©2011, Randall A. Beeler
I recently wrote an open letter to Thomas Keefe, President of the University of Dallas (UD), regarding the then-pending UD Board vote to empower the School of Ministry (SOM) to offer an undergraduate major degree program in Pastoral Theology.
I am pleased to report that President Keefe, true to his word of being open to dialogue, has responded to my letter (which I also sent him directly), in a formulated email, but, given that President Keefe received upwards of 250 emails about the School of Ministry vote, I can't really say I blame him!
In reply to his response and to the letter of Bishop Vann and the video of Bishop Farrell, I write the following column, which I am also sending directly by email to them and President Keefe.
Dear UD Current Students, Alumni, and Supporters,
During the University of Dallas' (UD's) deliberations on empowering the School of Ministry (SOM), I have entered this dialogue because I and my family dearly love the Church and have invested so much into UD—my wife is a graduate student in SOM, my two older children have attended UD, and my youngest son, Killian, is in the process of receiving his financial aid package for his hoped-for matriculation at UD into the Class of 2015
Dialogue is the essence of what President Keefe, our Bishops, me, and my family prize about UD: a public engagement of the Truth in a spirit of self-giving love. As a result of dialoguing with President Keefe, UD students, and UD alumni, and taking in Bishop Vann's letter and Bishop Farrell's video, I am blessed to urge all of us to give our Shepherds and those who are authoring and steering this program the chance to do what they are genuinely seeking to do:
- hold SOM academically and magisterially accountable (in a way that SOM heretofore has not been), and
- enable SOM to exert in EVERYBODY'S esteem a positive, loving influence on the University.
Hmm. Perhaps I should have looked ahead to this Sunday's Gospel (Matt 7:21-27, DRE) before I opened my big fat blog-post on Wednesday.
As Jesus notes, neither sincerity of intent nor eagerness to solve a problem equate to a truly knowing and intimate embrace of the will of God. Jesus isn't talking about malefactors, deceivers, and Magisterial dissenters alone—He points the finger at the Apostles who had been so marvelously exorcising demons and performing miracles and, in general, feeling peachy about being defenders of the Faith.
If Jesus' words are a come-uppance to the Apostles, uh, what do they mean for a vocally passionate defensor-fidei-wanna-be like me?
I, and all of us, might well then ask, like the Disciples elsewhere did: how is anyone to get into heaven, if he can go so astray even in a passionate defense of the Faith?
As we know, Jesus elsewhere replies that what is impossible for men is possible for God, and, in Matt 7:21-27, DRE, He bases that potency of God on the Rock, an allusion not merely to engineering but to the tropological significance of the Church itself—the Rock, which, He proclaims in Matt 16 is Peter himself, the one who would deny Him.
Um, so I'm in pretty good company, right? Heh-heh? Gulp.
The irony of founding an unshakable Church on very shakable human beings like Saint Peter (and alums like me) highlights Christ's intention that the Church and its teaching witness are what steadies our shaky constructions throughout the ages.
When I was in Art and Arch., Dr. Lyle Novinski once noted that, due to the shifting undercrust of the Irving landscape, the UD Tower is equipped with underground hydraulic supports that compensate for every twist and turn of vengeful Irving. The UD Tower is founded on an unseen rock, so to speak, and is thus a potent parable for this latest uproar.
Throughout my years as an undergraduate and alum, I witnessed (and took part in) numerous "the sky is falling/they're gonna pervert the Core" incidents. Might these reactions to attempts to change the Core Curriculum or the University themselves be like the shifting Irving caliche?
If so, then I may also parabolically have lost sight of the many hydraulic supports under the foundation—the Rocks, which, though shifted by the exigencies of the times, keep the University in balance.
Bishops Farrell and Vann, and President Keefe, as well as those who have constructed the foundation of the SOM undergrad program are expressions of the Rock that I was too quick to throw sand on.
My and Dr. Fagan's pointing out the academic weaknesses and Magisterial infidelity of the SOM graduate program may actually make the strongest case for what UD and the Bishops are here doing—this new program is the means by which such problems are being addressed.
And those shepherds, whom God has put into place, deserve our support—and not an impatient piety that sees the Church in terms of what I think is the way to defend the Faith.
I and other well-intentioned students, alums, and supporters have rightfully asked here: What happens when the Rock itself is attacked?
The response that rings back in my ear like an echo flashing back across the hog pen to Ruby Turpin is: What happens when your good intentions attack the Rock?
At some point, a stupid answer has to awaken a stupid questioner to his stupid question.
That's where I am. I know that others might disagree with me and continue to argue that the SOM undergrad program is the hand-shaped cloud before the storm. (I well know, for I myself used such wording in a recent Facebook wall post.)
I respect that. But I have learned something as I scrape the egg off my face: sometimes, egg gives me x-ray vision to see through to a bedrock I hadn't realized was there. I want to give our Bishops and President Keefe the chance to support the Church and UD in these shifting time.
In the immortal words of the old Bartles and James Wine-Cooler commercials, "Thank you for your support!"
In Christ and Mother Mary,
Randall A. Beeler (Class of 1985)