Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tendentious Simplification

A party of dissent emerged, and in recent decades strong voices, most tenured in theology departments at Catholic universities, 
have waged a campaign against what they perceive to be magisterial intransigence on a whole range of moral issues. 
But the story of moral theology has not been only a tale of dissent. Over the past three decades an unwavering rejection of abortion has unified American Catholics across a wide spectrum of theological positions. Moreover, in debates about American foreign policy, Catholics have done a great deal to revitalize rigorous moral analysis. Various Catholic writers have also laid out economic and social visions that range from liberationist critiques of capitalism to neoconservative endorsements. 
Angry dissent, striking consensus, vigorous interventions into public debates - the history of modern Catholic moral theology needs to be part of any effort to understand the modern Catholic experience. Unfortunately, A History of Catholic Moral Theology in the Twentieth Century offers little help in understanding that history. 
The main body of the book is made up of half-digested seminar notes and long bibliographical digressions that suggest wide reading but no sophisticated analysis. The book lacks historical context and fails to make connections to the larger theological trends of the twentieth century, and the author, 
Fr. James F. Keenan, S.J., remains so thoroughly invested in the party of dissent that what little analysis he provides suffers from tendentious simplification and sometimes petty, petulant observations. 
The end result is a book that serves as an almost perfect illustration of the sad intellectual dead end to which the post-Vatican II liberal Catholic project has come.
Link (here) to the full review by R.R. Reno he is a senior editor at First Things.

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