Monday, January 23, 2006

Where are the Commonweal Catholics going?

Luke Timothy Johnson, in the latest 1/27/06 issue of Commonweal, on the "intellectual chill" spreading across Catholic academia:
I am not sanguine. For one thing, the chill has become systemic. The episcopacy shaped by John Paul II will continue to perpetuate its fearful distrust of theologians. Defenders of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) argue that its investigations and sanctions of theologians are about “truth in advertising”-Catholic theologians in Catholic colleges should teach the way the Vatican says they should teach. Such a claim does little more than reduce theological truth to catechesis.
I'm no big fan of JPII's pics for the episcopacy, but LTJ is not helping. It's a little sad to see a fine Catholic NT scholar like Johnson, who I once admired greatly, slowly but willingly fall prey to the same infectious delusions of the modernist liberal intelligentsia. "Fearful distrust of theologians"? I guess anything less than rubber stamping is unequivocally distrustful then. "Truth in advertising" = reducing theological truth to catechesis? I suppose with the way American Catholics do catechesis, it deserves the insult. But if LTJ and his like-minded theologians can't distinguish between catechesis and CCD, and then incorrectly isolate catechesis from theological inquiry, well then no wonder modern theology is a mess.

I think we all need to wake up to the "you put down your gun and I'll put down mine" principle. Maybe if theologians didn't spend so much time bashing the hierarchy with their historicist narratives of power and their hermeneutics of suspicion, there would be a good reason for the hierarchy to trust you all. Meanwhile, the bishops have a huge unwieldy Church to hold together while the theologians, for the most part, have the luxury of playing pinata with effigies of the bishops.

LTJ's Emory colleague, Michael Perry, on Mirror of Justice blog is starting to annoy as well, with his Johnny-One-Note postings demonstrating little intellectual, but plenty of ideological, fussing. (HT: to MP for notice of the LTJ article, but not for his comments.)