International Theological Commission

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The International Theological Commission (ITC) of the Roman Catholic Church consists of up to 30 Catholic theologians from around the world.[1] These theologians are appointed by the Pope upon the suggestion of the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF)[2] for renewable five year terms and have tended to meet together in person once every year for a week.[3] The function of the ITC is to advise the Magisterium of the Church, particularly the CDF, a dicastery of the Roman Curia.[1][4] The Prefect of the CDF is ex officio the president of the ITC, which is based in Rome. According to Joseph Ratzinger - later Pope Benedict XVI - the idea for this group was put forward during the first Postconciliar General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 1967.[5]

The First Term (1 May 1969 - August 1974)[edit]

The ITC was established on an interim basis by Pope Paul VI on 11 April 1969[6] and the first appointments were announced on 1 May 1969. The first meeting of the ITC took place on 6–8 October 1969 and was presided over by Cardinal Franjo Šeper.[7] Four working groups were set up for the duration of the first term to explore: (i) the unity of the Faith, (ii) the priesthood, (iii) the theology of hope: the Christian Faith and the future of humanity, (iv) the criteria for Christian moral conscience.[8]

The October plenary session of 1970 studied a paper on "The Priestly Ministry" prepared by the sub-commission on the priesthood.[9] The October plenary session of 1972 saw the ITC study the topic of Theological Pluralism prepared by the subcommission on the unity of the Faith.[10] It has also been claimed that the ITC "made a useful contribution to Mysterium Ecclesiae (1973)" [11]

The Second Term (August 1974 - August 1979)[edit]

The second term saw a large number of changes with only thirteen of the original thirty theologians being reappointed. Back in October 1969 at the first meeting of the ITC Karl Rahner had produced a document on the principle questions which he felt should be addressed.[7] However, Rahner resigned after the first term claiming that the ITC was "stewing in its own juices". His complaint was that the CDF, and in particular Cardinal Seper, were not prepared to seriously consult the ITC on questions of the day.[12]

The October plenary session of 1974 addressed the topic of Christian Ethics.[13] In 1976, the ITC issued a report on liberation theology titled, "Human Development and Christian Salvation." The Holy See subsequently cracked down on liberation theology in the 1980s.

The Third Term (August 1979 - August 1984)[edit]

Following his appointment as the Prefect for the CDF, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger took over the presidency of the ITC on 25 November 1981. Ratzinger had already served as a member of the ITC since its inception in 1969. On August 6, 1982, Pope John Paul II issued the Motu Proprio "Tredecim Anni" to reconfirm the institutional structure of the ITC.

The Fourth Term (August 1984 - August 1989)[edit]


The Fifth Term (August 1989 - August 1994)[edit]


The Sixth Term (August 1994 - August 1999)[edit]

In 1997, the commission produced the document "Christianity and the Religions." In the next few years, a series of disciplinary actions were taken against Catholic clergy involved in religious pluralism.

The Seventh Term (August 1999 - August 2004)[edit]

In 2004, the document "Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God" was published on the relationship between creation, evolution, and Christian faith. [1]

The Eighth Term (August 2004 - August 2009)[edit]

In April 2005 Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI. William Levada was appointed as the new Cardinal President of the CDF and therefore took over the presidency of the ITC.

In 2007, the Commission called limbo an "unduly restricted view of salvation." [2] (The full text can be found here.[3])

Although this report has been interpreted as "closing Limbo," such an interpretation is incorrect. The proper understanding is that existence of Limbo—especially, relative to unbaptized babies—must be considered in light of God's universal salvific will. The ITC acts as an advisory board and its documents are not considered expressions of Church teaching. The Commission, which serves in an advisory role to the Vatican and whose "documents are not considered expressions of authoritative church teaching," noted the theory's limitations in a document published April 20, 2007.

The Ninth Term (From August 2009)[edit]

On 22 April 2009 Father Charles Morerod, O.P. was appointed as the new secretary general of the ITC. University of Notre Dame Professor John Cavadini, chair of the Theology department, was added to the ITC and concurrently made a Knight of St. Gregory.

In November of 2011, Father Morerod was named a diocesan Bishop-elect by Pope Benedict XVI, so that a new secretary general of the ITC was needed.

In December Serge Thomas Bonino, O.P. was named new secretary general.


  1. ^ a b Motu Proprio, Tredecim Anni, 6 August 1982.
  2. ^ Vatican website: INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL COMMISSION Provisory Statute (July 12, 1969) retrieved March 8, 2012
  3. ^ Motu Proprio, Tredecim Anni, 6 August 1982 and Ratzinger, "Foreword" to Michael Sharkey ed. International Theological Commission: Texts and Documents (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1989): vii.
  4. ^ Apostolic Constitution, Pastor Bonus, 28 June 1988, I General Norms.
  5. ^ Ratzinger, "Foreword", vii.
  6. ^ International Theological Commission. "Provisory Statute". Vatican website. Retrieved 14 June 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "Final Communique on the First Session of the International Theological Commission" in Sharkey, Texts and Documents, 1.
  8. ^ "Final Communique on the First Session of the International Theological Commission" in Sharkey, Texts and Documents, 2.
  9. ^ Sharkey, Texts and Documents, 3.
  10. ^ Sharkey, Texts and Documents, 89.
  11. ^ Peter Hebblethwaite, Paul VI: The First Modern Pope (London: HarperCollins, 1993): 634.
  12. ^ Peter Hebblethwaite, Paul VI (London: HarperCollins, 1993): 633.
  13. ^ Sharkey, Texts and Documents, 105.

Further reading[edit]

  • Malone, Richard and John R. Connery eds. Contemporary perspectives on Christian marriage: propositions and papers from the International Theological Commission (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1984).
  • Sharkey, Michael ed. International Theological Commission: Texts and Documents, Volume 1, 1969-1985 (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1989).
  • Sharkey, Michael and Thomas Weinandy eds. International Theological Commission: Texts and Documents, Volume 2, 1986-2007 (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2009).

External links[edit]