Fall 1964

Page 88

202 Chicago Studies

PART 1: PHILOSOPHICAL ASSESSMENT OF THE PRIEST-EXPERT In order to explore systematically how the priest-expert mediates in the Church, let us first consider philosophically: (A) how the priest-expert uses his secular learning to furnish the Church with the grounds for prudent decisions, (B) how he communicates effectively with cultural and scientific leaders, (C) how he develops his theology through such communication, (D) how his non-pragmatic pursuit of and contributions to a particular specialized knowledge are the necessary basis for the first three mentioned activities. Despite appearances, only through such considerations can we gradually see how and why the priestexpert (and, incidentally, the parish priest) is in some way committed to secular learning precisely by his priesthood.

A. PRUDENCE PRUDENCE IS PRACTICAL WISDOM

¡ Let us begin bluntly. Unless the Church exercise Christian prudence, she will slowly die of spiritual anemia. For prudent judgments are the life-blood of God's people, the dynamic center of their vocation to sanctity. The imprudent pope compromises the Church into disaster; the imprudent bishop handcuffs and smothers his priests; the imprudent pastor scandalously drives his people from Christ; the imprudent layman portrays the pharisee, and not Christ, to his fellow man. Without prudence, personal salvation is impossible and the Church witnesses to someone other than Christ. What, then, is this prudence for which such importance is claimed? Simply, it is practical Christian wisdom. For prudence is that central intellectual virtue which focuses all man's knowledges, virtues, gifts, and physical powers on a unique existential situation so that he is, at least partially, in control of the situation. In other words, the prudent man is capable of creating good within the situation and is not forced to evil activity by the pres¡ sures of the situation. Thus the prudential decision and its consequent activity are the deliberative confluence of man's past experiences, his virtues,