A leading moral theologian welcomed an intervention by Bishop Kevin Doran, who stressed the importance of having theological faculties in all Irish universities.
Fr Twomey, author of The End of Irish Catholicism? and a retired professor of moral theology, said Bishop Doran’s call “struck me as quite a breakthrough and is to be applauded”.
He added that theology is needed “for the coherence of universities”, pointing out that universities “emerged from the study of theology”.
In the past, the Irish bishops took “a pragmatic approach” to theology, seeing it “more or less as something needed for the ministry or teaching”, Fr Twomey explained.
“This was a result of the pragmatism of the bishops of the time, they wanted Catholics to get jobs as lawyers and all the rest of it,” he continued.
“But theology as a laboratory for the Faith is needed, so the tools of the Faith can be explored in a way that is demanded by the very nature of the Faith itself.
“Theology is needed for every branch of the university, the humanities, but also the sciences.”
Speaking on the feast of St John Henry Newman, October 9, Bishop Doran bemoaned the lack of “a shared vision” in the development of Irish universities due to the absence of theology faculties.
“In continental Europe, it was common for the best universities to have faculties of theology, alongside all the other academic disciplines,” Bishop Doran continued. “In Ireland, by contrast, most of our universities developed without theology.
He added that the decline in the number of Catholic colleges has meant a “resulting decline in the opportunity to study theology as part of a wider third-level education”.
“I don’t think there is much to be gained by trying to re-write history, but I do believe that, in a modern pluralist society, there is a place for theology in our mainstream universities,” the bishop of Elphin said.