As the Jesuits are currently reviewing their approach to theological education, one of the order's former educators is offering his perspective on changes needed to prepare clergy for a modern context.
In the September 26, 2016, edition of the society's America magazine, Jesuit Father T. Howland Sanks, professor emeritus of theology at the Jesuit School of Theology in California, says that Jesuit formation needs to emphasize the context of ministry today and downplay academic philosophy and the classical theological dilemmas.
Globalization and modern communication technology have decreased the distance between people of different cultures, beliefs, and traditions, Sanks says. So he believes theological education should prepare students to serve people of all backgrounds using an ecumenical approach, and it should include instruction about Eastern faith traditions. Further, Sanks says that advances in cosmological and ecological studies require clergy to acknowledge that the universe is much larger than our own planet, and that theological education should reflect this modern view.
Sanks believes that every candidate for ordination should have “a firm grounding in Scripture for preaching” and knowledge of the church's traditions, history, and sacraments, as well as an understanding of the moral challenges that people face today. The competencies that all priests should master include preaching, leadership, prayer, and spiritual guidance.
But he says that theological education should also include individualized programs for each candidate. Theological formation should de-emphasize academic philosophy and spend less time on doctrinal questions like the relationship of grace and free will.
These are the opinions of one Jesuit educator in response to his religious community's review of its training program. But we're wondering: What are your opinions about these recommendations? Do you specifically agree or disagree with any of his points made about theological education?
Check out the full text of Father T. Howland Sanks’s article acout Catholic theological education at America magazine.