From the Editor’s Desk
Theological Studies 2017, Vol. 78(1) 5–6
© Theological Studies, Inc. 2017 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0040563916682925
The results of the recent elections in the United States continue to focus the attention of people in every place on the political map. What the election portends for the long- term future we do not yet know. What we do know is that political realities, not only in the USA, but throughout the world, have had and will continue to have massive implications for all human beings, especially the poor and vulnerable, and for the fate of the Earth. The US election, and others to which it has been compared, certainly marks a historical moment of krisis, a moment of decision, but also of kairos, a moment of opportunity—even if seen through the darkened scrim of dread.
One might well ask what might be the pertinence, if any, of theology to such a moment. Certainly the fundamental task of systematic theology is to find some way of speaking about the “mystery of the unending nativity” of love (Hilary, De Trinitate 2.10.2) that we call God, and to do this in such a way as to make a difference in our lives, particularly as those lives are shaped by faith in Jesus Christ. And this fundamental task is carried out in a world that, while ever springing forth new life, grows ever darker with threat and danger—with what Gaudium et Spes so memorably called the “joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted” (GS 1). I fear that in the not-too-distant future theologians will be speaking of even more terrible sorrows, which like the Shoah and the Bomb of the past century, will constitute unimaginable violations of our embodied existence, not only by terrorists and war, but also by political policies that show no mercy toward those on the margins, or even toward our planet. The task of the theologian, then, will be to express the hope of Christian faith in the midst of what is bound to be a season of crucifixion, and to enter into the throes of solidarity with the suffering as a starting point for theological understanding of faith. Whether or not theologians can offer a credible account of our hope to Christians and non-Christians alike will make or break the pertinence of theology to the reality into which we are moving.
The present issue presents examples of theology that themselves offer hope that theology can rise to the challenge. Our venerable “Notes on Moral Theology” section has been newly named “Notes on Theological Ethics” in order to reflect the growth in the field over the past fifty years. This year it is inspired by two major current events, the US presidential election, and the ongoing controversy over the reception of Amoris Laetitia, which we addressed in two articles in our last issue. Both events suggest deep divisions in civil and ecclesial societies, and both raise fundamental questions about the role of Catholic theological principles in the conduct of our affairs, notably the role of conscience. Julie Hanlon Rubio’s article on the duty of resistance, exemplified by womanist theology, complements these essays.
There have been historical moments of krisis and kairos in the past, of course, and this year the Christian world observes the quincentenary of the Reformation, dated to the initial public protest by the monk-theologian Martin Luther. How Catholic theologians responded to and interpreted this massive religious, social, political, and theological eruption is instructive in certain ways for us today. Anglican theologian Thomas Holtzen offers an analysis of John Henry Newman’s interpretation of Luther and finds new insights into Newman’s grasp of the thought of the great Reformer. This is the first in a series spurred by the Reformation that we are running during this anniversary year.
Finally, we remember a beloved colleague, Virgilio Elizondo, whose untimely death last year has stirred many theologians to recall his creative response to the historical moment, ecclesial and social, faced by Mexican American and other Latino/a Catholics in the United States. Suddenly his work has become even more important, given the current political climate. In connection with this remembrance of Virgilio’s theological contribution, I am pleased to announce the formation of a working group for the advancement of Latino/a and Latin American theology. Inaugural members of this group include Virgina Faquel Azcuy (U. Católica, Argentina), Victor Carmona (Oblate School of Theology), M. T. Davila (Andover Newton), Allan Deck, SJ (Loyola Marymount), Michael Lee (Fordham), Carlos Mendoza-Alvarez, OP (U. Iberoamericana, México), and Consuelo Vélez (U. Javeriana, Bogotá). Similar groups are in the early stages of formation for African diaspora and African American theology, and for Asian theologies.
And, in 2018 we will run a series on issues raised by the call of Pope Francis for a “theology of women,” examining what this might mean, and what might be the implications for such a theology in the life of the church. In all of these endeavors, Theological Studies is trying to remain true to its own history and also to take seriously the “signs of the times” in which Providence has granted us to live.
Paul G. Crowley, SJ