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Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Caution: USCCB-Approved, Grade A, Mainstream [sic] Scholar at Work.

Our masters, the scholars, are at it again:

Peruse these recent comments from Fr. John Pawlikowski:

The Rev. John Pawlikowski, a Catholic scholar, told the audience that Gibson's ties to neo-conservative Catholics have influenced the actor's version of biblical events.

* * *
At least one Roman Catholic diocese in America, the Archdiocese of Denver, publicly supports Gibson's film. Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput viewed the movie last year and has lent his support.

Pawlikowski said the Denver archdiocese will profit from the movie, with half of the proceeds from a diocese-sponsored showing going to a local seminary.

Cry "Neo-!" and let loose the dogs of bore. Just what is a "Neo-conservative Catholic," anyway? Is it like the "Neo-Catholic" term I've heard hardcore traditionalists use? Can't mean the same thing, can it?

In any event: Very scholarly, Rev. Pawlikowski. Invoke a cabal in people's minds and say the supporters are only motivated by money. Um, you'd think that the hazards of such an approach would be obvious--especially to a veteran of Catholic-Jewish relations. But you'd be wrong. It's only bad when other people do it.

Remind me never to listen to these guys again. Oh, wait--I'm not listening to them now.

Good, then.

The thing about the Reverend's approach is that anyone can do it. Here's a kinder, gentler example:

The audience was told that there are two factors that need to be kept in mind in assessing the actions of the Catholic scholars critical of the film. First, despite claims that they are mainstream, most are actually closely associated with a strain of neo-progressive thought that runs to the speculative, far-left margins of Catholic theology. Furthermore, he said, that fringe is clearly embarrassed by, and seeks to blur or downplay, most, if not all, distinctively Catholic doctrines. Consequently, their assessments should be weighed accordingly.

The second factor is that all of the Catholic critics have been associated with the Catholic-Jewish ecumenical dialogue, most of them for several years. The ecumenical work of the Catholic Church in America has become institutionalized, and indeed most closely resembles an academic department at a public university, with all that implies for access, participation, and even the ability to speak freely. Assignment to one of the continuing ecumenical dialogues (most of which have been in existence for decades) has become a plum, prestige assignment within the American church, he said--a true "feather in the cap." Consequently, the participants want to remain associated with the particular dialogues. This often means that the Catholic participants tend not to speak freely on hot button issues, and are deferential to the passionately-felt concerns of the dialogue partners. In other words, it is not at all certain that the Catholic scholars really share the same concerns about the film, but are instead deferring to the sensitivities of their Jewish colleagues.

Ultimately, one area where it is unlike a public university is that there is no tenure, and none of the scholars wants to be removed from the dialogue, as can happen if offense is given to the other side. This has happened in other dialogues, he noted.

Thanks to Otto for the link.

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