Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Back to Scola

Back in January I was blogging here and elsewhere about Cardinal Scola at the U.N. I see that Tom Bethell was covering his Washington stop for the NOR, in which his fairly lukewarm review has finally appeared.

Bethell admits that he avoids interreligious dialogue, as well he might; he doesn't really believe in it. For him the occasion, and the man, were insufficiently confrontational, and the subtext here seems to be an invidious comparison between the spirit of Scola and the movement he is taken to represent, and that of the sainted Escriva, and the movement he founded. Bethell is resigned to the idea of a Papa Scola as the third in a series of professorial pontiffs, as the best that can be hoped for at the moment. Were he writing today, after Papa Ratzi's alleged right turn, he might be more upbeat about things at the Vatican.

But this is the essence of his take on the situation: "It may also be that, at a time when undiluted Catholic teaching is increasingly at odds with the world, a conservative prelate is only being prudent when he veils his orthodoxy behind philosophical abstractions. I felt at times that Scola was doing just that. The Communion and Liberation movement does have that inclination."

Yet Bethell himself shows that Scola freely and cheerfully admits his orthodox Christianity. Indeed, he might even be said to flaunt it. So the philosophical abstractions must be something other than a smokescreen. They are, I think, an attempt, and about as successful an attempt as one could hope for, to express the universals of human experience to which the Gospel speaks, and to express them in a way a Muslim, or even a Pagan, can recognize -- and to state Christian dogma in those terms. I take it that that is what Giussani, Scola's professor and the founder of CL was up to. The latter was speaking to a generation so alienated from the traditions of European civilization that they could only be reached by an appeal to the universally human, and that may be the only address Muslims of good will. I suspect that there are such, though Bethell implies they are sleeper agents waiting for the signal to turn on us.

The passage of Scola's speech that Bethell holds up to ridicule is rather a bold challenge to Muslims and Jews who reject the doctrine of the Trinity, indicating that the alternative may well be some kind of pantheism. And this is neither obfuscation nor pussyfooting.

I'm sure OD has its place in the Church. But my place is not with them.

1 comment:

Fred said...

Bethel reads like a man exhausted by life, unwilling to hear anything new.

What was rhetorically amusing about his article was his attempt to use Scola as a scarecrow to run down JP2 and B16, both of whom are yes, very intelligent and well-educated in theology, but also broadly and deeply cultured men. For all their flaws and missteps (though they certainly have less flaws than I do), one could hardly reduce either pope to the image of the absent- minded professor.

JP2 had a dramatic flair and was intensely personable; B16 speaks as an affable, persistent teacher, who is challenging yes, but also able to teach those who listen.

The Church is being renewed, much to the chagrin of the pessimists who are disappointed that the world has less need of their particular medicine than ever before.