This blog is made possible through Serra International ("Serra"), the global lay apostolate for vocations in the Catholic Church, and is in no way restricted to only its members. The blog aims to provide a constant source of relevant theological and philosophical news, commentary reflections regarding the important role the Catholic priesthood plays in the clash of ideologies, specifically it's encounter with secular humanism. It is also a forum of discussion and participation which is encouraged through comments directed towards the topic at hand. The name was inspired by this document. The opinions expressed by the owner, contributors, or any participating commentators in no way express a formal position of Serra. Though the organization is going through some tough times right now, we must stay focused on our goal, on the purpose of the organization and it is my hope that this blog will enrich our understanding of the important role the Catholic priesthood, which we support, plays in our world.
How does this blog relate to the mission of Serra again? Why juxtapose secular humanism and the Catholic priesthood? I believe that fairly basic philosophical and theological principles in response to the all too common arguments of secular humanists are rarely or thinly taught to youth, those being catechized and those trying to understand the Catholic perspective. In fact, they are so thinly taught that in 1997 in the United States, more than two-thirds of Catholic freshmen at Catholic colleges attended religious services frequently, while the remaining third attended occasionally. By senior year, 13 percent stopped attending services altogether, and nearly half attended only occasionally." Source. That was 1997, the numbers have only gotten worse since then. I don't believe this is a simple matter of "I don't care if it is true or not I want to party." That is not giving intelligent students enough credit. The beliefs and philosophical arguments that are fundamental to the rational credibility of the faith are not given a fair shot, even in Catholic institutions, and they are often times they are set on the same level of importance as learning every other perspective in the name academic freedom and diversity. This is another topic in itself, however, humanism, secular humanism has in many places, in my opinion, began to thoroughly mix with Christianity in this century. A 1989 episode of Yes Prime Minister makes the point of how this is possible, at least in the Anglican church:
This is just one more reason, among the numerous others (all of which we may have a blog for in the future) that prevents young men from answering the call to the priesthood. It happens to be one of the most important reasons to me. If enough are being called by God, why do so few answer? How many would have answered if they weren't convinced that their religious sentiments were merely a primitive product leftover from the first stage of evolution (Comte), an opiate for the masses (Marx), or a way for the weak to feel strong (Nietzsche)? Everyone has religious sentiments, even Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens (RIP) because this is a natural inclination, though people may express or suppress it in different ways. But just because it is natural does not mean it's propositions are valid. These are the main currents of thought in the world since the 17th century whether we agree with them or not. I believe that there is sense behind the arguments but they fall short of their justification and I hope this blog might in some small way help to remedy this stumbling block for young men through the discussions to come. It is a wide topic to handle but that's the beauty of the public forum. Let me give you my personal perspective:
I went to a Catholic grade school and in second grade the only approach to knowledge that we were taught was the difference between fact and opinion, a philosophical perspective whose roots are found in empiricism. We had to distinguish the two assumes that either an object of knowledge is a fact (scientifically provable), or an opinion which is not quantifiable (merely a side of the brain and condemned as a semi-real effects of atomic motions on the outside creating our consciousness …God might be included in this along with emotions and anything else not demonstrable). Maybe many other kids weren't paying attention or didn't care but this formed the way I took in future events in my life. I wanted to collect as many 'facts' as possible. When I went to public school in 6th grade many asked me if I believed in this Christian or religious rubbish of a man 'rising from the dead.,' or Moses actually parting the Red Sea. I was very much concerned about whether I was living a lie and began to see religion as obviously proposed and sustained by the weak who want to hope in something or want an imaginary friend. I decided for a period that I did not in fact believe based on the criterion that I was given. A while later I went to summer camp-thankfully it was not this one--and picked a fight with the priest (and a few others) who in gave me many books which started my interest in philosophy (and the foundations of science) and a basic understanding of why believe in God is a reasonable undertaking or perspective. This priest talked to me for at least for five hours and his answers to my questions were very thorough. He got to the root of what a 'fact' even is. The purpose of my telling this is because I wish to communicate to my audience what an important task is to not assume or base so many arguments on the faith that we ourselves possess. Because I was able to understand the arguments the priest made in our discussion or "argument" via the medium of philosophy, a year later I was set on being a priest, and would be for the next eight years. In my case, my heart was open but my mind was not for that period of time where no one had given be a good enough reason to believe that I wasn't simply falling into ressentiment. It is a very similar situation to this man:
I believe it may be beneficial to understand the roots of both sides because we will be able to recognize admixtures of the two in others and be able to empathize better. I'm assuming that everyone reading this blog has at least some degree of faith in the teachings of the Church which was founded by Christ himself, the human and divine son of the absolute being, creator of the universe, God the Father. It is beneficial for us to be able to recognize and even name ideas because they easily become confusing. I believe that 'clear and distinct' is better than simply 'clear.' This is the grain of truth in what is called 'academic freedom', which has been sorely misused. It is better to see things from more than one perspective, two sides of the same issue, rather than one belief that has never been questioned or contrasted with another. Of course this isn't necessary to start from 'step one....the reasonability of faith' when dialoging with those people of the same belief, but it is an important exercise because, especially in America and increasingly in other places, not everyone believes the same thing. If the conversation ever rises beyond Tebow, the weather and politics, this conversation comes up. This on going distinction will also allow us to examine current events relating to the priesthood more effectively.