A journal of academic theology

September 2004 editorial

The Board of Directors of Theological Studies, concluding a national search, has named David Schultenover, S.J., the present book review editor and professor of historical theology at Marquette University, as associate editor. Effective January 1, 2006, he will become the journals editor in chief,  succeeding Michael Fahey, S.J., who by then will have completed a ten-year term as editor. More details will follow during the coming year as the transition progresses.

From the Editor’s Desk

Recent visits to two of the major Catholic theological centers in Europe–Heythrop College (London) and the Catholic University of Leuven–have brought home to me how young are the North American universities and divinity schools by comparison to counterparts overseas. On this side of the Atlantic, one considers a one-hundred-year-old institution a venerable establishment.

Heythrop College has roots reaching back to the year 1614 when a college opened in Louvain to train English Jesuits. Ten years later the institution relocated to Lige where it remained until 1789 when, in the wake of the French Revolution, the college moved to England. Tradition has it that the librarian [had] to sell books on the quayside to pay for the barges needed to transport the rest of the library. Back in the mother country, at various locations, including Saint Beunos College in North Wales (where Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote some of his best poetry), it settled in 1926 on an estate in Chipping Norton, north of Oxford, until 1969. (During several extended stays there in the 1950s and 1960s, I had the opportunity to confer with scholars such as Cyprian expert Maurice Bvenot, philosopher Frederick Copleston, priest-scientist Bruno Brinkman, and ecumenist Bernard Leeming.) Shortly after the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, the college moved in 1969 to London, first at Cavendish Square, and since 1993 at its present location in Kensington Square. Today, what is so impressive about Heythrop College and its rich programs in philosophy and theology, offered in conjunction with the University of London, is not its physical plant (which, because of the age of its buildings, is not completely user friendly), nor its precious incunabula, but rather the rich diversity and commitment of its teaching staff and student body, mostly lay women and men from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, persons committed to the academic life and renewal of the Church in the modern world. Heythrop continues to foster its genius by responding to the challenges of the here and now in our rapidly changing society and Church. Newer institutions could well learn from the colleges adaptability.

Across the English Channel, I then revisited the oldest university in the Low Countries and the largest Flemish university located in the city of Leuven (which English-speakers often still refer to as Louvain). The university goes back to 1425, and the foundation of the theological faculty dates back to Pope Eugene IVs bull In apostolicae dignitatis of 1432. Known today as the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (and since 1968 distinct from its French-speaking sister institution the Universit Catholique de Louvain located in nearby Louvain la Neuve, Ottignies), its theology faculty boasts a distinguished roster of some 35 theologians offering programs in both Flemish and English, and hosts an international, multilingual student body. Despite the present-day secular character of the Belgian government and some residual anti-Catholic sentiment, the Catholic University receives, by American standards, generous subventions from the government for research in religious studies. Doubtlessly influenced by the transnational spirit of the European Union, the University, especially its department of theology, fosters exchanges with other Western and Eastern European institutions.

Leuven is justly proud of the major contributions made to the Second Vatican Council by a number of 20th-century Belgian professors such as Gustave Thils, Grard Philips, and Louis Janssens. In fact, in September 2005, the University will host a symposium, under the co-sponsorship of the Cardinal Suenens Institute of John Carroll University, Cleveland, devoted to analyzing the impact of Belgian scholars on the formulation of conciliar texts. Yet Leuvens contemporary theological faculty members look not only to the past but to the future.

The Universitys setting with its cobblestone alleyways, its ornate 15th-century City Hall, the Collegiate Church of St. Peter, and its restored Groot Begijnhof, is nonetheless very much plugged into the electronic age of digital computers, cellular phones, high-tech equipment, and jet-set professors. Only a few commemorative statues and plaques recall the wanton destruction of the university library during both World Wars. The old world charm perdures with fleets of bicycles parked along buildings that house classrooms, or along outdoor cafs and brasseries where late into the evenings students engage in lively discussions about the shape of the Church and world to come.

What remains to be seen is how those entrusted with pastoral oversight in the Catholic Church will come to tap valuable resources such as these two centers of learning for invigorating the life of the Church and its task of evangelization.

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