In this article we intend to reflect on the dialogical style that – according to the Magisterium, starting with the Council – is at the heart of theology and theological formation. Then we will examine various forms of dialogue and renewal within a theological faculty. The reflection will culminate with dialogue as a style of theology docile to the Spirit.
Since Vatican II
Reflection on dialogue and renewal begins with the paradigm shift brought about in the Church by the Second Vatican Council. With the dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum (DV) the Church put an end to an attitude that for centuries had conditioned its way of doing theology. I am referring to the defensive attitude that, since the advent of modernity, had led the Church to conceive of itself as a stronghold besieged by internal and external enemies. Vatican II decided to diverge from this path that Catholic apologetics had traced from Trent onward. The Church therefore chose a more dialogical and constructive approach. Vatican II was the first council in which no anathemas were pronounced. In it, God’s revelation was understood as God’s self-communication to humanity and as a call to communion with God. The Church now conceives of herself as a dynamic reality, called to spread the good news of the Gospel, addressing it to all people on earth.
The Second Vatican Council led to the recovery of a vision that was broader and more in keeping with the experience of the early Church: “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to […] the entire holy people united with their shepherds” (DV 10). The pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes (GS) urged the Church to enter into dialogue with the world, with the present, with the whole of humanity and, in such an involvement, to become aware of herself, to keep on rediscovering her true identity. Certainly dialogue is intended to make the proclamation of the Gospel more effective, but it is all the more necessary in order to grasp the signs of Christ’s presence that appear in history. The exercise of evangelical discernment – the faithful exercising the sensus fidei, their instinct for what constitutes the faith – allows us to “listen attentively, discern and interpret the various languages of our time,” so as to discover in the life of the human community a place or platform where the Church can know herself more deeply in the “constitution given her by Christ […so] that she can understand it more penetratingly, express it better, and adjust it more successfully to our times” (GS 44).