In 2005 the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain held a conference “De doctrina christiana: Hearing and Speaking the Word.” Papers from this conference have been published in the March 2006 issue of “New Blackfriars.” The introduction to the symposium was written by Nicholas Lash, and from it I cite the opening and concluding paragraphs, to each of which I append a question that might merit discussion here.
“The rapidity with which Christian beliefs and practices have become illegible in British culture is astonishing. It seems clear that we have on our hands a crisis de doctrina christiana [concerning Christian teaching]. As the leaflet for our conference put it: ‘What is at issue is not simply a neglect of practice but a sense that our contemporary culture has become so disengaged from the language and symbols of Christianity that it is becoming impossible either to hear or to speak the Christian message in a way that makes sense’.”
JAK: Is this paragraph also true of U.S. culture?
“Reporting in The Tablet (28 September 1985) on the Association’s first annual conference, Eamon Duffy wrote: ‘Theology is the responsibility of the Church at large, not just of its pastors, or, for that matter, its professional theologians. When any Christian seeks to make Christian sense of the tears of things, of his or anyone’s living and dying, of the bewildering and sorrowing complexities of existence, theology is being done. Though it requires the discipline of the academy for its own health, it is too crucial to the Church to be confined there. It is the whole Church which must engage in theology’. How is it to do so? I conclude with four questions, concerning our contemporary crisis de doctrina christiana, which I offered for discussion during the conference. How well, and in what manner, are adult Catholics in this country taught to pray? How well, and in what manner, are adult Catholics in this country taught to read the Scriptures? Ours is a church of near one hundred per cent literacy, nearly half of whose members continue their education, beyond school age, into institutions of higher and further education. How well, and in what manner, are adult Catholics in this country equipped with a grasp of Church history and doctrine commensurate with their general knowledge and grasp of public affairs? To what extent, and in what manner, do we succeed in communicating the conviction that Catholic faith is, for every Catholic and in every context, ‘fides quaerens intellectum’?”
JAK: What would our answers, in the U.S., to Lash’s four questions be?