15 September 2016, The Tablet

Heythrop’s fate: a struggle of ideas as old as the Church


This year’s annual meeting of the Catholic Theological Association revealed tensions between academics and bishops over the future of Heythrop College. Some saw it as a clash between two strands of theology: one, outward-facing and challenging; the other, inward-looking and unquestioning

Gemma Simmonds paused for a moment, searching for the phrase to sum up the impact that has been made by the likely closure of Heythrop College, the Jesuit-run centre for theology and philosophy in Kensington, west London. “The landscape of Catholic theology is radically changed,” she said.

Simmonds was giving her president’s report to the annual conference of the Catholic Theological Association (CTA) in Swanwick, Derbyshire, last week. Most of the association’s members – a mix of people teaching theology in universities or seminaries with postgraduate students and a smattering of amateur enthusiasts – shared her bleak assessment of the new state in which they found themselves.

Simmonds, who is herself a senior lecturer at Heythrop, reported that she had written on behalf of the association to all the bishops of England and Wales, raising the serious concerns of its members at the precarious state of lay and clerical theological education in Britain, and in particular the imminent threat to the college.

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