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.