Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research
We live in a time of monumental change. Our knowledge of the world in which we live has increased exponentially. Sciences explore the vast universe with its billions of galaxies as well as the innermost workings of our bodies. Medicine successfully suppresses diseases and improves the quality of life. Communication media link us in ever more complex networks: from the worldwide web on computers to television in our lounges and iphones in our pockets.
The Catholic Church, on the other hand, has been shaped by the cultures of various societies through a tortuous twenty-century history. Superstitions, prejudices and social customs of the past encrust the Church's heritage. They affect all aspects of the Church's life: structures of organization, the ethical code, pastoral practices and even the interpretation of Church doctrine. For the Church to survive it is essential that careful study should distinguish the original inspiration from transitory accretions.
The mission of our Centre focuses first of all on Research. We consider it to be our task to explore the original sources afresh and determine their meaning. We want to establish all the facts relating to crucial issues We want to be guided by the truth, as far as the means at our disposal allow us to ascertain.
We also believe that, for the common good, our findings should be published. We realise that in theology, as in other sciences, no conclusion is final. But that should not stop us from communicating our findings however provisional they may be. The publication of our findings will stimulate further research by scholars. At times it will also provide guidance for many confused non-academics who urgently need advice on how to live their Christian faith today.
Though conscious of our duty to speak up even when we need to contradict official views, we want to stress our loyalty to the Catholic Church and its leaders. We believe that reforms should come 'from within the Church', i.e. via the legitimate authority structures in the Church. As Vatican II reminded us: "The Church is in constant need of reform".
"Over the Pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority there still stands one's own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. Conscience confronts us with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even of the official church."
Joseph Ratzinger, Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, ed. Vorgrimler, 1968, part 1, chapter 1.