Monday, March 12, 2018

Faggioli & Longenecker on the radical disconnect between liberal academic theology and nearly everyone else in the Church

Fr. Dwight Longenecker, "Are Liberal Catholic Theologians Past Their Sell By Date?" (Fr. Dwight Longenecker, March 7th, 2018), comments on Massimo Faggioli's latest article at Commonweal. First, Faggioli honestly acknowledges that young Catholics don't care for the older, established liberal theological establishment [with the bold commentary of Guy Noir - Private Eye* in brackets]:
"[T]he estrangement between academic theology and the institutional Church is one reason many younger Catholics are now turning to neo-traditionalist circles for instruction. A new generation is re-examining what’s happened in the church since the 1960s and reacting against the theology that came out of the Second Vatican Council. Some younger Catholics are also questioning the legitimacy of the secular, pluralistic state. This is why the concerns of academic theology are no longer merely academic. [Notice that! Theology is no longer academic because it now touches on… the political! Speaks volumes about his priorities].

Those who have contact with young Catholics… have noticed that this theological anti-liberalism is not just coming from a few marginal intellectuals. Catholic anti-liberalism is part of a broader phenomenon, a new quest for Catholic identity that takes various forms. It may be expressed as an enthusiasm for the Tridentine Mass and a distaste for the Novus ordo. Or it may take the form of an interest in countercultural communities—in some version of the “Benedict Option.” But it can also take the form of a theo-political imagination that rejects liberal democracy in favor of a new Christendom. [Would he think it fair to say Catholic liberals reject ‘Church’?] Mixed in with this ideal is often a suspicion of those who come from parts of the world where Christianity is not the predominant religion. [Guffaw. Cardinal Sarah? And in Latin America Catholicism IS still predominant.]

This rise of Catholic anti-liberalism marks a regression in the ability of Catholics to understand the problem of the state and of politics in our age. [Only if you disagree with their analysis, right?] But it also says something about the state of Catholic theology, especially in America."
Faggioli then goes on to make the claim that theology can only really exist and flourish in a traditional academic setting. [Because only their can it be toyed with without regard for devotional or moral relevance].
"I believe that the fate of Catholic theology in the Western world is inseparable from the fate of academic theology. [In one way, liberal Catholicism cannot maintain any standing unless propped up by the academy and its priest culture.] In order to survive and flourish, theology needs universities, publishers, and journals. [Like America and Communio?] You can just about imagine the church surviving intellectually without academic theology, but I think it …
Longenecker remarks: "I don’t buy it. In my experience it is just as arguable that the very academic establishment the Faggioli wants to prop up is the very kiss of death of any real, creative and dynamic theology."

Guy Noir seems to concur. He comments: "All quite telling. I read once that Evangelicals are really the only ones who any longer talk theology, and that’s simply because they actually believe it. We could extend the comment to trad Catholics. Really, do you ever get the impression any of these liberals passionately believe anything at all outside of a vague moral therapeutic deism? No, because the most feel, and whittle down their doctrine to match those feelings. Liberalism and real theology are antithetical.

If anything new is to come along in theology, concludes Longenecker, it will not come from within the halls of academe, but will most likely "spring up from some home schooler, some start up online academy, a blogger who reads instead of watching TV or some hard working home grown scholar who is teaching at a classical school or slaving away teaching the great books to undergraduates."

You're right: way past sell by date. Let the younger generation discover the neglected treasures of Catholic tradition and discover that Catholic theology, like the Catholic Faith itself, can be the most beautiful adventure in the world.

[Acknowledgement: Guy Noir - Private Eye is our underground correspondent we keep on retainer in an Atlantic seaboard state.]

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