In an article by John L. Allen Jr. with Maureen O’Connell an assistant professor of theology at Fordham University titled Young theologians today face ‘paranoia,’ new Fordham prof says
Asserting that church leaders are today attempting to return the church to a “culture one” model, Davidson said that because the socio-economic status of American Catholics is not in decline and because “laity are not willing to grant control” to the hierarchy, “the percentage of Catholics who are culture one will continue to decline.”
If older liberal Catholics are over-represented in reform groups such as Call to Action and Voice of the Faithful, Davidson said, younger conservative Catholics are equally over-represented among new priests, seminarians, and even theologians.
Speaking specifically about theologians, Davidson said that a growing tendency for younger theologians to reflect a “culture one” mentality reflects “a larger pattern of separation between the laity and the leaders of the institutional church.”
O’Connell largely agreed, saying that one distinguishing feature of her generation of theologians is that it came of age in an era of a “near-total disconnect between a culture one hierarchy and a culture two laity.”
Facing that situation, O’Connell said, many younger theologians today feel a need to try to be of pastoral service to the church – working with disparate movements such as Voice of the Faithful, the Focolare and Sant’Egidio, for example, or writing for non-specialized audiences outside the academy. Those activities, she said, represent an attempt to “fill in the pastoral gaps.”
In that light, O’Connell proposed that amid today’s tensions over Catholic identity, perhaps a defining characteristic of what constitutes a “good Catholic theologian” ought to be what she called “pedagogical excellence” – meaning a commitment to teaching and formation.
I don’t think I buy this “culture one” and “culture two” distinction as something defining younger Catholics. For me a good theologian, priest, member of the laity, etc would think in terms of the body of Christ. Certainly throughout history there has been emphasis on one part of the body of Christ over the other and at times unhealthy emphasis. Whether it is clericalism or the unfortunate laity against the “institutional church” – they are both errors. The last 40 years has placed too much emphasis on the laity while at the same time wiping out distinctions between the ordained priesthood and the priesthood of the faithful. Ignoring ontological differences is not healthy and we should instead be seeing the glory in all parts of the mystical body of Christ and not playing off one part of the body against another. A sort of class warfare between the clergy and the laity. Of course St. Paul already saw this tendency in the early Church and preached against it. in 1st Corinthians 12:14-20
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single organ, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.>
As for “pedagogical excellence” that is of course required, but the most important commitment in theology is the commitment to truth in theology the “mother of sciences” and what St. Augustine described as “reasoning or discourse about the divinity.” Formation in error is not a real formation. Maureen O’Connell seems to have a dread of the younger seminarians, priests, etc, similar to Fr. Greeley who tries to dismiss them as “Young fogeys” and this “culture one” distinction is much the same in my opinion. I prefer a “culture of life” that requires everyone in the mystical body of Christ to fulfill their God given roles.