together with the life of believers, must restore the felicitous and clear evidence of the Trinitarian revelation on our community.”
Christian theology always begins with belief in Jesus Christ as the only son of God, he said. Only on that basis, and in harmony with the tradition of the church, can a theologian intelligently explore the faith while remaining Catholic, he said.
“Without a healthy and vigorous theological reflection, the church risks not expressing fully the harmony between faith and reason,” the pope said. “At the same time, without faithfully living in communion with the church and adhering to its magisterium as the vital space of its existence, theology cannot give an adequate explanation of the gift of faith.”
Pope Benedict said the commission’s study on the relationship between Catholic social teaching and Catholic teaching in general is important, not only in stimulating Catholics’ efforts for justice, peace and charity, but also for helping Catholics show others what Christian faith means in the world.
Catholic social action is not undertaken simply for humanitarian reasons, but is “a response to the son of God’s coming into the world,” he said.
“The disciples of Christ the redeemer know that, without attention to others, without forgiveness, without love even for one’s enemies, no human community can live in peace; and this begins with that first and fundamental society which is the family,” the pope said.
Working with others to build a better world, Catholics need to be able to explain the faith-based motivations of their efforts and to understand the reasons that lead others to the same work, he said. In that way, “those who have perceived the foundations of Christian social action also can find a stimulus to consider faith in Jesus Christ.”