Monday, July 19, 2004

Helping old mother church across the street

Every now and then I tune into Dave Armstrong's RC website to see what's new, if anything, in this alternative universe. Among other things, Armstrong has a list of 25 books in defense of Catholicism.

One of the striking things about his list is that only two titles were written by members of the Magisterium. And of those two, both are of pre-Vatican II vintage. By contrast, quite a number were written by laymen, some of them Evangelical converts to Catholicism.

What makes this so striking is the disconnect between the ecclesiology and the polemical theology. For what we have here is a bottom-heavy defense of a top-heavy institution. But if a layman can make a case for the Magisterium, who needs the Magisterium? Isn't the raison d'être for the Magisterium the correlative denial of the right of private judgment? So in what sense is Karl Keating or Scott Hahn or Dave Armstrong an authoritative voice in defense of Catholicism?

Yet another striking feature of the list is what is left out. The greatest Catholic apologist of the 20C was, without doubt, Karl Rahner.

So why doesn't Rahner make the cut? The reason, I'm sure, is that Rahner is much too liberal for Armstrong. Yet Rahner was a peritus to Vatican II, and died in good standing with the Church.

In a sense, then, Armstrong and his cobelligerents have never really converted to Catholicism at all. Instead, they've founded their own little private Victorian Catholic cult, with Newman, Knox, Belloc, Chesterton, and Tolkien as their patron saints--whereas the real Roman Catholicism is represented by the likes of Rahner and Raymond Brown. Theirs is not official Catholicism, but a treehouse for child actors. This is Oreo cookie Catholicism--Popish on the outside, but schismatic on the inside.


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