PODCAzT 161: CDF Instruction on The Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, “Donum veritatis”

In this podcast we hear the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1990 Instruction Donum veritatis, “On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian”.

I post this now because of the present claims of some who clearly want to turn the Church’s teaching about some things upside down and also because of a liberal theologian’s post at Commonweasel “A Wake-Up Call to Liberal Theologians”.

Massimo “Beans” Faggioli is worried that liberal theologians are losing ground in the academy (i.e., Catholic colleges, universities) in the face of a shift of young people, etc., to more conservative theologians and traditional presentations of the Church’s teachings. Beans has created a strawman, the “neo-traditionalist”. He wrongly claims that conservatives ignore or reject Conciliar and post-Conciliar theology. It may be that conservatives tend to reject Concilium school writers, but they tend to embrace Communio writers. In other words, they’ve made a determination that some are right and some are wrong, but it is inaccurate to say that conservatives or traditional Catholics reject or ignore Conciliar and post-Conciliar theology.

Faggioli however, is right about how “market forces” are at work. Subsequently, he seems pretty concerned that his side of the field is losing ground. He has made an appeal to others of his leaning to make changes, lest they lose their influence as theologians in the academy and in the Church.

Apart from fundamental problems, Faggioli’s piece has some good points. However, there is an odd lacuna in his presentation. He made no reference to the 1990 CDF Instruction Donum veritatis which explicitly pertains to his theme and, therefore, his perceived plight of liberal theologians. I found that curious: surely he knows of the document.

If he is really interested in this question and really wants to preserve a role of liberal theologians in the Church, then he and they must remain in touch with Donum veritatis.

Hence, I now share Donum veritatis with a wider audience through reading it aloud. Some of you can listen more easily than you can sit and read.

I don’t attempt to read in-line citations or the notes. You can see those on the Vatican website.

The document has strong emphasis on the orientation of the theologian always to the truth which saves, Christ Himself. Theologians have a bond of charity with the pastors of the Church who exercise its Magisterium. It describes what doubts or dissent are and how they are to be resolved.

At the core of the document is the explanation of how pursuit of the truth is a service of the salvation of the whole People of God.

If this is what Faggioli and others want, then it seems to me that they will eagerly embrace this document.  If they reject the document, then we might with good reason wonder what they are up to.

I offer this as a sincere help.  Also, to all listeners, I suggest Tracey Rowland’s terrific book Catholic Theology.  


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Mike says:

    On your recommendation I got a copy of Dr. Rowland’s book last Spring, but it quickly got lost in the pile. Upon fishing it out again I find your recommendation as solid as I hoped it would be.

    [It’s REALLY good. Do NOT skip the intro.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  2. Agathon says:


    There’s no need for the “neo” — we are just traditional. We are just what Catholics have always been, in all times and places. (Must everything be cast in the leftist narrative of power and revolution?)

    [By putting “neo” before it, Beans strives to sound more sophisticated.]

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