I write this from the annual Fellowship of Catholic Scholars convention. My purpose in attending is to solicit writers for the magazine, and only the urgency of that responsibility gave me the courage to attend my first convention three years ago. The membership roster is more than a little intimidating: Ralph McInerny, Janet Smith, William May, among many others. Not being a scholar, I thought I would lurk at the back and try to pounce on unsuspecting targets between sessions.
What I found instead was an enthusiastic and warm welcome. I was approached by one luminary after another who wanted to thank me for the great work that Catholic Answers does. It was very humbling for me, personally, but it is a reflection of the esteem in which Catholic Answers and This Rock is held.
It is also a reflection of the rather unique niche that This Rock occupies: It is not a scholarly journal, although many of our writers are scholars. But they are the kind of scholars that remind you of your favorite college professor—the one who was able to simplify complex ideas and whose enthusiasm made it a joy to learn.
The Fellowship was formed in 1977, when the academic community was in the throes of widespread dissent from Humanae Vitae. Many Catholic scholars were doing their best to distance themselves and their institutions from the Church. In response, the Fellowship’s statement of purpose says, "We wish to form a fellowship of scholars who see their intellectual work as being a service they owe to God." For that reason, they "accept as the rule of our life and thought the entire faith of the Catholic Church."
Accepting that rule has come at a cost to most members, professionally and personally. Academia as a whole is not overly tolerant of people of faith, holding a deep prejudice that faith means the rejection of reason. In the face of that ignorance and discrimination, Fellowship members nevertheless have done outstanding work in their respective fields.
Membership in the Fellowship is open to anyone who wants to promote genuine Catholic scholarship. It seems that would include all This Rock subscribers. To join, or to learn more, visit www.catholicscholars.org.
The theme of this year’s convention was "Conscience, Cooperation, and Complicity," focusing on the responsibilities of Catholics in public life. It included, among others, sessions on Catholic health-care professionals, challenges for Catholics serving in the military, and the responsibilities of Catholic voters in an election year.
This theme, interesting in and of itself, is given much more importance by virtue of its having been suggested by the U.S. bishops. That is encouraging in at least two ways: First, it is further evidence that our bishops are taking these issues more seriously; second, they are looking to faithful, rather than dissident, Catholic scholars for input.
The papers presented at the convention will be published in book form—a book that will be a valuable reference tool for the bishops and for all Catholics.