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Carl Olson over at Ignatius Press’ Insight Scoop blog relates how one Catholic bishop had the audacity to prevent a Catholic biblical scholar from speaking at the Newman Center on the campus of Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

That scholar is Luke Timothy Johnson. The bishop, Edward K. Braxton, has defended his decision thusly:

“I do not wish Catholic institutions or organizations to invite speakers into the diocese who have written articles or given lectures that oppose, deny, reject, undermine or call into question the authentic teachings of the magisterium of the Catholic Church.”

Imagine that: demanding that a Catholic scholar actually teach in conformity with the Catholic faith. Imagine a voluntary religious organization demanding that people of some academic authority not contradict the doctrines of the institution of which he is a part. Amazing in its coherence, exhilarating in its discipline, a bishop actually acting like a shepherd !

Olson is right to point out some of the good work Johnson has done in the past, especially countering the Jesus Seminar mishegaas (wonderful word). And I knew he was just left of John Waters on the sex and marriage issues. But I didn’t realize he was so blithely indifferent to such key doctrines as the Virgin Birth. How on earth could it be “not important”? Whether Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity incarnate is not important ??? Does it have no relevance to the meaning of his death on the cross, the atonement, and his identity as savior of a sinful people?

I love the complaint uttered by one of the parents: that the kids should be able to “hear all sides.” What sides ? There are no sides when it comes to magisterial teaching. If Johnson wanted to make the case for a liberal, mainline view of marriage, sexual morality, and doctrine, then he should be doing so either in debate with an orthodox Catholic or in a different venue altogether. Does he really not understand the millennium-old theological underpinnings of these matters, as understood by his own church? Again, if he wanted to make the case as an advocate for another church , fine—fight it out in an open forum. But he is doing to the Catholic Church’s defined teaching of the sacramental nature of marriage, ordination, etc. what the Jesus Seminarians did to the historical Jesus: refashioning it to fit the comfort zone of neo-gnostic academics.

I have never understood why the dissenters within the Catholic Church—think Garry Wills, James Carroll, and members of Catholics for a Free Pass on Killing the Little Babies—remain within the church. It’s a free country. Pick yourself up and walk over to a TEC or ELCA congregation: I promise, they would love to have you.

My guess is, and it’s just a guess, is that it would be no fun knowing that the old Catholic Church was still there , teaching all that hoary stuff they simply can’t abide. In effect, Rome would have won by simply remaining unmoved . As as mainline Prots, these guys and gals would lose their cachet as dissenters. An Episcopalian questioning the Virgin Birth, a male-only priesthood? Yawn . . .

By way of Michael Spencer at The Boar’s Head Tavern .



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