The Church and the Experts | James Kalb | CWR
Catholics cannot fight something with nothing, so devotion and integrity must come before engagement.The Church today has a troubled relation to the academy and media.
The reasons are quite basic. Secular intellectual authorities believe they stand for a way of understanding the world, free unprejudiced inquiry carried on by disinterested professionals, that is sufficient as well as uniquely correct. The Church considers neutral secular expertise insufficient, since the world is neither neutral, secular, nor fully comprehensible by human means. She therefore accepts additional sources of knowledge, such as tradition, revelation, and natural law, and appeals to them especially in regard to ultimate issues and questions of value.
In such cases the kind of expertise on which secular intellectual authorities rely gives no definite answer. Those authorities therefore apply some default principle they consider neutral, like freedom, equality, or efficiency. Because the Church rejects that solution, they view Catholic doctrine as essentially arbitrary and oppressive.
That view dominates public discussion today. The result is that the secular media never bother to get Catholic beliefs right. They have no respect for them, and tailor their account of them to the general story they want to tell about the world. What passes for neutral rationality, it turns out, has a mythology and plot line of its own. Mainstream academia is much the same: it is reluctant to accept truth or authority that elude its control, so it tends toward a reductive, dismissive, or negative view of religion in general and Catholicism in particular. Even Catholic colleges, who willingly accept the authority of governments and accrediting agencies over policies, programs, and personnel, reject religious authority and think it a point of honor to hold the Church at arm’s length.
A basic part of the problem is the position and function of those who deal professionally with words and symbols in today’s society, not just academics and journalists but lawyers, bureaucrats, and producers of pop culture. The activities of such people are big business, the potential rewards attract clever and energetic careerists, and the growth and pervasiveness of government, bureaucratic organization, and electronic communications give them unprecedented power.