In any current Church institution with an apostolate that is even minimally open to the social context, we find people whose origins and personal, existential situations are increasingly different and distant from what could be defined as the traditional ecclesial model. As much as some people may perhaps retain a measure of prejudice against what is religious-ecclesial, or even reject it, more and more often there prevails in the general perception a remoteness, a distance, a sense of not belonging.
This is a major challenge for the transmission of the faith, so much so that we are often left perplexed and paralyzed. As a Church we cannot limit ourselves to doing as we have always done, ignoring the difficulties and challenges, or enclosing ourselves in reserved spaces where we welcome only those who are already convinced. These are insufficient responses and they leave us unsatisfied. What is needed is an accurate analysis of the current situation, leading to coherent proposals.
We have often associated today’s problems of transmission of the faith with the process of secularization and the decrease of involvement in matters religious in our society. However, in this article we would like to suggest a different reading, one that focuses on another phenomenon present in our society, pluralism. There is no doubt that secularization exists and needs to be taken into account, but we believe that, as sociologist Peter Berger (1929-2017), has shown us, the problem is broader. According to Berger, the problem should be related more to the experience of pluralism, the new social situation in which there are different possible overarching doctrines or plausible structures.
This analysis of the situation should prompt us to look for new ways to speak the word of the Church in public and to reconsider how we present the faith. Our thesis is that public theology, as a theological current that starts from the recognition and acceptance of pluralism as a fact, can provide an appropriate and valid response in the present situation. In this light, we must investigate not only its foundations, but also the way in which it enriches the social discourse of the Church.