Saturday, January 19, 2008

What I Learned at St. Bernard's

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!

2 comments:

CPT Tom said...

Its one of the more insulting things I've notice in my 3 years in the dioceses, the very polite, but firm message, "we don't want your kind here." My wife and I are very much "conservative" (Though, we just think of ourselves as "Catholic") Catholics. We moved here from the Hartford AD, not exactly the most orthodox diocese, and we were completely shocked by the level of progressivism and borderline heresy we have witnessed since moving here. That and how institutionalized it is. It has been an eye opening experience for sure.

I have yet to meet a DRE or other lay Diocesan person who is orthodox or not brainwashed to the nth degree.

Mike said...

I have yet to meet a DRE or other lay Diocesan person who is orthodox or not brainwashed to the nth degree.

I actually know of two, along with one deacon, but they all seem very careful about what they say and to whom they say it.