THE CASE OF THE MISSING POSITION
Why Catholic Orthodoxy Is Not 'Catholic Fundamentalism'

September 1993By Mark Lowery

Mark Lowery is Assistant Professor of Theology at the University of Dallas.

One of the saddest features of contempo­rary Catholicism is the wide range of accusa­tions hurled at Catholics by Catholics. Tradi­tional Catholics are increasingly caricatured as close-minded fundamentalists, while those of a revisionist tendency are caricatured as skeptics. By skeptics I mean those skeptical toward the central dogmatic claims of the faith -- they do not genuinely believe the Creed, they reduce the Sacraments to symbol only, and the like. By Catholic fundamentalists I mean those who have little or no appreciation for key distinc­tions made in the tradition, such as those between infallible and non-infallible doctrine or between points of doctrine and points of custom or discipline.

Most revisionists see themselves as mod­erates. Between the extremes of excessive dogmatism and skeptical subjectivism, they see themselves as offering a compassionate middle ground that remains in continuity with the tradition while gently reforming it. Avery Dulles articulated the moderate position this way:
The moderates hold the key to the fu­ture. Neither the extreme traditionalist nor the extreme modernist position can come through with a positive pro­gram that holds out any prospects of success in the long run. A restoration of consensus demands an enlargement of the moderate center, which insists upon discipline and restraint but re­jects blindness and rigidity.
Though written in 1970, and though Dulles himself may have changed his mind, this description remains an apt one for moderates. It is also a partially deficient sketch of the available options: It has the effect of virtually eliminating a position, Catholic orthodoxy, which is not, as we shall see, one "position" alongside others.


You have two options:

  1. Online subscription: Subscribe now to New Oxford Review for access to all web content at newoxfordreview.org AND the monthly print edition for as low as $38 per year.
  2. Single article purchase: Purchase this article for $1.95, for viewing and printing for 48 hours.

If you're already a subscriber log-in here.



Back to September 1993 Issue

Read our posting policy Add a comment
Be the first to comment on this story!


©