Thursday, February 21, 2008

Doctrine Tackles Preaching

The "Vice-Pope" may be in Cuba -- where, earlier today, he addressed the island's bishops -- but, per usual, more of the Vatican orbit's been seen passing through New York.

While Msgr Guido Marini wraps up his two-day advance tour there later today, Cardinal William Levada reportedly made his own Gotham visit last weekend, albeit keeping a much lower profile than the invariably cassock-clad Papal MC.

As his Curial confreres retreated with Benedict XVI, the SoCal native -- now Papa Ratzi's successor as the global church's "Grand Inquisitor" -- headlined an Indiana conference on "Doctrine, Scripture and Preaching in the Church" organized by the USCCB's Committee for Doctrine, which he chaired on his 2005 appointment to Rome...
Levada noted that the trend to eliminate catechetical homilies after Vatican II was not really in the spirit of "Dei Verbum," the council document on divine revelation.

He said the Scripture commentary aspect of the homily was emphasized because it had been so lacking prior to the council.

The cardinal, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the church should now seek to integrate these two aspects.

Titled "Eloquence of Teaching: Doctrine, Scripture and Preaching in the Life of the Church," the seminar was a follow-up to a 2005 conference at the University of Notre Dame marking the 40th anniversary of "Dei Verbum."

It was sponsored by the U.S. Catholic bishops' Committee on Doctrine and Notre Dame's Institute for Church Life.

The seminar looked at the problem faced by priests who feel they must choose between preaching on the Scriptures or preaching on the church's doctrines and moral teachings.

"Dei Verbum," as noted at the seminar, does not see the two as mutually exclusive, but rather as two components that can work well together.

"We have to find ways to improve homilies so that they are at one and the same time genuinely exegetical -- genuinely interpretative of Scripture -- and genuinely catechetical," said another speaker, John Cavadini, chair of the theology department at Notre Dame.

He gave a talk on how the Catechism of the Catholic Church can be a resource to priests by helping to identify Scripture passages related to certain doctrinal or catechetical themes.

According to Cavadini, this integration of Scripture and doctrine should not be so difficult.

"All of the major doctrines of the Catholic faith were articulated in defense of Scripture and with scriptural language, while the canon of Scripture itself -- what books were chosen and what books preserved -- was a function of doctrinal considerations," he said.

In other words, "Scripture itself has a doctrinal shape, and doctrine has a scriptural context," Cavadini said.

Preaching his homily on the final afternoon of the seminar, Cardinal Levada recalled how God called upon Jonah to save the people of Nineveh by preaching his word.

"If Jonah could be eloquent under those circumstances," said Cardinal Levada of the reluctant prophet, "how much more eloquent, brother bishops, can you and I be? An eloquence not from our own skills, but from the Spirit teaching us."

He continued, "Only Jesus can lead us in the Spirit and make us sharers in the Holy Trinity. It's not what we say or do, but the person of the risen Christ, present in the word and the sacrament. This is how we are drawn into communion with God."
While the program was originally scheduled to be held at Notre Dame itself, a planned on-campus performance of "The Vagina Monologues" compelled organizers to change venues to the nearby convent.

As one report depicted the decision, informed of the controversial play's impending return to South Bend, "Levada said 'Nuh-uh,' and [the seminar] got moved."