A Simple Confusion that is Simply Confusing

Mike draws our attention, at Sacramentum Vitae, to an essay in the online version of America, the Jesuit magazine, by Terrance Klein of Fordham University. The essay’s subject is the question of the role of the Catholic educator in a pluralistic society, and Klein argues (surprise!) that the Jesuit tradition itself suggests that Catholic educators,  in teaching about matters of faith, should avoid the sort of “coercion” and “manipulation” that appear to constitute the modus operandi of more “conservative” forces in the academy. A good educator, one who has taken the time to establish a relationship of trust with a student, has no warrant for coercion or manipulation, Klein argues, and trust does not suppress questions or, indeed, a spirit of questioning. Hence, the “conservative” who, apparently, just wants her students to memorize the Catechism and be done with it, does not foster that spirit of inquiry and intellectual curiosity that is at the heart of genuine Christian humanism as it was conceived of by St. Ignatius of Loyola and continued in the Jesuit tradition. For good measure, Klein concludes his essay with some whining about “fundamentalism” in the political sphere that misunderstands what the Separation Clause really means.

As I read through the essay, it occurred to me that Klein has confused a distinction between a method of teaching, on the one hand, and a conception of the essential nature of Catholic educational institutions on the other. Because of this simple confusion on Klein’s part, the advice that he gives to educators and philosophers of education is simply confusing. While it is easy to agree that, when talking with a student about personal matters of faith and religious practice, it is probably wise to maintain a healthy outward neutrality expressed in the form of benign listening and emotional support. In most academic settings it is fair to say that this is not the sort of thing that educators ought to be talking to students about in the first place but, as most educators know, students have a tendency to come to their teachers with all sorts of problems and questions of a personal nature that are far afield from the average teacher’s area of competence qua teacher. In short, we are often approached not so much as educators but as human beings, and although that is not, in itself, out of bounds, it does put the educator in a rather sensitive position. It does not follow from this, however, that a capacity–and willingness–to defend the Magisterium with intellectual rigor amounts to a kind of fundamentalism that can be glibly compared either with right wing evangelicals in the U.S. or Muslims world wide.

It seems to me that Klein sets the bar of confusion rather low right from the start, when he writes about an encounter with a student whom he calls “Fatima.” (It is difficult to avoid thinking that the entire episode is merely a literaty conceit on Klein’s part–virtually every element of it seems hackneyed and contrived–but I will leave that discussion for another day.) “Fatima” is described as a Muslim student who comes to the office with a question about a class paper but who winds up confessing that she is struggling with questions about her faith. She contrasts the open and intellectually stimulating environment of her coursework at Fordham with a stifling Islamic education where “everyone…always had answers. They told me they were God’s answers, and that if I didn’t accept them I would be damned.” Klein’s answer to “Fatima”, sadly, sounds like a line from an Aerosmith song: “I told her that knowing the final answer is not nearly so important as finally asking the right questions.” (Dude! How high can you fly with broken wings? Life’s a journey not a destination! You have to learn to crawl before you can learn to walk!) That is sloganeering of the worst kind: to students, who often don’t know any better, it sounds deep (that’s why they like Aerosmith, after all) but it’s complete bullshit. It’s true enough, I suppose, that you have to know what sorts of questions to ask if you want to actually get the right answer from somebody who knows it but may not be connected with you well enough to understand you and, hence, to tell you what you want to know, but that is a far cry from the claim that knowing the question is more important than knowing the answer. I can’t think of a single instance in which it is really true that “knowing the final answer is not nearly so important as finally asking the right question.” Being able to ask the right question is merely a utilitarian consideration: if p is the answer to question q, then to get p I must first ask q. The connection here between p and q is a purely hypothetical one. On the other hand, suppose you don’t really believe that there is any such thing as p–suppose you think that no answer is genuinely final, because nobody has any genuine claim to epistemological certainty about the answers to any important questions. If that is your attitude, then you will find q, the question, much more interesting from a methodological point of view. It will no longer really be a question in search of an answer, but more of a hermeneutic, a talking point, something to get a conversation going. In short, it will no longer be a question at all, but an attitude. If this is how one views the relationship between p and q, then it will seem natural to put the point in the Aerosmithian way.

This seemingly innocent confustion between a utilitarian consideration and a dialogical one betrays some of the underlying assumptions behind Klein’s essay. Most other educators, I think, would be willing to agree with Klein when he says

The truth is, I don’t know the answer Fatima is seeking. How could I? How can anyone claim to comprehend what God is doing in the depths of another’s soul? Yet Fatima shared her question with me because both of us were in a place, within a community of faith, where it could be asked.

We would agree because, in most university settings, it goes without saying that you can’t know everything you need to know about a student in order to answer her most personal questions, and even if you did, it isn’t your place to answer them. I teach philosophy of science, I’m not a personal counselor. Klein is a priest, so his role may be somewhat different, but if he were to assert that it is, he would undermine his own position, which is that the ideal relationship between student and educator is one of neutrality, and a priest in the Roman Catholic Church qua priest can hardly claim to be neutral in the relevant sense without appearing to be either a liar or a fool.

Klein appears to want to resist this dichotomy, however, because his essay continues with a consideration of what it means to be an educator in “a community of faith” where such questions as “Fatima’s” can be asked, and in his analysis he makes it clear that Fordham–nominally a Catholic institution–is really just a university like any other and, as such, ought to adopt a position not merely of neutrality with respect to matters of faith, but of critical inquiry:

Jesuit universities seek the best people for their faculties. Today that may mean recruiting some who have been trained to see religion itself as essentially irrational and thus profoundly antihuman. That prejudice needs to be met with learning, patience and trust. Many religious young people are tempted to reject anything that questions belief, retreating into the intellectual ghetto of fundamentalism. They need to be challenged by faculty who do not believe, but they also need the same learning, patience and trust given by those who do. The graced strength of Jesuit education, and that which separates it from its secular and its more conservative church counterparts, is that everyone is given the right to speak.

This is where the confusion between the sensitive neutrality during office hours and some kind of dogmatic objectivity, for lack of a better phrase, begins to seem especially banal. Throughout his essay Klein hints darkly at “conservatives” within the Catholic tradition who seem to think that the Catholic educator ought to teach “truths” from the Catechism or some such place of dogmatic slumber. In this passage we see that he views even Jesuit institutions as simply one sort of institution among many others. True enough, in a value-free marketplace, every university conducts searches for new faculty by trying to attract a very large, very highly-qualified applicant pool, and the most academically qualified applicant is–usually–the one who gets the job. When you conduct searches in that way, you run the risk of getting faculty who are not only not Catholic, but who are openly hostile to Catholicism. This will only happen, of course, if you structure you criteria in a certain way. If the only criteria that make a person eligible for a certain position are strictly academic ones (where did you get your degree, how much teaching have you already done, how much have you published and in what venues), then you run that risk. But then you also cease to be a distinctively religious–let alone Catholic–institution. On this set of criteria there is no real difference betwen the Jesuit institution and any other institution of higher learning. Indeed, on this set of criteria you are unlikely to have very many Jesuits on your faculty. If your only concerns are academic ones, you ought not to care about a dearth of Jesuits in the classrooms, but presumably Jesuit institutions think there really is a place for Jesuits in the classroom, and since Jesuits, qua educators, don’t differ from non-Jesuits in any way, the only rational reason for preferring a Jesuit to a non-Jesuit will be doctrinal or religious reasons.

Possibly Klein’s misunderstanding of the Jesuit mission (a mission that he laughably tries to associate with Ignatius himself, comparing his own mush-headed approach to things with Ignatius’ sense of feeling challenged intellectually at the University of Paris) is grounded in an a priori political assumption that he betrays in the course of his essay.

Separation between church and state should not mean the banishment of religion from public discourse. That separation may protect the state—though the growing number of politically active Christian fundamentalists gives reason to challenge that premise—but it leaves the church itself intellectually impoverished, insulated from rigorous inquiry.

It is easy to agree with much that is here: there is no reason to think that religion has no place in public discourse, and the Separation Clause was clearly intended to insulate public discourse from the sort of totalitarian impulses that so dominated Church-State relations in England. Whether these facts in themselves entail the final point–that the Church itself is intellectually impoverished by being left alone–is something we can discuss another day. At present I simply want to consider the seemingly throwaway aside Klein indulges in here: “the growing number of politically active Christian fundamentalists gives reason to challenge that premise” [the premise that it is not salutary to ban religion from public life]. The suggestion is, of course, that certain “Christian fundamentalists” subscribe to views that are so abhorent that it is actually a good thing to exclude them from public discourse. Well, what “Christian fundamentalists” does Klein have in mind? As one ponders this question, one cannot help but suspect that he speaks, not so much as a good old-fashioned Jebbie coming to the Defense of the Faith in the face of the Protestant heresy (sadly those days are long gone, though one is happy to note that Avery Cardinal Dulles is on the same faculty as Terrance Klein–perhaps sound thinking is contagious enough to give Klein a leg up while he’s there), but as a liberal bemoaning the influence of the right wing religious nuts in our midst. You know, like Sarah Palin. The only folks that I know who could reasonably be labelled “politically active Christian fundamentalists” are folks who want things like the abolition of abortion, school vouchers, and other perfectly benign social programs that have fully secular arguments in their defense in addition to whatever religious ones there might be and that have absolutely nothing to do with either (a) Christian fundamentalism as such or (b) the scurrilous suggestion that “Christian fundamentalists” are rather like those scary Muslim ones who want to blow us all up and destroy our culture because they “know all the answers” and believe that the “answers are from God.”

So here lies the worst of the confusions in Klein’s thoroughly confused and confusing essay. He appears to think that an attitude of doctrinal certainty is per se an impediment to academically rigorous and intellectually honest critical thinking about religion and public life. Almost as though he is writing in defense of Rosemary Radford Reuther’s “right” to teach theology in a Catholic institution he says

The study of theology in Catholic institutions of higher education has never been more essential or more intimately linked to the liberating arts. Today it must help both students and faculty steer between the shoals of uninformed and prejudicial rejection of religion and the equally ignorant and intolerant option of fundamentalism, whether that is based on religious scriptures or on teaching authority.

The suggestion here is clear: just as “Christian fundamentalists” violate the principles of Jesuit–and by implication Catholic–education in assuming the Sola Scriptura principle, so too do those Catholics who uncritically hold the Magisterium’s authority to be final and appeal to that finality in their teaching. In spite of liberal quotations from Pope Benedict XVI (note, too, Klein’s use of the word “liberating” here in place of “liberal”–a pun designed to leave the impression that his own brand of academic discipline will set us all free from the quaint attitudes of the “conservatives”), Klein equates a trust and faith in the Magisterium as a teaching authority with ignorance and intolerance.

Now, clearly one does not trot out the Catechism of the Catholic Church and start reciting sections from it when a young Muslim girl comes into one’s office with questions about an essay she is writing. That would be as counter-productive as it would be silly. Nor does one trot it out when debating various theologoumena with one’s co-religionists, unless they explicitly ask you something like “How do you know that the Church actually teaches this?” But this is all very different from pretending that you don’t actually believe that what’s in the Catechism is literally true and authoritative. Unless of course you don’t think that it is literally true and authoritative. But if you do think that it’s literally true and authoritative, you don’t think that merely by virtue of the authority of your own private judgment about the reasonableness of its claims–that would also be silly and counter-productive. And yet it is that sort of critical attitude that Klein appears to be endorsing in the name of academic rigor and intellectual honesty (not to mention political correctness).

This sort of thinking seems a little dated to me: it was very popular when I was an undergraduate in the late 1970s (just about the time that Aerosmith was at the top of their game). Nowadays it seems not merely quaint, but intellectually bankrupt. The attempts to enlist the support of Benedict XVI in his support fall very flat, seeming more like desperate proof-texting of the sort that “Christian fundamentalists” are prone to than genuine appeals to, um, an authoritative source. I don’t think that there is any doubt that Benedict XVI thinks that the Magisterium is authoritative, whatever else he might think about the desireabilty of interfaith dialog and critical inquiry. If you believe that the Magisterium is authoritative, why would you pretend that you don’t, if a student happened to come right out and ask you?

I guess that would be one of those “wrong sorts of questions” that we’re supposed to try to avoid asking, since it might lead us to think that there is a “final answer”.

10 Responses

  1. Fear is what you are really writing about, fear to love Jesus Christ like Ignatius taught. Klein is just one more person who uses Ignatius to his own ends. If Ignatius actually believed what Klein believes then Ignatius would have never gotten out of the hospital at Manresa and Fordham would never exist today.

  2. I had a slightly more confused reaction to the piece. When I saw it was coming from Fordham, I was on my guard. I met a philosopher, a priest and believing Catholic from Fordham a while back, and he spoke at length and with pride about how the University resisted the attempt to be labelled a Catholic University or to come under the regs of Ex Corde Ecclesiae. Knowing from his writings that he is a believing Catholic, I could not understand what he believed the University gained from not being formally a Catholic University. He seemed to think the University could only be considered as open to truth if it were not formally Catholic. He was proud of the fact that they managed to avoid that, and are now simply a ‘Jesuit university.’ I thought that was a weird kind of intellectual blindness, a strange rationalism.

    So I read the piece with a bit of negative bias. Like you, I don’t see how the priest writing the piece can really think Catholicism is all about questions. Any honest teacher doesn’t pretend that they have no map, and they try to learn how to show the map to travellers without one in a way that doesn’t demand assent. My immediate reaction was, as von Balthasar said to Ratzinger in the early 1970s, ‘don’t presuppose the faith, propose the faith!’

    But, unlike you, I assumed ‘Fatima’ is a real person. I saw the questions gambit as a kind of pastorial hunch for a particular case which the author was trying to legitimate. A real Fatima from an authentically strict Islamic background would be a very very long way from being ready to look at a Catholic map. The best one might be able to do for her at that particular point in time might simply be to get her to ask questions. It might be the first step on the road for her.

    This second reaction might be what you call ‘utilitarian.’ I certainly wouldn’t propose it as an overall evangelical strategy for a University campus, whether the University is secular or Christian, or even just Jesuit. But, imagining that she was a real person, I wondered if a Muslim Fatima would be there, talking to the chaplain, unless she knew that he would be extremely sensitive about his presentation of the faith.

  3. Francesca:

    “Fatima” may very well be a real person, for all I know; or, indeed, she may be a pastiche of real persons that has been pasted together for expository reasons. My suspicions were really only aroused because of the nature of what was supposedly said and the way in which it was supposedly expressed. Everything about it seemed composed for just this occasion. But obviously I have no way of knowing for sure.

    What if “Fatima” is a real person, and the encounter was exactly as in the account? If someone like that came to my office wanting to talk about a term paper, I would try to stick to the term paper, and if she started saying things like “Oh, professor Carson, I just don’t know what to believe any more!” I would smile and listen politely and be as encouraging as I could but I wouldn’t hand her the catechism and say “Well, how convenient, I just happen to have a list of things that you ought to believe right here!” I might suggest that she find someone in the campus counseling services to talk to, but if she were to point blank ask me what my own views are, I would simply say “I’m a Catholic”. There isn’t really any need for a situation such as the one Klein describes to turn into anything out of the ordinary–no need for soul searching questions of the sort that Klein seems to have gotten himself involved in. In my personal opinion–and in my experience, too–a one-on-one during office hours just isn’t the place for that sort of thing, even in “a community of faith” where questions of that sort are permitted.

    In my opinion, the place for discussions of the sort that Klein imagines, if it is to happen at all at a university (at least, a religious university), should be the classroom or the tutorial. It should take place within an academic framework if what one happens to be is an academic. Within such a framework not only is it OK to appeal to the teaching authority of the Magisterium, I think that there are actually fairly important and sound intellectual reasons for doing so. (I have blogged on this rather extensively, actually, here, here, and here, among other places.) So my complaint against Klein really has more to do with the problem of why he thought the story of “Fatima” relevant at all to Catholic education than with the way in which he claims to have dealt with her problems. The situation is somewhat complicated by the fact that he is a priest, but as you point out, if she were a real person it seems as though she expected a certain sensitivity from him from the start, else she wouldn’t have gotten into that situation.

    He certainly seems to have gotten her to ask questions, which appears to be what he thinks his job is, and I agree with you that for a person of that description that may already be a big step. Whether it’s a good step depends, I think, on the direction she makes it in. Steps of the sort described can head either towards belief or towards atheism, and Klein gives every appearance of thinking that it doesn’t really matter all that much which direction it is, as long as it’s intellectually honest. Perhaps he hopes that when intellectual honesty and academic rigor go hand in hand, there is really only one direction that any rational person will take. The difficulty with that hope is that not everyone is rational to the same extent, but truth is truth no matter how rational you are. Some people need to be shown that there really is such a thing as the right direction. I’m not saying that someone like “Fatima” is necessarily one of those people, I’m only saying that such people exist and that it seems reasonable to expect a Catholic institution (putting aside for a moment the question of Fordham’s status) not to forget about them when presenting the arguments in favor of the various directions that are available. I’m happy to admit that what I am proposing is also somewhat utilitarian in aspect!

  4. This piece reminds me of the tenure in ethnic studies departments in secular universities. There, you are not expected to ask questions. You are merely given answers: the white man is oppressive, the most important thing is liberation, religion is patriarchal, etc. It really just taught me that if you’re not looking for a definitive answer, one that binds, there is really no use in asking serious questions. I have never felt more spoon-fed than in a leftist ethnic studies graduate seminar. Liberals are all about asking the right questions, but they ask them knowing all the “right answers”, and they never even question the terms that they use.

  5. “the Separation Clause was clearly intended to insulate public discourse from the sort of totalitarian impulses that so dominated Church-State relations in England.”

    Speaking of confusions, I hate pick on a minor point in a post I agree with for the most part, but as a Ph.D student in history (and one who specializes in early modern England) this statement of yours is a load of crap. First, there was no “separation” clause in the original constiution. The supereme court added that phrase into its jurisprudence with the case of Everson vs the Borad of Education, the point of which was not to protect the public from “totatlitarian impulses” but to prevent public funds from going to religious institutions that were deemed “sectarian, ” which in practice meant Catholic parochial schools (if you don’t believe me, see Philip Hamburger’s book on the subject, “Separation of Church and State.” Hugo Black, who wrote the majority opinion, was a former Klansman, interested in protecting the public from such “sectarian” institutions).

    Secondly, there was nothing in the slightest “totatlitarian” about England’s confessional state, if you mean its rulers were itching to march off religious minorities into ovens or gas chambers. In fact, there was nothing “totatlitarian” about any of the confessional states in Europe at the time. The Church of England had a monopoly on state education, and only its members could hold public office, but these were considered to be privileges accorded to the “true” church, not rights that all were entitled to (and there were in fact private institutions that were operated by Dissenting protestants for example). The case of Catholics was a bit different for a variety of reasons, because of the rebellions of 1715 and 1745, and because of the penal laws (which were not all that enthusiastically enforced) were not relaxed until 1778, but their fate, though it was harsh, was no worse than than that Protestants on the continent and nothing like those who died in Auschwitz or in the Gulags. No government of the 18th could in any way claim or exercise that type of power. These governments wished to privilege the “true faith” (whatever that might be), not to exterminate populations they thought were contaminating the master race or which were in the way of some five year plan. Such beliefs may have been wrong, and are certainly not amenable to modern American sentiments, but they are certainly not expressions of some “totatlitarian impulse.” To think so is historically ignorant, reducing those people to a caricature we can easily belittle, no matter how it may please our vanity to think so.

    Again, sorry for the sermon. Great post on the whole though!

  6. (a) Speaking of loads of crap, the Separation Clause was not “added” to the Constitution by the Supreme Court. A student of history may perhaps be unaware of how Constitutional change takes place, but it does not take place by judicial fiat. What you mean, presumably, is that the slogan, “Separation Clause”, and the legal analysis that goes along with it, was first used in the literature of jurisprudence, but that is entirely irrelevant.

    (b) If you don’t think that jailing or even executing those who refuse to take oaths of loyalty to the crown against their own religious scruples is a mark of tyrannical totalitarianism, you are not only a bad historian you are also not much of a judge of totalitarianism. You seem to be assuming, for reasons that will have to remain mysterious, that I was referring only to the situation in England at the end of the 18th century, when in fact I was referring to the very real, and very totalitarian actions of the 16th and 17th centuries, which most competent historians are willing to admit had some influence on the thinking of the Framers as they pondered whether it would be a good idea to establish a state religion.

    (c) The suggestion that falling short of the atrocities of the Nazi and Soviet camps is to fail to meet a necessary condition on totalitarianism has got to be one of the most banal things I have read in a long time. It is perhaps a little less banal to compare things to the situation on the Continent, but not by much.

  7. I remember a brilliant Chemistry Professor in University who could be the worst professor anybody could have considering his harsh grading policy, since he graded mercilessly and without any notion of “a curve”, as was the practice of most professors.

    Still, his students loved being in his class and, in spite of his seemingly draconian standards, prospective students often wrestled for a place in his Chem classes not only because they were both highly informative and entertaining, but because you actually really learned Chemistry in his classes.

    But, above all this, this Chem Professor made it no secret whatsoever that he was Catholic and proudly so.

    He gave such great Personal Witness to the Class with just the right balance (without being lax as the Jesuit in the mentioned article or as rigid as some authoritarian Catholics) that his students were not actually bothered about it but rather even enjoyed that quality about him; in fact, I believe in some cases, he inspired a few to investigate the merits of Christianity for themselves.

    (I could still remember his “Holy Water” Chemistry lecture.)

    Personal Witness to Christ must not be diminished and compromised while, at the same time, it should also not be too overbearing.

  8. First, allow me to you apologize Dr Carson for my tone and choice of words. I am essentially a guest here and I spoke rudely, unfairly and with foul language. Please forgive my lack of charity.

    Secondly, the change in the constitutional jurisprudence did tin fact take place that way, by the Supreme court making the phrase part of the jurisprudence regarding the Establishment clause, in a way it hadn’t before. It shouldn’t happen that way, but it did, unfortunately. And the phrase “Separation of Church and State” is slightly different from the no establishment clause in the constitution, even if the difference is marginal. It still makes a difference though.

    As far as the actions of the English government in 16th and 17th centuries are concerned, they were in large part a reaction to religiously inspired revolts and assasination attempts which beset the government (1536, 1549, 1569, etc.) both Protestant and Catholic, as well as to the Pope’s Bull of excommunication in 1570 of Elizabeth, which absolved her Catholics subjects from allegiance to her and called upon them to assasinate her. (Henry VIII is the exception, as he started all this with the Reformation, obviously, but his successors were not in his position.) Also in the late 16th century, both Calvinist and Catholic thinker began espousing “resistance” theory, the idea that heretical rulers could be resisted with violence if they harmed the true faith. I’m not saying the English government didn’t overreact or that what they did was a good thing, but they were in a situation in which they thought their very existence was at stake, and in that kind of atmosphere, requiring oaths of loyalty is not all that unreasonable. After all, the Gun Powder Plot, however much it became part of a loathsome Protestant myth, was a real plot to kill king and parliament, even an act of terrorism if you think about it. Again, the rebellion of 1715 which sought to restore the Stuarts led to the British Parliament to pass an act requiring all recusants to register their property with the government. Is this oppressive? Yes. But it might have been prudent, given the fact that the rebellion attempted to put a Catholic back on the throne by violent force. My point is not that the actions of the English/British governments were right but that they normally only prosecuted people in reaction to such events, and not without reason. They weren’t seeking total control over their populations, nor could they exercise such control; mostly they just wanted stability for their regimes, even if they were illegitimate in our eyes. You might say that they should have granted Catholics and dissenting protestants their right to practice freely, but this is anachronistic: the minorities they oppressed often had little use for toleration themselves, with a few notable exceptions, and some weren’t exactly sweethearts themselves. And in any case, once these religious minorities made it clear they were no longer going to use violence, the governments did in fact let them alone, more or less, though they were of course marginalized, if no longer oppressed exactly. This doesn’t mean those governments good ones, but neither, I think does it mean they totally evil. More to the point, governments of the time simply didn’t have the policing capabilities that 20th century governments have, lacking the sorts of policing forces and bureacratic appartus such modern governments possess. That, as far as I have understood it, is why the early modern governments shouldn’t be labeled as “totalitarian,” and the later ones should. That may in fact be a banal distinction to make, but it is accurate, as I respectfully believe your statement was not.

    Finally, I again apologize for my rashness in my last comment. It is just that I so often hear people talk about how awful the British government was in the early modern period, but it really wasn’t. IOr at least it wasn’t that bad anyway, and t was actually good enough to bequeath its cultural inheritance to us, and so I feel the need to defend it. Next time I’ll just keep my mouth shut.

  9. 1. I think Scott misunderstands Klein when he says that he sees his ideal position as ‘neutral.’ How anyone could get the impression from reading Klein’s piece that the man doesn’t wear his Catholicism on his sleeve (and no doubt on his collar) is beyond me. The main point seems to be rather that the guy doesn’t think that he or the University should respond to situations like the one he describes by pitching the faith to students. To my mind, Klein’s way of responding to students who express spiritual and intellectual confusion is superior to the way that Scott would. Scott just tells us it isn’t in his job description to be a counselor (though one would have thought from his uncharitable ranting about Klein that he would consider it a part of his job description as a Catholic to present the teachings of the Church vigorously to a student who, say, is open and questioning and confused; rather I imagine he typically makes some timid, defensive comments and changes the subject). Klein no doubt explains his own view, the teaching of the Church, and the like — it is not as though, when Fatima comes to his office, he starts pretending not to be a priest.

    2. Perhaps those of you who disdain Klein’s piece haven’t seen how much damage overly dogmatic Christians do. Arturo’s comments above were ambiguous — I don’t know what he means to refer to by “this piece.” But I know from experience that the kind of ‘vigorous presentation and defense’ of the Church that Klein shies away from and Scott apparently wants other people (but not so much himself, at least not in his own office, at least not when he teaches philosophy of science, which apparently has nothing whatsoever to do with religion) to give to their students makes most of them respond the way that Arturo did to “this piece.” I don’t know whether Arturo was reacting to Scott’s piece or to Klein’s, but I have a hard time believing that it was Klein’s. At any rate, I’ve known too many people who were kept away from the Church for years because all they got was the Catholic equivalent of the pedagogy that Arturo describes.

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