The ultra-liberal NCFishwrap‘s solitary boast, my friend the nearly-ubiquitous, fair-minded John L. Allen, Jr., has an interesting piece today about a theologian working for the US Bishops, recently in the news because of the USCCB doctrine committees remarks on Sr. Elizabeth Johnson’s odd ideas.
Here is a taste from Mr. Allen, with my emphases and comments.
Bishops’ staffer on doctrine rips theologians as ‘curse’
Aug. 16, 2011
By John L Allen Jr
Theologians can be a “curse and affliction upon the church,” according to the U.S. bishops’ top official on doctrine, if their work is not grounded in church teaching and an active faith life, and ends up promoting “doctrinal and moral error.” [I am sure most of your are doing air fist-pumps right about now. I can, however, pick up the faint sound from the far left… it sounds rather like back molars breaking from stress.]
Capuchin Fr. Thomas Weinandy, executive director of the Secretariat for Doctrine at the U.S. bishops’ conference, has warned of a “crisis” in Catholic theology, caused by theologians who “often appear to possess little reverence for the mysteries of the faith as traditionally understood and presently professed within the church.”
Those remarks came in a May 26 address to the Academy of Catholic Theology in Washington, D.C., and were published in July in Origins, the official documentary service of the U.S. bishops. [It is hard to imagine such a think being published in Origins 10 years ago.]
[… Mr. Allen reviews the situation of Sr. Johnson, other points, and then goes on…]
“Theology may be the only academic pursuit where one can seemingly be considered a theologian without actually having to know the subject matter,” he said. “It would appear at times that a theologian need not actually know God.” [“theos + logein”]
Weinandy, 65, holds a doctorate in historical theology from King’s College in London and is a former professor of theology at Oxford University. He’s served as the U.S. bishops’ chief of staff for doctrinal issues since 2005.
In his May 26 address, Weinandy strongly defended the idea that a Catholic theologian should have a mandate, or license, from the local bishop. Such a mandate does not curb their freedom, he argued, but gives their vocation “a dignity and gravity that it truly deserves.”
Weinandy devoted a section to “the present crisis within Catholic theology.”
“Much of what passes for contemporary Catholic theology,” he said, “often is not founded upon an assent of faith in the divine deposit of revelation as proclaimed in the sacred scriptures and developed within the living doctrinal and moral tradition of the church.”
Instead, he said, much Catholic theology has become “an attempt by reason to pass judgment on the content of the faith as if it were of human origin,” with theologians as “judges who stand above the faith and arbitrate what is to be believed and what is not.” [Modernism, right?]
That approach, Weinandy said, “sometimes undermines genuine faith within the body of Christ” and ends up leading people “into the darkness of error.” It also, he said, “inevitably produces fragmentation within the church.”
Weinandy acknowledged that over the centuries, the Catholic church has recognized different “schools” of theology.
Yet today, he said, “the church is experiencing not a debate among legitimate schools of theological thought, but a radical divide over the central tenets of the Catholic faith and the church’s fundamental moral tradition.”
“This is not simply an expression of a plurality of Catholic theologies,” Weinandy said, “but the very disintegration of the Catholic faith itself.”
Read the full article over there.
Again, we can apply the old quidquid recipitur adage. But I am glad that Mr. Allen covered this for Fishwrap, even as they have a subscription drive going.
That said, allow me to test drive an analogy.
In London and elsewhere in England there were riots, and there will be more upheaval there and in Europe, because those values which restrain people, which make them think about others, which instil in young people a sense of right and wrong, have been undermined. They are imbued with relativism and its fruits, and they rampage around, doing what they feel like doing, without reference to the common good. This has come about because parents and schools and the media have in a double effort of reckless irresponsibility, not exercised governance and discipline over their children. In London and elsewhere they are now reaping the results. Neighborhoods are terrorized, businesses harmed, and the fabric of society weakened, thus perpetuating the recourse to violence.
In the Church, there has been relatively little exercise of discipline of the Faith in schools and pulpits as far as teaching is concerned, and little oversight in some places for liturgical worship. The lack of clear Catholic teaching or the mixed messages that come from heterodoxy in one parish and fidelity in another, even between priests in the same parish, has produced the impression that even the clearest dogmas of the Faith are up to personal choice and interpretation. This has produced gangs which can roam nearly unchecked up and and down the streets of the Church, rampaging and intimidating and spiritually bullying the faithful, leaving them spiritually impoverished and confused. The theological hoods, yobs, are now almost entirely beyond hope. They do violence to the Church’s doctrine and worship, and thereby diminish the fabric of the Church wherever they are.