A Second Opinion

A Response to Christopher Ruddy

Only by using the word in its most Pickwickian sense would I ever call myself a "young" theologian. Indeed, I belong, at least chronologically, to that post-fifty generation—so effectively dissected by Christopher Ruddy in his article "Young Theologians"—whose mental clocks, in his amusing image, seem to have stopped dead in 1968 with the encyclical Humanae vitae.

Yet despite my age, I found myself agreeing with most of what he wrote. Certainly much of his experience matches my own. I recall the time early in my postdoctoral career when I published an article in America on Cardinal Newman. In my naiveté I had assumed that publication in a magazine with such a large circulation (relatively speaking) would be greeted with a congratulatory nod by my colleagues. Although at the time I was only a visiting professor in a nontenure track at a secular university, I can still remember the shock when my chairman—a man genuinely committed to promoting my best interests—told me such work actually counts against promotion.

An even greater shock came when I was later told the same thing about translations. Once again, I had always assumed that a theologian’s first obligation is to hand on the Great Tradition of the church and only secondarily to try to speak in propria persona. Since I was working...

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About the Author

Edward T. Oakes, SJ, is Chester & Margaret Paluch Professor of Theology at University of Saint Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, the seminary for the Archdiocese of Chicago.