Sunday, December 4, 2011

Kreeft's Steubenville Talk: Vulnerable To Big-Time Misinterpretation

Tom Crowe of Catholic Vote (see right side-bar) posted a video of a talk given by Peter Kreeft at Steubenville University.  His post contains a link to that talk plus his own commentary.  In order to understand both Crowe and what I wrote below, you'll need to watch the entire clip.

I just posted the comment (in italics) below to Crowe's post.  Whether or not he publishes it, I don't know.  So here is what I wrote:

Tom, you write, "I must confess that some of what he proposes is a 'hard teaching' for me personally, and I have to examine some of my own thought processes and positions in light of what he points out."

I think I know to what you refer: a tendency to elevate contemplation to the detriment of activism. Let's bear in mind that as a theologian only, Kreeft cannot speak "ex cathedra". Certainly let's ponder, but let us not be biased or fall into the trap of false humility. For example, did you notice the tacit interpretation of the "Mary vs Martha" passage to mean that Jesus rebuked Martha's being busy? As I read it, He chided her anxiety, not activisim. Besides, I'd be willing to bet that He did eat what she set before Him as a result of her activism.

I'm going to go into more detail of this in my own blog post. I will be addressing a regretable tendency amongst faithful Catholics to glom unquestioningly onto the sayings of theologians like Kreeft. Mind you, I think in many and even most respects he's spot-on, but like the rest of us, he's only human.
I suppose my concern is not so much with what Kreeft said, but the unfortunate tendency of faithful Catholics to put people like Kreeft and others on pedestels and to take their words as though they're Holy Writ - or rather, to take selected snippets of Kreeft's words as Holy Writ outside the context of the rest of Sacred Tradition.  In this particular case, I can see how folks who tend to eschew activism could take Kreeft's clip as a justification for their laxity (which I'm sure Kreeft would regret).
Here is my take on the matter.  With the exception of those who are called to consecrated comtemplative lives and those whose circumstances do not permit activism, we are called to obey the maxim, "ora et labora".  While it is true that our first duty is to see to our own eternal salvation and sanctity, part and parcel of that duty is an active apostolate that encapsulates the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy.  By the way - lay people are enjoined to practice all the Spiritual Works as well as the Corporal Works.  I've heard some ridiculous things on Catholic radio that outright opine that we lay folks should avoid the Spiritual Works because we're too ignorant to practice them.  Nonsense!  What a shameless cop-out, not to mention outright disregard for the Sacrament of Confirmation!
I've heard the analogy of prayer being a foundation to the building of activism.  In my opinion, that's quite accurate.  There is no doubt that we can only move under Divine guidance, inspiration and strength.  But once He grants us those, He requires that we do something with them.  They make a firm, deep foundation - necessary for any ediface.  But once that foundation is in place, the building MUST be erected, lest that foundation become a glorified hole in the ground.  The building without a sure foundation will be destroyed - I think we all see that.  However, what some refuse to see is that the foundation without a building on top of it will likewise be destroyed.
I spoke of the Sacrament of Confirmation above.  Those of us who have been confirmed have the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.  To be sure, they must all be developed and some like Kreeft have gone that extra step in studying theology and philosophy.  However, if something rubs the wrong way or doesn't pass our "smell test" we cannot automatically assume that we're in the wrong.  We really need to work with it a bit.  We must also combat our tendency to place people like Kreeft and others on pedestels.  That tendency is understandable, given the lack of leadership displayed by too many bishops.  But still, it is a tendency filled with many boobytraps.
In my post just prior to this, I announce one excellent opportunity for activism that will occur tomorrow morning.  It is also activisim that encompasses prayer.  Be there.  It is NOT enough to pray for an end to abortion.  We MUST work for it as well.

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