Intellectuals are here, but are either in hiding or oppressed?

So says an article in the Tablet, discussed by Albertus Minimus. He doesn’t buy it, and neither do I. The leading “Catholic intellectuals” that the writer in the Tablet cites are liberal ones like Küng and Schillebeeckx, for whom the title “Catholic” is a relative one. It seems to me that there are several clear differences between the intellectuals that Albertus and I admire, and those that are often lauded by liberals today:

1. A good percentage of the intellectuals that have helped to form my faith were laymen, with the notable exceptions of Msgr. Knox and Cardinal Newman. Most of the liberal Catholic intellectuals are clergymen. In our pragmatic and pratical atheistic age, to be a lay Catholic intellectual/theologian is a rare profession indeed, because those of us with some intellectual gifts are pushed down paths where we are better able to “use” our gifts to “better” society (in medicine, scientific research, business, and law), or better yet, to make money. The question of whether we actually have well-formed intellects able to make a contribution to Catholic thought, due to abysmal catechesis and cultural forces, is another one altogether.

2. The relationship between Church and Culture has been inverted in today’s liberal intellectuals and yesterday’s more conservative ones. The new intellectuals take the culture as a given, and seek to shape the Church to better fit it. Cultural assumptions seem to be taken a priori, like pluralism and the acceptability of “alternative lifestyles.” Little or no effort is made to consider that the culture may be wrong, and the traditions of the Church right. On the other hand, those intellectuals that continue to shine brightly on our Faith years after their deaths took the Church as a given, and sought to shape the culture to fit it. It is obvious to me that their approach is the healthy and correct one.

3. The intellectuals of today have a much narrower direct influence than the intellectuals of yesteryear. I suspect few among us have actually taken the time to read Küng, Rahner, Schillebeeckx et al, for many reasons, not the least of which is that they are obtuse. But, even despite my atrophied postmodern intellect, I can still enjoy and be edified by Dawson, Newman, Knox, Chesterton et al. However, I fear that the liberal intellectuals do have a great, albeit indirect, influence on how the Church functions today. Their thought has been imbibed by a generation of liberal clerics who have then fed it to the people, leading in part to the disaster we face today. The direct influence of the luminaries of previous generations on those of us adept and interested enough to read them, doesn’t seem to be helping all that much.

Any more thoughts?


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