Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller addresses an audience at the University of St. Michael’s College Nov. 28. Photo by Ruane Remy

Miller makes the case for theology on campus

  • December 7, 2012

TORONTO - Theology should be at the heart of Catholic universities, Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller told a Toronto audience Nov. 28.

The archbishop told those gathered in a packed hall at the University of St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto that all Catholic universities must have a department of theology and that the teaching of this subject should not be limited to the seminary.

Miller has spent plenty of time on university campuses. A graduate of St. Michael’s, he has also been the president of the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, and the Vatican secretary for Catholic education.

After Vatican II, he said, theology departments began to form but shifted to the more neutral religious studies. Though the latter should be studied, he continued, it should not replace theology at a Catholic university because listening in faith to the real word of God is a “definitive principle of Catholic theology.”

Miller outlined a number of reasons for theology departments. Theology teaches students the art of service to the Church and society, and it should be accessible to every student attending a Catholic university, he said. Theology, and not religious studies, he continued, teaches sound moral discernment, preparing students for the life challenges that they will face. Students’ introduction to theology should be proportional to their general education, he added.

Theology combats secularism in the academy as well as society in general, said Miller.

“Christianity cannot be reduced to the world of myth and emotion.”

Theology also keeps the academy searching for truth, said Miller.

“A university is at the service of the truth” and a theology faculty has a “genuine passion for the absolute truth itself.” Miller explained that through the marriage of theology and philosophy, the truth can be discovered. “Learning is not only about the search for the truth, but its joyful discovery.”

Theology is also where reason and faith meet, neither of which is sufficient alone.

“Faith seeks understanding and understanding seeks faith,” he said.

The “mutual complementarity of faith and reason in the search for truth” is possible in theology. Miller said that theologians believe in a God of reason and that a theology department will broaden the academy’s understanding of reason.

Theology is an irreplaceable discipline, the archbishop concluded, one that is essential to Catholics, Protestants and others. It is needed to keep other academic disciplines balanced and vice versa.

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