Friday, September 10, 2004

What Happened?


Let me explain. I went to a mission meeting at my small Catholic college yesterday, and listened to a presentation by an elderly sister of the history of the school. Among the many interesting items discussed was a document the school prepared in the early 60's called "A Plan for the Liberal Education of the Christian Person." I flipped through the plan, and found in the last paragraph a sentence that read "The fear of God and keeping his commandments: these are the fulfillment of man" or something similar. Much of the plan could have been written by me--it was Thomistic and grounded in faith. What a wonderful document! They even got grant money from the Ford Foundation to pursue implementation.

But nothing came of it. The 1960's happened, and, as Sister Sally (not her real name) said, "It faded away." My question: Why?

Why did so many people in the Church abandon the treasures of 2000 years of Church teaching so quickly? For there was nothing that took its place, nothing "better" came along. We went from a thoroughly grounded and consistent Thomist theology to, well, nothing but the Heraclitean thought that "the only thing constant was change." (Sister Sally gave that as an explanation.) We went from a well-articulated philosophy of human nature and a core curriculum designed to actualize that nature to, well, a jumble of competing departments with no set of great books, no unity, no belief that there even is a human nature. We went from colleges that saw as their duty the education of the Christian person to colleges that wrote threatening letters to bishops telling them not to dare any episcopal oversight.

Here's what is most puzzling to me. It's not that the old ways of thinking were refuted. They weren't. They are still compelling, and find expression even in the so-called liberal documents of Vatican II (which aren't any such thing, but I digress). They weren't refuted or superseded. They were just abandoned.


Why?

What mess of pottage did they trade their birthright for?


Me, I blame drugs. Or Elvis.

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