This morning, I was able to hear Fr. Anthony Cekada’s sermon from last Sunday on the St. Gertrude the Great website (www.sgg.org). As many long time readers of this blog know, I have butted heads with Fr. Cekada several times over various theological issues including the Motu Proprio. I have nothing personal against him and admire his tenacity as well as his willingness to preserve tradition against all odds. If there is anything that I hold against him, it is the fact that he is in schism. But I won’t go down that road today.
In his sermon, Fr. Cekada talks about something that we might characterize as amateur/internet theology. According to Fr. Cekada, theology lies in the realm of the priesthood and the priests as well as well-trained laypeople should be the only ones to interpret them. That’s fine. After all, priests have been trained in the seminary to be able to deal with all kinds of theological and philosophical questions. The 12 year training of the Jesuits, for example, was meant for them to come out fully formed men when it came time for them to serve their communities. This formation included not only four years of philosophy, but four years of theology and possibly even more than that. All of this is great and one hopes that this training will give us excellent priests.
But why is it then that Fr. Cekada does not believe theology to be something laymen should be interested in. By all means, we are learning about our salvation when we open up theology manuals. Yes, the books themselves may be prickly and they may be heavy reading, but theology should be something that is accessible to all people. Didn’t Frank Sheed write his classic theology books for the layman?
It seems to me that one of Fr. Cekada’s sticking points is the fact that everybody holds to his or her own opinion out here on the blogosphere. The same thing goes for theology. The thing is that the blogosphere is a vast place that encompasses millions of people with just as many differing opinions. If one looks through a listing of Roman Catholic blogs on the internet, one is most certainly bewildered by the infinite varieties of points of view as well as perspectives. But that is the one thing that attracted so many to the Roman Catholic Church to begin with.
For me, I never thought of the Church herself as one large monolithic institution. I have always seen it as a ship that is loaded down with millions of different people. All of these people believe in the basic tenets of the Roman Catholic Church and all of these people have come to the ship from variety of different places as well as tongues and nationalities. As long as everybody holds to the same beliefs, there should be nothing to be upset about. The Church is universal because it embraces everyone. Christ Himself did not turn people away and who are we to do the same?
It seems to me that Fr. Cekada believes the different theological opinions that circulate currently are due to the fact that there is no such thing as an imprimatur or an imprimi potest that one can find in other theology book as well as Catholic literature. I’m afraid, though, that no imprimatur is necessary if the person reading the book is a discerning adult. I know when I come up against funny theology or funny theological opinions that are just plain bizarre in my own reading. I don’t touch those books because I know that they may contain error that goes against my understanding of the Church and what she teaches.
Another thing is that not all books that are published these days should be censored. Yes, there are theology books out there that should not be touched with a ten foot pole, but there are also theology books that can be tremendously useful to the understanding of our faith. I’m thinking here of a set of systematic theology books that were thrown out at the library a few months ago or the magnificent compilation of “The Way of the Lord Jesus.” Both of these books are meant to instruct us and to help us live our faith.
Yet we must go back to the topic of being a discerning adult. St. Paul clearly writes about how children progress from drinking milk to eating meat. Every person is on a different part of the spiritual road. Some people are way ahead of others, while there are those that lag behind. Yet all of us, we hope, are spiritually discerning adults. This means that when we are confronted with something that we should not read, then we do not touch it. We shouldn’t make excuses about it either. There are books that can be dangerous to one’s faith. If you don’t believe me, look up the Index of Forbidden Books that was published in 1948. You will be surprised by what made it there.
Anyway, let us continue to pray for Fr. Cekada as well as the traditionalist clergy. Let us also pray for our own discernment in our spiritual reading.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
St. Augustine, pray for us!
St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!
St. Ignatius Loyola, pray for us!
St. Francis de Sales, pray for us!
St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori, pray for us!
Dom Columba Marmion, pray for us!