“O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge,’ for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.” (1 Timothy 6: 20-21)
Father James V. Schall, S.J., the prolific Catholic author, philosopher and theologian, who taught at Georgetown for many years, died on April 17, 2019. He was 91 years old. “Schall was ‘one of the great treasures of American Catholic academics,’ a writer for Catholic News Service once wrote in reviewing two of his more than 30 books.” Less than a year before he died, Father Schall wrote an important essay entitled: “Why Be (or Continue to Be) Catholic?” – a fairly provocative title from a sober minded priest. There is a link to this article at the bottom of this post, but I have taken the liberty of selecting four quotes (which I have captioned below) from Father Schall’s article as expressive of his deep concerns about the present difficulties in the Catholic Church:
Quote No.1. THE LOSS OF INTELLECTUAL ACUMEN IN THE CHURCH
“In the past several years, I have perceived a noticeable loss of intellectual acumen that the Church gained with John Paul II and Benedict. Many are upset by this lack of depth, especially more recent converts who came into the Church with the help of the vigorous thinking we still see in these two popes. But the main reason for the decline of Church membership is the desire to be like others in modern society. Many want Catholic teaching to be viewed and interpreted through a modern lens.”
Quote No. 2. HERETICS WITHIN THE CHURCH
Quote No. 3. WHY REMAIN CATHOLIC?
“Why should we continue to be Catholic?” Much of the controversy that swirls around the Holy Father has, at its origin, the feeling that certain basic—once-thought non-negotiable—principles and practices have been denied or at least implicitly allowed to pass away. Under the aegis of finely tuned “mercy” and “discernment,” a method has been developed that would justify this accommodation of the Church to that modernity and its principles that everyone seems eager to embrace.”
Quote No. 4. CAN WE CONTINUE TO BE CATHOLIC TODAY?
“Only if one thing remains true and upheld. Only if the same teachings and practices that were handed down and guaranteed down the ages remain the foundation of the Church. This revelation in all its ramifications is what best explains human meaning and destiny. If the substance of this revelation is not upheld, the question is no longer a merely human problem of whether or not to be loyal to a tradition. It is the breakdown of revelation itself since it is no longer credible on its own terms. The guarantee of Christ is to be with us till the end, with the central teachings and practices of his life at the center. If this content and sequence is not maintained in a living way, i.e., in a thoroughly nuanced but plain way, we have no reason still to be Catholic.”
Father Schall was an expert on the famous convert, G.K. Chesterton, so in Father Schall’s honor I close with these famous and critically important words from Chesterton’s great book, Orthodoxy.
“People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy. It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad…
It is easy to be a madman: it is easy to be a heretic. It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one’s own. It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob. To have fallen into any of those open traps of error and exaggeration which fashion after fashion and sect after sect set along the historic path of Christendom–that would indeed have been simple. It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect” (Chapter 6).
Please say a prayer for the soul of Father James Schall. Pleas pray for the Church.
Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.
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