During the meeting with the members of the International Theological Commission, created by Paul VI in 1969, Pope Francis spoke about “creative fidelity to Tradition.” He urged them to “go further” in research.
During of his speech, the Pope several times distinguished the theologian from the catechist. The latter's mission is to “provide the correct doctrine, the solid doctrine, not any new developments.” He enjoined them never to teach children “new doctrines that are not safe.”
The theologian for his part “takes the risk of going beyond,” because he “seeks to better explain theology,” continued the Pope. And it will be “up to the Magisterium to stop it” if necessary, he added. Francis recommended that professors of theology give lessons that “provoke astonishment in those who follow them.” The Pope then indicated three guidelines.
A Great Danger: Going Backwards
The first guideline the Pope brought up is that of creative fidelity to Tradition. It is a question of “exercising the ministry of theology - in listening to the Word of God, to the sensus fidei of the People of God, to the Magisterium, and to the charisms, and in discerning the signs of the times - for the progress of the Apostolic Tradition, under the assistance of the Holy Spirit.”
That is, he insisted that theologians avoid a great danger: going backwards, or to say “we have always done it like that.” And he points out “certain ecclesial movements are frozen in time, in a retrograde sense” as a problem.
Such thinking opposes the rule of growth, explains the Pope, and indifferentism leads theologians to say that “this is how it has always been done, it is better to continue like this.” On this point, theologians need to think further.
Deepening the Gospel
In the second guideline, the Successor of Peter encouraged theologians to seize “the opportunity to carry out with relevance the work of deepening and inculturating the Gospel,” recommending that they “open up with prudence to the contribution of various disciplines through the consultation of experts, including non-Catholics.”
And in conclusion he specifies: “The subjects entrusted to your attention and to your expertise are of great importance in this new stage of the proclamation of the Gospel which the Lord calls us to live as a Church in the service of universal brotherhood in Christ.”
Finally, the third guideline is that of collegiality. “It acquires,” specifies Francis, “a particular relevance and can offer a specific contribution in the context of the synodal path, to which the whole People of God is summoned.”
The Pope also suggested increasing the number of women, “not because they are fashionable, but because they think differently from men and make theology something deeper and also more ‘savory.’” Currently, the commission has five women, including three religious and two lay women, among the 30 or so theologians who are members.