New Evangelization Symposium Kicks Off

The USCCB's Committee on Doctrine kicked off its symposium for young theologians last night. In his introductory remarks, Father Weinandy said that the idea for the effort to reach out to the young theologians came from Cardinal Donald Wuerl, and that former Dean of the School of Religious Studies at Catholic University came up with the idea of focusing on the New Evangelization. This answered two questions I had about the event. First, this symposium idea began as part of an effort to build a relationship with young theologians, not simply as a means of advancing the New Evangelization. Second, the the impetus came from Cardinal Wuerl. Kudos to Wuerl for taking the initiative and reaching out to these young theologians. One wishes that thirty years ago, bishops had taken such initiatives, the evident divide between the hierarchy and some older theologians might not exist.

The evening's keynote speaker was Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston who focused his speech on fourth century theologians and especially Iraneus of Lyons. DiNardo said Iraneus made the Gospel known in a world that was "both new and threatening," and that while he did not have the benefit of the historical-critical method in plumbing the depths of Scripture, and his allegories were sometimes extravagant ("he ransacked the Old Testament for allegories of Christ"), he undoubtedly got to the kernal of the Gospel message in new and inviting ways. For example, DiNardo cited Iraneus'use of Genesis 2:7, in which God makes man from the dust of the earth, to interpret the passage in John 9 in which Jesus uses dust and spittle to make mud with which he heals the blind man, to show how "God is acting" in human history.

DiNardo said that he drew five principles from his study of Iraneus that he thought especially important for the New Evangelization. First, the need to focus on the doctrine of Creation ex nihilo. DiNardo said that in our scientifically informed world, this doctrine can quickly become "opaque" but that Christians must be able to say with the Pslamist, "You have no need of our prayers." Second, the unity of Sacred Scripture and the rule of faith, or the Creed. The creed is "a heuristic and hermeneutical key to the interpretation of the Word of God," DiNardo said. Third, DiNardo said contemporary theologians must, like Iraneus, put forward a holistic sense of human beings as embodied, saying that many congitive sciences are "reductionistic." "Theologians need to not be afraid of this argument with congitive scientists," DiNardo said. "They're not as smart as they think they are." Fourth, DiNardo called for attentiveness to the role of reason in faith, especially in light of the great variety of theological methodologies. Finally, DiNardo said that theologians who wish to aid the New Evangelization must retrieve the patristic sense of the beautiful, and he called attention to the work of Hans Urs von Balthasar in this regard.

DiNardo finished his talk by calling on the theologians to help the Church;s pastors meet the hunger of young people for God. "Some people say that young people are hungry for the Word of God. They are starving for it." He noted that in his Church of Galveston-Houston, more than 2600 people were received into the Church at Easter this year, most of them catechumens. He urged the theologians to include lectio divina in their work, because young people need to know the Scriptures. "I beg you as a pastor not to lose sight of these young people," DiNardo concluded.

I am not sure if I will be bale to live blog this morning from the conference room, but am heading down there now and will hopefully be posting through the day.

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