Theologian Warns of Parallel Catholic Universes

Saint ThomasBooks by Catholic theologians you might find for sale at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., are vastly different from those you might find for sale at a college bookstore or a Catholic Theological Society of America convention.

That difference is indicative of a larger problem facing the Catholic Church in America, says David Cloutier, associate professor of theology at Mount St. Mary’s University, in a piece at Catholic Moral Theology. In fact, he says it’s an indication that there are currently “parallel Catholic universes” which do not intersect.

While some lay Catholics do teach in seminaries and attend groups like the Academy of Catholic Theologians, these institutional settings feature many more clerics. Participants in these spheres, both in their training and their driving concerns, are far more oriented to the Church than to academic success and social influence. They increasingly have access to an alternative universe of publishers, diocesan and parish formation programs, and the like. One can browse through the bookstore at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC and find the entire moral theology section dominated by authors and publishers completely different from (say) the tables at the annual CTSA convention. The peculiarity here goes beyond an aim at different audiences – increasingly, what exists are parallel Catholic universes which do not intersect.