by Canon F. H. Drinkwater
THE above word is put between quotes, because the present writer is allergic to all these imprecise -ism words. We hear much about the desirability of "pluralism" in the Church; well and good; nobody with any sense wants dictatorship. Still it all depends what you mean by "pluralism."
We celebrate the right sort this week. in the feasts of Ignatius Loyola (July 31st) and Dominic Guzman (August 4th). The two great religious orders they founded have often seemed at daggers drawn, in the past, though today they manage to co-exist happily enough.
They illustrate how Catholic spiritual and liturgical life may well he pluralistic, because human nature varies so much. They also illustrate "pluralism" in theology, but here we need to be more careful.
Their great argument was about the Grace of God Almighty and where man's free will comes in, if it really does come in. The argumentation was all very a priori, and all quite impossible of final solution in this life; in the end, Church authority had to say Enough is enough; keep silence, both of you. So we still have traces of a somewhat plural theology about Grace speaking academically though the layfolk scarcely hear of it.
Yet in the end there is such a thing as truth and truth is one, not plural; and in some things the one truth has been,
or can he, ascertained. "Pluralism" in theology is all right during the period of discussion, but once the solution has been found and agreed, and no further facts have turned up, "pluralism" in theology is not progress, but a slipping back into ancient muddle.
As an instance, there is a recent reluctance to face the fact that man is an unexpected union of spirit and matter. A real unity, of course, indeed a unique unity in creation, but nevertheless a composite creature, "soul" and "body." "This is dualism" (say the hippie theologians), "away with it, let us have more pluralism in our Catholicism; there must be some truth in materialism as well as in spiritualism; what we need is more existential empiricism in all directions."
Such pitiable misuse of the word "dualism" no doubt arises out of the amateurish philosophizing of yesterday's Oxbridge professors, or their foreign equivalents. Any reader who would like to see them defeated on their own ground could look up Dom. Illtyd Trethowan's account of the latest book on the subject in Downside Review, April 1970, p. 181.
Pendulums swing pluralistically, and it is true enough that some of our nineteenth-century preachers were too eloquent about "saving our soul," as if the body were simply the worst enemy. But with ail their faults, they got the main point across, that this life is the time of soul-making. If we begin by changing our language about the nature of man we might cod by changing our image of God who made man. God knows it does want changing sometimes, but not in the direction of such a theology as might seem to dissolve the Christian Creed, and merge God and man into one evolutionary swirl of pluralistic unreason.