Friday, June 13, 2014

unified theory: everybody is scared

And in that anxiety we make decisions that affect others as well as ourselves and boy howdy, are there consequences.

First, as predicted on this blog several times, Pope Francis makes it clear:  Catholic theology is not a democratic process.  You can't construct belief structures through cost-benefit analysis.  Yes, attentiveness matters--but come on, there's a limit, people.

Second, Catholic theologians, well, sometimes I wonder if the less that's said is better.  However, this is not a Zen/Catholic blog.  The American Catholic academy desperately seeks relevance, thus it routinely claims space (usually from bishops) from which theologians can then speak expertly.  That way, the Church's theological development--because blessed Cardinal Newman was right, doctrine does develop--will include voices other than the bishops.   Charlie Carmosy's careful reflections on the recent CTSA presidential address (delivered by Paul Griffith) reveals these tensions.  When you come from Catholic social justice, who's the bad guy?  Easy:  f@#$%&*g Paul Ryan.  Who's your bae?  Easy, but more numerous:  Pope Francis (of course) and your fellow theologians.

To riff on Carmosy, the reality is messier than the preceding (re)construction.  But why?  Because a theological dialogue that includes both bishops (who possess and express the Church's teaching authority) and theologians thus creates space to where theologians can explore provocative--and messy--questions.

Blogging all this, of course,will guarantee my expulsion from the theologians' guild.  More on that later.  As the man once said, "quiet, numbskulls--I'm broadcasting!"  Besides, if given the choice between bishops and my faculty colleagues I have come to wonder if academic freedom is the utopian freedom I've been told it is and offers.

Third,with Father's Day around the corner, here come articles about fatherhood and masculinity.  Some good--we need to find some way to move beyond clownish stereotypes of "being a man"--and others more fretful, that somebody somewhere is going curtail our freedom.

Fourth, recent reversals in American foreign policy have the usual sane-and-calm voices starting to wonder if this really is a time of change-not-for-the-better.  Here at home some have pointed to the disturbing increase in school-shootings.  Catholics are becoming used to parish violence but also violent, uninvited protests which seek their own "shock and awe" effect. We  readily accept the outrageous before we think about what's being offered.

God made us and in so doing gave us freedom.  In exercising that freedom--part of our very selves--we most often choose actions which feed our fears instead of increasing one of the other gifts God gave us:  love.  This, though, requires us to move outside and beyond ourselves and, as Pope Francis notes, that proves very difficult to do.  We will not be perfect, but we nonetheless are called to be perfect like Christ.  That's why we need help--GOD'S help.  St. Augustine understood the point;  God doesn't help those who help themselves, God helps precisely those WHO CANNOT help themselves. (a h/t to Bill Placher for the wording)

Which is all of us.

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