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Sunday, June 27, 2004

The Road Goes Ever Hahn and Hahn.

The second most interesting essay in the June 2004 issue of the New Oxford Review is by a fellow named Edward O'Neill, entitled "Scott Hahn's Novelties." In fact, it picks up right after mine, conveniently enough.

It's caused quite a stir over at Mark Shea's--check the comment boxes here and here. I'd like to dissent from the majority view that it's some kind of hit piece. I'd also like to question, as I did under a pseudonym(1), whether the majority of the critics had read the piece in its entirety. Many appear to be conflating the essay with the more deliberately inflammatory piece by NOR editor Dale Vree from 2002, found in the September 2002 NOR Notes (the third header down). For those of you unfamiliar with the NOR Notes, it is pretty well the artillery park of the magazine--more or less a continuous stream of hot lead fired at all comers, to continue the analogy. It remains one of my favorite parts of the magazine, even when I question the aim. The 2002 Note about Hahn is pretty blistering stuff, and drew equally heated responses.

But the O'Neill article isn't an incendiary assault. Instead, O'Neill sets forth a series of examples of problematic aspects of Dr. Hahn's work. It is detailed, pointed, but also charitable to Dr. Hahn and his positions. It is hardly flawless--the accusations of fundamentalism are a little weak--but, assuming he has fairly depicted Dr. Hahn's views, he raises issues that have to be addressed, given the Professor's prominence.

Let's face it--for a lot of the faithful, fed the watery gruel of progressive mainline Protestantism masquerading as Catholic teaching, Dr. Hahn is a--or the--major reason they converted, reverted or stayed Catholic in the first place. I myself consider him a strongly favorable influence on my own conversion, and use his material in our parish bible study. O'Neill gratefully acknowledges the good Hahn has done, at the outset and the end, as well as periodically in the body of the essay. But it is precisely because of that prominence that his work needs to be analyzed, and where appropriate, criticized in a spirit of Christian fellowship. The O'Neill piece does this, and for the most part, does it well.

We don't let the Hellwigs, McBriens and Chittisters get a free pass on their theological freelancing, and our criticism will ring especially hollow if we let our own do the same thing.

(1) I almost never use one, but strangely it helps keep me from returning fire in kind in internet flame wars, so what the hey. The weird thing is that I usually sound more reasonable than when I post under my own name. Odd...

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