by Brian Jones | CWR blog
At the end of a Wednesday evening class last semester, one of my students approached me to ask a question. After hesitating somewhat, he proceeded in the following manner: “Professor, I really have enjoyed your class, but you always teach as though Catholicism is true. You rarely talk about other religions, of which I was actually hoping to learn more about.” I reminded the troubled young man that he should re-read the syllabus, since “Teachings of the Catholic Church” is actually the official course title. The humorous encounter reminded me of Walker Percy’s response to the question of why he became a Catholic: “What else is there?” How ironic, yet typical of most university students, that someone would be taking a course on Catholicism and simultaneously be disgruntled that this is precisely what he is getting.
The history of Catholicism has thankfully shown us that there is a tremendous pedagogical character regarding the nature of error: it helps us achieve greater clarity on a particular matter that may have, up to that point, been otherwise. Moreover, error also helps us to see whether or not the one committing it has willfully chosen it. It would be safe to say that the latter is a hallmark of many post-modern Catholics. The student mentioned in the beginning was, in my estimation, suffering from a high degree of excusable ignorance; he did not have a full grasp of what he was asking, and seemed more the result of a cultural that had groomed him to accept relativism a priori. Others, have fallen away from the faith, not by an excusable ignorance or happenstance, but by a mode of living that refuses to conform itself to the demands of the faith.
These preliminary points came to mind last week as I watched the brief exchange between Piers Morgan and Penn Jillette (easily accessible on YouTube).