Friday, August 31, 2007

Open letter to David Creamer SJ. (Jesuit Centre for Catholic Studies, St. Paul's College)

Dear Fr. Creamer:

As a relation of mine has enrolled in your course Introduction to Catholic Studies this fall, I trust I will give no offence in having elected to send this from my pseudonymous email account. I realize I risk having my note discarded out of hand by this choice, but I assure you: I write in good faith and if you respond I will happily reveal myself to you at end of term if you wish.

I am dismayed at the choice of a work by disgraced ex-priest Gregory Baum for course reading material. The purpose of the work Amazing Church seems to be to undermine faith in the dogma that the Church is One in time—the first of the Church’s four marks enumerated in the Nicene Creed—by exclaiming the deception that the Church can change Her teaching rather than the truth that the face of Her constant teaching develops to meet the world’s novel challenges while maintaining internal consistency.

I have been attempting to read the text, however I was grieved upon beginning Chapter 1 to find the encyclical Mirari vos of Pope Gregory XVI excerpted with little context and seemingly for no other purpose than to heap ridicule on the pre-conciliar Church, thereby casting doubt for the uncatechized reader on the second mark of the Church, Her Holiness. Trapped in the social and cultural assumptions of our own day, the Holy Father’s commentary on social upheaval does sound ridiculous, however in the wake of the murderous French Revolution (of living memory in his time) his writings are apt, to say the least, and positively prescient considering the coming tide of communism, about which, if the Pope knew nothing specifically, the guidance of the Holy Spirit was true.

I fear the end result of teaching particularly young men and women from Baum’s book, even if not intended, will be to foment dissatisfaction with the Church’s teaching on sexual matters and foster an attitude of accommodation with more worldly, accepting views of fornication, contraception and homosexuality. Will you be able to rise and defend the teaching in the encyclical Humanae Vitae as a priest must, when the tenor of the course is set by a laicized priest who, since long prior to his contributions to the publication of the regrettable Winnipeg Statement, has apparently made dissent from Church teaching his life work?

If the focus of the course is to be the development of doctrine, wouldn’t it be better to start with John Cardinal Newman than with the lightweight and dubious Mr. Baum? He could appear later in a more advanced course, say Apostasy 201. Even if you would defend Baum’s private opinions, you cannot deny that they are contentious to a degree wholly inappropriate to an introductory level course.

Finally, If you will not reject the text I pray you will at least discuss this matter with your colleagues to consider how best to approach teaching it so as to avoid loss of faith in your students, many of them at a time of life wherein their metastatic searching for serious answers will elicit great effect for good or ill in life and eternity.

Yours in Christ,

a cricket

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