To understand the Roman Catholic approach to theological reflection one may begin appropriately with the church's understanding of its relation to the world. According to Gaudium et Spes, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (a document from Vatican II), the church exists in solidarity with the whole human family. "The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community of people united in Christ and guided by the holy Spirit in their pilgrimage towards God's kingdom, bearers of a message of salvation for all of humanity. That is why they cherish a feeling of deep solidarity with the human race and its history."
Because of the church's solidarity, respect, and love for the entire human family, the church is called to enter into dialogue with all humanity about the various problems it faces, "throwing the light of the Gospel on them and supplying humanity with the saving resources which the church has received from its founder under the promptings of the Holy Spirit." Thus the church has the responsibility to interpret the circumstances of modern life in the light of the Gospel and to answer questions about meaning raised by people today.
Theological reflection, as it is practiced by Xavier University's Department of Theology, resonates well with Gaudium et Spes' vision of the church in the world. When the art of theological reflection is taught or practiced in the classroom at Xavier, it is approached as a process of dialogue among the interpreter, Scripture, the church's traditions, and the circumstances of the world today. When the theological process is undertaken with care, it draws upon the rich wisdom of the church's tradition, studies with insight the dilemmas of human life, and engenders a theological product that has genuine meaning for those who seek to live their lives in accordance with God's will.
When the faculty in the Department of Theology pursue research interests and publish within the scholarly guild or for a broader audience, they strive to address questions that are relevant for the faithful in the world today. Often their work is informed by a sense of solidarity with all humanity, as the faculty seek to promote respect and dignity for all persons through their theological work.