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Pope warns theologians against narcissism, an ecclesiastical illness
April 10, 2014: “The theologian who does not pray and who does not worship God ends up sunk in the most disgusting narcissism. And this is an ecclesiastical illness. The narcissism of theologians, of thinkers, and of the ‘just’ does so much harm,” said Pope Francis on Thursday while addressing the professors, students, and staff of the Pontifical Gregorian University and to the associated Pontifical Biblical Institute and Pontifical Oriental Institute.
Speaking about relationship between study and the spiritual life, he said “Philosophy and theology permit one to acquire the convictions that structure and strengthen the intelligence and illuminate the will ... but this is fruitful only if it is done with an open mind and on one’s knees.
Further, he said “The purpose of the studies in every Pontifical University is ecclesial. Research and studies are integrated with personal and community life, with missionary commitment, with fraternal charity and sharing with the poor, with care of the interior life in relationship with the Lord. Your institutes are not machines for producing theologians and philosophers; they are communities in which one grows, and that growing occurs in the university which is a family.”
Here below the text of his address,
Venerable brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
My dear brothers and sisters,
I welcome all of you, professors, students, and staff of the Pontifical Gregorian University, of the Pontifical Biblical Institute, and of the Pontifical Oriental Institute. I greet Father Nicolás, the father delegate, and all the other superiors, as well as the Cardinals and Bishops present. Thank you!
The Institutions to which you belong — joined in a Consortium by Pope Pius XI in 1928 — are entrusted to the Society of Jesus, and share the same desire “to serve as a soldier of God beneath the banner of the Cross … and to serve the Lord alone and the Church, His spouse, under the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth” (Formula, 1). It is important that among them collaboration and synergy be developed, keeping the historic memory and at the same time taking charge of the present and looking to the future — the father general said, looking to the future, “But it’s far away, eh? [Look] to the horizons” — looking to the future with creativity and imagination, seeking to have a global vision of the situations and real challenges and a shared manner of confronting them, finding new paths.
The first aspect that I want to emphasize, thinking of your commitment, both as teachers and as students, both personally and institutionally, is that of appreciating the very place in which you find yourself working and studying, that is, the city and above all the Church of Rome. Here there is a past and there is a present. Here are the roots of faith: the memories of the Apostles and of the Martyrs; and here is the ecclesial “today,” here is the actual path of this Church which presides in charity, at the service of unity and universality. All of this should not be taken for granted! It must be lived and appreciated, with a commitment that is partly institutional and partly personal, left to the initiative of each one.
But at the same time you bring the variety of your home Churches, of your own cultures. This is an inestimable richness of the Roman institutions. It offers a precious occasion of growing in the faith and of opening the mind and the heart to the horizons of catholicity. Within these horizons the dialectic between the “centre” and the “peripheries” assumes its proper form, the evangelical form, according to the logic of a God that reaches from the centre coming from the peripheries in order to return to the peripheries.
The other aspect that I want to share is that of the relationship between study and the spiritual life. Your spiritual commitment, in teaching and in research, in study and in deeper formation, will be all the more fertile and efficacious as it is more fully animated by the love of Christ and of the Church, as the relationship between study and prayer is more solid and harmonious. This is not something out-dated, this is the centre, eh?
This is one of the challenges of our time: transmitting the knowledge and offering a key for vital comprehension, not a heap of notions unconnected to one another. There is need of a true evangelical hermeneutic for better understanding life, the world, humanity, not of a synthesis but of a spiritual atmosphere of research and certainty based on the truths of reason and of faith. Philosophy and theology permit one to acquire the convictions that structure and strengthen the intelligence and illuminate the will ... but this is fruitful only if it is done with an open mind and on one’s knees. With an open mind and on one’s knees. The theologian who is satisfied with his complete and conclusive thought is mediocre. The good theologian and philosopher has an open, that is, an incomplete, thought, always open to the maius of God and of the truth, always in development, according to the law that St. Vincent of Lerins describes as follows: “annis consolidetur, dilatetur tempore sublimetur aetate" (Commonitorium primum, 23 : PL 50, 668), [a thought that] is consolidated over the years, expands over time, deepens with age. This is the theologian who has an open mind. And the theologian who does not pray and who does not worship God ends up sunk in the most disgusting narcissism. And this is an ecclesiastical illness. The narcissism of theologians, of thinkers, and of the “just” does so much harm.
The purpose of the studies in every Pontifical University is ecclesial. Research and studies are integrated with personal and community life, with missionary commitment, with fraternal charity and sharing with the poor, with care of the interior life in relationship with the Lord. Your institutes are not machines for producing theologians and philosophers; they are communities in which one grows, and that growing occurs in the family. In the university family there is the charism of governance, entrusted to the superiors, and there is the diaconia of the staff, which is indispensable for creating the familiar environment in everyday life, and also for creating the attitude of humanity and of concrete wisdom, that will make the students of today persons capable of building humanity, of transmitting the truth in a human dimension, of understanding that if one lacks the goodness and the beauty of belonging to a family of work one ends up being an intellectual without talent, and ethicist without goodness, a thinker lacking in the splendour of beauty and only “wearing the mask” (It: “truccato,” “made-up”) of formalism. The daily, respectful contact with the hard work and witness and the witness of the men and women who work in your Institutions will give you that dose of realism that is so necessary so that your knowledge will be a human knowledge and not a laboratory [knowledge].
Dear brothers, I entrust each of you, your studies and your work, to the intercession of Mary, Sedes Sapientiae, of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and of your other Patron Saints. I bless you from the heart, and I pray for you. And you, please, pray for me too! Thank you!
And now, before I give you my blessing, I invite you to pray to the Madonna, the Mother, that she might help us and protect us.