Making the Voice of the Church Heard to Restore Human Dignity

Interview with Brother Manuel Ángel Martínez Juan, OP, Master of Sacred Theology

The right to life, respect for human dignity, the defence of the family in the face of the ideological attack that has been perpetrated against it for several decades, the promotion of peace and the defence of religious freedom are some of the urgent issues that the Church and the Order have to face today. The Church must make its voice heard to restore the dignity of the human family, observes Brother Manuel Ángel Martínez Juan, OP. Br. Manuel received the degree of Master in Sacred Theologyfrom the Master of the Order in 2023. The following is an interview granted to the media of Ordo Praedicatorum.

Magister in Sacra Theologia1

What does it mean to you to have received the degree of Master in Sacred Theology from the Master of the Order?

First. I would like to express my sincere thanks for this undeserved recognition. It shows that I have a responsibility and a commitment to the intellectual mission of the province to which I belong and to the Order in general.

In your opinion, what is the Order’s current theological contribution to the Church and the world?

The Church and the Order must continue to deepen our understanding of the totality of the Christian message in order to propose it in a way that our contemporaries, believers and nonbelievers, can accept. Personally, I have devoted myself to studying the Christology of St. Thomas Aquinas and some themes of Mariology and spiritual theology, but today there are certain themes that are particularly important to study. There are so many of them that it is difficult to prioritise.
Let us start with the right to life, so trampled upon, especially in Western society. This is a clear need that is at the root of many other problems. We must continue our efforts to promote a theologically sound culture of life.
Alongside this there must be great concern for respect for human dignity, subjected to manipulation to an extent unprecedented in history. This respect must be based on a better understanding of human psychology. We need to rethink our dignity theologically, making use of the tools of Revelation, theological wisdom and the experience of almost two thousand years of Christianity, as well as the findings of other disciplines related to this subject or capable of shedding light on it. While the theological principles are clear, in our society the dignity of many people has been compromised by certain ideologies.

How do we make the voice of the Church heard so as to restore their lost dignity? Immigration is another area of concern with regards to human dignity. It requires a theological response that takes into account all aspects, both in the country of origin and in the host country, tackling head-on the problem of mafias that unscrupulously gamble with the lives of many people.

The issue of the family is no less urgent. The ideological attack on the family has been very powerful for several decades, especially through the film industry and Western culture. The family remains one of the pillars of society and the ideal context for children to form and develop a healthy and balanced personality. The prevalence of mental and emotional imbalance today is alarming.

Another important issue on which we must always continue to reflect is that of peace. Wars in various parts of the world and the constant threat of international conflict makes this issue a priority. It is worth recalling here the commendable work of Fr Pire, OP2 on behalf of peace after the Second World War. Some of his initiatives still survive today. He had the wisdom to create structures that would last over time, because the work for peace requires it.

Today, religious freedom is also threatened, although violation of this fundamental right is rarely reported in the media. Many Christians live their faith under the constant threat of death. Many others die as victims of hatred. Christianity is currently the most threatened religion in the world. How should we view this reality, in which the lives of so many people are at stake? In the Western world, threats to religious freedom are mainly ideological in nature, but here too, open and public confession of faith is difficult.
The need for peace between religions must also be addressed by theology. This peace may depend on dialogue between different religions. Most of these are in the realm of morality. This brings to mind the School of Salamanca whose members were attentive to the serious moral problems of their time. They offered a convincing intellectual response, and were capable of reflection, discernment and decision-making. Their work continues to be a source of inspiration today in addressing new challenges.

How can the synodal journey currently underway enrich the Order and the Church?

Personally, I have not participated in the synodal groups of the diocese where I live. I have followed, however, the work of the various phases via the media and the accounts of those directly involved. This is an original initiative, which, in my opinion, seeks to support a dimension proper to the Church, to put this dimension into practice, and to make appropriate decisions for an ever fuller ecclesial life. Synodality has undoubtedly always been present in the life of the Church, but each era has to live it in its own way. One of the riches that the synodal journey can bring is that of helping us to deepen our understanding of the mystery of communion that is the Church, and to find ways to live it better. Our Order has a rich tradition in this area, which is expressed in the celebration of conventual, provincial, and general chapters. Within the Order, the synodal journey can be an opportunity to review the functioning of our system of government and to point out those areas where it could be improved, while always respecting the inspired origins of St. Dominic’s charism. The synodal journey is also an opportunity to consider what is needed to live together and share our common life: elements such as attentive and sincere listening, responsible commitment to the institution to which we belong, the improvement of fraternal life, the witnessing character of each community, etc. Today, in contrast, we are experiencing in some places a strong tendency towards individualism and isolation.

What is your reflection on the Jubilee of Consecrated Life?

I honestly had not reflected on this until now. A Jubilee is always a time of grace, conversion and renewal for the whole Church. One reason it is called a “Holy Year” is that it is intended to promote the holiness of life of the whole Church. Pope John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January 2001), spoke of the need for holiness of life, for this is the dimension that best expresses the mystery of the Church. Holiness is an eloquent expression of the Christian message that needs no words. It is a living representation of the face of Christ. The glimpses of holiness seen in the people around us are signs that inspire our hope. The motto that Pope Francis chose for the Jubilee of 2025, “Pilgrims of Hope,” reminds us, on the one hand, of our character as pilgrims, which should lead us to great detachment, and, on the other hand, it speaks to us of hope, that virtue so necessary in all times, and especially in ours. The letter of Cardinal João Braz de Aviz addressed to consecrated men and women proposes as a motto for the Jubilee of Consecrated Life “Pilgrims of hope, on the path of peace,” affirming that the most important need of our time is peace. It proposes three themes: 1) commitment to the least (listening to the cry of the poor); 2) care and custody of creation (protection of the environment); 3) universal fraternity (solidarity). Our charism in the Order enjoins on us a commitment to the least that must lead us to analyse our own way of life. The words of St. Paul continue to guide us: “Put yourselves on a level with the lowly” (Romans 5:16). We know St Dominic’s zeal for poverty. The message is credible only if the life of the messenger is in keeping with the message. The sincere living of poverty is a door that opens us to the world of the least. To this must be added other positive actions in favour of the least, but without living this attitude, any other work loses its force. The care and custody of creation also challenges our consecrated life. Striving for universal fraternity has to begin in the convent itself, with the people with whom we live. This is one of the most important challenges at the community level, and it affects future vocations. Young people will be interested in our life if they see that in our communities there is an effort to keep the fraternal spirit alive. But all this cannot be sustained if we are not committed to Christ and his Gospel, with all that this implies.

Brother Manuel Ángel Martínez Juan, OP

Brother Manuel Ángel Martínez Juan, OP, was born in Acebes del Páramo (León), Spain, on 4 November 1964. He entered the Apostolic School of La Virgen del Camino de León in September 1978, at the age of 14, where he completed his secondary studies. He took the Dominican habit on 11 September 1982, in the convent of Santo Domingo de Caleruega, and made his first profession on 11 September 1983. He holds a Doctorate in Theology from the Pontifical Faculty of Theology of San Esteban (Salamanca), defending his thesis in July 1999, with the title: La mediación de la humanidad de Cristo: Clave de lectura de la soteriología de santo Tomás de Aquino (The Mediation of Christ’s Humanity: Key to the Soteriology of St. Thomas Aquinas). He graduated in Theology from the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) with the thesis Fundamentals for a Christology in the Work of Christian Duquoc, in 1991. He studied theology at the San Esteban Institute of Theology in Salamanca. He studied Philosophy at the Higher Institute of Philosophy in Valladolid. He has been director of the journal of mystical theology Vida Sobrenatural since 2001. He was appointed President of the Faculty of Theology “San Esteban” on 19 December 2008. He has taught courses in Spiritual Theology and Ecclesiology at St. Stephen’s Institute of Theology. He has taught degree courses in Ecclesiology at the Pontifical Faculty of Theology of San Esteban in Salamanca. He has taught theology courses (Christian Anthropology, Christology and Mariology) at the Centre for Institutional Studies in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and at the Universidad Iberoamericana UNIBE in the same country. Since 2013 he has taught courses in Ecclesiology and Sacraments and Mysteries at DOMUNI.

  1. Master of Sacred Theology is an honorary degree granted by the Master of the Order, following the recommendation of the General Council in accordance with certain requirements for the granting of this degree. The title dates back to 1303, when the Pope of the time, Benedict XI, a Dominican, created this degree so that the Order of Preachers could grant the faculty of teaching theology. Today it is an honorary and exclusively academic title, but it is the highest recognition of excellence in the sacred sciences within the Order of Preachers. ↩︎
  2. Henri Dominique Pire, OP, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1958. ↩︎
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