American Catholic Dilemma: An Inquiry into the Intellectual Life

By Thomas F. O'Dea | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
Some Conclusions

This analysis has examined from a sociological perspective some of the factors which inhibit the development of an intellectual life among American Catholics proportionate in vigor and extent to the size of the Catholic population.

At the risk of some oversimplification we shall now try to summarize the important factors revealed by our examination. First of all, we have seen that the Catholic world view--the Catholic definition of the life situation of man --while recognizing the important role of the intellect, nevertheless subordinates the intellectual virtues to a more holistic orientation of man toward God. While such a view is not in any sense anti-intellectual, it is under certain circumstances subject to misinterpretation in a more or less anti-intellectual direction.

Secondly, after examining the tension inherent in the relation between the processes of rational criticism and the living of life, we found that intellectual activity, to which our Western civilization accords such value, can and often in fact does come into conflict with man's need for metaphysical security. The intellect in its penetrating, and sometimes relentless, work of "composing and dividing" often cleaves through custom and convention to reveal the unstructured character which man's existential situation assumes when it is viewed in the light of unaided

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