Tuesday, April 3, 2012

One of America’s premier orthodox catechists, Fr. Alfred McBride, O. Praem., delivered a talk at the Catholic University of America in the summer of 1969 on the transcendence of God. He noted that his students, budding nuns, priests, seminarians, brothers and laymen, seemed “content rich” but pedagogically destitute. Fr, McBride correctly discerned that a more efficacious catechesis could be had by both an immanent dimension to complement the transcendent dimension, in faithfulness to Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes (and later recommended by John Paul II). As he recalled, Fr. McBride unfortunately assumed that his students had grasped and given consent to Catholic teaching (when they had not), and sensed that worldly thinking had invaded their minds:

After three years teaching my human dimensions course, I realized that secularity had intruded into the consciousness of many of these students. A number of them had succumbed to a modernity that rejected history and tradition. What’s modern is good. What’s pre-modern is outdated and useless. That virus was there, even though I did not recognize it initially. I found myself, tragically, nourishing it with all my talk about modern drama, poetry, fiction, philosophy, mid communications theory. These particular students failed to see the culture as instrumental, as a means to an end, an opening to revelation. Instead they swallowed it indiscriminately as an end in itself. The transcendent was collapsing before my eyes, but at first I did not recognize it. It was probably no coincidence that the famed 1966 Easter cover story of Time magazine, ‘‘Is God Dead?” coincided with the initiation of my course.