Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Relativism on the Right"? -- Father Keenan's Charge and the Debate

Patrick Archbold of Creative Minority Report rejects Father James Keenan’s charge that Traditionalism can lead to ‘relativism’ on the Right. Father James Keenan just happens to be a Jesuit priest at Boston College. Kyle Cupp, of Journeys in Alterity believes that the Theologian Father James Keenan is correct in his assessment. But, as you see from Father Keenan's words and in Kyle’s post deciphering whether either Father Keenan or Kyle Cupp is referring to Tradition or the traditions of the Church is like nailing jell-o to the wall. Kyle uses this inconspicuous wording that would give a private eye a run for his money in finding out where he stands on this particular issue.  After a reevaluation of my thoughts on Kyle’s post, and after searching the internet more extensively I have become further enlightened on Father Keenan’s social views and must ask Kyle Cupp a few questions: Is the Church’s Teaching on “homosexual marriage” one of those truths taught by the Church that is a merely time-bound tradition that would make a relativist out of a believer in its transcendent truth? Is the Church’s teaching on forbidding women from becoming priests one those truths of Traditions that shouldn’t be understood as timeless? What truths are not timeless? What Traditions that a person of faith believes in puts them in danger of relativism?

While on earth, as faithful Catholic Christians, we must follow apostolic Tradition which was originally handed down by Jesus to the apostles, and those teachings were then in turn the handed down to others via the apostles oral teaching. These teachings largely are consistent with those contained in Scripture. Both the oral and written Tradition were handed down and entrusted to the Church. When we speak of those Traditions that we as Catholics must follow as are unchangeable we are referring to the Apostolic Tradition and not the ecclesial traditions which, according to the Catechism, are “the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical or devotional traditions that have been adapted or changed over time while remaining faithful to Tradition at the same time.”

If both Father Keenan and Kyle are referring, not to Tradition, but rather to traditions (note the changing in the casing of the “t”) being changed over time then they are correct. From my research it has become self-evident that at least in some respects Father Keenan is referring to changing apostolic Tradition and not merely some of those ecclesial traditions. From my net research, it seems most likely that Father Keenan is referring to Tradition so in my final conclusion I must agree with Patrick Archold’s assessment of Father Keenan’s statement. Following the Tradition of the Church can never lead to relativism. But, Father Keenan’s mode of thought has the possibility of leading to scandal and even heresy.

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