Et in unam catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam?

February 13, 2004 | 8 comments
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Hey. I keep noticing all kinds of references to Catholic thought around here. Is this a new trend in Mormon studies? The influence of _First Things_? A preoccupation of Mormon lawyers? A fluke coincidence of personal interests? What?

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8 Responses to Et in unam catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam?

  1. Nate Oman on February 13, 2004 at 12:30 pm

    Kristine: Here are two possible explanations. (1) Catholic thought is much more sophisticated and well developed than practically any other Christian or monotheistic tradition to which Mormon intellectuals have easy access. It is certainly more thourghly developed than is Protestant thinkings. (2) Catholics don’t seem to hate us as much as Protestants do.

  2. lyle on February 13, 2004 at 1:38 pm

    I like mine better: Nate likes to read Patristic thought and Adam goes to Notre Dame. :)

  3. Frank on February 13, 2004 at 1:48 pm

    Another possible explanation stems from the fact that Mormons and Catholics find themselves on the same side of many social issues. Mormon scholars have found, in some circumstances, that they can use the Catholic thought to bolster their own positions.

    For example, several years ago the Catholic Church issued a document, entitled Ex Corde Ecclesiate, which detailed its few of academic freedom. The position the Catholic church took was somewhat similar to BYU’s position. Not surprisingly, several BYU professors have written extensively in defense of Ex Corde. Doing so allows them to bolster BYU’s position by appealing to a much larger audience, and without seeming too self-interested.

    In other places, when these men have written directly about BYU’s position, they naturally have referred to the Catholic conception.

  4. Adam Greenwood on February 13, 2004 at 1:57 pm

    I am going to have to agree with all the explanations offered here. When you’re a dwarf like me, you start looking around for giants with shoulders. Hence Notre Dame, John Finnis, the natural law, and so forth.

    Also, this gets my vote for best post title to date.

  5. Susan on February 13, 2004 at 11:04 pm

    Catholics think they belong to the one true church. Catholics make lots of appeals to history. Catholics have one true leader. Catholic doctrine is hardly shy about pronouncements on daily life. All kinds of cultural support systems around the church, its history, its beliefs. Catholic publications, catholic schools, bishops, football. . . . And so on. . . . . . Lots of places to begin free associating, talking, thinking.

  6. Dave on February 14, 2004 at 9:03 pm

    Kristine,

    Given the way Catholicism is slimed in the Book of Mormon, it is ironic that Mormon thinkers find Catholic thinking to be so attractive, but such is the case. Except for a couple of issues (e.g., anti-abortionism, the plight of the religious university), I don’t find much Catholic interest in Mormon thinking. So a follow-up question is: What do Mormon thinkers admire about the Catholic mode of thinking? Some thoughts:

    (1) In Catholicism, intellectuals are respected rather than suspected. (2) The Catholic perspective is confident rather than apologetic, outward-looking rather than defensive. Of course, Catholicism is big and established globally, whereas Mormonism is only now approaching that status in just the US. (3) Catholic philosophy and theology has had twenty centuries to grapple with fundamental questions, whereas Mormonism has had only 170 years to grapple. And Mormonism has not, as yet, developed any official conviction that serious thinking is even required to address fundamental questions. We’re still waiting for the Mormon Augustine to appear.

  7. Jim F. on February 14, 2004 at 11:09 pm

    I don’t think a careful reading of the Book of Mormon can support the claim that Catholicism gets slimed in the Book of Mormon. Of course more than one LDS reader has taken the view that the Catholic Church is “the great and abominable church,” but I think that neither the book nor history support the belief, however wide it may be.

    As far as I can tell, most discussions of philosophy and religion among Mormons (the only discussions I know much about) still hanker after Protestantism. We try to answer their questions. We try to find common ground with them. But there is a minority, including me, that finds Catholic philosophy more interesting (though I’ll also put in a plug for radical orthodoxy–Catherine Pickstock, John Milbank–as quite interesting, though technically Protestant). Why? I can only speak for myself, but I think that things like the Catholic notion of priesthood–real divine authority–and their deep interest in the sacraments (read “ordinances” for LDS)–necessary to salvation–create more common ground for us than I usually find with Protestants.

  8. Chris on May 7, 2004 at 11:42 pm

    Though note that the Catholic Church does not accept Mormon baptisms as valid. (It does accept virtually all Protestant trinitarian baptisms.)

    Chris

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