Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Here's a treat for you! As you know it is the habit at Adam's Ale that when we approach our busy holy days I have come to rely on Guest Bloggers to fill the gaps when otherwise this space would have to go blank out of necessity. As we enter into this Holy Week it is my pleasure to hand the Adam's Ale reigns over to Mr. Patrick Schultz. He is a junior philosophy major at Borremeo Seminary here in the Diocese of Cleveland. He hails from Saint Mary Parish in Hudson, a hop, skip, and a twenty minute drive from Saint Sebastian. His philosophy teacher, Fr. F. who contributes to Quote Tuesday quite often suggested (with the permission of the seminary) that he submit a paper that he wrote to Adam's Ale. After reading it I was most excited that this space be venue for his first publishing.

I was able to meet Patrick at the Aquinas lecture this past week. It is also a pleasure to report that he is also quite a personable gentleman. So with no further ado, here is Part I of a two Part series.

Answering the “Hakuna-Matata” Culture of 21st Century America
By: Patrick R. Schultz

I was sitting next to a woman on a flight recently. We were sharing a pleasant conversation; she was telling me about her children and grandchildren, and I was sharing stories about me and my younger brother. The topic, however, turned, and she asked me where I go to school and what I study. Instead of avoiding the question, I dropped the bomb: “I am actually a seminarian studying for the Catholic priesthood.” She became quiet, and a puzzled look filled her lined face. She quipped, “Oh, that’s interesting,” at which point I thought the conversation was over. But then, she turned back and looked at me, and as if she were figuring out how to best word her question, she asked, “What on earth would make you want to do that, especially in this day and age?” Indeed, what on earth would compel anybody to walk such a path?

The modern world is ripe with possibilities and new frontiers for young people to explore and take part in. We can do things, go places, learn concepts, communicate, and live lifestyles, etc., that our forbearers could never have dreamed. American culture marches forward to a steady beat that rings out loudly: change, development, innovation, and progress. We live and move and have our being in a consumerist culture where the externals (money, career, popularity, image, power, etc.) are exalted on high. When our heroes are Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes, and our role models are The Housewives of Orange County and the cast members of MTV’s The Real World, it is logical that, given this cultural heartbeat and social framework, the priesthood could only appear as an arcane, outmoded “career.” The Catholic Church is consequently perceived as an antiquated institution, which drives people back into the dark-ages of superstition, sexual repression, and corruption. The priesthood, let alone the pursuit of holiness, is utterly counter-intuitive, and counter-cultural. In a word, the priesthood appears diametrically opposed to plain common sense. The modern world simply cannot see the value in it, or the logic behind it.

And this is the key: the occluding worldview of modernity, which has devalued the spiritual and the absolute, makes it not simply difficult to see, but downright impossible to see. The woman’s incredulous response to my answer points to this very blindness. Our ideas matter; our underlying presumptions about the world, the universe, about reality, all matter. They are the lenses through which we process reality. Therefore, since modernity has acquiesced to Nietzsche’s bold proclamation, “God is dead,” contemporary culture is anthropocentric, that is, we possess a temporal or human-centered worldview. This worldview does not liberate humanity but rather slowly poisons it. What is needed is a theocentric worldview, that is, a Godly worldview, which considers man as a composite being of spirit and matter, endowed with reason, and oriented towards a transcendent destiny.

Implicit in the woman’s question is this anthropocentric worldview, and its consequent redefinition of freedom. The concept of freedom, especially here in America, is the value par excellence. We cherish, honor, celebrate, and defend our freedom more so than anything else. We talk about personal freedom, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion (or lack thereof). We talk about one’s freedom to choose, freedom to determine one’s future, and freedom to define happiness and the meaning of life. Fundamentally, we exalt the freedom of the individual to act however, and choose whatever, insofar as one’s actions and choices do not infringe upon another’s autonomy. Like many concepts today, we causally use this word freedom, putting it front and center and often hiding behind it, without knowing what it really means. In the history of ideas, freedom has undergone a dramatic redefinition, which coincides with the devaluation of the spiritual and the absolute. Where freedom once was seen as freedom for excellence, or virtue, it now implies a freedom of indifference. Before, the person who best actualized his inborn potential for excellence was most free. Now, he who can simply choose between a plurality of options is free.


Anonymous said...

Well written Patrick! The "freedom" you describe that runs ramant in today's culture is not freedom at all, but license (quoting Fr. Corapi). True freedom must be centered in morality. Is someone truly free who "worships" at the alter of materialism? Or, are they a slave, being controlled by one sin or another?

Cracked Pot said...

Fr. Corapi also said that we are free to choose but are not free to choose evil. Modern Man, however, will ask, "What is evil?" Today it seems that evil is defined by that anthropocentric worldview--evil is whatever I myself think is evil.

Robin said...

I was so interested in this conversation and its context. One of the things that has intrigued me since entering seminary (different tradition, different stage of life, different gender -- but I do read your blog!) is the frequency with which people in social situations, upon discovering what I am up to, rush to tell me, determinedly and triumphantly, about how they aren't religious, have abandoned their church, etc. I think that often folks are so accustomed to the general societal rejection of or malaise with respect to faith that they are dumbfounded to discover that there are those of apparent intelligence and thoughtfulness for whom faith fills life, and they move quickly to defend their unconsidered turf.