What is Dominican Theology?

The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) initiated a movement of renewal and change within the Catholic Church. This process is still far from being completed. We agree with the basic theological interpretation of Karl Rahner SJ that Vatican II is the “Church’s first official self-realization as a World Church.”1 The Council marked the definitive end of European influence and domination of the Catholicity of the Church. With farsighted acumen, Rahner suggested that the process of creating an authentically polycentric World Church—including the differences within itself—would need time. In fact, Rahner thought of an entire century! Therefore, it is our task to deal with the globalization of society and the Church.

A Globalized World and a Universal Church

In 2013, the Roman Catholic Church elected the first Pope from Latin America. This result was a strong sign of a post-European universal church, as well as the symbol of a globalized world. In Bogotá in 2007, the General Chapter of the Dominican friars brought forward an analysis of the ambiguous double face of today’s globalized world: “From many sides, the world which we see today arouses great concern: conflicts; violence done to humanity; exclusions; suffering caused by migrations; the insecurity which many experience; new religious movements preaching exclusivity; the perverse effects of globalization […]. We note also certain positive effects of globalization, such as the riches which the intercultural reality of our towns from now on represent, the improvement in the conditions of life produced by science and technology, the efforts to attain greater equality among men and women, the benefits of progress in the means of communication. It is this world of contrasts, with its fluctuating changes which affect us all, that we should love and retain hope for its future” (ACG Bogotá, 2007, no. 48).

Facing the twofold challenge of a polycentric universal world, the General Chapter of Bogotá stated that Dominicans “have to take responsibility for the global mission of the Order” (ACG Bogotá, 2007, no. 49).

Creating Local Theologies

Our responsibility for a global Dominican mission is effectual when contributing to the development of the local Church within the context of a globalized world. As Dominican sisters, friars, and lay people, we are called to reformulate the fruits of our tradition—such as the ‘Summa’ of Thomas Aquinas, the Theology of Human Rights of the School of Salamanca or the ‘Nouvelle théologie’ of Marie-Dominique Chenu OP, Yves Congar OP, and Henri-Marie Féret OP—and to translate them into local and regional theologies of today’s needs. Edward Schillebeeckx OP has described this theological task as follows: How can the “selfsame Gospel, which is given only in a societal and cultural context (even in the New Testament, for the matter) and can never be wholly extricated from any culture, be allowed to speak the language of an entirely different culture?”2

Creating local theologies means to contextualize general theological systems. Clemens Sedmak—an Austrian philosopher and theologian who teaches at King’s College, London, and at the University of Salzburg—emphatically pleads for creating “small theologies.”3 According to Sedmak, the basic intention of ‘small theologies’ is to value people’s lives. Such a theological practice emphasizes the mystery of God-with-us as encountered “not in clear distinct ideas but in relationships; not in universal, abstract concepts but in particular, concrete sacraments and/or symbols; not through observation but through participation.”4 Closely related to this strategy is the so-called ‘Salamanca Process’, “an interactive dialogue between Academy and reality”5, which was initiated in the Dominican Order following the General Chapter of Rome in 2010.

Such ‘small theologies’ are rooted in a concrete time and place, in a certain locality. That is, they have a locus. Accordingly, our different realities can be understood, in the words of Melchor Cano OP (1506/09-1560), as loci theologici.6 We would thus like to see the various Dominican Study Centers all over the world creating such local theologies for the different social and ecclesiastical contexts.

Sedmak consistently interprets the letters of the former Master of the Order, Timothy Radcliffe OP (in office 1992-2001), which were addressed to the sisters and friars, as an important contribution to the development of a regional Theology of the Dominicans!7

Our Website Focusing on Dominican Theology

On the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the confirmation of the Order of Preachers, which we celebrate from 2016 to 2017, the current print issue of the German theological journal Wort und Antwort (edited by the Northern German province of Dominican Friars ‘Teutonia’) presents a variety of local Dominican theologies. We have invited sisters and brothers from all continents and from all branches of the Order—nuns and sisters, lay people and brothers (both friars and priests)—feminists and Thomists, younger and older—to answer the following question: “What is Dominican theology?” The result—eighteen very different articles—are presented in the original language or English translation on this website. Several thousand answers more are certainly possible… You are invited to react to the articles below. We hope for a lively debate—inside and outside the Order!

A Word of Thanks

We owe a debt of gratitude to all contributors and translators! We also wish to thank José David Padilla OP (Miami, FL, USA) for the permission to publish a detail of his cartoon (showing Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, and Margaret of Hungary) on the front cover of the print issue of the journal! We are indebted to Pierre de Marolles OP (Fribourg, Switzerland) for supplying us with a photo of José’s cartoon. And, last but not least, we express our thanks to Johannes M. Schäffler OP (Düsseldorf, Germany) for his technical support regarding the website.

Ulrich Engel OP / Dennis Halft OP

1 K. Rahner, “Theologische Grundinterpretation des II. Vatikanischen Konzils,” in: idem, Schriften zur Theologie, vol. XIV, Zürich—Einsiedeln—Köln, 1980, 287-302, here 288: “Das II. Vatikanische Konzil ist […] der erste amtliche Selbstvollzug der Kirche als Weltkirche.”

2 E. Schillebeeckx, “Foreword,” in: R.J. Schreiter, Constructing Local Theologies, Maryknoll, NY, 122012, IX-X, here IX.

3 See C. Sedmak, Theologie in nachtheologischer Zeit, Mainz, 2003, 117-126; idem, Doing Local Theology. A Guide for Artisans of a New Humanity, Foreword by R.J. Schreiter, Maryknoll, NY, 2002; idem, Lokale Theologien und globale Kirche. Eine erkenntnistheoretische Grundlegung in praktischer Absicht, Freiburg/Br., 2000.

4 M.A. De La Torre and E.D. Aponte, Introducing Latino/a Theologies, Maryknoll, NY, 2001, 155.

5 See the intranet of the Order of Preachers: http://www.op.org/en/content/10-en-salamanca-process [20 April 2016].

6 See Melchor Cano, De locis theologicis, ed. J. Belda Plans (BAC / Ser. maior vol. 85), Madrid, 2006.

7 See C. Sedmak, Theologie in nachtheologischer Zeit, l.c., 120.

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Kathleen A. McManus OP

United States of America

A Dominican Theology seeks and proclaims Truth-Incarnate. It is personal, enfleshed, and ever-emerging in response to the signs of the times. A Dominican theology is one that counters the heresy of dualism that comes to new expression in every age; it participates in the ongoing creation of God’s one world, God’s reign. Above all, a […]

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Symphorien Ntibagirirwa OP


Etymologically, theology is the “discourse on God”. However, theology is the product of a context, the way God relates to people in their context. So, “Dominican theology” is the discourse on God developed by Dominicans in theory and praxis. But to understand Dominican theology, one must go “back to the sources”. Browsing the “sources” I […]

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Serge-Thomas Bonino OP


Au milieu du fracas des armes, Notre Père saint Dominique a fait le choix de la parole. L’annonce salvifique du Christ-Logos, Sagesse de Dieu et Puissance de Dieu, doit emprunter la voie du logos, c’est-à-dire de la parole et de la raison. La théo-logie, en tant que logos, s’inscrit donc dans la mission de l’Ordre […]

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© João Laet

Frei Betto OP


In the Latin American continent Dominican theology has to have as its starting point the values of the Gospel and a situation marked by poverty and oppression. The basis for theology is the faith of the Christian communities, and here most of them are composed of victims of social injustices. This is why we talk […]

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Michael S. Attridge OPL


I write as a lay theologian who teaches at the University of St. Michael’s in Toronto (Canada) in areas related to Vatican II and the development of 19th and 20th century theology. My association with the Dominicans goes back to 1992 when I first arrived in Toronto. Over the years I have remained close with […]

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Marcela Soto Ahumada OP


El ministerio de la predicación en la Orden de Predicadores y como Familia Dominicana se redescubre como un ministerio para todos y todas, nada de exclusivo para algunos y nada de excluyente, todo lo contrario, compartimos hombre y mujeres, este carisma que nos exige vivir los elementos día a día: estudio, contemplación, comunidad y predicación. […]

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Teresa Hieslmayr OP


According to the Fundamental Constitutions of our Order, the aim of our entire Dominican existence is the “salvation of souls” or, in other words, “life to the full” for all people (John 10:10). Dominican study, therefore, has to be directed towards the salvation of people. For Dominican theologians, this means that, in their work, they […]

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Gerard Francisco Timoner III OP


At the beginning of our life in the Order, we were asked one question: “What do you seek?” We prostrated, and with our faces to the floor of the church, we responded: “God’s mercy and yours”. We are Dominicans because of God’s mercy. If our lives as Dominicans began with that primary desire to obtain […]

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© Curia Generalizia Frati Domenicani

Bruno Cadoré OP

Master of the Order of Preachers

N’étant pas historien, et encore moins historien des doctrines, je laisse les spécialistes compétents rendre compte de la manière dont, au fil de l’histoire, la théologie dominicaine s’est révélée, ou non, avoir une spécificité bien identifiable. Mon propos, s’appuyant sur l’écoute des frères et sœurs lors de mes visites dans l’Ordre, voudrait plutôt exprimer trois […]

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Jean-Bertrand Madragule Badi OP

Democratic Republic of Congo

“Community thinking” is an essential and important topic for Dominican theology. Community is one of the pillars of the Order of Preachers and the place where the Dominican vocation is realised. What might be the key element in conceptualising of a specifically African-Dominican theology1 One of the most important and decisive elements in African thinking […]

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Patricia Madigan OP


The Dominican way has at times been described as a “Wayless Way” since in Dominican tradition there seems no particular method or technique – such as the Ignatian Exercises – that is constitutive of being Dominican. Yet, in the lives of many Dominicans throughout history, I find several attributes which can be seen as characteristic […]

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Tibor Bejczi OP


On 7th September 1996, during his second visit to Hungary, at Győr, Pope St John Paul II said: “If we proclaim the Gospel in Hungarian society with renewed strength, our primary aim is to rediscover Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and to keep to his truth, because ‘Religion in Christ is no more groping […]

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© Max I. Cappabianca OP

Georges M.M. Cottier OP †

A des esprits modernes la devise de notre Ordre, veritas peut paraître anachronique et désuète. Car la mentalité culturelle qui domine notre temps est relativiste. Et il ne s’agit pas là d’un phénomène secondaire, et accidentel. Nombreux sont ceux qui pensent qu’il y a là le signe d’un esprit émancipé, libéré de l’ingénuité des générations […]

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John G. Khalil OP


Given my own origins – Egypt – and the number of Arabic Dominicans in the region, which does not even amount to 15 brethren, of whom only a few are engaged in Christian theology, I would like to turn my attention towards the future and ask the question: What will Dominican theology in the Middle […]

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© Arjan Broers

Erik Borgman OPL

The Netherlands

To speak in the spirit of Thomas Aquinas: It seems that there is no such thing as Dominican theology. This would be Thomas’ way to say that, counter to common belief, there is such thing as Dominican theology, in a way. This is exactly what I intend to say here. The Dominican tradition does not […]

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Alessandro Cortesi OP


Che cos’è una teologia domenicana? Cerco di rispondere alla domanda proposta dalla redazione Wort und Antwort non senza qualche perplessità. Rifuggo da definizioni identitarie che rischiano di essere modelli teorici senza riscontro nella vita e portatrici di contrapposizioni e pretese di superiorità. Trovo talvolta annoianti espressioni del tipo: ’noi domenicani non siamo come i gesuiti… […]

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George Phe Mang OP


In Dominican theology the mission is to defend the belief in the incarnation of God in Jesus, and in the integrity of creation, and also to cooperate with sacramental grace through preaching and teaching. Since preaching is the sharing of the fruits of one’s ascetic contemplation, it calls for the disciplined study of theology and […]

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Barbara E. Beaumont OP

United Kingdom / France

The first requisite of any Dominican theology is that it be the fruit of contemplation and secondly that it be communicated to others: the famous contemplata aliis tradere of Thomas Aquinas. Although study was prescribed for the Friars Preachers from the very beginnings of the Order, this study of theology was always conceived as a […]

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