Charlotte Allen has written a useful summary of the heroes of "Catholic dissent," and I applaud the Wall Street Journal for publishing it (15 January 2010). It is titled, "As the Flame of Catholic Dissent Dies Out."
Essentially, Allen laments that there has been no "second generation of brilliant progressive Catholic theologians." She cites Hans Kung, Charles Curran, Edward Schillebeeckx, along with Mary Daly, and Sister Sandra M. Schneiders, as some of the first generation. Curiously, however, she seems to conclude that conservative Catholicism is also in weak, or "niche," shape. Allen claims that the weak theological foundations of contemporary conservative Catholicism has resulted in there being nothing substantial to "rebel" against; thus, there are few second generation progressive Catholic thinkers.
It's a good thought. It prompts me to wonder whether there is even any "market" for strong theology, in the Roman Catholic Church or in any Church. Our religious debates and arguments, so quickly assembled and properly aligned with either the right or the left, suffer from the lack of a common and mutually accepted tradition.
That "mutually accepted tradition" should be "orthodoxy." Such is certainly my claim. I enjoy vigorous debate among people who, ultimately accept each other's faith and even each other's orthodoxy. However, our quick religious skirmishes, increasingly magnified into battles by the shallow media and even shallower blog vents, have often resulted in antagonists denying any orthodoxy whatesoever in their opponents.
We live in an age of "competing absolutes," as I have called it (see my sermon of April 20, 2008). Perhaps it is part of our politics these days. "Competing Absolutes" means that we accept only those friends and allies who are 100% for us, and we accuse any nuanced or slightly disagreeing person as being 100% against us.
God is larger than our differences. God is larger, even, than our sense of absolutes. I look forward to a kingdom of God where people of good will and good faith enjoy diversity of opinion because we trust ultimately in something larger than ourselves (and larger than our own opinions and theologies). I trust in a God who is ultimately beyond our understanding, and whose peace I seek daily.