If you are a regular visitor to the Café, you know that this site is dedicated in part to connecting adult readers to the best that Church scholarship has to offer. I am a lone crusader for the argument that parish catechetics is not a one-size-fits-all proposition with emphasis upon children. If adults are wise to the ways of faith, the children will follow in their steps.
A week or so ago National Catholic Reporter published an essay by a Franciscan scholar, Father Dan Horan, entitled “The Problematic Rise of Armchair Theologians.” I posted a link to the piece earlier this past week and have reposted it here if you missed it. I was troubled by the tone and the content, which carried a sense of “we academics will do the critical thinking; the rest of you read your Sunday bulletins.” I do not for a minute think that the author actually believes this, but I do think the essay as it stands lends itself to serious misinterpretation. [Father Horan, incidentally, joined the same province of Franciscans as I did years ago, though I am considerably older and have never met him.]
I decided to respond with a letter to the editor, which I did post in the blog around midweek. Yesterday NCR carried a piece noting the strong reaction of readers to Fr. Horan’s original piece, posting a sample of the letters received by the publication, which included an edited version of mine. I am providing a link to the letters, primarily so you can see the other reactions chosen for publication. Most of them comforted me with the thought that least I’m not the only crazy one.
What happened next is very interesting. A senior editor of NCR, Michael Sean Winters, entered the dialogue yesterday. He posted a substantive essay on Father Horan’s piece and the responses to it, entitled “Hang on to the ecclesial nature of the theological task.” Ostensibly written to support Father Horan’s thesis, Winters enters serious thought about who owns the responsibility for “thinking for the Church.” He is much more critical of academia than I was. Winters’ piece is well worth reading—in your armchair, if you like.
Time for me to move on to six neglected streams at the Café.