Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Sunday 29 November |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Theologian Warns of Parallel Catholic Universes

Jeffrey Bruno

Matthew Archbold - published on 08/02/13

The difference between books by cleric-led theology and lay-led theology might be indicative of a larger problem facing the Catholic Church in America, particularly in the form of "parallel Catholic universes" which do not intersect.

Books by Catholic theologians you might find for sale at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., are vastly different from those you might find for sale at a college bookstore or a Catholic Theological Society of America convention.

That difference is indicative of a larger problem facing the Catholic Church in America, says David Cloutier, associate professor of theology at Mount St. Mary’s University, in a piece at Catholic Moral Theology. In fact, he says it’s an indication that there are currently “parallel Catholic universes” which do not intersect.

While some lay Catholics do teach in seminaries and attend groups like the Academy of Catholic Theologians, these institutional settings feature many more clerics. Participants in these spheres, both in their training and their driving concerns, are far more oriented to the Church than to academic success and social influence. They increasingly have access to an alternative universe of publishers, diocesan and parish formation programs, and the like. One can browse through the bookstore at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC and find the entire moral theology section dominated by authors and publishers completely different from (say) the tables at the annual CTSA convention. The peculiarity here goes beyond an aim at different audiences – increasingly, what exists are parallel Catholic universes which do not intersect.

Cloutier writes that moral theologians have “virtually no ecclesiastical oversight or guidance” from the Church. He adds that while that independence can lead to innovative ideas, it also leads to problems.

He points out that with the shift from cleric-led theology to lay-led theology, the subject is very rarely put into practice in any form anymore. “The radical decline in the sacrament of reconciliation has not been matched by the rise of alternative forms of practice, such as small discernment groups, spiritual direction, or even intentional and intensive social justicework,” he said.

Theologians employed at colleges primarily deal with college students, said Cloutier, and that offers them a somewhat myopic view of Catholics. “On the one hand, the extended opportunity to engage in study and dialogue with a real variety of students, enhanced by the ‘enforcement power’ of grades, is something that pastors and religious educators might envy,” wrote Cloutier.

“On the other hand, it must be kept in mind that most of the Catholic Church does not consist of 18-22 year olds.”
Cloutier states that he believes moral theologians care about serving the Church, but believes the question facing them is “how does one do it?”

Cloutier believes that Catholic theologians today must overcome the divisions which separate them or Catholicism may experience drastic losses similar to those experienced by mainline Protestantism.

Originally published at Catholic Education Daily on 1 August 2013.

Tags:
Catholicism
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful...
Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, East London Gospel Choir
J-P Mauro
Hear Clapton and Pavarotti sing a prayer to t...
FIRST CENTURY HOUSE AT THE SISTERS OF NAZARETH SITE
John Burger
British archaeologist confident he has found ...
PRAY
Cerith Gardiner
12 Things we can be grateful for this Thanksg...
EARTHQUAKE
Bret Thoman, OFS
Two earthquakes couldn't stop these Italian n...
CATHEDRAL OF THE SACRED HEART
Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP
6 Questions to determine if your heart is har...
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio's favorite prayer of petition
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.