In the summer of 2006 I attended a 5 hour mini-course at the new St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry. It was called “Catholic Worldviews – Traditional vs. Progressive” and was taught by Deacon Tom Driscoll, currently Pastoral Associate at St. John’s in Spencerport.
I was drawn to the course primarily by its title. The liberal-versus- conservative divide in the Church is of great interest to me. Being on the conservative side of that divide, I am always interested in learning how the other side manages to get its thinking - and its theology - as confused as it does.
Another draw was the presenter. I had heard a lot of good things about Deacon Tom’s teaching style and so I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be bored out of my skull.
Most of my classmates were women and most of them were in the process of getting either a degree or a certification that would let them work at some pastoral level in the diocese. Deacon Tom already knew many of them from other courses he had taught and it became clear early on that I was just about the only representative of the conservative Catholic viewpoint in the room.
I have to admit that the deacon did do a fairly decent job of presenting a balanced view of the topic, although his liberal leanings did get the better of him a couple of times. Once he decried the fact that many conservatives want to strip Fr. Charles Curran of what the deacon called his “theological driver’s license.” Another time he warned the class that Bishop Clark will have to step down no later than 2012 and that many of his “reforms” might be threatened by his successor.
But the most important thing I took away from that course was Deacon Tom’s statement to the class that his course was designed, in part, to help all those pastoral wannabes learn how to effectively deal with comments and criticisms from conservative Catholics like me. In other words, how to tell me to get lost, but in a very kind, pastoral way.
What an eye-opener!