Tuesday, June 26, 2007


In the Apostolic Constitution on Ecclesiastical Universities and Faculties, "Sapientia Christiana", John Paul II lists "religious science" as one of the academic disciplines in which degrees may be granted.

According to a passage in the foreword, this document is a departure from the previous structure of universities as a result of decisions made at Vatican II:

To meet these new demands, the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, responding to the mandate received from the Council, already in 1967 began to study the question of renewal along the lines indicated by the Council. On May 20, 1968, it promulgated the Normae quaedam ad Constitutionem Apostolicam "Deus Scientiarum Dominus" de studies academicis ecclesiasticis recognoscendam, which has exercised a beneficial influence during recent years.


Now, however, this work needs to be completed and perfected with a new law. This law, abrogating the Apostolic Constitution Deus Scientiarum Dominus and the Norms of Application attached to it, as well as the Normae quaedam published on May 20, 1968, by the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, includes some still valid elements from these documents, while laying down new norms whereby the renewal that has already successfully begun can be developed and completed.

The document was to have been promulgated by Pope Paul VI. He died before promulgating it.

Therefore, the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, by command of my Predecessor Pope Paul VI, has consulted first of all, the Ecclesiastical Universities and Faculties themselves, then, the departments of the Roman Curia and the other bodies interested. After this, it established a commission of experts who, under the direction of the same Congregation, have carefully reviewed the legislation covering ecclesiastical academic studies.

This work has now been successfully completed, and Pope Paul VI was about to promulgate this Constitution, as he so ardently desired to do, when he died; likewise Pope John Paul I was prevented by sudden death from doing so. After long and careful consideration of the matter, I decree and lay down, by my apostolic authority, the following laws and norms.

Two lists of academic disciplines in the document include the discipline of "religious science."

The discipline takes an objective view of religions from the outside looking in as nearly as I can determine from this website.

Religious science opposes theology. Theology takes an exclusive view of religion, believing that the particular religion under study is the one true religion. Religious science views all religions subjectively, attempting to sort out truth from error in each of them.

The discipline was created in response to globilization which is bringing a variety of religions together within a common culture.

What happens to a person's faith, however, when all religions are studied objectively? Can a belief that Catholicism is the one true faith survive objective study of multiple religions, or is this objectivity the source of our disintegration? Does finding truth in many religions preclude the possibility of believing in one religious tradition exclusively?

In any case, this academic discipline of religious science exists in numerous places around the Catholic globe, particularly in Europe:

The faculty of Canon Law of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (Angelicum) has it.

Antonio Cardinal Canizares Llovera, a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, is director and professor of the Institute of Religious Science and Catechesis "San Damaso", Madrid.

Domenico Sorrentino teaches at the Institute of Religious Science at Nola.

Alberto Melloni heads the Institute of Religious Science at the University of Bologna.

Professor Giuseppe Alberigo is associated with the Institute of Religious Science in Bologna.

The Archdiocese of Changanassery has Institutes for Higher Studies in Religious Sciences

Fr. Cosimo Pagliara, O. Carm. teaches Sacred Scripture at the Higher Institute of Religious Sciences in Bari.

That's just a sampling.

While none of this rejects Catholicism, it does open up a doorway to an equal treatment of multiple religious traditions. That concept is a core teaching of New Thought, so it is not entirely out of the question that Ernest Holmes' religious movement of Religious Science would find a place somewhere among the various subjects in the Catholic Religious Science curriculum of our universities, though it would not be the only religion being explored. The argument for learning about various religions is the desire for peace in the world. That is no different in Holmes' Religious Science than it is in the Religious Science disciplines of Catholic institutions. Still, peace at what price?

Time offers an interesting story on Alighiero Tondi, Jesuit, lecturer at the Gregorian in Rome:

Alighiero Tondi always wanted to believe in something—if possible, rationally. He entered the Jesuit order in Rome 16 years ago with this in mind. "I was confident," he recalled, "that scientific proofs of Catholic truth existed." In 16 years as a Jesuit, he made his mark. His lectures to young people at Gregorian University's institute for laymen—on "religious science"—were immensely successful. Superiors admitted that Father Tondi could chase away spiritual doubts among Rome's younger generation "as no one else could."

Secretly this skillful curer of souls began to doubt the rational proofs of Catholicism as not so all-inclusive as he had hoped. He began to investigate "scientific" philosophies. One seemed especially satisfying, since it held forth the "scientific possibility of dominating national and social events." In the Italian elections of 1948, Father Tondi, on the surface an ardent worker for Italy's Catholic Action movement, voted for the Communist Party.

The article goes on to recount how one day Tondi walked out of the Greg and his Catholic faith and joined the Communist Party.

Another Gregorian lecturer, Father Giovanni Magnani, said by this source to be the founder of the Institute of Religious Science at the Greg, wrote a book that raised many eyebrows. The book has apparently been withdrawn, I can't find it on the web. But check out what the Christia Archives has to say about it. You can also read about the book here. (Scroll down to second entry.) Is this where religious science leads?

Incidentally, the Vatican Observatory holds conferences at the Greg. I mention that because the observatory is located at Castegandolfo where the New Thought seminar run with the cooperation of Focolare was held.

Viva Cristo Rey!

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