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Friday, September 23, 2005

Calfskin Clericalism.

I think the thing that really torques me off about Fr. McBrien's sneering dismissal of Santorum's faith is the fact it is predicated on an academic clericalism that has run riot in the Church in America since the Council.

Stripped of the boilerplate, McBrien is arguing that if you really want to understand the Catholic faith, you have to have an advanced degree. Not even attending a seminary will do, as his trashing of the authors of Catholicism for Dummies shows. Nope--you have to attend "graduate-level course[s] in church history" before you are permitted to speak.

OK, fine. If he really believes what he is shovelling, I'll see his raise and go all-in. If that's what it takes, Mr. Voice Of The Faithful, then every officially Catholic college and university in this country is morally obligated to offer a tuition-free religious education up through the graduate level to every confirmed Catholic who wants to enroll, with all the varigated needs of working Catholics and their families provided for.

Right? Because if he says no, all he's really done is substitute one form of clerical tyranny for another. The only thing that's changed is the set of letters at the end of the name. But he and his confreres have done the old pre-VII clerical princes one better: even the worst of those men didn't claim that the laity couldn't get a proper grasp of the faith on their own. Fr. McBrien is arguing precisely that.

There is a religion that teaches that the fullest truths are available only to a select, initiated elite. But it's called gnosticism, not Catholicism.

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