instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

A genuine expertise in their various fields

Here's a sociological experiment: Put a Catholic journalist, a Catholic surgeon, and a Catholic politician together. Have each spend half an hour or so telling the others about the various ethical issues in his field, then have them each vote on how well the other two follow Catholic teaching in their respective fields.

I would not be surprised if the results showed that no one scored very highly.

I've noticed that, when Catholic experts explain themselves before Catholic non-experts, the non-experts are often shocked and appalled by what the experts consider run-of-the-mill ethical decisions. A while back, Catholic journalists were baffled at the lack of traction their claim that journalists have to "go where the story takes them" received among Catholic non-journalists, who were more concerned with detraction and scandal than good journalism. Catholic medical ethicists should by now be used to trying to explain to their co-religionists why certain standard operating procedures in hospitals aren't sins crying out to heaven for vengeance. And Catholic politicians....

Gaudium et spes 43 includes the following passage:
Secular duties and activities belong properly although not exclusively to laymen. Therefore acting as citizens in the world, whether individually or socially, they will keep the laws proper to each discipline, and labor to equip themselves with a genuine expertise in their various fields.... Acknowledging the demands of faith and endowed with its force, they will unhesitatingly devise new enterprises, where they are appropriate, and put them into action. Laymen should also know that it is generally the function of their well-formed Christian conscience to see that the divine law is inscribed in the life of the earthly city....
I think that often -- not always, of course, but far too often -- Catholic laity keep the laws proper to their disciplines a lot more faithfully than they keep the divine law.