Statement from Bishop John M. D’Arcy
The appointment by Pope Benedict XVI of Professor John Cavadini, Ph.D., chair of the theology department at Notre Dame to the International Theological Commission should not be allowed to pass without a comment from the local bishop.
This appointment brings honor to our diocese and to Notre Dame, especially to its theology department. The meaning and purpose of this appointment is made clear from a homily Pope Benedict gave when he celebrated Mass for the 30 members of this International Commission, the highest group of theologians in the church. It was the first meeting attended by Dr. Cavadini.
Pope Benedict asked what is a theologian and what is the work of theology. In a kind of examination of conscience for theologians, he gave the Christmas analogy of the Magi and noted that while the learned academicians and the scribes were able to point the travelers towards Bethlehem, they did not go themselves. They gave information, but did not receive formation for their own lives. They did not go in prayer and faith to see the child.
The pope said that in the last 200 years, we have observed similar things. Great specialists and great theologians, teachers of the faith, have taught us many things; but they have not been able to see the mystery itself that Jesus is the Son of God and that in a determined historical moment, the Triune God has come among us. He even says that for those teachers “the great mystery of Jesus, if the Son made man is reduced to a historical Jesus, a truly tragic figure, a phantom, someone who remained in a tomb, who is truly dead.
The pope explained how in our time, we have learned about the Divine Mystery from the little ones from the saints. He spoke about St. Bernadette, to whom Our Lady came at Lourdes; St. Therese of Lisieux, with her “non-scientific reading of the Bible,” who at the same time went into the very heart of the Scriptures. He refers to St. Josephine Bakhita, the African slave girl of whom he spoke in his encyclical on hope; and to Blessed Theresa of Calcutta and St. Damien who went to Molokai to live and die with the lepers. He makes clear that God also comes to the learned, but they also must be humbled. He gives the example of St. John, who stood at the foot of the cross and was a humble fisherman, but is rightly called the theologian; and St. Paul, the brilliants scholar of the law, who was reduced to blindness and had to be lifted up and healed by Christ before he could receive his mission to explain the Divine Mystery. As Paul wrote in the First Letter to Timothy, “I was mercifully tested.”
Pope Benedict XVI did not speak of himself, but as someone who has been in his presence and has long read his teachings. It is evident that the Holy Father has combined humility, and prayer, and adoration, with great learning.
Pope Benedict XVI has pointed out a serious problem in theology; namely, separation of learning from holiness and faith in the life of the church. Another example in recent years has been those who have attempted to separate theology from catechetics.
Also for John Cavadini, this gap does not exist. He has always linked teaching and a spiritual life and prayer with study. His classes show a person who prays and binds himself closely, not to some proposed church of the future, but to the real church of the bishop and the faithful. He sees theology as at the service of the church and of her needs.
Our professor has bridged this gap, linking always a life of prayer and holiness with study and learning and always respecting the communion that must exist between theology and catechetics, and this may well be why the Holy Spirit, acting through the Chair of Peter, has chosen him for this commission, the highest group of theologians in the church and why this appointment is so important and why it can be expected to enrich the work of the International Commission.
As his friend and bishop, I am delighted with this appointment which brings honor to us all.
For more photos of John Cavadini at the Vatican visit here.
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