The average Catholic walking into a bookstore and heading to the religion section to learn more about their faith has about as much chance of survival as President Bush walking down the streets of Iraq with a target painted on him. Every major book chain has a "Religion" section. In this section there is usually a smaller section labeled "Catholic." But all things labeled "Catholic" are not necessarily Catholic. While there are likely some good solid books in the mix, there will undoubtedly be a greater number of questionable titles. How is the average, uncatechized Catholic going to know the difference? The truth is that they are not, and the authors count on that fact in order to propagate their own agendas.
I was recently handed a book on moral theology to critique for a friend in 10 minutes. This is of course an impossible task and I am sure that what I was able to get from this book in such a short time was not a completely accurate view, though it may just as easily be worse than I deduced as it may be better. This example still illustrates the same point;
I looked through the table of contents and turned to the section which defined the sources of morality. What I found was rather disturbing. From my brief reading, I understand the author to say that there are four sources for morality - Scripture, tradition, lived experience, and societal norms or mores. So, with four sources or morality, how would one come to know what was true? The point where these four sources intersect was seen as the litmus test of true morality. Scary! Also extremely subjective.
I do not wish to critique the book. I do not have access to it and a critique would take a great deal of time and space. I think the most blatant errors are obvious, even to those with no training in moral theology. I am sure I will revisit some of the specific issues in future posts.
There is a much bigger issue. The majority of Catholics have no way of knowing weather what they read is authentically Catholic, speculative theology, or the promotion of someones personal agenda. Speculative theology does of course have its place. I often dialogue with others who I know are well versed in theology on topics that the Church has made no pronouncements. But there is no place for this under the auspices of Catechesis. You would not allow someone to rebuild the engine on your car if they are just learning to change the oil. Likewise, one must learn the basics of their faith before they can begin to speculate in these areas. (Light bulb! Another post topic just went off in my head).
This, of course, is not new to anyone reading this post. It is stuck in the front of my mind today and I need an outlet for it. Consider this post a kind of catharsis for me and you are fulfilling one of the Corporal Works of Mercy by keeping me out of therapy.
I should say one positive thing. The release of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (English was around 1996) has made a dramatic effect on the climate in the Church. Now every Catholic is empowered to look up authentic Catholic teaching. Unfortunately the majority of Catholics sitting in our pews have no idea what it is. Perhaps our greatest tool for renewal in the Church is simply the Catechism and educating people what it is and how to properly use it.
This is a topic which I would really like top open dialogue on. I encourage replies... For now, Pax et Bonum.