by PETER GRACE
OKOROIRE — Theological expertise will move more into the hands of laypeople, according to Australian theologian Fr Gerald O’Collins, SJ.
Fr O’Collins was the main presenter at the Hamilton priests’ gathering in early July.
He said that, given there are fewer clerical and religious students studying theology today, he foresaw theological expertise moving more into the hands of laymen and laywomen.
Fr O’Collins taught for 33 years at the Gregorian University in Rome, and is the author of more than 60 books.
He told NZ Catholic that because of the shortage of priests, bishops and superiors and religious orders often find it difficult to send people overseas for doctoral studies.
“In some ways a lot of laypeople are studying, and they didn’t in the past, and right up to doctoral level. Some of them in Australasia, they are world standard. Not that many, but a number of them.”
Fewer religious and priests are available now to teach theology, with laypeople now teaching in seminaries.
“But theology, being good at theology, is kind of a personal gift.
“You can ordain someone to be a deacon, but you can’t ordain someone to be a theologian.”
He believes the responsibility of religious orders is to be open to allowing this kind of change, Fr O’Collins said.
“You have got to love theology and be happy to use it, and the Spirit blows where the Spirit wills.”
For people interested in Christology, Fr O’Collins said he would recommend Christology, which he wrote.
“In my own case I did a supplement. That’s not about who Jesus is in himself, but about that other critically important question is: What does he do for us? So I did a book on that, Jesus Our Redeemer.
Walter Kasper also wrote a very good book years ago called Jesus the Christ. “If you don’t
read O’Collins, read [Cardinal ] Kasper, and if you can’t get Kasper, read O’Collins.”
In contrast to systematic theology, biblical theology is rich in this area. “It has
some very good work about Jesus as redeemer of all people…. What does it say about
the other living faiths? So I would say a growth area concerns biblical material… and then some of the other people writing on some of the other living faiths. They are helpful.”
by PETER GRACE