Gaps of Generation and Charity

Browsing through a week of America posts, I found this piece from the Jesuit Raymond Schroth which aptly summarizes the state of affairs in the current “cursed theologian” meme. Fr Weinandy has been accused of misdiagnosis in the past. I urge readers unfamiliar with this recent spate of infighting between clergy and laity to go deeper and actually read the addresses, articles, and yes, even the books.

Linked in America was this insightful post from Jana Bennett at the fine new blog Catholic Moral Theology. I’ve become convinced that while a generation gap Dr Bennett describes might be part of the problem here, perhaps a lack of saintliness is closer to the mark. Perhaps we need, as Terrence Tilley suggests, more clergy of the demeanor of Avery Dulles, who …

who read others’ work “thoroughly, interpreted it charitably, and reported it accurately—especially when he disagreed with them.”

It would seem that some of those familiar with the classics of Western theology have, at times, difficulty applying CCC 2478. These folks may be trained theologians. They may be clergy. But first, they were all baptized, and as such, are bound to honor the basic prescriptions of charity. They may feel they are emulating the great saints who called out emperors and heretics. But it sure looks a lot more like Jerry Springer-style charity. And let’s be honest, which is a bigger influence: the unknown back stories of John Chrysostom and Hildegard and others, or the biting sarcasm and attack methodologies of shock media? (If not the CDF of the end of the last century.)

When theologically-prepared figures are continually talking past each other, making accusations as they insist they have been misunderstood, there is a basic communication problem, not a theological one. It’s a problem that really should have been mastered in grade school.

I’m less interested in a debate, blog or otherwise, with people who cannot articulate an understanding of the adversary’s position. I’ll admit I try harder in real life. But most of my internet foils seem content enough, like Fr Weinandy, with a caricature of the opposition, something to be shot down or blown up a la Bruce Willis. This is wrong. It might be layered atop a background of perfectly sound academic training as a theologian. But it doesn’t show an absorbed and lived theology, let alone any basic life in Christ. It seems to have been Joseph Ratzinger’s problem at the top of the CDF. And it has percolated well through the Church, and well into both sides of a hermeneutic of debate that is, well, a curse on the contemporary Church. The blogosphere especially.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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