Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Karl Keating And Fr. Thomas P. Rausch, S.J.

The new apologists are criticized for harboring skepticism regarding some of today’s theologizing. Fr. Thomas P. Rausch, S.J. says, "Whatever their primary motivation, these new apologists are deeply suspicious of modern scholarship." He sees "a lack of sympathy for mainstream Roman Catholic theology." The new apologists suffer from "an inability to reconcile faith with critical reason," and they "appear unable to enter into a real dialogue with modernity, with the critical questions it raises for faith."

If I may be so bold as to criticize these comments, I would note first that "contemporary Catholic theology" is not of one cloth. William May is not Charles Curran. Joseph Ratzinger is not Edward Schillebeeckx. Bernard Orchard is not Raymond Brown. Each of these men is a Catholic theologian writing today, and thus each produces "contemporary Catholic theology." If the new apologists are unsympathetic to the thought of the second man in each pairing, it is no more and no less accurate to say that the opponents of the new apologists are unsympathetic to the thought of the first man in each pairing. Thus, it would be equally accurate—and equally meaningless—for the new apologists to say of their detractors that they are unsympathetic to that half of "contemporary Catholic theology" which is the one more closely aligned with the thought of John Paul II. Fr. Rausch claims that the new apologists "are relentlessly hostile to contemporary Catholic theology precisely because it is critical." This is incorrect, on two grounds. The new apologists use much contemporary Catholic theology, such as that produced by Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, Avery Dulles, Aidan Nichols, and even Francis Sullivan (the latter with occasional reservations, admittedly). To the extent the new apologists are "hostile" to "contemporary Catholic theology," their "hostility" is either to heterodoxy, as exemplified in the promotion of priestly ordination for women or in the rejection of Humanae Vitae, or to poorly reasoned positions, such as those adduced in favor of the late dating of the New Testament books.

Let us grant that "hostility" toward some "contemporary Catholic theology" exists (though I think it might better be described as "skepticism"). What is the origin of it? Fr. Rausch says the new apologists dislike what he identifies as mainstream theology because it is critical and they are not. But much of that theology is critical only in a certain sense. It is critical in that it criticizes what has been the received teaching or understanding. But it is often quite uncritical when looking at itself. 
Link (here) to read Karl Keating's full article at Catholic Answers, entitled No Apology from the New Apologists.


TonyD said...

Karl Keating takes a well-reasoned position. I wish that Fr. Thomas had taken such a well-reasoned position.

Saunders in Malden said...

The stoicism for evangelistic activity is a root cause of the vocation crisis in the Society. Liberation Theology is manifestation of this stoicism.

TonyD said...


I agree that more evangelism is appropriate for the Jesuits. I give such advice with hesitation, however, since there are so many truly horrible role models for evangelism. Ironically, it is because the Jesuits would prefer to be humble, prefer to allow others to live their lives, prefer to allow others to make their choices, prefer to work at modeling their life after Jesus, and prefer to leave evangelism to other religions that qualifies the Jesuits to be evangelists. They should not move too far out of their comfort zone, however. They would lose the very qualities that make them appropriate spokesmen for God.

I hope it is understood that evangelism is not about quotas, conversions, or even about Catholicism. It is about God and his values and judgments. The “rules” and “dogma” of Catholicism are really specific reflections of instances of Gods values and judgments. It is the underlying values and judgments that are the real goals - even when they disagree with Catholic dogma.

We need more role models for evangelism. The Jesuits have the opportunity to redefine evangelism.