An Update on INSeCT's Kairos Initiative
Note: In response to an invitation from the CTSA Board, the INSeCT update below was submitted by INSeCT President and CTSA member, Prof. Gerard Mannion before his untimely death in September of this year. The information was submitted to inform the CTSA membership of the activities of INSeCT, especially with regards to INSeCT’s Kairos initiative, and to clarify the important relationship between the CTSA and INSeCT. The post was lightly edited by the CTSA blog committee.
This guest blog is offered to update the wider CTSA membership on recent developments in relation to the International Network for Societies of Catholic Theology (INSeCT), for which I presently serve as the CTSA representative. It’s an opportunity to share further news about the exciting global theological conversation the CTSA membership has been invited to be part of in preparation for the next full INSeCT General Council in 2020.
For those of you who may not know, INSeCT was founded in 1996 by the visionary Professor Peter Hünermann of Tübingen, Germany, and it is an expanding organization that has over 30 member and affiliate member societies of Catholic theology from around the world. The CTSA was a founding member and has provided four INSeCT presidents, to date, with multiple vice-presidents and board members. At a time when the Catholic Church is ever more inter-linked globally, INSeCT strives to build links between the many differing collective organizations that focus on Catholic Theology around the world.
INSeCT has invited all member societies to be part of a Global Theological Conversation on the theme: ‘A Kairos for Catholic Theology: Serving the Church - Serving the World’ (termed the ‘Kairos Project’ for short). The present time is a kairos moment for Catholic Theology and the organizational church alike because of the convergence of a range of significant factors: the papacy and reforms of Pope Francis; developments in theology worldwide; and new energies for active collaboration between the church, the world of Catholic theology and members of other churches, other religions and secular entities. These factors are converging in the present time to present Catholic theology with a unique opportunity; the challenges that today’s world and the church are faced with—locally, regionally and universally—all make such collaboration imperative.
How might we encourage Catholic theologians worldwide, as well as the wider church, to embrace this kairos moment? INSeCT has committed itself to helping do so through combining three different strands into a single focal point over the coming years:
a. The sharing of ongoing work in Catholic Theology and the church worldwide in the respective societies, contexts and regions represented by INSeCT
b. INSeCT’s triennial research project focus – which for this cycle is the Kairos project itself
c. The continued enhancement of INSeCT’s mission and impact in Connecting Catholic Theology Worldwide
The Kairos Project will therefore be the core focus of the triennial INSeCT General Council in September next year, when representatives from every society of Catholic Theology around the world will gather in Rome. Those delegates will be focusing upon explorations from around the globe on how these times may constitute a Kairos Moment for Catholic Theology—in its service both to the church and to the world—in their respective contexts.
In May this year, the INSeCT Board had its 2019 Annual Meeting. Primarily, its work focused on the Kairos Project. The INSeCT Board, therefore, met in Rome in order to engage in a wide range of meetings with some twenty-one Vatican curial departments, dicasteries and sections, along with several pontifical universities and other academic institutions. We were met with universal enthusiasm for the Kairos Project and willingness to work with us and contribute to the General Council next year and in the future.
We found that the various Vatican and Pontifical Institutions are very much supportive of building better channels of communication and collaboration with Catholic theologians and Catholic theological societies around the globe. Warm, engaged and enthusiastic responses from key curial cardinals, archbishops, bishops and university rectors during our conversations were the norm. This all further suggests that it is indeed a Kairos moment for Catholic theology and INSeCT has invited the CTSA, along with all other member and affiliated societies to play a leading role in the Global Theological Conversation that forms the basis of INSeCT’s work in the coming years.To such ends, the CTSA Board and wider membership have been warmly encouraged to explore questions such as how theology today is helping to serve the church and society in the North American context, including, perhaps especially, how theology serves society through serving the church (and vice versa). The CTSA is also encouraged to give further attention to where stumbling blocks and problematic relations exist between the theological community and both ecclesial and secular official bodies and authorities. Finally, the CTSA is asked to consider what potential might exist for taking Catholic theology in North American contexts forward into the future, identifying priorities and key questions and challenges for this region.
A final report from each region and member society will be presented in shorter form at next year’s INSeCT General Council in Rome, itself, and further revised for eventual publication.The benefits of this procedure will, it is hoped, be multiple. The General Council and Kairos Project provide an opportunity where member and affiliated societies can inform fellow societies, as well as being the recipient of like contributions from other societies. This will also be a unique opportunity to educate official church bodies, departments and bishops’ conferences on what is happening with theology worldwide, on issues of concern, as well as theological achievements. It will also allow those bodies to dialogue with the world of Catholic theology about their own work, experiences and priorities in the present time. The presentations will help display just how much member societies and INSeCT can prove to be rich resources for the church.
A set of questions has been distributed to all member societies to help focus their reflections as they prepare their reports in advance of the General Council in Rome next year. It is hoped societies will find the process conducive to their own work as well.
The CTSA has traditionally been one of the most generous supporters of the triennial INSeCT General Councils, providing a significant contribution toward the overall costs of the General Council, and helping to support the participation of representatives from theological societies that would otherwise not be able to travel to participate. The INSeCT Board hopes that the CTSA, alongside other societies with the resources to do so, will continue this generous tradition in facilitating the continued interaction and mutual learning between societies of Catholic theology from the different continents of the world, especially given the unique significance of next year’s Council in Rome.The INSeCT Board also discussed various priorities and plans as to how best to consolidate INSeCT’s impact, to strengthen its support and resource base and to raise its profile. The board also seeks to explore how best to expand INSeCT’s service to the church at differing levels in its synodal function – from grassroots to Rome - as both a collaborative partner and critical friend (in relation to leadership and authorities) in facilitating theological reflection on the opportunities and challenges of the current times.
To such ends INSeCT has also asked all member and affiliated societies to consider how they might deepen their own engagement with and commitment to INSeCT.
Speaking this June, at a conference in Naples, Italy, Pope Francis said that we ‘can and must work towards a “theological Pentecost” which allows the women and men of our time to hear “in their own native language” a Christian message that responds to their search for meaning and for a full life’.(1) Pope Francis also indicated that these times call for ‘a kerygmatic theology, a theology of discernment, of mercy and of welcoming, in dialogue with society, cultures and religions for the construction of the peaceful coexistence of individuals and peoples’.(2)
Francis further stressed the crucial role of networking for theology and for the church alike, especially in engaging wider social and political realities and civic, ecclesial and interreligious bodies toward the end of enhancing justice, peace and care for creation throughout this world. Pope Francis continued, ‘Theology is an expression of a Church which is a “field hospital”, which lives her mission of salvation and healing in the world’.(3)
There can be no better summation of this Kairos for Catholic Theology – Serving the Church, Serving the World. As Francis has called for greater theological networking around the Catholic world, INSeCT is excited to help make that vision a reality in the coming years ahead.
President and CTSA Representative, INSeCT,
Amaturo Chair in Catholic Studies, Georgetown University
1. Pope Francis, ‘Address’, Meeting on the Theme “Theology after Veritatis gaudium in the Context of the Mediterranean”, promoted by the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Southern Italy – San Luigi section – of Naples (Friday 21st June, 2019), http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2019/june/documents/papa-francesco_20190621_teologia-napoli.html.