. . . or why the contemporary Church is anti-intellectualI don’t know who “Brian” is, but I definitely appreciate his thoughtful comment in response to William Lindsey’s July 24 post on his blog Bilgrimage concerning Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (“Charity in Truth”).
Brian’s eloquent reflection reminds me of what Jesuit Philip Endean once wrote about the great Catholic theologian Karl Rahner's understanding of the authentically Catholic perspective that recognizes that “dogmas of tradition exist not as truths complete in themselves, but rather as resources for helping us discover the ever greater glory . . . of the God whose gift of self pervades all possible experience.”
Of course, as Endean points out, any theology informed by such an understanding of God’s active presence in human life will be open to “a permanent process of growth, interchange, and transformation.” It will be far from “frozen” (to use a metaphor of Brian’s) but rather life-giving and richly diverse in its flourishing.
Anyway, following is Brian’s comment from the Bilgrimage blogsite.
People who have hitched their wagon to “the Truth” are, unwittingly, weakening the Church’s message and mission. They compare some dogma or papal utterance to, say, the immutability of 2 + 2 = 4.
IMHO, the “Truth” they talk about is, in fact, more of a reflection of human thought and language than of God and his love. The mind must freeze phenomena into concepts in order to understand the world, although the world keeps flowing by - flowing towards God, if you will. They barter and trade with frozen Truths with which they build a house with no foundation, i.e. Love.
I don’t want to belittle the importance of being able to construct and use a theological language. I just want to point out that many people mistake that language and its formulations for their religion, their object of worship.
When I was still in a conservative mindset, I, looking back now, put more emphasis on (what I thought were) accurate statements of data and less emphasis on loving action. Certainly, I was very much concerned with my own actions regarding myself (my thoughts, words, my body) but outward loving action to others, to the poor, always seemed like something you can do after you get all that data straight and adhere yourself to it firmly. To do otherwise would seem misguided - like the way I abruptly judged agnostics who did good works.
I feel that’s why the Pope, and people like the late Fr. Neuhaus, are/were always repeating the ‘complimentary nature of faith and reason.’ Fr. Neuhaus, especially, always sounded frustrated with how anyone could think otherwise. “So the earth was discovered to go around the Sun, no big deal. So human beings and other life forms evolve over time, no big deal, our truths remains unaffected,” etc., etc. Of course they have to take this attitude towards scientific revolutions as a defense mechanism – otherwise, such revolutions, taken seriously, might threaten their adamantine Truths - especially the ones that deal with Nature itself, i.e. statements of ‘Natural Law.’
When the Church finally allowed a historical-critical look at the Scriptures, we were blessed with an age of great theologians. What was never allowed was this: if we can review the Scriptures scientifically and find a better understanding of them, should we not also take a new look at those dogmas/practices which have rested upon the old/inferior understanding of Scripture?
That’s why the contemporary Church is anti-intellectual, because it must be in order to maintain the current power model. It can only maintain its feudal caste system by being a giant mountain of inconsistency. More and more, it will become obsessed with what will look increasingly like an alternate natural science. In short: the recent emphasis on Truth is just another arrow from the quiver of defending power. So is the recent push for ‘remembering our Catholic identity,’ which gives rise to homilies about how we’re ‘not like Protestants.’
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Comprehending the Fullness of Truth
Stop in the Name of Discriminatory Ideology
When “Guidelines” Lack Guidance
“Uncle Vince” is At It Again
A Church That Can and Cannot Change
Uta Ranke-Heinemann on the Future of the Church
What It Means to Be Catholic
Rosemary Haughton and the “True Catholic Enterprise”
The Catholic Challenge
The Treasure and the Dross