Catholic practical theology?

Deep roots in Catholic tradition

Invitation to Practical Theology is not a theological treatise. Rather, it invites readers to explore Christian practices from the perspective of Catholic theology, writes Gerard Hall SM, Associate Professor of Theology at Australian Catholic University.

Invitation to Practical Theology, edited by Claire E. Wolfteich (Paulist Press)

Catholic practical theology? Clearly, the work of practical theology has been traditionally associated with Protestant theology. What the essays in this volume reveal is that practical theology — in essence if not in name — has deep roots in, and profound resonance with, the Catholic tradition.

Equally, the discipline of practical theology has much to assist Catholic theologians in the development of scholarship and method in relation to multiple areas of Church life and ministry such as Catholic education, pastoral care, liturgy, community, and ethics. More than this, the volume shows how a Catholic practical theological imagination is essential for the effectiveness of the Church's mission.

Although focused on the work of Catholic researchers, there is ample evidence of contribution to the broader, ecumenical academy with which it is in dialogue.

Dependant on Vatican II's invitation to "read the signs of the times in light of the Gospel," the essays bring us into critical dialogue with practices, cultures, and contexts in light of Scripture, tradition, and Church teaching, the three hallmarks of all Catholic theology. The larger context of these reflections is the challenge "to speak about God and our human callings" (3) given current, critical issues — from polarisation, scandal, failure of leadership to complex problems of poverty, politics,economics, and climate change — facing our faith communities.

Indeed, it is claimed, the most compelling reason for developing a Catholic practical theology "is the need to address pressing practical questions of how we live our faith in the current ecclesial and cultural situation" (341). The work is divided into three parts.

Part One invites us to see how the Catholic voice in practical theology is expressed in relation to historical, ecclesial, and contextual realities.

The longest section (Part Two / nine chapters), focuses on more specific and concrete practices, contexts, and conversations that arise from expressions of faith in diverse situations

Part Three consists of three illuminating chapters on teaching and research. Thomas Groome provides a disciplined pedagogy for practical theology focused on “intended learning outcomes” and what he calls “some Catholic convictions.”


Invitation to Practical Theology: Catholic Voices and Visions (Australian e-journal of theology)

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