Theological work that sets out from the literature

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(from Alphonsian Academy blog)

Theological work should always consider its point of departure and its point of arrival the historical reality, that reality with the density of Kairos, which manifests itself in those signs of the times that cry out and challenge. It should then seek its foundations in the tripod of Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium, with the necessary complementarities and differentiations (cf. DV, n. 10). But more than anything else, it should know how to choose the mediations that will enable it to produce a plausible discourse and an authoritative presence through a lucid and critical dialogue with other human knowledge.

These mediations can include at least three aspects or specifications: socio-cultural mediations (folk wisdom; cultural anthropology; etc.); analytical mediations (sociology; social sciences; biology; psychology; etc.), and hermeneutic mediations (philosophy; various anthropologies; etc.). Each of these is specified by considering the argument(s) in question. Sometimes only one science could indeed be used for each of the mediations. For example, this is often the case with philosophy, which, beyond its typology or the school it represents, can help understand reality in and from these three mediations.

Here we would like to highlight one mediation, which has much to do with art and science, at least in its broadest sense. We refer to literature. We are not saying anything new since literature has often “served” as “inspirational” support for theological work. As well as other arts, for example, music, painting, etc. But here, we are trying to highlight an aspect that could induce a certain novelty, especially in the work of moral theology. It is very significant to consider literature (in all its expressions and variety) as reading and inspiration of historical reality. Whether one considers written works as such or their extensions when they reach the general public through cinema or television. To name a more or less recent phenomenon, consider all that has happened around the Harry Potter works. Or the whole world that emerges between the writing, dissemination and mediatisation of comics. Interpretations, attitudes, ways of understanding and facing life find their greatest inspiration in these places. Sometimes suggesting momentary and sometimes permanent lifestyles, generating deep convictions, personal, social, political, religious, etc., positions. They are a real theological place and true chairs of moral discernment. It is true that they can contribute – depending on how one looks at it – to lighter, simpler and, why not, superficial visions. But here, it is crucial to underline their real impact on the formation of consciences. Therefore, it would be desirable that those who study and do moral theology take more interest in this type of “mediation”.

Finally, we present the contribution of a young writer who, at least in English and her Spanish versions, has been generating “things” for some time now. Her novels focus on human relationships, the search for sincere love, and the construction of new lifestyles, even if there are no starting models, but rather constructions on the way. It invites us to assume personal and relational fragilities. A narrative that does not pretend to supplant life but to accompany it, showing that love and pain claim and care for each other. It knows how to spin stories from a questioning and critical point of view without drowning out the wisdom that beats in every situation, however difficult and challenging it may be. He proposes that he does not indoctrinate, even with narratives that go against the grain. In his latest proposal, he invites us to search for that beautiful world that may be appearing behind those little windows of hope that emerge when, for example, ethics ceases to be above all imperative and controlling. It allows itself to be accompanied by a propositional and illuminating aesthetic. Enjoy reading: Sally Rooney (Castlebar, Ireland, 20.02.1991), Dónde estás, mundo bello, Literatura Random House, Barcelona 2021 (Beautiful World. Where Are You, Farrar Straus & Giroux, New York 2021). 

Fr. Antonio Gerardo Fidalgo, C.Ss.R.

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