Nathaniel Gotcher, Staff Writer
Father Brian Daley, SJ, Catherine F. Huisking Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, spoke at an informal gathering of the Theology Club, on January 30.
After a dinner at North Dining Hall, club members met in the North Lounge of Malloy Hall to hear Fr. Daley’s reflections on the theological movements of the 20th Century and his recent reception of the Ratzinger Award. He was introduced by club president Theresa Gorman, who referred to the Ratzinger Award as “the theology equivalent of the Nobel Prize.” Joking that he does not know why he received it, Fr. Daley explained that the award goes to theologians who do theology that Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, appreciates.
Fr. Daley began his somewhat informal lecture with a quote from CS Lewis’s introduction to a translation of a work by St. Athanasius, in which Lewis pointed to the importance of reading old books and original sources. Fr. Daley explained that certain 20th Century French theologians, members of a resourcement movement, wanted a return to the early theological sources, especially scripture and the Church Fathers. The resulting theology, Fr. Daley said, focused on “the value of history, of development…of evolution,” which caused many contemporaries to view it as modernist and subversive. However, Fr. Daley explained that “the emphasis of this resourcement approach is to say that we come to truth in history.”
With this overview of the resourcement movement, Fr. Daley segued into relating how he became interested in patristics. Having loved Latin and Greek in high school, he maintained an interest old books and languages that at first was merely “superficial.” Then, being introduced to Cyril of Alexandria, he began to explore the Church Fathers more in depth.
Fr. Daley then discussed the issue of “social” Catholicism as proposed in resourcement theology, reading a passage from Henri de Lubac. This new “social” Catholicism contrasted with previous ways of thinking about Catholic life in which the the personal salvation of the believer was emphasized.
The emphasis of the resourcement on historical, developing theology and its social aspect, Fr. Daley said, was initially rejected by the theologians of France and even the Vatican. Henri de Lubac was forbidden from teaching and so dedicated his life to writing. Priests were forbidden from attending ecumenical conferences. Fr. Daley went on to explain that within a few years, many of the ideas expressed at these conferences were becoming acceptable. In fact, Fr. Daley pointed out, this resourcement theology became highly influential in the development of the documents of the Second Vatican Council, especially with regard to the historical nature of belief and the social responsibilities of Christians.
The talk drew about twenty students from different fields of study. Zach Harris, a senior engineering and physics major, enjoyed Fr. Daley’s narrative of how he came to study patristics as a continuation of a classical high school education in Greek and Latin.
“I’m definitely going to try to take to heart Fr. Daley’s advice to ‘read one old book for every new book,’” Harris said. “As one of the few non-theology majors in the group, I appreciated his ability to speak in a relatable way, with sincerity and serenity, even when he was talking about subjects unknown to me.”
Jonathan Gaworski, a sophomore in the philosophy-theology joint-major program, was intrigued by Fr. Daley’’s view of patristics as a subject in theology. Gaworski says, “Fr. Daley’s talk offered a new perspective on the discipline of Dogmatic Theology as both historical and systematic. Patristics…is often classified as historical theology, yet the Church Fathers were very systematic in their thinking. Similarly, Thomas Aquinas is often considered the first systematic theologian, yet he was well versed in the theological history of the Patristic Period. Fr. Daley emphasized a more synthetic approach to theology, looking past the artificial categories which have emerged in the past century.”
At the end of the talk, members of the Theology Club questioned Fr. Daley about the nature of the resourcement and posed general questions about the study of theology. Desserts were shared, and the students received a blessing from the Jesuit Father.
Nathaniel Gotcher is a fourth-year architecture student and RA in Morrissey Manor. He is a part-time monarchist and proud of it. Contact him at email@example.com.