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Fr. Schillebeeckx: Theology Should stop Justifying
the Church and Instead Critique Her

H. Hillenaar and H. Peters, two Dutch scholars, organized a series of interviews with the most famous theologians of Holland on various topics, such as theology, the Bible and catechesis, ecclesiastic authority, the liturgy, women in the Church, and others. They published the result of their efforts in 1969 in a book, The Dutch Catholics.

A top-listed name on the roster was Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx, the progressivist theologian who was one of the Dutch periti at Vatican II. When questioned about how he envisaged the future of Catholic Theology, he gave the following answer.

At right is the cover of the book The Dutch Catholics. At right below, a photocopy of the French text. Below, we present our translation of the lines highlighted in yellow.

Question: In your opinion, in the years to come how will theology and the Church evolve?

Answer: First let me express my hope.

I hope that in the times to come theology will have increasing liberty to say what it must say. In the past, there were innumerable theologians - of every type, speciality and worth - who could not express themselves freely. There was always the same paralyzing panic: How will "Rome" react?

Above all, therefore, I long for an absolute liberty for theologians, because all of them desire to remain faithful to the Gospel.

I hope, on the other hand, that theology - continuing to be a theology of the Church - will no longer be an ideological justification of this Church, but to the contrary, it will exercise the role of critic with regard to her.

(Edward Schillebeeckx, "La Theologie," in Les Catholiques Hollandais, Bruges: Desclee de Brouwer, 1969, p. 21)
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Posted on July 29, 2006

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