Arnolfo di Cambio's statue of Saint
Peter in the Vatican Basilica robed
and crowned for the Feast of Saints
Peter and Paul (June 29th)
One of these reasons is linked to the issue of the poor quality of clerical education but is far broader and that is that there is sometimes, far too often in fact, a tension between the theological truths proclaimed by the magisterium and the scientific facts and theories established by credible researchers, especially in the fields of medicine, psychiatry, psychology, genetics, embryonics, anthropology, sociology, and other disciplines. I am not saying that the theological teachings are always wrong because in the sciences “facts” are not always “facts.” There are hypotheses and educated guesses and theories and what might be called “facts-in-progress” that are not yet definitive findings. But there is not always the respectful dialogue between the sciences and theology that is needed for sound doctrinal formulation to develop. Sometimes the poisoned well is being contaminated from those in the scientific community that have a bias against religion. Sometimes the fault lies with the religious authorities. But gone is the day when theology is Queen of the Sciences and can trump any other knowledge. Without scientific credibility magisterial credibility is nil. Just ask Galileo.
This brings up the need for better educated clergy and a more urbane clergy that can discuss intelligently and not just rant about those who do not agree with them. Seminary training today is pitiful. Candidates for the priesthood, for the most part, are not taught to think for themselves but to follow magisterial authority without necessarily understanding the broader picture. Of course, I think that American education is in shambles with a specialization in areas such as the sciences, public life, or business that leaves a basic philosophical (including ethical) foundation unaddressed. Candidates for the ministry in all Christian Churches need a good philosophical base but they also need a broad liberal education that includes the secular sciences and disciplines and which is taught from a secular perspective and not only from within the narrow bounds of Catholic doctrine. The whole Notre Dame debacle two and a half years ago shows that many American Catholics, including many of our bishops, have no understanding of the role that Catholic Universities have traditionally played as the forum for intellectual investigation necessary before the magisterium could proclaim. Today the magisterium too often goes off half-cocked and makes an intellectual fool of itself and of the Church of Christ because it thinks that scholars are there only to provide a rationale for the theological views expressed and not to make sure they are well developed and articulated before they are proclaimed.
I will save my final reason for the deterioration of Church authority for another entry as it is now time to go and make the stuffing for Thursday. Bread or sausage, that is always the debate. Ah, for infallibility to guide us in these important questions.