A LAY THEOLOGIAN said the Church needs to pursue reforms to effectively preach salvation, but within the bounds of the Christian gospel.

Prof. Stephan van Erp of the Catholic University of Leuven said the Church must “find its footing within the modern world” concerning social issues, during the Schillebeeckx Lecture on Church and Civil Authority last Jan. 17.

“[T]he Church must apply such critical consciousness to itself and its governing structures… whether it be through its sacramental presence, through the individual sacraments or civil engagement and the development of a religious critical consciousness to critique political ideologies,” van Erp said.

Discussing the works of Fr. Edward Schillebeecx, the late Flemish-Dutch Dominican theologian and adviser of the Dutch bishops during the Second Vatican Council, van Erp emphasized that faith is the foundation of an “intrinsic relationship” between the ecclesiastical and civil authority.

He noted that the Church used to be judged by theological and evangelical criteria alone, ”but is now subject to the same criteria as other social and political institutions.”

“All of these institutions are implicated in the problems and even concrete evils that are encountered in society. The church cannot remain detached from social evils, and especially the imbalance of power between the rich and poor, since to do so would really be ‘a pronounced favoring of those in power,’” he said.

Van Erp has been the holder of the Edward Schillebeeckx Chair at Radboud University in the Netherlands since 2018. He is also the editor in chief of Brill Research Perspective in Theology.

The Schillebeeckx lecture was organized by the UST Theological Society and was held at the Central Laboratory Auditorium.


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