General Aims and Objectives
We work to inform, inspire and educate people about complex issues which are challenging Christians worldwide, and about which a process of discernment is currently ongoing. We carry out independent academic research on central issues that affect the credibility of our Christian faith, and publish our findings online. By doing so we are helping the Catholic Church implement some of the reforms it needs. Currently we are examining questions around women and ministry in the church; sexual ethics (meaning and purpose of sexuality; sexual orientation and LGBT+; family planning and birth control, and so on); and Church governance (collegiality, clergy-laity relationship; etc.).
In order to make available to as many people as possible high quality information about those issues we:
- Provide an online library of scholarly and pastoral resources on strategic disputed topics within Christianity;
- Provide summaries of the research in 26 languages, among which many widely used in developing countries for the purposes of reaching the widest possible audience;
- Obtain copyrights permissions so as to be able to offer for free as much content as possible;
- Abide by the best scholarly standards: All the relevant evidence on a given topic is presented, together with the full range of plausible interpretations.
Developing the Magisterium – Pushing the Boundaries of Doing Theology
In addition, we are developing a ground-breaking initiative which builds on our past experiences bringing together Catholic scholars in the drafting and signing of agreed statements. For the first time in history, we will employ the potential of the wiki software to enable professional theologians to cooperate in drafting research reports. These will come in the form of both ‘green papers’ – aimed at consultation (e.g. of the entire church or of a specific sector such as medical doctors, economists, laywomen, etc.) – and ‘white papers’, offering authoritative reports. The latter will enjoy the authority generally assigned to peer-reviewed, independent, evidence based, academically rigorous scholarship.
Increasingly since the 1950s most secular democracies set up Scientific Advisory Committees precisely to enable governments and civil society to access scientific knowledge in the most independent, impartial and comprehensive manner. Our initiative aims to achieve a similar goal in the field of Catholic theology. Indeed, it is our hope that the theologians participating in these collaborative endeavours will eventually contribute to setting up a peer-reviewed, independent Theological Advisory Committee at the service of the hierarchy and the Catholic Church at large.
Research for reform
We do not directly campaign for church reform – rather we gather the scholarly evidence necessary to address complex theological issues that will help the Church take enlightened decisions. The goal is to create a sort of scholarly Wikipedia on those issues, powered by the theological community at large, and acting as a clearing-house for significant contributions from established and budding scholars alike. For this reason, we are always trying to expand our network of contributors, who volunteer academic material, suggestions, or indeed criticisms. If you wish to join us, please get in touch!
Our main tool for change is information and education, particularly in those areas where institutional censorship within the Catholic Church is the strongest. We do so by bringing to the fore evidence challenging some specific aspects of received Catholic teachings whenever they appear to go against scripture, the Gospel values, or historical evidence. This information service we carry out through our websites that include online libraries, key-points and PowerPoint presentations, podcasts, picture galleries, online interactive courses, historical analyses, facilitated discussion groups, and agreed statements by renowned Catholic scholars.
We are currently fund-raising for a 3-year Renewal Project to help transform our Institute into a modern, financially self-supporting organization. The total projected cost of £120,000 (i.e. £40,000pa) includes:
- Renovation of our websites in terms of functionality, layout and accessibility from mobile devices. This will require moving them on to a new Content Management System (WordPress). Given their size, this is going to be a very significant undertaking.
- Expanding our online outreach to an annual target of 1M combined visitors to our websites.
- Increasing our presence on the social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
Those projects are part of a larger process of consolidation. Our already existing websites host a wealth of resources. But their usefulness is greatly diminished by the fact that much of that material is poorly accessible. This is because the original system for organizing the content of the website cannot cope well with the remarkable amount of material being added through the years. As a consequence, some of it, while very valuable, has become quite difficult to reach through the internal website navigation.