Loyola Institute's Course in Catholic Theology "a Milestone

The establishment of the Loyola Institute at Trinity College Dublin, offering an academic programme in Catholic theology, has been described as, “a milestone in the institutional development of Catholic theology in Ireland.”

Speaking at the official launch of the Institute, which is the first of its kind in Ireland, Trinity College Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast, said the Loyola Institute would be, “ideally placed,” to address religious, ethical and societal questions in an academic forum and in the public domain.

However, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin moved swiftly to clarify that the new institute does not fulfil the canonical requirements for training for ministry in the Church. In a statement, Archbishop Martin said he appreciated the desirability of finding ways to facilitate the teaching of Catholic theology in a university setting in Ireland. However, he said, the vocation of the Catholic theologian was an ecclesial vocation and could not be, “independent of reference to the teaching authority of the Church.”

He suggested that the Loyola Institute, unlike the theological faculties within state universities elsewhere around the world, does not, “fit into the recognised models for Catholic theological institutes and for the rooting of the teaching of Catholic theology within the ecclesial community.”

He added that it could not therefore be formally recognised as an Institute of Catholic Theology and its degrees would not fulfil the canonical requirements for admission to Holy Orders and for other ecclesial roles.

A spokeswoman for the Jesuits in Ireland, one of the eight orders behind the Loyola Institute Trust that provided an endowment to fund the Loyola Institute at Trinity College Dublin, told ciNews, “What the Archbishop says is correct and this was the understanding of parties involved in the formation of the Loyola Institute at the outset of discussions.” She added that the new institute was a new model facilitating the teaching of theology in the Catholic tradition in a university setting.

Elsewhere in his address at the launch of the new Institute, which will be headed by Redemptorist, Dr Cornelius Casey, Provost Dr Patrick Prendergast said that through its research and teaching, the Loyola Institute would equip students to analyse changes in the role of religion in current culture and also its pluralisation. It would also help them analyse the new challenges facing societies in an age of globalisation and of great technological advances, he said.

“Students will study the theology of a tradition that has marked Irish history and identity and has created intercultural connections. They will discuss and debate contemporary views on the role of religion in the public sphere and contribute to debates about the position of faith communities in pluralist democracies,” according to Dr Prendergast.

Welcoming the new Institute, Fr Thomas Layden SJ, Provincial of the Irish Jesuit Province said the eight religious congregations associated with the initiative, welcomed the establishment of the new Institute for education and research in theology in the Catholic tradition on the campus of a, “great university.”

“We are pleased to support and collaborate, in the spirit of dialogue, with the Loyola Institute’s core mission of considered academic reflection on Christian faith, social justice and contemporary culture, in the context of a rich intellectual and spiritual tradition spanning some two millennia,” Fr Layden said.

The new Institute is the outcome of discussions between the College and the eight Catholic religious congregations associated with the Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy. Dr Cornelius Casey CSsR, the inaugural Director, has developed the first undergraduate programme, a Moderatorship in Catholic Theological Studies and the first intake into the course will begin in 2013/14.

The course has been designed to provide students with a knowledge of the Catholic theological, intellectual and cultural tradition, and of critical issues that arise in the study of its origins, formative periods and foundational documents.

The Loyola Professorship in Catholic Theology has been approved by Trinity’s Council and will be advertised internationally. To mark its foundation, the Loyola Institute is to host an international conference on, Theology in the University: International Experiences and Contemporary Issues, in the autumn of 2013.



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